A Marine veteran is using his viral success to bring attention to suicide prevention and online scams.
Shane Nickels grew up a passionate athlete with his eye on playing football in college. An injury during his senior year changed that plan.
“I honestly didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. I had some dark times,” he said. “I’d always thought about becoming a police officer or going into the military. One night I told my mom I was staying with a friend, but I was really going to MEPS.”
After graduating high school in 2008, Nickels joined the Marine Corps Reserve and became a mortarman. He said he chose the Marines because it arguably had the hardest boot camp and highest standards. The sharp looking uniforms sold it for him too, he added.
He advanced quickly in the reserves while maintaining a civilian career in roofing sales. While managing a busy working and drilling schedule, Nickels continued to spend a lot of time on fitness. He caught the eye of a modeling agency. The photographs from his work with them gained traction and his following on social media continued to grow. By 2015, he was on the cover of the romance novel “Lost in Flames.”
“It was just mind-blowing. I got to travel with the author to these romance novel expos. Some of the scenes I read in these books are crazy,” he laughed.
In 2017, Nickels deployed to Afghanistan for a year. The Taliban sent rockets at his base constantly, creating daily mortar battles with the enemy. When asked if his combat tour changed him – Nickels didn’t hesitate to admit it did.
“I still have nightmares from some of the things I saw. When I came back, my girlfriend I’d been with for eight years and shared a daughter with said I changed. We broke up not long afterwards,” he said.
He also lost a good friend to suicide following the deployment.
From mortarman to mental health advocate
In 2020, after 12 years of service, Nickels made the decision to leave the military. He continued to grow his social media, using TikTok as an outlet during the COVID-19 lockdowns. As of this interview, he’s followed by over 1.1 million people.
Nickels also used his platform to be vulnerable about his own previously hidden struggles. Namely, his deep thoughts of suicide.
“It was 2012 and my daughter was just born. I was only 21 with all of this new responsibility and worries about how I was going to financially provide,” he said.
The couple moved in with his parents to save money and times were tough.
“I just remember feeling like I couldn’t do it anymore. I had a shotgun and I put it to my chin,” he said.
It was the thought of his daughter that got him through to the other side. As he watched the world suffering through the impacts of the pandemic, Nickels finally shared his story.
“I’ve had people message me since then to say my video stopped them from committing suicide,” he explained.
The impact of his notoriety hasn’t been all good, though.
Scammers have been using his pictures to catfish women for years. After his Afghanistan deployment, it got worse.
“They’d make them essentially fall in love with them and send money. Some have lost over $50,000 to these guys,” Nickels said. “I get DM’s from girls crying their eyes out saying I’ve ruined their lives. Even when I respond with video messages saying it wasn’t me, they don’t always believe it. I report almost 30 fake profiles every single day.”
He continues to make social media posts warning his followers and even did an interview with his local news station in Michigan. Nickels also works alongside organizations like Scam Haters United and Social Catfish to spread the word.
When he isn’t battling scammers, making inspiring or funny videos, you can find him selling homes on an all-veteran led team.
“It’s a cool tight-knit group we have. We are veterans helping veterans from the agents to the veteran lenders we recommend for financing,” Nickels said.
So, what would people be surprised to learn about this Marine-veteran-turned-viral-social-media-influencer?
“I have a very weird personality. But I love pizza and Buffalo Wild Wings,” he laughed. “Honestly, I’ve been so blessed to have all of this happen to me. It’s humbling. If I could go back and talk to the 18-year-old me who’d just been injured and thought he’d lost it all, I would tell him to just trust God and that everything happens for a reason. We only have so much time on this earth so make it into something that really matters.”Read comments