For someone who has “quit the internet” and has basically disappeared from social media, Essena O’Neill sure gets a lot of attention on, yes, the internet. And, believe it or not, she’s trending again. Months after declaring her decision to step away from social media altogether, O’Neill is still gaining support and getting attention both online and off.
— Miquel (@MiquelRuvel) November 23, 2015
Essena O’Neill is a former Instagram model who supposedly quit the internet because she thought social media was fake. She has received amazing amounts of support from followers and fans, and recently, she was named one of the Time‘s 30 most influential people on the internet.
Time‘s list of the 30 most influential people on the internet includes Kanye West, Kim Kardashian, and Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg, aka PewDiePie, among others. O’Neill gained fame by deconstructing her Instagram page to prove to followers that her photographs were not a reflection of reality. She then shut down all her social media channels and announced her intention to write a book.
— NotizieVirali (@NotizieVirali) April 24, 2016
O’Neill, who had quit college to pursue a career in social media, had amassed over 500,000 followers on Instagram. Through her efforts, she was signed by a modeling agency and built a YouTube following. She even traveled to Los Angeles to meet with other social media influencers.
But then, she shocked her fan base by sharing the original and unedited versions of her Instagram posts. She outlined how each one was altered or sponsored before shutting down her account completely.
“Social media was my full-time job and took up majority of my life. I would spend eight hours a day photographing, styling, editing, filming, scrolling. Finding people with similar passions was incredible – eating out for free, every little moment could be a perfect candid snap or silly vlog, we’d talk about my nonstop boy problems, and bitch about other YouTuber’s/Instagrammers that I knew personally. That was my life. Constant shoots, photos, editing and an artificial smile. I am not one bit proud of my actions, if that’s not already clear.”
O’Neill went on to state “I was able to fund travels to Thailand and L.A. off YouTube payments and paid posts… Of which I deceived and acted like I bought the products of free will.”
— Naman Kumar (@NamanKumar24) December 4, 2015
While she was dropping the bomb about social media all over the internet, O’Neill was shedding some light on the darker side of becoming a social media influencer. Her actions sparked a debate about the validity of much of what is seen on social media.
Because of her willingness to come clean about social media and the things that she did to promote herself and her efforts as a social media influencer, Time Magazine included her in one of their most infamous lists. Time also included Matt Drudge of the Drudge Report, and Tess Holliday, well-known for her work as a plus-sized supermodel.
Sometimes, it is easy to assume that people realize much of what is seen online is altered or amended in some way. In fact, many people find it hard to believe that so many people are somehow manipulated into the belief that the imagery depicted on Instagram and other social media outlets is anywhere near a depiction of real-life. However, many followers commend O’Neill for speaking out to those who have been sucked in by the “fakeness” of it all.
[Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]