By now, you’ve likely heard the story of teen Instagram model Essena O’Neill, who recently overhauled her entire Instagram account in an effort to encourage young people to get off social media and lead fuller, more enriching lives.
For several years, O’Neill said she spent her entire life worrying about how she would present herself to her hundreds of thousands of Instagram followers. But the former Instagram star said her life behind her phone camera wasn’t meaningful, and so earlier this month, Essena deleted more than 2,000 photos from her Instagram account and re-captioned others before ultimately deleting her entire account.
During her rising fame, the Australian Instagram star said her entire goal was to be “Facebook famous.” She wanted to portray herself as a hot, carefree teenager living the ultimate life.
The problem was that for Essena, this lifestyle wasn’t fulfilling, and it wasn’t sustainable. On her new website, called Let Us Be Game Changers, Essena O’Neill wrote about how she felt while living life as a model on social media.
“I was a living paradox of conditional self-love and constant self-hate. What do I mean by conditional self-love? I liked myself based on how tight and toned my body was, how pretty my hair and makeup was, how hot the guy I was talking to was, how happy I looked in photos, how many people liked my photos… my whole idea of self worth revolved around my appearance and my social media status. Basically, my self worth relied on social approval.”
Essena’s decision to quit modeling on social media has garnered a lot of attention for the star, and on Monday O’Neill posted a video to her new website, in which she reacts to the outpouring of support she’s received.
“I feel so grateful that this (message) is being spread, that this is actually getting out there, that young people can find out the reality behind the ‘perfect Instagram life,’ and how nothing is perfect about spending every single day making your life look perfect online. That is not real, and that is not inspirational, and there is so much more we could be doing than editing ourselves and proving ourselves to others. I’m so happy that this is finally something real and people are talking about it. Eating disorders, mental health disorders – there’s so much that goes into the pressure to fit in, to be liked and it’s so not real. Focus on individuality, that’s all that matters.”
Though O’Neill has received an overwhelmingly positive response, a message on her website would lead us to believe that not everyone has been supportive. On a banner on the top of the Let Us Be Game Changers website, O’Neill begs readers to focus on her message rather than her personal life.
“Please, this isn’t about my personal life. Those I trusted spreading rumors… this is my exact point about social media,” Essena wrote. “We must use our voices for good and positive change. Why not talk about this movement as a concept? … Human beings are capable of so much more than gossip, cool pictures and ironic captions. Let’s talk about the real things happening globally that matter.”
According to her website, some of those issues include veganism, environmental awareness, and body positivity.
A quick YouTube search of Essena O’Neill’s name turns up many, many reaction videos, including the one below, in which women who say they know Essena contradict some of the claims the Australian model made in her final YouTube video.
What do you think about Essena O’Neill’s decision to quit social media? Do you think Essena O’Neill’s decision to move on from social media is a hoax or a publicity stunt?
Do you think O’Neill is spreading a good message with her new website?
Find out more about former Australian Instagram model Essena O’Neill in the video below.
[Photo from Essena O’Neill’s Instagram]