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— Self-worth

Matt Newman

The hairstylist and content creator who believes hundreds and hundreds of positive comments pale in comparison to the one mean one. But at best, he is saddened for humanity even if he doesn’t take the bad comments personally. Together, Matt and Jayme created a TikTok hair tutorial while chatting about social media’s impact on mental health, online bullies, and body insecurities.

Are you ready to be an open book?

I am so ready to be an open book.

You’re a hairstylist and influencer, so how does social media affect your mental health?

Poorly, very poorly. Social media has impacted my life in general in a positive way because I’m actually enjoying making social media content about hairstyling more than my boots-on-the-ground hairstyling life. So, in some ways, it has affected my mental health positively. But in other ways, it’s affected my mental health very poorly because there are so many meanies out there.

With all the meanies, how does their energy impact you? I can imagine that looking at your phone and seeing a comment could ruin your whole day. So, what are some things you’ve incorporated so your energy isn’t overtaken by what these people say?

I have not figured that out yet. Honestly, a mean comment followed by a nice comment doesn’t even do anything. I’m always getting some sort of notification. Even with no notification, I still think it’s important not to let the mean comments stop me as a creator from connecting with the people who are asking real questions or sharing real comments. It is important to interact in that way just out of human decency. People ask a question; they deserve an answer. It is a two-way street on social media. So when I go to do anything even remotely normal, I am susceptible to seeing some bullshit.

Sometimes, I will have successfully missed a whole horrible thread, and then something pops up next to it months later. And then the thing right below it on a video from months earlier, I think, Oh, my god, that was horrible. So I don’t know how to make that better. It brings me down. It hurts my feelings. It makes my heart race, it makes my stomach hurt. And it gives me physical signs of anxiety.

You’ve told me about different circumstances where bullying has impacted you more, especially with someone in particular not that long ago, and it took you a really long time to get out of it.

Yes, it takes me so long. Whenever I talk about this, people try to help. I’m not saying anyone gaslights or belittles or anything, but they’ll say, ‘I see so many nice comments on your videos.’ People say this all the time; hundreds and hundreds of positive comments pale in comparison to the one mean one. I know the things that are being said are not true. At best, I am saddened for humanity. And there’s just no way around that. At best, I don’t take it personally; it doesn’t affect me on the inside. But I think, wow, this is bleak. This is what people are out here doing day to day, just trashing people on the most banal content ever. I’m proud of what I do, but it’s not exactly controversial. So, if people feel the need to be controversial in the comments, that’s shocking to me. Worst case scenario is that they hit me personally and make me feel bad about something.

I would say mostly, those people who are making those comments are probably insecure themselves and just jealous.

On a good day, I can rationalize all those thoughts myself and understand that it’s a them problem, not a me problem. And that in itself makes me a little sad. Someone made two videos that got millions of views about me, trashing me, and misrepresenting a scenario. The weird thing is he didn’t even make me look that bad. It was so petty that nothing really happened. But I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I didn’t give in and sit under a blanket and cry for days. I exercised. I made my regular content. I saw my friends, I lived my life. And throughout doing all of those things, I was 100% distracted, not at all present in my own living, and I was in my mind thinking about this bullshit. The only thing that made it go away was distance from it happening.

What’s therapeutic for you in that sense? You just said that having enough time away from that is helpful. Are you in therapy?

I should be! Honestly, I should be. I do feel, ultimately, the good outweighs the bad. Maybe that is toxic positivity. But ultimately, that’s what balances it out. The good outweighs the bad. I do stay away from controversial things. Any negativity I receive is so petty on the end of the person dishing it out that I have not had to deal with any big drama. But when these little things rear their heads, it completely distracts me.

You can always vent to me.

So, taking time away from online life and being with my real-life friends is ultimately the best way to click out of it. My in-person support circle. You!

Do you have a hard time focusing when creating content?

I have a hard time focusing when I do anything. And this is no different.

What triggers you?

I know the answer, but I’m pussyfooting around the truth. Muscular, really in shape, men, people with my dream body. It makes me so insecure.

I can understand that from a body perspective.

And I wish I wasn’t like that. But I can’t help it when I see people with male model bodies. It is tough.

Unfortunately, it’s all very relatable. You have your own experience.

I used to use no filter and I was really proud of that. And then I put on a solid 10 to 15 pounds over the winter, real quick and the filter cuts my double chin. So I got addicted to using this built-in filter because I couldn’t look at myself. And it’s hard. Honestly, my most successful video I’ve posted in the last like eight months, ugh, I hate how I look in it, hate. It’s been dueted and reused and tagged and reposted. It has 40 million views on TikTok and about 20 million views on Instagram, and it’s been really highly engaged with, and I got really positive reactions from people. I’ve been interacting with it for weeks and weeks since it got posted. It’s just not going away and that’s what I aim for. It’s what I want. But I hate how I look in it.

How else do you keep your mental health in check?

It’s called Bravo. That is a joke, but at the same time, it’s not because it’s entertainment. I love pop culture. I love to laugh. So, definitely, I find pleasure in entertainment.

When I feel bad, or I feel down, or even when Ben sees that I’m not feeling good, he says why don’t you sit on the couch and watch Bravo.

I watch these people instead of dealing with my own shit, which I don’t even feel guilty about.

You’re always very honest on TikTok. You create beautiful hair content. But lately you’ve been more vulnerable about things like speaking about insecurities or a situation with someone making a video about you that called you out, which was unnecessary at best. And then also, even when one of your friends got called out, you made a video to straighten that out with that other influencer. So what made become more vulnerable and talk about some of these things that are on your mind, ultimately?

I started out making content completely anonymous because I had no presence on the Internet at all. And I was taking advantage of the opportunity that TikTok afforded people to get big eyes on them. So I went for it. Some people get a couple of viral videos and think people know who they are. Nobody knows who the fuck you are. For the first, I would say, two years that I did this; I had a very realistic understanding that no matter how much success I had in creating viral content, no matter how many hair brands wanted to partner with me for educational content, it did not mean people had any interest in what I had to say. I’m not being shady towards myself; that was just the scenario.

But after three years of doing this, no matter how little people care about what I have to say, I feel compelled to share it. So, I don’t really feel it changed. Most of the time, when I post content that isn’t about a hair tip or hair routine, it does not get much play or views at all. But I now am getting to a place where I feel compelled to share it because I’ve been doing this for all these years. I want to share a more complete picture of what’s going on, regardless of who sees it. So it’s not that I’m delusional, and I think people are so desperate to hear my opinions on things, I just feel better sharing it all. 

I think that more people should be doing that. It makes you more relatable in some sense. And you’ve always been relatable and you’re fun to watch and you have this air about you that everybody wants to be your friend. But I think the fact that you’re bringing in this more vulnerable side of yourself brings more of a lightness to be like, I want to be his friend even more now. I actually want to sit down and talk to him about hair and I want to talk to him about whatever else he wants to talk about.

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