My Thoughts: #EssenaOneill – Social Media Is Not Real Life

Essena O'Neill quits social media

Some people are saying they are sick and tired of #EssenaOneill story and call it fake. Others react with astonishment, and support Essena’s new “real” identity. One way or another, this teenage girl from Australia is “trending” on social media. Ironically, I was going to post today about how to stay organised with your blog and give you great planning advice. However, my plan for today changed. I absolutely HAD to share this story and my thoughts on it. “Rookie” or “veteran”, each of us, bloggers, wants to keep up the pace. We plan, write, schedule, organise and try to do our best to stay on top of everything. BUT, in my opinion, we must stay alert, aware, “alive” and spontaneous. You can create content 2 years ahead (which is wonderful) but don’t make it feel as if it’s set in stone + don’t be afraid to escape the plan, and that’s advice from a planning addict! So in a few days we will get back to the blogging advice on being organised. For now let’s get out of the box, go with a spur-of-the-moment, and hopefully learn from the drama surrounding Essena O’Neill, “behind the scenes” of social media and more.

If you haven’t read, heard or seen anything related to Essena O’Neill, you are not alone. I woke up one morning and started reading news, including catching up with my Twitter feed. There I saw these multiple tweets and posts trending around the story of this 18 (now 19)-year-old girl. So who is she? Essena O’Neill is (or should I say was) a health-conscious blogger, huge YouTuber and Instagram sensation. Half-Polish and Half-Australian, she grew up and is based in Queensland. Her Tumblr “exploded” 3-4 years ago which led to her insane popularity on Instagram and YouTube, accounting for almost 700,000 and 250,000 followers/subscribers respectively. Promoting veganism, healthy lifestyle, working with different modeling agencies and brands, traveling and making friends all over the world, this girl, like she said herself, “had it all” but was extremely unhappy.

Essena filmed a video on her YouTube channel bashing the social media and everything related to it. She deleted over 2,000 photos off her Instagram that had “no value”, as she commented. Not stopping at that, the girl re-wrote most caption to her IG pictures labeling them “NOT REAL”, “FAKE”, “THIS IS NOT REAL LIFE”, “I WAS PAID TO DO THIS”, etc. Currently, her YouTube channel is shut down, her Instagram page is deleted. However, her new creation, Let’s Be Game Changers, is live and running. So, technically, she’s still online.

What made Essena do what she did? She says that she did it for her 12-year-old self, who was different, miserable and envious of the gloss and popularity of super models and style icons. By the age of 15 she got the taste of this fame and started to grow addicted. In her own words, her life was revolving around posting online, getting more followers and likes. She was paid for different promotions and collaborations, she was in demand and it looked as if “she made it”. However, she admits that her life was a giant ball of loneliness, misery and depression. 

Ok, so I shared some facts with you. Now let’s get to the “good stuff”. I would never give you my own opinion if it was to be biased. By that I mean I can’t say that Essena is a modern teenage hero and I also can’t bash her without knowing 100% truth. If I were to lean towards one or the other, that would not sit quite right with me. Simply because I do not know the girl personally, nor I’ve been there beside her to witness everything that was happening. There are two aspects to this story: social media and body image. Firstly, either we want it or not, social media is everywhere. If a person isn’t somehow involved in it, they are labeled as “… has lived under the rock”, which is harsh but it makes sense. Even my almost 101-year old grandma used Facebook to message me 🙂 If I were to get philosophical just for a second, I could compare social media to atomic energy: if used correctly – it is beneficial, if misused – it is devastating. 

In Essena’s case, she was consumed by the gloss of the glamorous world she started to live in. Her day was made thanks to the number of likes she got. All of her aspirations were about gaining more followers and feeling more “valued”. Sadly, this problem is so familiar to thousands, if not millions, of young girls. When I was a teenager, I remember I wanted the same thing – to be heard, to be praised, to be appreciated – just like any other teenager (it’s a tough phase alrogether!). Thankfully, back then we weren’t glued to our smart phones. I spent more quality time with actual people in my life. That’s Essena’s main shout-out to the world: get away from your phone, get off the internet, and live! I agree with that statement. Being a blogger, you want to get yourself out there. You (by “you” I mean “someone/anyone”, not you personally, obviously) sit for hours writing, editing, posting, commenting. Then you take part in the Twitter chat, update your Instagram/Facebook/Pinterest, comment, like, track stats, and what not. After all that, you get upset when you see that someone unfollowed you on Bloglovin’, left your IG profile, stopped liking your photos or coming to your blog/YouTube channel/social media acc. It might sound dramatic but I know people who go through this vicious circle not knowing how to get out. It’s all about those likes and followers. It’s the devastating usage of “atomic energy”. That’s why Essena wanted to get out. It got to the point when it was too much for a young girl of her age to handle. She wasn’t ready for it. 

