Patrice Dougan is the Herald's education reporter.

Abuse and pain: Instagram star Liam Martin on the sickening cost of 1.7m followers

At 16, Aucklander Liam Martin shot to fame as an Instagram star - his photos impersonating celebrities' glamour shots quickly racking up almost 2 million followers.

But by 17, he was suffering depression and living out of his car, the pressure of his online persona and the harassment it received becoming too much.

"I think people thought my life was really good but it really wasn't, but they were being quite negative about it. It was hard to cope with at times."


He added: "At one point I was trying to juggle my Instagram account while living out of my car, so I was using all my 3G, all my data, I was spending all the money I didn't really have on that.

"I kind of got myself into a deep hole and for so long I was trying to rebuild myself on a broken structure, so at the moment I'm trying to re-establish a really firm one."

The teen shot to fame three years ago aged 16 when he began impersonating stars such as Miley Cyrus and Nicki Minaj on Instagram.

Mum Karen took the photos and her son edited them on Photoshop and uploaded them.

About a year after joining the photo-sharing app he had amassed more than 200,000 followers and was clocking up to 2000 new followers a day, more than the number of fellow pupils enrolled alongside him at Lynfield College that year.

Still at school and struggling with body insecurities, he said the negative comments and abuse came at a "really vulnerable time in my life".


There were good comments and presents from fans, but the bad comments were "quite horrible".

"People can get quite personal about your personal life ... It was quite hard for me at the time because I was dealing with a lot of personal abuse as well. So I kind of found the online comments a lot more hurtful, but I had to find comfort with my friends and people that supported me."

Hey... I am Liam. -I have a current obsession with coconut juice -I always go to the supermarket and smell the air freshners -I like the smell of video shops -trains scare me -Polaroid cameras make me wet -glow in the dark things fascinate me -my first time riding a motorbike I drove into a trampoline -When I was like 6 I was with my cousins and we googled the word boob and the phone rang and I thought it was the police and I cried -^ that one is so embarrassing -I take media, photography,art design,hospitality and geography at school -it's my last year at school... Ahhh -I think my neighbours are scared of me -Coffee makes me shake -literally all the money I get is spent on things for my photos -I probably own over 300 dollars of weaves -my weaves are Louis Vuton -white chicks and 50 first dates are great movies -I swallowed a grape

A photo posted by Liam Miscellaneous (@waverider_) on

He turned his back on his @waverider- account in a bid to shut out the haters.

"I was going through a lot so I had to make a lot of changes and really take time to make myself okay and make sure I'm happy with where I am in life and kind of take it day by day."

Martin feels he "let a lot of people down" - fans and those who supported him - but said he "had to take time off for myself".

During his break from Instagram he learned not to rely on social media for happiness, he said, and praises his close circle of friends for getting him through the dark times.

His reactivated account is hugely popular - he now has about 1.7 million followers.

The 19-year-old advises others struggling with cyberbullying to "go to your family or friends that comfort you and make you feel good about yourself, don't let something online affect the way your feel about yourself - and that's so hard, but you have to learn to accept real comments, not ones online".


Depression is still something he is learning to deal with, Martin said, but he's confident about the future, which includes a book he's writing on his experience.

"It's kind of going to be a modern day Catcher in the Rye, where it's a coming of age story about [moving] into adulthood with an online spin to it."

He hopes it will raise awareness of mental illness and cyberbullying.

Where to get help:

• In an emergency: call 111
• Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
• Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
• Youthline: 0800 376 633, or text 234 (available 24/7) or or live chat (between 7pm and 11pm)
• Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
• Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
• Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)
• Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155 (weekdays 11am to 5pm)
• NetSafe: 0508 NETSAFE (0508 638 723),

- NZ Herald

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