Instagram Star Essena O’Neill Reveals How Social Media Ruined Her Life

With more than half a million Instagram followers and almost 300,000 YouTube subscribers, Australian teen Essena O’Neill had been getting sponsorship offers to no end. She was getting paid to post pictures of herself promoting products and services, and was signed to a modelling agency — she was living the “dream life” everyone in social media yearned to achieve.

But for O’Neill, life was not as rose-tinted as she made it appear to be.

The Instagram star recently announced her departure from social media despite it being the platform that made her famous. O’Neill revealed how, despite aspiring to reach Internet fame, she was miserable with the life she lived.

“I let myself be defined by numbers,” she said in a video confessional, referring to her obsession with the likes and followers she would obtain on her social media accounts. She discussed how she allowed her value as a person be measured by the statistics of her online popularity.

“I’m the girl who had it all and I want to tell you that having it all on social media means absolutely nothing to your real life,” she said. “Everything I was doing was edited and contrived to get more views. Everything I did was for views, for likes, for followers.”

O’Neill went on to discuss how much social media warped her life; what she posted was a manufactured presentation of how she wanted to be perceived and what she wanted other people to see: an ideal version of her real life.

“At 12 I thought I was nothing,” she tearfully admits. “And then here — at nearly 19, with all of these followers — I don’t even know what is real and what is not because I let myself be defined by something that is so not real.”

O’Neill has since deleted over 2,000 of her Instagram posts while retaining some but with revised captions that reveal the truth behind the photos. She has started a movement called “Let’s Be Game Changers” that advocates a more positive use of social media, promoting self-love and self-expression without the boundaries of other people’s validations.

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About the author

Regina is a Fine Arts graduate who expresses herself through various mediums. She finds amusement in pop culture, enjoys video games, and watches way too many YouTube videos on a daily basis.