Early this week, more than half a million people across the Internet sphere were shocked when Australian Instagram celebrity Essena O’Neill declared – with the most dramatic flair – that she is done with social media. Essena O’Neill has been a famous social media figure – 600,000+ Instagram followers and 250,000+ Youtube subscribers – since she was 12 years old. She has gained a name for being a #fitspo, #vegan, a pretty young thing with perfect skin, perfect body, perfect teeth, with the most amazing caption to match every perfect picture. All that perfection, however, she said was staged, contrived, and a mere distortion of reality.
Before she deleted her Instagram account less than 24 hours ago, O’Neill deleted more than 2,000 photos which she believed served no purpose but that of vanity and edited the captions on some of her most liked posts. She exposed the real story behind the images, most of which were paid product endorsements. She claimed that the pictures were staged and manipulated to show off the best of her features in the most “natural” way. Within 48 hours of her brave declaration, fans from all over the globe expressed their admiration and support to the cause of the18-year-old Internet model. Naturally, fans, especially teenaged girls, saw O’Neill’s decision as a heroic and inspiring gesture that motivates them to live a more authentic life and to stop getting validation from the number of likes and followers.
It was all praises and applauses until she posted a 17-minute video on her new website, letsbegamechangers.com/essenaoneillcom, where she talked to her audiences about the challenges she faces now that she has stopped making money from her Instagram posts, where she told her new and old followers to help her pay for her newfound “real-life” lifestyle. She said that without her product endorsements, it is impossible for her to pay her rent and life essentials. The video, which she has now deleted from her website, has people calling her a self-entitled, lazy young girl and has people questioning if all the drama about turning her back on social media were actually just another social marketing effort. On the “Support Me” section of her website, she said she would need some support from her fans, “I’m not a purist. I need money to cover the basics. If you get something from what I’m doing, pay what it’s worth to you.”