Last week, social media star Essena O'Neill took a stand against social media culture. The Aussie teen, who boasts over 800,000 followers on Instagram alone, deleted over 2,000 of her photos; the images that remain feature edited captions highlighting the unhappy "truths" behind each shot. She changed the name of her IG account to "Social Media Is Not Real Life." She debuted a new website, entitled Let's Be Game Changers, dedicated to breaking the "edited reality" mold. The media, predictably, went nuts. And yesterday, O'Neill released a tearful thank you note to the mass support she's already received from across the world — which caused even my tiny Grinch heart to grow a size or two.
At 19 years old, Essena O'Neill is no stranger to the world of social media. Her sun-drenched photos, featuring beautiful beaches, and beautiful dresses and always, always a beautiful smile, entranced a generation of social media users for for a substantial portion of time. Happiness, effortlessly.
But according to O'Neill, her life was consumed with maintaining a highly edited version of herself. Disordered eating, depression — those were her realities. Eventually, she began to ask herself why she was keeping up the charade. More likes on social media? She wasn't living life, she says. So she decided to use her position for good.
Even O'Neill, though, was blown away by the world's reaction. In the below video, she expresses her immense gratitude for the number of people who have shared her message.
O'Neill brings up some really, really good points about the current image-based culture we've created. The constant pressure to show your perfect life off to the entire world is not helpful to us when things are less than perfect. Notes O'Neill, "Nothing is perfect about spending every single day making your life look perfect online. That is not real. That is not inspirational." She continues, "There is so much more we could be doing than editing ourselves and proving ourselves to others. ... Real people matter. Real changes matters. Focus on that, focus on individuality."
Her Instagram account is now pattered with "stay woke" quotes, focusing primarily on the disconnect between physical beauty and internal happiness. Her followers have almost doubled since the release of her new platform three days ago. Media outlets are begging for an interview, an appearance, a quote.
Essena O'Neill, more than ever, is trending — but for an incredibly powerful reason.
Image: Essena O'Neill/Vimeo