Australian social media star Essena O’Neill is fed up with the culture of followers and likes that kept her trapped for the majority of her teen years. In her video, “Why I think social media sucks,” posted to Vimeo four days ago, she denounces social media altogether and announces the launch of her new website.
O’Neill first deleted her Snapchat and Tumblr accounts, leaving her YouTube and Instagram, re-captioned to tell the truth behind her “perfect” photos, but later did away with those as well.
Her new website, letsbegamechangers.com, houses old captions from her previous social media platforms. On Oct. 30 she wrote, “Without realising, I’ve spent majority of my teenage life being addicted to social media, social approval, social status and my physical appearance. Social media, especially how I used it, isn’t real.”
Social media culture can be very dismantling to self-esteem. Millions of images, like the ones O’Neill would produce, litter the Internet’s various platforms and even take some dark turns into the worlds of Pro-ana and Pro-mia—breeding grounds for eating disorders. Things like “thinspo” or “fitspo,” which O’Neill would post, promote a culture of thinness that can pull people into a world where their body and appearance is equivalent to worth. This was the world that O’Neill was a part of, and she is ready to be done.
Revealing the story behind the above photo on her new website she says that she was a 15-year-old who restricted calories, exercised excessively and wore a push-up bra to give her boobs the appearance that they were two sizes larger than they were in reality. She had become obsessed with people validating her existence by liking her photos.
Her success on social media turned into cash as she did advertising for brands in her photos, and cashed in on about $2,000 per month with her YouTube account, she wrote on her website. “Now I have a real problem with this, purely because paid endorsements with no core message ruined me. In the past, I have agreed to promote companies who didn’t align with my core values. Without fail, this left me feeling extremely shallow, greedy and lost,” O’Neill wrote.
Working on her new website, O’Neill is focusing on things like videos, articles and art that she finds to be inspiring rather than obsessively maintaining her “perfect” life, constructed entirely with photo-editing and posing. It is refreshing to have one of the many pretty-girl bloggers with thousands of followers tell the truth about the face behind the images.
When it comes to social media, we are what we follow, so for people who follow thousands of accounts like pre-reform O’Neill’s, it makes sense that an endless scroll of self-doubt would be created.
Following accounts with positive messaging and dialogue about real-world events are the best way to use these social media platforms for good instead of evil. While it is possible to create a widespread culture of low self-esteem via Instagram, it is also possible to unleash the power of social media to foster positivity and growth.
More from BUST