In a revealing interview with The Guardian, pop tart Shawn Mendes tells journalist Michael Cragg that he’s “scared of social media” and how much it affects him.
That’s probably understandable when you consider he began his skyward trajectory to fame at the age of 14 via YouTube. Posting covers songs of artists like Justin Bieber, he was soon signed to Island Records and had a hit single, “Life of the Party” by the age of 15.
Hit single or not, the early success led to being bullied by other kids. “They just thought it was so stupid,” says the singer.
Mendes just kept his focus forward. He says he would skip school on Fridays to take part in “influencer events” where social media celebs met fans and took pics with fans.
“I was taking 1,500 selfies a night,” he says. “You quickly learn that what you love to do is a job, but I don’t resent what I do. I don’t hate taking selfies.”
Photos and image are important to Mendes. They led, after all, to becoming a Calvin Klein underwear model – something he admits was “a goal of mine at the top of 2018.”
The pop star says the CK opportunity was as meaningful a goal as playing concerts in stadiums.
As the fame grows (42 million Instagram followers, 6 billion views of his videos, 21 million Twitter followers), so do frustrations for a young artist.
Mendes says “it’s hurtful” when people question his sexuality.
Even though he’s denied rumors about being gay – in 2016 he posted a video saying, “First of all, I’m not gay; second of all, it shouldn’t make a difference if I was or wasn’t” – he says it makes him mad “because I imagine the people who don’t have the support system I have and how that must affect them.”
“That was why I was so angry, and you can see I still get riled up, because I don’t think people understand that when you come at me about something that’s stupid you hurt so many other people,” he continued. “They might not be speaking, but they’re listening.”
But it’s not just ‘other people’ that the comments hurt. The “In My Blood” singer admits he takes a lot of what fans have to say online to heart.
“The last 48 hours have been so consuming, just reading what people are saying about me [on social media],” he told Cragg.
When asked if he has to read it all, he replies, “No, but there’s something about being human that makes you.”
“I’m scared of social media and how much it affects me,” he explains. “It’s literally become infused with who I am.”
He even admits he doesn’t cross his legs in photos after reading a comment by an anonymous poster.
The self-described ‘neurotic’ told Rolling Stone last year, “It’s literally my biggest fear, to wake up tomorrow and nobody cares.”
He also worries that what he shares on social media isn’t “meaningful enough,” and he apologized to his followers last fall for the perceived infraction.
“I don’t think of myself as conceited, but I definitely spend a lot of time reading about myself,” he told The Guardian.
He also shares that he’s a bit done with the “Nice Guy” label. “It sounds so stupid – to be a nice person is the best thing in the world – but, yeah, I’m 20 and I just want to have fun.”
At the end of the day, it seems like it must be exhausting to cope and keep up with all those pressures, frustrations, images and opinions.
But this is all, for lack of a better word, ’normal’ for Mendes at this point.
“This life is more real to me than anything,” he says. “If I were to walk down the street and no one recognized me, I’d feel something was wrong. When I was really young [fame] morphed who I was. If it was to become normal, it would feel un-normal to me.”