Essena O’Neil, a teenage Instagram star with thousands of followers, declared war on social media last week. I admit, I hadn’t heard of her until the papers exploded with comment on her dramatic vlog and subsequent Instagram implosion. Initially she shared her displeasure on the small screen and then re-wrote her Instagram captions to “more realistically” reflect the reality behind her perfectly choreographed insta-life.
In her emotional outpouring, she claimed that Instagram and similar social media accounts being used by anyone as a form of business or brand awareness tool were doing nothing but feeding followers a lie. She’s decided she wanted to expose the truth behind all of us. Ladies, I’m paraphrasing, but you get the point.
Firstly, I don’t think she’s got the right to talk about anyone’s experiences of social media, other than her own. However, I do agree with her concerns about what social media turns those of us who use it (or indeed view it) into.
Secondly, if you consume social media, for your own sanity, you must take responsibility for making yourself a healthily viewer of it. It’s a daily battle for the average-looking person not to become neurotic about their body-image in this day and age. Each of owes it to ourselves to put our rational brains in gear and take what we see on social media with a pinch of salt.
For impressionable consumers of social media, (particularly the young or the underconfident), we MUST take responsibility to teach them that it’s NOT HEALTHY to compare themselves to filtered Instagram lives. Social media is not a true representation of life because otherwise, quite frankly, your early morning browse through our instafeed would consist of selfies on the toilet.
Thirdly, it’s probably worth reviewing not only how you view others posts, but what and how you post yourself, too.
I’d like to tell Essena, that not everyone who utilises Instagram as a life/business hybrid is being paid by brands for their posts. People will post up what they want to on social media for money, sure, but it’s cynical and closed-minded to assume this is the only reason. I don’t believe there is ever only one reason behind anything in life
Me? I post because I love to inspire people. I get a buzz. I like to discover others with the same interests, share experiences of my adventures, exchange fitness pics, get inspired, and help people to feel happier by posting up positivity.
Sometimes, I post because as my following grows, I get the odd freebie from a brand I love and believe in… and I’m so excited that companies choose to give me these products to endorse, that I’m more than happy to post up photos. Sometimes, if I really like a company, and I use my account to flirt with them a bit, see if they’re interested in linking up. I don’t think that’s shameful, I’m work hard at what I do and I’ll happily admit to it.
It pisses me off beyond belief when people say “you owe it to your followers to be honest”. I am honest, but I have a demographic who are mainly interested in the fitness aspect of my life, so I’ll give them more of that and less of me sitting in the cinema.
And to owe followers? I owe people?! Please. What debt am I in, exactly? It’s lovely that people give a shit about what I’m doing, and I’m grateful every day for my modest, engaged following. But I’m hoping (and assuming) that followers look at me in the gym 4 times a week and remember I’m still a human who probably eats pizza most weekends too.
I want to be, (and I try to be) very honest. I realise that as my following grows, there may be influential eyes looking up to me, so I’ve got this great chance to champion all the stuff PHB advocates like self-love, self-confidence and self-acceptance… which I strive to, because I believe in it. But that doesn’t mean every part of my private life should be shared with strangers because I have apparently become public property and “owe” them.
Is it really so wrong, or distasteful, or unusual, for a person to be selective about what parts of their life they share with an audience? It’s human nature to want others to look at us in a favourable light, isn’t it? It might be a little narcissistic but the very kernel of social media is narcissism, isn’t it? Or am I the only one who’s going to admit that sometimes I do like my life to look nice or interesting or fun to a load of strangers, peering in?
And so, Essena, my two pence worth: You probably got a little sick of your situation. It happens to us all- we get sick of our jobs, our town, our lives. But that doesn’t give you the right to use your influence to attack others in your situation, who might be being motivated by different factors, or who might experience the same thing to you, but in a different way.
You’re 19. This social media crap is a new phenomenon. It can be fun, it can be lucrative, but it can be damaging. It’s important to keep perspective. Instagram wasn’t even a thing 10 years ago. It might be everything now, but things can change quickly. All I have to say on that point is “MySpace”.
Essena, you’ve ended up disillusioned with something at a young age, and your following means you’ve been able to air your experiences very publically. I’m not calling your reaction wrong, but maybe it’s time to reflect, and think about your reactions being the thing you can change, rather than looking to change the things you’re reacting to.
I see you’ve made some privacy changes to your instagram account. Smart move. Good luck to you- keep a sense of persepctive, and you’ll no doubt be very successful in the next 10 years.