Perspective Study

Essena O-Neill & the Reflection of Social Media

What is social media to you? Is it a place to catch up with friends and family? Or maybe a place to keep up with the latest trends and news? Social Media is used in a lot of different ways by a lot of different people. It means more to some than it does to others. For 18 year old Essena O’Neill social media was everything, until she came to a rather devastating realization.

Blogger Essena O'Neill quits social media calling it 'contrived perfection  made to get attention'
courtesy of The Telegraph

Essena claimed that, even with social media, she was a lost and lonely teenager. None of her friends were truly her friends, they were just for show, along with mostly everything else in her life. The Australian born model came to a life changing realization; social media isn’t everything. Despite creating a prospering career out of using social media, Essena deleted all of her platforms and created a blog instead ( The blog revolves around a healthy lifestyle and how to better your life without social media. She also expresses topics that are meaningful to her.

Essena wanted to change her life. She claimed that social media was “just an illusion” and “not real life” in one of her videos on her website. She always believed that her Instagram pictures showed her worth, but she didn’t know she was worth more than that. From a young age Essena was obsessed with having a lot of followers and becoming famous. She would follow famous Facebook users because she thought they were everything. She wanted to be like them. She wrote on her blog, “I dreamed of being one. I studied them, I envied them, I put in a lot of effort to be one of them.”

Her passion for becoming famous also had impacted her health and mind set. Essena was conscious about the way her body looked from the age of 15. She would restrict her calories and exercise more than she needed too. She needed to be perfect for the photos she would later post. She was constantly worried about what other people thought of her. She wished someone was there to tell her that she didn’t need those likes on Instagram to feel wanted, but there was no one there for her. She had to grow her own self worth from strangers on the internet. She never thought of the damage she was doing to her body and mind.

Before Essena quit social media, she decided to tell her followers the truth behind all of her instagram pictures. She went back to every single one and edited the caption. The picture on the left has the new caption of, “paid for this photo. If you find yourself looking at “Instagram girls” and wishing your life was there’s…Realise you only see what they want. If they tag a company 99% of the time it’s paid. Nothing is wrong with supporting brands you love (for example I proudly would promote Eco sheets or a vegan means in exchange for money as its business for a purpose to me). BUT this has no purpose. No purpose in a forced smile, tiney clothes and being paid to look pretty. We are a generation told to consume and consume, with no thought of where it all comes from and where it all goes.

Essena O'Neill: The girl using social media to tell you social media is evil
courtesy of Mashable

Essena wanted people to know that not everyone’s perfect and that not all pictures look as they seem. She was tired from hiding behind a screen. She wanted everyone to know the real her. In reality she didn’t want to be alone anymore. Despite her large number of followers, Essena still felt a great amount of loneliness. To ignore the loneliness she needed “more followers, more viewers” to feel good about herself. Essena felt unworthy and unpopular by society’s standards when she didn’t receive a valid number of likes and views. These thoughts stopped her from becoming her own person. She was shaped by society and she had to break through the mold to be able to slowly paint her own life.

How the media reacted to Essena quitting social media was rather shocking. Instantly there were people claiming that Essena wasn’t really quitting, that she was just saying that to become even more popular. Two of Essena’s close social media friends posted a Youtube video saying that she was deleting her accounts as a stunt to get more followers. The two girls, Nina and Randa Nelson, later promoted the video on their Twitter. Nina Nelson even said, “I think the person that is fake here is Essena”. More tweets were made about how fake Essena really was, when in reality she was quitting social media because of that exact reason. No one believed her until she actually did it.

Essena O'Neill: A Call To Use Social Media Responsibly. | elephant journal
courtesy of Elephant Journal

Essena recieved hate from Facebook users too. They were also claiming that Essena was just promoting herself to get more followers. People didn’t understand what Essena was really trying to get at. They just assumed she was like all of the other social media stars. She took the harsh comments and actions well. Essena calmly told her followers and other commenters what was going on and continued to delete her accounts to prove them wrong. A comment was made to her by Mr. Jurgenson to “go outside, go to a park, go to a beach, go somewhere there are people around you.” Essena came to a conclusion in her final statement, “What I’m doing here is a statement that real life isn’t through screens”.

In the end, Essena got her message across about the reality of social media. In some of her last statements she said, “I no longer want to spend hours and hours of my time scrolling, viewing and comparing myself to others. I want to do something, anything, something radical, something a little different. I want to use my imagination, my individual mind, my unique take on this world.” She is on the road to a better lifestyle all well helping others achieve theirs. She will continue her website in hopes to make an impact on society today.


O’Neill, Essena. Behind the Image. Let’s Be Game Changers. N.p., 31 Oct. 2015.

Web. 1 Dec. 2015. <;.

Hunt, Elle. “Essena O’Neill Quits Instagram Claiming Social Media ‘Is Not Real Life.'” The Guardian. N.p., 3 Nov. 2015. Web. 1 Dec. 2015. <;.

Chan-Laddaran, Kerry. “Social media Is Not Real, Says Teen Instagram Star.” CNN. Cable News Network, 4 Nov. 2015. Web. 2 Dec. 2015. <;.

Bromwich, Jonah. “Essena O’Neill, Instagram Star, Recaptions Her Life.” The New York Times. N.P., 3 Nov. 2015. Web. 2 Dec. 2015. <;.

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