Instagram star Essena O’Neill is now way more famous than how she used to be—and ironically—it was all because she “quit” social media.
"I'm the girl that had it all, and I want to tell you that having it all on social media means absolutely nothing in real life." -Essena O'Neill
The teen model, who once had half a million followers on her now defunct Instagram, skyrocketed to the next level of fame after having a change of heart about her views on social media, claiming that it’s high time to confront the truth about it. She confessed to being paid to wear clothes she didn’t even like and to endorse brands she didn’t even believe in, and then she created a website called Let’s Be Game Changers where she posted videos about how she doesn’t want to be defined by numbers anymore.
Like a hero, she was applauded for stepping up and exposing social media for what it truly is—a puppet show… But is it really?
One of the posts from Essena's deleted IG account after she decided to #getreal
It’s true that some people do it—accepting money in exchange for advertising products, editing images to look as flawless as possible, and basically building a career out of social media. But Essena’s bold move, as brave as it may have seemed to other people, didn’t sit right with her fellow online influencers, particularly YouTube stars Nina and Randa Nelson.
In response to Essena, the social media stars who were clearly offended came forward with a video of their own, calling it no more than a hoax and just another publicity stunt meant to self-promote. The twins called it mean, and definitely not heroic.
Adding fuel to the fire, Zack James, CEO of Los Angeles-based social media company Rise9, also called her out. On Facebook, he wrote: “Social media can be whatever the user desires it to be. Allowing yourself to become pressured into a false life that you’re uncomfortable with is the result of your own actions and intent. The inability to define yourself, your life, your own sense of confidence comes from a lack of trying to understand yourself.”
“Social media isn’t the lie, you were the lie.” –Zack James
Social media can be a cruel popularity contest. So it’s flawed, yes, and can be very intoxicating to take part in. But does it automatically make you a hypocrite to use a filter on your photos? Is it so wrong to curate your Instagram grid and see it as a personal creative outlet? Is it such a sham to choose only the best moments of your life to post on social media? (Because let’s face it—no one wants to air their dirty laundry in public.) Does it really make you a fraud to accept money in exchange for promoting something to your loyal followers? Because then all our local celebrities, Hollywood stars even, are guilty of this—if it’s even a crime, to which it’s not.
It’s unfair to generalize and assume that everyone has the same skewed views about using social media only to build pretenses and promote negativity—because you and I know, that's not all there is to it. And if the only reason you're on Instagram or Facebook is to get more likes and be insta-famous, then how is there anyone else to blame but yourself?
Main image/gif by Yayay de Castro