One Australian teen took to the internet to unleash the fake nature of social media - with incredible results
Academics, psychologists and people generally over the age of 40 have been saying it for years. Social media is not real. And it's certainly not a reflection of what's really going on in someone's life. But no matter how many times we're told this, a single scroll through our Instagram or Facebook feed on a bad day has powers of persuasion unlike any other. Australian model and former Instagram star Essena O'Neill would be the first to agree, having once amassed over 570,000 followers on Instagram and 250,000+ subscribers on YouTube. Seemingly living an enviable #lifegoals-worthy life, the now 19 year old was queen of the #fitspo or bikini selfie. Showing off her washboard abs, tiny teenage body or sexy new dress, O'Neill's posts would regularly clock up thousand of likes and comments, making her a bona fide 21st century Instagram star.
Until one day, she wasn't. After deleting her YouTube, tumblr and Snapchat accounts off her phone, O'Neill went back through her Instagram feed, changing all the captions to reveal what was really going on. The results, as you can see in the gallery above, are both explosively real and kinda sad. And O'Neill isn't finished there. She's created a website, letsbegamechangers.com where she explains her changed life philosophy.
"I didn't live in the real world, I lived through screens. And I created a celebrity construct of myself, believing it would bring me happiness," writes O'Neill. "I found myself drowning in the illusion. Social media isn't real. It's purely contrived mages and edited clips ranked against each other. It's a system based on social approval, likes and dislikes, validation in views, success in followers... it's perfectly orchestrated judgement. And it consumed me."
Now committed to a vegan, earth-loving, mindful lifestyle O'Neill is upfront about the way Instagram stars get paid for posts and the pressures of being a social media star (read more here), which, we have to say, doesn't seem as nearly half as #blessed as it does on Instagram.