Instagram Star Essena O’Neill Explains Why She Quit Social Media
An Australian Instagram model with more than half a million followers has abruptly quit social media, saying it was all fake and it made her miserable.
In an emotional YouTube video that she says will be her last, 18-year-old Essena O’Neill said she is quitting for her 12-year-old self. “When I was 12, I told myself I meant nothing. That I was worthy of nothing because I wasn’t popular online and I wasn’t a model, I wasn’t beautiful by society’s standards.”
O’Neill spent years turning herself into the perfect social media star – and now, with thousands of followers and deals with fashion brands and modeling agencies, the teenager says she doesn’t know who she is anymore.
“I’m the girl that had it all, and I want to tell you that having it all on social media means absolutely nothing to your real life. Everything I was doing was edited and contrived to get more value, and to get more views.”
This is a complex issue for people who make a living online. Criticism of the “self-obsessed Millennial generation ruining our society” has become so overplayed in the media that sometimes I have trouble taking it seriously, especially since it usually puts the blame on teenaged girls like O’Neill.
But in terms of how YouTube and social media are an industry designed to make money, O’Neill is absolutely right. It can be brutal, and creators online need to know how to protect themselves, both as a brand and as a person.
“When you’re following someone who has a lot of followers and they’re promoting products, they are paid,” she explains. “Companies will email you with dot points of what you should say, with times of the day to post, with what you should do in the photo, with how you should hold the product or where you should have it in the background. Companies know the power of social media, and they are exploiting it.”
O’Neill has created the website www.letsbegamechangers.com to explain the behind-the-scenes reality of social media, and edited captions on her Instagram page to show what was really going on.
NOT REAL LIFE – took over 100 in similar poses trying to make my stomach look good. Would have hardly eaten that day. Would have yelled at my little sister to keep taking them until I was somewhat proud of this. Yep so totally #goals
NOT REAL LIFE – paid $$$ to promote both the jeans and top. More info on how instagramer’s make a lot of $$$ on www.letsbegamechangers.com