Instagram model Essena O’Neill has received widespread praise and viral press attention with her announcement that she was quitting social media because “it’s not real.” But other social media creators aren’t happy with her for implying they’re all fake and miserable - and some are starting to question her motives.
The most controversial pushback comes from twin YouTubers Nina and Randa, who hosted O’Neill in their house for weeks during her stay in Los Angeles. Calling her announcement a “hoax,” they pointed out that she was in LA on vacation, not because she was at the “pinnacle of success” in her modeling career as she said in her video - and she was staying for free with friends that she met through social media.
According to them, O’Neill wasn’t unhappy with social media and Los Angeles until she broke up with the famous boy she mentioned dating. “When she was dating this guy and when she was in LA, everything was amazing,” Randa said. “She was incredibly on this high, and happy, and loving LA. And then shortly, within a couple of weeks when things ended between them, she just hated LA.”
Nina said she was offended by O’Neill’s generalizations about people in Los Angeles. “When she says ‘They’re all miserable,’ who is she talking about? Is she talking about us, or staying with our parents, or our brother, or all of our friends that we introduced her to? It honestly hurts my feelings that she would say ‘They’re all miserable, they’re all fake.’ How were any of us fake to you? We opened up our houses, and our families made you dinner, and we took you to fun places, thinking this is a friendship.”
Michael Buckley from the What the Buck Show said he was both inspired and annoyed by her video, which he saw as a savvy marketing move.
“When I first saw it I was like, ‘I get it, I get it,’ because we’re all a slave to social media,” he said. “Now that I’ve examined the story more and I see that she’s launched this new website and this whole movement, I do believe she is #1, a lovely well-intended person who I look forward to following, but more importantly #2, a very good businesswoman who has totally rebranded herself in this entirely new genre.”
Looking through her Instagram posts with the new captions declaring them “NOT REAL LIFE,” he pointed out, “Nobody sold this girl into sex slavery. She wasn’t like locked up in the basement, forced to be an Instagram model. She signed up for Instagram, for YouTube, for whatever.”
Zach James responded to O’Neill on Facebook, saying that social media can be whatever the user decides it to be, and that it was more of a reflection on O’Neill that she let view counts and followers define her.
“I, and many others, have found a greater understanding of ourselves through our Social Media careers. The ability to explore unlimited opportunities, to create what our hearts desire, to speak with our own true voices. We found ourselves through Social Media because we made that choice to do so. You decide to take money for a dress? That's your choice. You decide to spend hours taking the right photo? That's your choice. You decide to live a life that you feel is a lie? That is absolutely your choice.”
What do you think? Is Essena O'Neill being entirely honest with herself?