Some of you may have heard that Australian Instagram star, Essena O’Neill, with half a million followers, officially quit all social media, including Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and Snapchat last week, claiming that she no longer wants to live the life of the false persona she created using those sites. She deleted over 2,000 photos on her Instagram that she felt served no purpose other than promotion for products, mainly clothing, that she was paid to wear and advertise. She also created a website that chronicles her new journey: letsbegamechangers.com.
O’Neill chose to delete her accounts to say goodbye to the person she no longer knew or liked in order to begin with a new life, free of dependence on social media measured by likes and favorites. She did it in order to show other young women in a society obsessed with beauty, weight, and perfection that what we see in photos on social media is not reality. Before deleting her Instagram account, she edited some captions on a few photos to show the reality behind snapping the perfect photo, revealing that a photo showing her in a bikini took more than 100 attempts “trying to make my stomach look good, while hardly having eaten anything that day.”
So will O’Neill’s revelation have a positive impact on young women who followed her on social media and/or are following her story now?
“I think the point she’s trying to make about the false “reality” popular figures on social media, namely Instagram and YouTube, is a great one. These people are taking dozens of selfies to get the perfect one, and then they edit it, put a filter on it and those looking at the photos don’t see the process that went into getting that perfect shot. I think it’s extremely damaging to young girls who are active on those social media platforms and absorbing these images,” said Mikayla Neyens ‘16, an International Relations major.
She was not solely promoting products in her photos, she was promoting the idea that your beauty and self-worth is measured by “follows” and “likes.”
“Without realizing, I’ve spent majority of my teenage life being addicted to social media, social approval, social status and my physical appearance,” said O’Neill.
The least this announcement can do is serve as an example to other people who use social media to determine their self-esteem, self-worth, and acceptance of others in a chaotic world, as well as a tool to perpetuate unattainable standards of beauty, to let them know that the photo in front of the camera may not be the whole truth to the story.
“I think in general, I don’t see too much change coming out of her actions but if she has helped at least one young girl understand what’s really going on behind the scenes of the people she’s following online, that the images she sees aren’t real or attainable, I think that’s a great thing,” said Neyens.
O’Neill coming forward to expose the truth to millions of people around the world that they are living in a relatively virtual reality where appearance is at the forefront of everything, further reiterates what we have always known about the obsession and tools the media possesses in order to distort images, mainly of female bodies, for the consumers of these images, which more often than not affect the struggle that all women and men go through related to body image.
“We’ve seen so much backlash in recent years against photo-shopping of advertisements, but it’s just bled back into sponsorships of photo-shopped Instagram models, which might be even more toxic considering those models portray much more of a “reality” angle than a model posing on a billboard,” said Neyens.
Social media negatively affects our body image as women now more than ever due to the evolution of technology and the rise in popularity and variety of social media sites available.
“I’m the girl who had it all and I want to tell you that having it all on social media means nothing to your real life … Everything I did was for likes and for followers. I did [photo] shoots for hours just to get photos for Instagram,” said O’Neill.
Thank you, Essena, for being brave and having the courage to tell millions of people who absorb hundreds if not thousands of advertising images per day on social media sites, that the only “likes” we should be concerned about are our own. The next time you are scrolling on Facebook or Instagram and catch yourself feeling bad about yourself while looking at someone you consider beautiful or perfect, know that that is not real life and just because someone else is beautiful, does not make you any less beautiful.
Liked this story? Sign up for our weekly newsletter and never miss another article: http://www.stkateswheel.com/the-wheel-newsletter/