18-year-old Australian Instagram star Essena O’Neill had amassed half a million followers on Instagram, 200,000 subscribers on her YouTube and Tumblr accounts, and 60,000 people viewing her Snapchat every day. Her fans idolized her appearance, commenting things like "#goals" and "you're perfect." So, why on Earth would she want to erase her social media presence?
"I've spent the majority of my teenage life being addicted to social media, social approval, social status, and my physical appearance," O'Neill writes in her last Instagram post on October 27. "[Social media] is contrived images and edited clips ranked against each other. It's a system based on social approval, likes, validation, in views, success in followers. it's perfectly orchestrated self-absorbed judgement."
So, she decided she's done with social media — at least using it for self-promotion. Now, she's using it for social good.
O'Neill has deleted over 2,000 photos from her Instagram, changed her account name to "Social Media Is Not Real Life," and replaced the captions on the remaining photos with truthful anecdotes about posts she was paid for, how many tries it took to get the shot, and the pressures she felt to look perfect.
"How can we see ourselves and our true purpose/talents if we are constantly viewing others?" she continues in her final Instagram post. "Many of us are in so deep we don't realise it's delusional powers and the impact it has on our lives."
O'Neill also posted her last video on YouTube on November 2 to explain how people make money off social media: "I haven't done anything for this success except put pictures of myself online," she says.
And since she has "an insight into a world of social media that [she] believe[s] not many people are aware of in terms of how it works in advertisements," she'll now be uploading daily videos on the topic to Vimeo instead of YouTube, because of its "positive and value-based ranking, not likes or followers or BS ads."
O'Neill writes on her newly launched site Let's Be Game Changers, "PLEASE CAN SOMEONE MAKE A SOCIAL SHARING PLATFORM NOT BASED ON VALIDATION IN VIEWS/FOLLOWERS/LIKES BUT SHARED FOR REAL VALUE AND LOVE. THANK YOU. PLEASE HURRY UP."
She wants her followers to know that they shouldn't actually want her life, as they've said in comments. On the surface, it seemed like she was living a “dream life," but the truth is that she had never been more “miserable” in her life.
Thank you, Essena, for revealing the ugly truth behind a supposedly beautiful life. We're all constantly plugged into social media, it's become our reality — so we needed this reality check.
Photo Credit: @essenaoneill/Instagram