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For more than a decade, Acacia Kersey has been one of the most controversial figures on YouTube, Tumblr, and Instagram. This week, she decided she has had enough.
Acacia, 23, announced in an Instagram post that she will quit influencing and step away from social media indefinitely. She is done monetizing her life, she said, and after months of debate, has decided it is “time to move on.” The negatives of being an influencer finally outweigh the positives.
“This role has done an immense amount of damage to me, my relationships, my financial stability and my view of the world,” she wrote.
This decision is huge for Acacia because, as she notes, she has only ever lived her life online. Acacia’s family is familiar with fame. Her older brother Peyton Clark appeared on the Disney Channel. When she was young, Acacia aspired to become a singer and actor. She appeared in a few bands with middling success and had a few small acting roles over the years.
Acacia started a Tumblr account when she was in seventh grade and soon became famous on the platform. According to contemporaneous Tumblr posts, Acacia’s popularity came from creating relationships with famous boys on Tumblr, getting involved in drama on the platform, and posting photos of herself with varying levels of sex appeal.
A lot of criticism of her seems to be rooted in sexism, drama, and general bad vibes. (To read about it, you can google various write-ups about Acacia on Tumblr, but I won’t link out to any because they are kind of yikes.) TL;DR: Acacia became the girl on Tumblr who everyone loved to hate. An entry on Urban Dictionary, for example, described her as “an ex tumblr girl infamous for getting into relationships incredibly quickly (often with guys a lot older than herself), faking self-harm and abusing pets.”
Acacia soon leveraged her Tumblr fame to find success in other areas and amassed more than 800,000 subscribers on YouTube and 2 million followers on Instagram. As she got older, her content changed. She started dating Jairus Kersey, a singer in the rock band Alive Like Me, in 2015 and documented their romance on a new, shared YouTube channel. The couple moved in together right before Acacia turned 18 and had their first child, Brinley, in 2017, and their second, Rosemary, aka Rosie, in 2018, shortly after they got married. They had a third child, Cali, in 2020.
Acacia’s life had changed a lot during her time living publicly, but her haters never wavered. They moved on from calling her a slutty and messy teen to criticizing her as a bad mom. Twitter accounts dedicated to hating her blasted the toys she gave Brinley, what she fed her, and more.
After Rosie’s birth, the critics got more biting. Rosie has a disability, which was undiagnosed for the first year or so of her life and led to wild speculation online. People accused Acacia of hating Rosie, neglecting her, and failing to acknowledge or treat her condition. Acacia’s eventual public revelation that Rosie had been diagnosed with a rare genetic condition called Alagille syndrome did little to quell the criticism.
As I’m sure her haters are screaming right now, Acacia has had many public missteps. In 2020, she apologized for racist tweets and Tumblr posts she had written that had resurfaced. She has gotten hate for rehoming pets. Most recently, another creator accused Acacia of ripping off a series of Instagram presets from her. I’m sure people who hate Acacia could rattle off a litany of things she has done wrong over the years if we asked.
But if you attempt to understand why these events led to such a fervent hatred for Acacia online, you will likely still be scratching your head. The truth is, it doesn’t make a ton of sense. For many, Acacia has become, to use the parlance of internet snark forums, a bitch eating crackers. The term means that you hate someone so much, everything they do annoys you. (Look at that bitch eating crackers like she owns the place!)
To her detractors, hating Acacia is a lifestyle, not a phase. They derive pleasure from watching her life and then finding ways to hate every single thing about it. She’s not the only internet figure who gets this kind of treatment. Countless influencers and creators have maintained their fame not in spite of a huge army of haters but perhaps because of them. For some reason, groups on the internet tend to enjoy finding a woman to hate and follow her with the same fervent devotion as a fan would. It’s a phenomenon as old as the internet itself.
Acacia, though, is turning off the free show that is her life. After going mostly radio-silent since July, she returned to announce her retirement this week. Acacia said she decided that she is done sharing her life and her family’s lives for the pleasure of fans and haters on the internet. As she explains, it was a difficult decision for her to make. She has been able to make money and support her family off her influencer income for years, and it is super hard to give up a steady, lucrative career, no matter how harmful it becomes for a person. But Acacia decided that the money was no longer worth the price she was paying.
The most poignant part of Acacia’s announcement is her revelation that she knows her career is harming her but she has no idea how to live without it. Her life is analogous to that of a child star, whose time in the spotlight is all they have ever known. Acacia said that the fear of who she is without the internet is debilitating.
“Fear has been keeping me here for longer than I can even admit,” she wrote. “Fear of what would happen if I stopped bringing in money, fear of what I could even offer the world, fear of who I am without this because it’s all I’ve ever known.”
She sounds hopeful, though. She and Jairus are searching for a place to live in Oregon, somewhere “practical & safe,” she wrote. Jairus will work full time to support their family, and Acacia plans to be a stay-at-home mom and start a creative side project. Maybe she will come back to the internet someday, but not for profit. “I will not rely on social media for my family’s survival,” she wrote.
Of course, the haters came for her retirement post as well, calling her “pathetic” and a “coward” and making fun of Jairus for losing his sugar mama. But at this point, does it matter, really? Acacia is gone. Her family lives offline, and now she really doesn’t have to care what anyone else thinks.