Teen Instagram Star Essena O'Neill Has Crisis of Conscience, Reveals the Truth Behind Her Photos, Deletes All Social Media

Instagram star Essena O'Neill deleted all of her social media accounts and posted a video to YouTube on Monday, Nov. 2, explaining why. Credit: Courtesy of Essena O'Neill

Using social media for social good. Teen Instagram star Essena O’Neill shared her last post on YouTube on Monday, Nov. 2, explaining to her fans and followers exactly why she’s decided to pull the plug on all her social media accounts.

The 18-year-old Aussie native, who has more than half a million followers on Instagram and more than 200,000 subscribers on YouTube, kicked off the video with a disclaimer.

“This is my last ever post on Youtube,” the initial text reads. “Social media is my career. For most watching, it is not. This is for my 12 year old self.”

“There is so much I want to say, and there are so many topics that I want to cover,” the teen begins in the clip. “I have an insight into a world of social media that I believe not many people are aware of in terms of how it works in advertisements, how I know a lot of other social media personalities, and just how fake it all is. I say fake because I don’t think anyone has bad intentions, but they got sucked into it like I was.”

O’Neill goes on to detail how she was being offered lots of money to post promotional posts for advertisers, and was living what seemed, at least on the surface, to be a “dream life.”

But the truth, she explains, is that she had never been more “miserable” in her life.

“Having it all on social media has absolutely nothing to do with your real life,” she says.

Last week, O’Neill went into her Instagram account and deleted 2,000 photos, renamed her account “Social Media Is Not Real Life,” launched a website advocating for awareness and change, and rewrote the captions of her existing photos to give more truthful descriptions of the painstaking things she did to get the perfect post.

In one photo posted four weeks ago, O’Neill noted that the photographer was talented, but that “what wasn’t captured was the long talks we had sitting on the beach waiting for golden hour lighting.”

“That’s real life, this image is contrived beauty, not real,” she captioned the snapshot.

“Without realizing, I’ve spent majority of my teenage life being addicted to social media, social approval, social status and my physical appearance,” she captioned her last post, which she’d edited to be a cartoon image of a teen with a TV in place of a head. “Social media, especially how I used it, isn’t real. …How can we see ourselves and our true purpose/talents if we are constantly viewing others?”

I grew up seeing other women as competition. I mean yes, I was a first born. Naturally, I wanted to be the best at everything. Yeah I had family issues, I always felt too big and tall, I didn't feel desired at all. I told myself I wasn't enough when holding myself up to society's standards for women. I told myself this at 11. So yeah I think seeing other women as competition was due to a lack of value in self... I felt the need to prove my value against others. And let me tell you, that's incredibly lonely and pointless. Very recently I'm focusing all my attention on doing things I enjoy - regardless of how it ranks against others. I'm SO OVER seeing women plastered against each other. Especially in the vegan/blogger scene. Have we really stooped so low that we feel the need to compare women for their popularity on social media?? For their physical fitness or how lean they are, how clean their diets are, how clear their skin is, how tall or short they are, how athletic or curving their build is... IM OVER SO OVER IT ALL. What is the point? Really? What does it give you other than the self satisfaction of being 'better'? So it feeds your ego? Far out that's lonely. Like "good job you are thinner and eat better - you're automatically a better person!" Really? Like REALLY is that what we believe? Is that what we want? Comparing our lives every second we get? I didn't even realise how much I did it. Being active on social media sucks you in. But I don't want to live in a society that compares and contrasts human beings for the sake of it. I want to live in a society that looks for the positives and individual traits in each of us. Not how many followers each has, or views or likes, or body part that's "nicer", or money we make... REAL STUFF: the projects we are working on, the dreams we have, the ideas we are exploring, the parts of the world we wish to help, the parts of ourselves we wish to heal. That's friendship. It's unconditional support and empathy.

A photo posted by Social Media Is Not Real Life (@essenaoneill) on Oct 14, 2015 at 3:33pm PDT

At one point in her video posted Monday, O’Neill sums up her sentiments in what she deems her “wake up call” to her fans and followers.

“When you let yourself be defined by numbers, you let yourself be defined by something that’s not pure, that’s not real,” she says. “That’s not love.”

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