Neha Gandhi: The “I” in “influencer”

Wayland resident Neha Gandhi has been blogging and posting on her platform Love Playing Dressup for over a decade. The positive impact that social media has [is that] you could share the truth about about life and truly make somebody feel less alone, Gandhi said.
Wayland resident Neha Gandhi has been blogging and posting on her platform Love Playing Dressup for over a decade. “The positive impact that social media has [is that] you could share the truth about about life and truly make somebody feel less alone,” Gandhi said.
Credit: Courtesy of Neha Gandhi

While the everyday person may be oblivious to the complexities of the internet, there are people who have been using social media platforms since their inception. Neha Gandhi, a Wayland resident, has been blogging and using social media as a part of her platform Love Playing Dressup for over a decade, and currently, she has over 146,000 followers on Instagram.

A few years after she immigrated to America, Gandhi took to blogging on the internet to write about the different challenges she faced as an immigrant. Since then, her blog has grown from a hobby to a part of her life that has helped her grow while cherishing her most special moments.

“When I came to this country 18 years ago, I struggled with being an outsider and [I struggled with] body image and loneliness, all while trying to figure out my path through [graduate] school,” Gandhi said. “That’s when I started writing about these things. You could have a space on the internet and just write a few posts and call it a blog. That was a good outlet for me to talk about such things.”

As her life went on, the focus of Love Playing Dressup–originally a fashion blog–changed to ultimately encapsulate all aspects of her life she felt like speaking about. From fashion, to her career in the tech industry, to parenting, the blog has evolved with her.

“My content is no longer [just about] fashion and honestly, when I look back, I don’t relate to that anymore because I am no longer in that phase of life,” Gandhi said. “The account has definitely moved along with me through phases.”

Establishing a confident sense of self on the internet has helped Gandhi in other areas of her life. Gandhi explains that social media has helped her overcome obstacles in the workplace as a female leader in the tech industry.

“Indirectly, [social media has] given me so much confidence,” Gandhi said. “At work, when I enter a room, I feel confident, [like] I can own the room. I can stand confidently in front of a room and talk and present.”

Social media has empowered people to reach out to Gandhi because they resonate with the stories that she is sharing. When Gandhi uses her platform to talk about more sensitive issues, like race or motherhood, she sees the most engagement from followers.

“There are people who resonate with my posts, and [as a result,] they’ve felt less alone because, sometimes, we don’t talk about these topics,” Gandhi said. “Making that connection, which makes somebody feel less alone [and] open up and talk about their journey, is really meaningful to me.”

Brand deals through social media have opened many doors for Gandhi, but that isn’t all social media has brought her. As she has seen the internet, particularly the usage of social media, evolve over the last decade and a half, she is worried about the impact it has on younger, more impressionable users.

“Now, I also see the negative impact of social media and the negative impact of the influencer industry on this [new] generation,” Gandhi said. “Being a parent, I worry that this is only getting exacerbated when kids today are looking at these random people on the internet, [who are] selling a way of life [and] making kids feel less about themselves.”

It’s not just social media as a whole that Gandhi criticizes. She feels that now, the term “influencer” has lost its credibility. Gandhi believes that having a following and platform that reaches people is a privilege, and now, that privilege is being abused.

“I hate the term influencer because anybody could have a tremendous following on social media and call themselves an influencer, and then the platform is not used as it should be or for something that makes an impact,” Gandhi said.

Being behind the camera at times has taught Gandhi not to believe everything that comes up on social media. To some, the “perfect” lifestyle some influencers try to sell, may not be as it seems.

“Being active [on social media] definitely gave me an insight into how inorganic it is,” Gandhi said. “What people share on social media is one moment of their life. I could be looking at the most happy family moment that somebody shared, and what’s behind that photo could be completely curated. So, being in the influencer space exposed me to a lot. Now, I just take things with a grain of salt.”

Through her own experience, Gandhi finds that it’s easy to associate a sense of validation with post engagement. Gandhi says that in the past, she would feel the need to frequently post in order to increase her number of likes and followers. If that didn’t happen, she would question the quality of the content she posted, which ultimately led to an unhealthy relationship with the internet.

“There was a point where I stopped enjoying social media because I was so swirled up in the game of likes and the number of followers,” Gandhi said. “I was just in this game of ‘I need to keep posting because I have to keep up with Instagram’s algorithm.’”

Other than keeping up with the algorithm, Gandhi explains that there are other aspects of social media that can negatively affect almost all users of social media, not just those who regularly post.

Scrolling from one short video to the next, without fully giving our brain the time to process what we just saw, overwhelms us and essentially causes our brain to burn out. Gandhi cites “Instagram Reels” and “TikTok” as examples. She says that watching four videos about four different topics in a single minute is damaging and not sustainable for our mental health.

Though it wasn’t easy, Gandhi says she’s happy to be on the other side of her relationship with social media. Now, Gandhi is more conscious about the time and energy she puts towards social media, only posting moments she genuinely wants to share with others. She encourages others to also be mindful of their time on the internet and of how social media might make them perceive themselves.

“The day you stop, you start realizing that it’s not about you, it’s not about the likes and it’s not about the numbers; it’s transformational,” Gandhi said. “It’s really [about] finding joy, and feeling confident and happy about what you’re putting out there in the world.”

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