The 18-year-old Australian and former social media star shut down her popular YouTube, Snapchat and Tumblr accounts, and edited the captions on her Instagram account to show "social media is not real life."
But now, "friends" of O'Neill who hosted her during her stay in L.A. are claiming the whole thing is a hoax, referring to her website, videos and (now deleted) Instagram account as "shameless self-promotion."
In a video posted on their YouTube page, twins Nina and Randa Nelson pick apart Essena's YouTube video bit by bit, first by detailing the "truth" behind her L.A. trip. The Nelson sisters say they housed and fed Essena out of "kindness," which they say means her claims of reaching the "pinnacle of success" are false.
They then go on to say the real reason Essena quit social media was because of her breakup with that "famous TV star," who happen to be Nina and Randa's friend.
"To me what's so ironic about this, is that she's talking about all this fake people and fake this and fake that when the reason why she is so upset and so down is because of this breakup with this guy," says Nina. "Then she's putting all the blame on social media and that everyone in L.A. is horrible and cares about fame, when that's just not true."
"Please somebody explain to me, what is so inspiring about this?" she continues. "I don't know how she would think that she could put that up on social media and not hurt people's feelings. That to me is not heroic, it's just kind of mean."
The twins also posted the following message in the video's comments:
If you had made a video about your feelings of worthlessness even when you got lots of likes, or about your regret at having accepted money to recommend products you didn't actually believe in, or your attempt to no longer be fake on social media but to try to be real, spotlighting veganism, environment, animal cruelty or whatever, that would have been beautiful. Instead, you made a video about LA, about miserable fake people you observed here who are trying to deceive others. That seems to be what Good Morning America and the other media outlets covering this are interested in. How about you contact those media outlets and tell them you were wrong with what you said about what you experienced in LA and the people you met and the things you did here. You need to make this right, Essena, because what you've done is wrong. All the nice people who opened their hearts to you didn't deserve this.
And it doesn't stop there — the twins' brother, Willie Nelson, posted his own video on YouTube called "ESSENA ONEILL IS FAKE," saying anyone who watched or read Essena's viral message has been "duped" and "LIED TO."
Clearly this family is NOT happy.
Here's the thing: yes, it's ironic that Essena's message went viral on the very platform she was condemning. And who knows, maybe the breakup did spark her new movement. Or maybe it didn't. But regardless of whether this is real or a hoax, Essena has sparked an important conversation about how consumed we are with social media, and how caught up we can get in creating "perfect" lives for other people to see, all while pouring over others' seemingly enviable feeds.
Other social media stars and celebrities are chiming in with positive reactions, including Australian fitness guru, Kayla Itsines, who took to her Instagram account to support O'Neill's message and reiterate that she would never promote a product she didn't believe in.
I would like to touch on this recent 'Social Media is not real life' article. Three weeks ago, I made a post explaining "a side of social media that you don't see". What it REALLY takes. I explained that it's not as simple as posting a few photos of beautiful food, new clothes, luxury items (whatever celebrities post) and 💥BAM💥, life is amazing. On my account, I'll tell you now, you don't see a lot of things. Not because I don't want to show you, because I cannot physically take a photo of them. Things like... the 5 am wake ups, the late nights, the constant bullying, the lack of support and understanding of friends, the stress.... and so much more 💛 When I began my Instagram I had 3 things I would never do - and I still haven't done. 1️⃣ I would NEVER promote something I didn't believe in (detox, fads, quick fixes), and I still refuse 2️⃣ I would NEVER sexualise myself or pose provocatively to sell anything.3️⃣ I would never only post information that suits my lifestyle. (For example, I don't really enjoy eating mushrooms, but I would never tell YOU not to eat them if they're good for you). I don't recommend you eat one certain way, I recommend you eat HEALTHY, and in which way you choose to do that, is completely up to you, so I like to provide information that suits all lifestyle preferences. If you are healthy and fit, I'm happy!!💛 What I'm trying to say is that I want you ladies to be YOU. I want you to be the REAL YOU. My life, my food, my family ...isn't YOUR life, everyone is different. I post these transformations to show you there are SOOOO many girls out there on so many different journeys. All with one goal, to be happy, healthy and fit! Don't strive to live like, or be like, one person on social media. Create your own self. Be honest. Stick to your morals .. and always try and be the BEST person you can be. www.kaylaitsines.com/guides
Actress Emmy Rossum also put in her two cents, urging her followers to watch Essena's "touching video.
Aaaaaah! We just hit 1m! 😸🎂🎈🎆🎉 I love sharing with you on here and I DIG IT when you share with me. Here is a collage of some of your posts to say thank you... ALSO I am getting a sweet SURPRISE ready for you guys later on today... Stay tuned! :) PS: Numbers are nice but they aren't everything. I'm reminded of #essenaoneill and the touching video I watched of hers last night. Google it and watch it if you haven't seen it.
Essena has since posted a video on Vimeo (a video sharing platform she loves for its "positive and value based ranking, not likes or followers or BS ads"), saying she is "overwhelmed" and "beyond words grateful" by the way people have reached out to her and responded to her story.
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