A teen star gets real about her “perfect” life on social media. Here’s why it matters.

Essena O’Neill seemed to have it all: at 18, the Australian social media star had over half a million followers on Instagram, over 200,000 followers on Tumblr and YouTube, and over 60,000 on Snapchat, O’Neill was making a living off being a social media superstar. When she announced on Monday that she was quitting social media for good, we were all asking the same question: but why? Then she explained her brave stand against social media and how it can easily consume our lives in a very unhealthy way.

In an Instagram post from October 26th, O’Neill stated,

Wise beyond her years, O’Neill decided to rename her Instagram account “Social Media Is Not Real,” and recaptioned the photos she didn’t delete with the true stories behind her “candid” shots: a lot of them were staged, and in order to get the “perfect look,” often she’d skip meals and was so consumed by the pressure to be liked by her followers, that she fell into a life of misery.

 After growing her fanbase on social media, O’Neill was able to make a living from her accounts, and was regularly getting offers from advertisers to pose in their products and model in L.A. In one of her re-captions on Instagram, for example, she tells us what was really going on in the “candid” photo:

On Monday, O’Neill posted a video on her YouTube channel about how much better she feels now that she has let her former life go, the life that wasn’t the dream it appeared to be.

She brings up an incredible lesson for all of us, and that is: do we really need to consume ourselves with making it appear like we have perfect lives on social media, just to collect as many “likes” as possible? Or to set such unattainable goals for ourselves to have the perfect body, the perfect outfit, or the perfect vacation? Because it turns out, these things are never as “perfect” as we want them to be, and the more women that speak out loud about it like O’Neill, the closer we are to being true to ourselves.

She says on her video, “I spent everyday looking at a screen, viewing and comparing myself to others. It’s easier to look at shiny and pretty things that appear happy than stopping and just getting real with yourself.” 

Now, O’Neill has created an inspiring and empowering website, Let’s Be Game Changers, with the hopes of starting a movement for all of us who feel pressured and consumed by the lives we think we should be living—according to all of the social media that controls how we think about ourselves and others.

She sums it up best when she says, “When you stop comparing and viewing yourself against others, you start to see your own spark and individuality. Everyone has love, kindness, creativity, passion and purpose. Don’t let anyone sell you something different.” We are blown away by O’Neill’s brave decision to break the mold and take a stand, and we’re definitely taking her message to heart.


[Images via Instagram]