19-year-old Essena shares with us the untold details behind her “picture-perfect” life.
Social media celebrity, Essena O´Neill, has declared war to social media. Her half a million followers on Instagram, 200.000 on YouTube and Tumblr and 60.000 on her Snapchat -all now inactive accounts- watched Essena rename every #fitspo selfie, green juice caption and outfit post. She was firm about sharing the anecdotes behind these captions to unveil her unhappy lifestyle that looked tremendously good on the outside.
Determined to raise awareness about self-love and body image, O´neill comes clean as to how many hours were spent shooting and editing in order to get that one perfect picture that just so happens to look incredibly effortless and natural.
On one of her instagram pictures where she was posing in a bikini you can read: «Took over 100 in similar poses trying to make my stomach look good. Would have hardly eaten that day.» Some other unusual titles – for pictures of her now defunct Instagram account – give away how much brands were paying her to display their product (figures that were directly affected by the amount of followers she had) and explain how she grew up seeing other woman as competition.
On her new site called “Let´s be game changers” she uploaded her first video “Why I think social media sucks”, where Essena confesses that, since age 12, she spent every minute of every day trying to prove her self to others through social media. “I lived through a screen (…) and let numbers define me…” she says.
And I ask myself, is social media at fault or does it all come down to purpose and the way we use social media to express ourselves and communicate with others? Can we can stay true to yourselves by using social media? I think of social media as a tool; used to share with others new ideas or products, inspiring stories, the lyrics to your favorite song… Basically anything we feel is worth sharing and everything we feel identified with.
I have to admit I follow tons of accounts like Essena´s and I am sure that social media is not real life, but maybe 10 years ago this wouldn´t have been so clear to me. I love blogs, I love getting inspiration from Instagram accounts, reading about the latest fashion trends, listening to different podcasts and watching new TED talks. I could never live with out the internet and it´s endless content, but I realize when I see a model under a palm tree holding up a piece of watermelon; that she is getting paid to pose in a bikini while smiling.
I assume at times she can get tired of her job, that maybe she doesn´t feel like smiling. I also realize that we can all feel that way at out jobs sometimes, but can also make decisions and take control of our lives if we are unhappy with where our previous choices have taken us.
Essena´s actions went viral in a matter of seconds and most of the reactions applaud her for being brave and standing up for what she believes is the right thing to do. Her learning process has given her a new voice. Hopefully this voice can inspire other young teenagers by telling them not to aspire to be what they see on a manufactured Instagram account. Maybe her story can help those in search of their own identity understand that physical appearance is not all that important.
It has crossed my mind that maybe this was not out of the blue, maybe it was all a plan to rebrand her presence on social media and launch a new blog based on a common feeling among society. Whether it was planned or not, it´s a good way to start rethinking about the way we react to media content and what we demand of social feed in order to promote critical thinking as well as self-awareness and diversity.