In the past few days, the global monster that is social media has been eating its own tail in an effort to make sense of Instagram celeb Essena O’Neill quitting the very medium that made her a star.
In case you were slacking on your own social media duties over the weekend and missed the madness, what happened was this: Essena, an 18-year-old Australian social media star with more than 600,000 Instagram followers (and hundreds of thousands more on Tumblr, YouTube and Snapchat), announced she was cutting off her social media life. In an Instagram post from October 26th that’s since been deleted (because that’s how quitting works), she explained her reasoning for bowing out while she was (apparently) ahead:
In the days since her decision went viral, plenty of people have had plenty to say — both good and bad — about the teen’s decision to worry more about her own physical and emotional health than fame or appearance.
Kayla Itsines, a fellow Aussie and fitness blogger with almost 4 million Instagram followers, is one of the people hoping Essena’s choice can help start a positive conversation about body image, social media and what’s really real. In an incredibly honest post, Kayla offered her own opinion on the pressures of life under the social media microscope, and praised “Social Media Is Not Real Life,” Essena’s re-named Instagram account.
In the post, Kayla described the idea behind “Social Media Is Not Real Life” as “absolutely fantastic,” and offered a heartfelt message to her millions of followers, encouraging them to “be honest” and create their “own self” instead of trying to be like someone else.
In a nod to Essena’s point about how social media only shows one small part of someone’s life (regardless of how “real” it is), Kayla reminded her fans that there are many things about her life that they don’t see, “not because I don’t want to show you, because I cannot physically take a photo of them. Things like the 5 am wake ups, the late nights, the constant bullying, the lack of support and understanding of friends, the stress. and so much more.”
This all makes sense, of course — we’re all way more likely to pin a shot of awesome abs to our “inspiration” boards than a photo reminding us just how dark it is at 5 in the morning. Celebrities may be just like us (at least in some ways), but we mostly want to hear about the fun parts of their lives, not the times they get stuck in traffic or stop at Sonic for a snack.
Still, it’s important that social media stars are promoting honesty, even when it’s not necessarily to the advantage of their brand. Kayla’s post ends with a plea to her followers to be true to themselves, rather than an ideal based on another person.
We could all probably use a little more honesty in our lives — and definitely in our social media. Thanks to people like Kayla, it seems like that might actually happen.
[Image: Facebook/Kayla Itsines]