Dear Essena O’Neil, quitting won’t change the world

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By now you’ve almost certainly heard of Essena O’Neill, the famous Instagram and Youtube star, who decided to quit social media because she realised how miserable it was making her, describing it as ‘contrived perfection made to get attention’.

A part of me admires her decision, because as one of her followers for several years I was buying into the bullshit that she was posting. I thought she did have the perfect life: she got to travel, was making money off product advertising, she is skinny, blonde and beautiful.

Ultimately she is exactly what society expects us all to look like and her decision to come forward and actually say that what she posting was massively contrived is bloody brave. It makes you re-evaluate the importance you place on social media and the attention you receive from it. However, at the same time, I am also very disappointed in her. She had over half a million followers and instead of changing the content of her Instagram to a more realistic portrayal of her life, she’s simply given up.

I’m all for taking time to find yourself and see what makes you happy etc. etc., but so many people would kill for that kind of reach and, if she had just altered her content, she could have continued to be massively influential, but for the right reasons and still be happy. Social media fame does not equal unhappiness. Social media is a great tool and with her amount of followers, she could have used it to make significant change. Instead she’s made a video with her crying about how empty her life was and how social media is evil and we should all stop using it (because it’s that simple).

She even has the audacity to ask people to help her with her financial troubles now, because since she stopped advertising products she’s broke. It’s hypocritical; she’s using social media to try and make money – there are so many people suffering in this world and she wants people to help her pay for her lifestyle. She could have continued to advertise products and made a living off them, but only advertised things that were actually useful for her or products she loved, such as vegan products etc. Furthermore, by doing this, other Youtubers will suffer because everyone will assume their life is also contrived and not real, when that might not be the case at all. I think, quitting all social media is a bit drastic. Limit your usage, be genuine, stop giving two rat’s arses about who likes your posts and live in the moment.

 

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Sian Maria Morgan is former Design Editor at bathimpact (2014/15). She writes about travel and popular culture.

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