Selena Gomez on the public scrutiny that led her to quit social media: ‘It felt gross for a long time’

Selena Gomez is back, baby, and she’s entering a new phase in her career with wisdom, optimism and a healthier state of mind.

The singer, actor and entrepreneur recently sat down for an intimate discussion with Elle magazine, speaking openly about the public scrutiny she faced after years of battling health issues and public heartache.

Selena Gomez speaks candidly about the media scrutiny that led her to quit social media. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)
Selena Gomez is speaking candidly about the media scrutiny that led her to quit social media. (Photo: Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP) (Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

“For a while, I felt like an object. It felt gross for a long time,” said Gomez, who’s lived in the spotlight since she was a child star on the Disney Channel’s Wizards of Waverly Place.

In the last several years, those pressures compounded due to a very public breakup with Justin Bieber in 2018, undergoing a kidney transplant due to her lupus diagnosis, and taking it upon herself to seek treatment for mental health.

“I don’t even know what they really believed I was doing — drugs, alcohol, running around, partying,” she explained of the negative press she endured after checking herself into a mental health facility. “The narrative was so nasty.”

Though realizing she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder “felt like a huge weight lifted off me,” experiencing so many challenges at once only compounded the star’s existing depression.

At one point, she had to have a heart-to-heart with herself just to make it through.

“My lupus, my kidney transplant, chemotherapy, having a mental illness, going through very public heartbreaks — these were all things that honestly should have taken me down,” she said. “Every time I went through something, I was like, ‘What else? What else am I going to have to deal with?’”

Then she finally realized her purpose: “‘You’re going to help people,’” she told herself. “That’s really what kept me going. There could have been a time when I wasn’t strong enough, and would have done something to hurt myself.”

As for dealing with all the social media pressure, the once most-followed person on Instagram has decided to give it all up. In fact, she said she's deleted Instagram from her phone altogether.

As she told Elle magazine, four years ago she gave her account and passwords to her assistant and chose to no longer post anything directly herself.

“I don’t have it on my phone, so there’s no temptation,” she said. “I suddenly had to learn how to be with myself. That was annoying, because in the past, I could spend hours looking at other people’s lives. I would find myself down nearly two years in someone’s feed, and then I’d realize, ‘I don’t even know this person!’ Now I get information the proper way. When my friends have something to talk about, they call me and say, ‘Oh, I did this.’ They don’t say, ‘Wait, did you see my post?’”

“It was so nice. I felt like I was suddenly able to be so present,” she said of being free of social media, which allowed her the mental space to develop other professional endeavors.

“I’ve spent years of my life trying to look like other people,” she said. “I would see an image, and I would be like, ‘My gosh, why don’t I look like that?’ None of that was good for me.”

These days, Gomez is thriving. Her new Hulu show Only Murders in the Building co-starring Steve Martin and Martin Short is her first series-regular role since Wizards of Waverly Place.

She’s also been using her platform for good, creating projects with charitable components: HBO Max’s Selena + Chef has her cooking with famous celebs (virtually) while raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for nonprofits.

She’s also earning her stripes as a producer, picking up projects that elevate Latinx stories like the Netflix documentary about undocumented immigrants, Living Undocumented, and the upcoming Shadow of the Mountain, a biopic about Silvia Vásquez-Lavado, the first out gay women to scale the Seven Summits.