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Instagram celeb Essena O’Neill's brave retaliation against social media

Written by
Jennifer Picht

Well-known Aussie model Essena O’Neill is garnering a lot of media attention right now, and for once it has nothing to do with who she’s dating or the clothes the starlet is wearing—she’s taking a stand against social media. (Gasp).

With more than half a million followers on Instagram, the 18-year-old deleted more than 2,000 photos, claiming “they serve no real purpose other than self-promotion,” and openly vented in the captions about her insecurities, being manipulated by fashion heavy-weights and reveals that social media isn’t real.


I'm quitting Instagram, YouTube and Tumblr. Deleted over 2000 photos here today that served no real purpose other than self promotion. 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. 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. I was consumed by it. I spent majority of my day aimlessly scrolling, hours on YouTube... How can we see ourselves and our true purpose/talents if we are constantly viewing others? Many of us are in so deep we don't realise it's delusional powers and the impact it has on our lives. There's a select few photos I left here, half are original captions that I believe to be educational, the other half are photos that deluded you. It was never my conscious intention, but I deluded a lot of people...Call it deception, manipulation, lying, not saying the whole truth... I was both addicted to social approval and terrified no one would value me for myself. So I rewrote the captions of these false photos with short shots of reality. EVERYTHING EXPLAINED IN THE LINK IN MY BIO. There's no likes or views or followers there. Just my content as raw as I want. It's all going to be free of course. My main vegan videos will still be on YouTube, but vimeo will host all the new quality content. Made to help not to get views or $$$. How will I spread my message? Organically. If it moves someone, they tell their friends about it, simple as that. I'll be talking about vegansim, creative imagery with purpose, poems, writing, interviews with people that inspire me, and of course the finical reality behind deluding people off Instagram...I was so caught up in it all. P.S when the new form of social sharing comes out, something that doesn't revolve around likes and views but based on similar topics/quality for example, I will see you there, whenever that day comes.... We must create change.

A photo posted by Social Media Is Not Real Life (@essenaoneill) on

O’Neill’s breakdown or moment of truth—er, whatever you want to call it—boils down to this: Social sharing should not be based on validation views, followers and likes, but “shared for real value and love.”

That’s a real hokey way of saying there needs to be more authenticity associated with social sharing in society. And that’s a motive I think we can all get behind, as opposed to removing ourselves from social media entirely and blaming an app like Instagram for making us feel inadequate. 

Social media is a powerful tool for starting conversation and showing representation—and I agree with O’Neill that we do, indeed, use it to seek validation. (If you removed an Instagram photo because it received 12 likes instead of 200, this means you, too.)

But hey, we’re all human. And when we can’t be our own No. 1 fan, it’s nice to have adamant friends and family (or a shiton of followers) to cheer us on when we feel like the poo emoji. And it’s okay to admit that. Actually, it’s better than okay—that’s real talk. We’re all working on ourselves. 

So the next time you post a selfie (which took over 20 minutes to reshoot until you got the angle just right), I encourage you to post it. But instead of saying, “I woke up like this," be honest. People will connect more to honesty—and isn't building a connection with others what social media is all about? 

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