this teen instagram star is exposing social media addiction
Australian model Essena O’Neill says being Instagram famous nearly ruined her life.
At 18, Essena O'Neill had almost half a million Instagram followers, and by her last year of high school she was making around $2,000 a month through her YouTube. She "had it all" she says (using air quotes): a flat in Sydney, a hyper-toned bod, and a hot boyfriend with a car. But, she wrote on her new website, Let's Be Game Changers (launched Saturday), "IT SUFFOCATED ME." In a video posted today she tells her viewers, "Taking myself off social media is a wake-up call to anyone and everyone who follows me."
Essena has now deleted all her social media accounts, bar her Instagram and YouTube, which she's now using only for "educational purposes." Her goal? To show how fake the images we see often are. She's edited the captions of the photos she hasn't deleted to explain what really went into creating each carefully staged yoga pant selfie and "candid" bikini shot. Beneath one photo she writes, "A 15 year old girl that calorie restricts and excessively exercises is not goals. Anyone addicted to social media fame like I once was, is not in a conscious state." Under another, she describes yelling at her younger sister to keep taking photos as she tried to find the most ab-flattering pose.
"I don't agree with social media as it currently is," Essena explains in a video on her site. She admits she felt how many people feel while scrolling through their feeds: "I would just spend hours looking at everyone else's perfect lives and I strived to make mine look just as good." But she had never been more miserable, she says, "Never again will I let a number define me."
Since launching her campaign, Essena's Instagram following has grown to over 600k - ironically confirming that her recaptioned photos are wildly more interesting than sponsored shots of smoothies.
Text Alice Newell-Hanson
Images via @essenaoneill