Would you quit social media cold turkey? This past week, 18-year-old, Australian, Essena O’Neill did just that.
Over the past 4 years, Essena (Eh-seen-ah) O’Neill developed a huge follower base “with 570,00+ followers on Instagram, 250,000+ subscribes on YouTube, 250,000+ on Tumblr and 60,000+ average views on Snapchat.” She’s been asked to market products over her pages, sometimes getting paid for such promotion. At a mere 16, she posted countless bikini clad photos as well as done-up selfies. She got thousands of likes and comments on her posts from adoring fans.
About a week ago on October 27th, O’Neill deleted over 2000 pictures from her Instagram and began her journey to quitting social media. O’Neill edited captions to show the “truths” behind some of her Instas and deleted her Snapchat and Tumblr accounts. She then kept what was left on her revamped Instagram and Youtube pages as proof of her social media cleanse (both of which were deleted yesterday) and created a Vimeo account as well as a new website – Let’s Be Game Changers.
So what prompted such drastic actions? O’Neill found herself disgusted by her obsession with social media and her motivations to post on these platforms. On her website, O’Neill describes how she found herself engulfed by social media – how many likes she got, how many followers she had, etc. She constantly sought social approval. She created an image of herself that didn’t actually reflect reality. She would spend countless hours getting the perfect shot to upload in order to get X amount of likes for validation of her fame. In one of her old YouTube videos, O’Neill describes her old routines. Every morning, she’d check Instagram to see how her photos were doing with likes, then proceeded to check her other social media pages – Tumblr, Snapchat, YouTube, and Facebook. When doing photo-shoots, it would sometimes take half an hour to over an hour for her to get what she hoped to be the perfect shot. Sometimes, these photo-shoots weren’t even for brands or companies sponsoring her. Instead, they were just photos to post to get more validation.
The irony of it all is that O’Neill is getting a lot of feedback for her actions via social media. She insists that the only platforms she’ll be using are her website and Vimeo. On Tuesday, November 3rd, O’Neill deleted both her Instagram and Youtube accounts (which proved to be a nuisance to me since I was trying to get content for this post). From now on, O’Neill wants to promote:
Being present: I’m trying to learn how to be fully present in order to be able to take in each moment wholeheartedly and to fully appreciate everything this life has to offer.
Our Home: Anything to do with nature and this planet; environmental preservation, awareness, exploration, appreciation.
Veganism: The connection to all life forms on earth. Showing kindness and respect to all animals, the environment and each other.
Real Health: Mental health, physical health and of course spiritual health. My definition of real health is if you feel good, you effortlessly spread good.
Unity: A world free from discrimination, shame, ridicule and blame. A world of compassion, support, togetherness and oneness for everyone.
Self Expression: The ability to express your own thoughts, concerns, ideas freely in order to personally grow, learn and additionally inspire other’s to do the same.
Love and connection: Feeling love from within, feeling it in all relationships, spreading love and the aspiration to work together in the beauty of connection.
Looking back, it’s great that Essena O’Neill went through this cleanse for the betterment of herself. However, how much do we really care? It’s safe to say that her experience with social media is not far off from many of ours.
Think about it. What’s the first thing you check when you wake up? Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr? How often do you refresh your pictures to see if you’ve gotten more likes? Do you ever look at a picture or a tweet and think – “Ha, this is gonna get me a ton of favorites/likes,”?
What’s the big deal with Essena O’Neill? Any teenager or young adult can give up social media and start promoting veganism. However, at the end of the day, this brings us back to a larger question that not only relates to O’Neill’s blow up, but also to social media in general: why do we care?
It’s easy to scoff at someone as Instafamous as O’Neill and say that anyone can delete their account, but for many, it’s not that easy to follow through with their actions.