When you scroll through your Instagram feed each day, it can be easy to get caught up in the seemingly "perfect" lives of those we follow. Whether they are fashion bloggers with impeccable #OOTDs, makeup gurus with impossibly beautiful selfies or fitness bloggers with enviable #fitspo pics, it seems as though social media is the perfect source of #goals, many of which aren't exactly realistic.
Take it from Essena O'Neill, an 18-year-old from Australia, who, up until now, was a bonafide social media star. With over half a million followers on Instagram, along with 200,000 followers on YouTube and Tumblr and 60,000 on her Snapchat (the latter of which are inactive), O'Neill was one of those #InstaFamous girls who ignited some serious FOMO with her followers.
Last week, Essena decided she was done with social media, deleting 2,000 photos from her Instagram account and changing the name to "Social Media Is Not Real Life." The remaining photos' captions have been edited to reveal just how much work it took her to live such a perfectly curated life. That flawless selfie? It was the result of "a lot of makeup" covering up her acne. Her fit bikini pic? It "took over 100 in similar poses trying to make my stomach look good," she says. And the stunning formal photo in the white dress? It made her feel "incredibly alone."
"I've spent the majority of my teenage life being addicted to social media, social approval, social status, and my physical appearance," she writes in her last Instagram post, which shows a cartoon character wearing a television set on his head with "We Are A Brain-Washed Generation" written on the screen. "Social media, especially how I used it, isn't real. It's contrived images and edited clips ranked against each other. It's a system based on social approval, likes, validation, in views, success in followers. it's perfectly orchestrated self-absorbed judgement."
Now, Essena has launched a new site called "Let's Be Game Changers" for "the people who want more from ourselves and the current system we live in."
"Taking myself off social media is a wake-up call to anyone and everyone who follows me," O'Neill says in her last-ever YouTube video, which she says is dedicated to her 12-year-old self. "I had the 'dream life.' To a lot of people I 'made it'...I was surrounded by all this wealth, power, and fame, and yet I had never been so miserable. I was the girl who had it all and I'm telling you that having it all on social media means absolutely nothing to your real life."
She goes on to reveal that "everything I was doing was edited and contrived" to get more likes, more views and more followers, but in the end, it didn't leave her happy or fulfilled.
"When you let yourself be defined by numbers, you let yourself be defined by something that is not real, that is not pure, and that is not love," she says.