Essena O’Neill quits Instagram claiming social media ‘is not real life’

Australian teenager with more than 612,000 Instagram followers radically rewrites her self-promoting history on social media (and launches new website)

An Australian teenager with more than half a million followers on Instagram has quit the platform, describing it as contrived perfection made to get attention, and called for others to quit social media perhaps with help from her new website.

Essena ONeill, 18, said she was able to make an income from marketing products to her 612,000 followers on Instagram $2000AUD a post EASY. But her dramatic rejection of social media celebrity has won her praise.

On 27 October she deleted more than 2,000 pictures that served no real purpose other than self-promotion, and dramatically edited the captions to the remaining 96 posts in a bid to to reveal the manipulation, mundanity, and even insecurity behind them. ONeill did not respond to requests for an interview.

A photo of her wearing a bikini, once captioned Things are getting pretty wild at my house. Maths B and English in the sun, has been edited: see how relatable my captions were stomach sucked in, strategic pose, pushed up boobs. I just want younger girls to know this isnt candid life, or cool or inspirational. Its contrived perfection made to get attention.

A selfie posted by Essena ONeill to Instagram 21 months ago. She edited the caption in late October. Photograph: Instagram

Why would you tell your followers that youre paid a lot to promote what you promote? Why would you tell your followers that you literally just do shoots every day to take pictures for Instagram? she said in a 22-minute vlog posted to YouTube, titled HOW PEOPLE MAKE 1000s ON SOCIAL MEDIA. Like, its not cool. No one thinks thats radical, or revolutionary.

Yet I, myself, was consumed by it. This was the reason why I quit social media: for me, personally, it consumed me. I wasnt living in a 3D world.

I remember I obsessively checked the like count for a full week since uploading it, she wrote of her first-ever post, a selfie that now has close to 2,500 likes. It got 5 likes. This was when I was so hungry for social media validation … Now marks the day I quit all social media and focus on real life projects.

A photo posted by Essena ONeill to Instagram 21 months ago. She edited the caption in late October. Photograph: Instagram

This includes letsbegamechangers.com, ONeills new site aimed to inspire constant QUESTIONING, where theres no likes or views or followers just my content as raw as I want. In her first post, dated 31 October, she challenged her followers to go a week without social media, and recommended Eckhart Tolles book The Power of Now.

The site will cover veganism, creative imagery with purpose, poems, writing, interviews with people that inspire me, and of course the finical reality behind deluding people off Instagram [sic]. She will continue to post videos about vegan eating to YouTube, but Vimeo (made to help not to get views or $$$) will host all the new quality content.

But ONeills crisis of conscience, as it was described by US Magazine, seems to be extending to more than just the manipulation of social media. ONeill, whose veganism has long been a cornerstone of her online presence, edited the caption of a photograph of scrambled eggs and bacon pre-dating her change in diet to read Chicken periods scrambled up with pig flesh .

A snapshot of her fishing now refers to how fun to put a hook through an innocent beings mouth; one of a pile of chocolate bars is described as Poison and Violence. I wish I would have been more conscious to see how white privileged I was, she writes of her time spent volunteering in Laos.

The one image to survive with ONeills ringing endorsement is of a smiling quokka.

ONeills debunking of online celebrity was widely discussed on social media.

cara (@caranvr) October 31, 2015

I never paid attention to Essena O’Neill but I really admire her bravery and honesty now

love child (@amateurlarry) November 2, 2015

essena o neill is one of the truest and realest people ever, i feel like my life has changed because of her movement i’m not even kidding

lindsay (@lindslaaay) October 29, 2015

Essena O’Neill: “social media isn’t real please stop worshipping me” Me: *worships her even more*

Fionnuala (@FionnualaJay) November 2, 2015

I don’t know what to make of that Essena O’Neill thing at all.

A fellow vegan, Australian Instagram star Bonny Rebecca a friend of ONeills said at first she may have been confused by the rebrand, because her own experiences of social media have been very positive.

Rebecca commented to a follower on Tumblr: Obviously its been super hard for me because Essena has put out all this information about what SOME instagramers are like, then left social media and of course I have been left with everyone comparing us and thinking that she is implying those concepts are relevant to my account. And man that is not fair, because thats NEVER what I have been about.

A photo of posted by Essena ONeill to Instagram Photograph: Instagram

But she was supportive of ONeills decision.

So many people strive to be popular online to validate themselves, manipulating photos and captions to give the idea they are happy just to get followers And be idolised When NONE of that truly matters and thats what can be wrong with social media! Essena is exposing that(!!!) and that is a big game changer , she captioned a photo of the two of them together that had attracted 13,800 likes.

ONeill would still be creating awesome content, concluded Rebecca and in the meantime, she had uploaded her own vlog about the drama, where I try to shed some light on the situation and my thoughts.

Why would you tell your followers that youre paid a lot to promote what you promote? Why would you tell your followers that you literally just do shoots every day to take pictures for Instagram? [..] Its not cool. No one thinks thats radical, or revolutionary. Yet I, myself, was consumed by it. This was the reason why I quit social media: for me, personally, it consumed me. I wasnt living in a 3D world.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/media/2015/nov/03/instagram-star-essena-oneill-quits-2d-life-to-reveal-true-story-behind-images