What she did is, in a certain way, amazing. Either it is a hoax, a lie or a marketing gimmick (time will tell), Essena did shake most people’s perception of the “value” we have online. It refers to the body image and how wrong people are to believe that having that “supermodel” body can make them happy. Who dictates the rules? Who said skinny is good? Fit is good! Healthy is good! Most of all, I am sorry, but modesty is good! Girls of any age shouldn’t pose in their bikinis to highlight their sexuality. Question: what is that person tring to achieve? Check me out, I am not smart nor fun, but I have a great body. Well, that’s sad. Showing your progress on the way to your healthier self is a completely different story. It is not vain, it’s encouraging to others. If only everyone understood that. Teenage girls (and girls/women in general) don’t have to parade their bodies to be noticed or to show off. Sadly, Essena learnt it the hard way and is now warning others like her. It’s not just about displaying your body online (kudos and big thanks to those who don’t “roll” like that). It’s bigger than that. It’s about being consumed with the need to be bigger online, to be “loved” and “heard”. We all have blogs that grow at their unique speed, we have methods we use to grow them, we have motives behind wanting to grow them. If you are only doing it for the money or the fame, it will show sooner or later, and it won’t be pretty. But if you want to share about your experience, your expertise in certain things, your amazing sense of style, your knowledge of everything beauty and your makeup guru self, please, do it, push forward, make yourself known, promote yourself. Social media is not evil. It is a great tool! Yet, it can become extremely hazardous, if we do it for the likes/followers/attention. We should be doing it because we love it. Plus, there is a life out there. There are ways to engage with people if you feel lonely. There are methods to be heard if you have an important thing to say. There are ways to be appreciated by showing kindness and love towards other people. 

You, lovely person who’s reading this very sentence, social media brought you to my blog, and I am so thankful for that. Not for the likes or the fact that you follow me on all of my social media platforms (even though it’s appreciated because it lets me know you love my blog). But because we are interacting, sharing, getting to know each other. Blogging can still “consume” some people, or sometimes a blogger hits the point when they are doing it just for the sake on doing it. That’s why taking a breather from any type of online activity is essential in our lives. We need to go to work, Uni, school. We have the gym/park/course/conference (you name it) to go to. We have families, children, friends to spend quality time with. Loads of commitments. The balance is crucial. And if you’re able to keep that healthy balance, you are golden. I am not an expert as to what YouTube community is like (I don’t post videos, at least, not yet), but I already know what the blogging world is like. Despite its glossy cover, I like it for the core – and that is the community. I am thankful for the existence of social media and internet for a chance to be able to connect with all of you, to enjoy each other’s posts and opinions, and most of all, to support each other. Social media is great, if you don’t make it all about me, me, me. Love your body but don’t “sell” it. Show the world who you are but don’t let it take over. Be kind, be supportive, and as cliche as it may sound, be the real you.

I know this topic is controversial and people may have different opinions about it. I see both the positive and the negative in Essena’s story. Many think she made it up to get to the “top of the charts”. Some thing she is genuinely crying for help and wants to help others. 

My three final thoughts on this:
(sorry for making it such a long post)

1. Body image: it’s great to look good, but it’s not great to starve yourself to look good for a photo. Essena had a wrong understanding of it, mostly probably due to her young age at the time. 
2. Promotion & money: it’s actually sad to read how she bashed those photos with her promoting something she hated (dress she would never wear out of the house, tea she would never drink, bikini she would only put on for the shoot). I think it’s amazing to work with different brands if you support and believe in the product they offer. 
3. Social media: there are a few truly BIG online personalities out there. Essena’s following doesn’t even stand close to some of them. At the same time, most of them don’t feel the need to flood IG with bikini shots nor advertise something that clearly is not their thing. Yes, there are struggles. Yes, it’s overwhelming. Yes, even the best YouTubers / vloggers / bloggers break down and want a “normal life”. The point is to stay your normal down-to-earth self, promote things you believe in, love what you do. That’s basically the whole “secret”. I feel sorry for Essena, if she is honest in her confession. However, social media wasn’t her problem. It was the misuse of it, sensitive age, lack of real connections / support and personal reasons or conditions which we simply do not know about.

What we could do about this particular story from now on is 
A) learn from it – no to a fake / made-up identity, do what you love, social media is not bad if you use it wisely + stay positive and REAL); 
B) leave this girl alone – whatever she’s looking for – either it’s peace or more publicity – she’s better left to do whatever she thinks is best for her own pursuit of happiness.

To sum up, 

Essena O'Neill quits social media

By the way, you are not a follower to me. You are a friend.

Thank you for your support and kindness you always show me on my blog.

Leave a comment and let me know what you think about this story.

What are your thoughts on the “twisted” perception of body image and social media?
What about promotion and working with brands?

Feel free to say anything, as you always do, here on Miel and Mint 🙂

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