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An Instagram Star Quits Social Media, Says It's Not Real Life

An Instagram Star Quits Social Media, Says It's Not Real Life

By Patricia Garcia

With over half a million Instagram followers, some 60,000 friends on Snapchat, and more than 200,000 subscribers on YouTube, Essena O'Neill was considered a teenage social media superstar. But last week, the 18-year-old Australian said goodbye to her massive following, shut down most of her social media platforms, and renamed her Instagram account: Social Media Is Not Real Life.

In a series of confessional videos up on her new website, "Let's Be Game Changers," a makeup-free and messy-haired O'Neill revealed the reason behind her social media cleanse. She explained that while she seemed to have "a dream life" on Instagram, in reality, she was miserable and growing tired of promoting a fictional and highly edited lifestyle.

On her last Instagram post, O'Neill wrote: "Without realizing, I've spent the majority of my teenage life being addicted to social media, social approval, social status, and my physical appearance. Social media, especially how I used it, isn't real. It's contrived images and edited clips ranked against each other. It's a system based on social approval, likes, validation in views, success in followers. It's perfectly orchestrated, self-absorbed judgment."

Instagram Star

After renaming her Instagram account, the teen also went ahead and started rewriting past captions on her massively liked photos to explain what it took to create each perfectly staged shot. On a post where O’Neill is wearing a bikini, she wrote, "Yet another photo taken purely to promote my 16-year-old body. This was my whole identity." She revised the caption on a photo of herself in a midriff-baring crop top to read, "I was 16 here. 16!!! I did not wear this outfit out of the house ... What is the obsession with trying to look older, sexier?" She explained the amount of time it takes to take the perfect close-up selfie: "Took over 50 shots until I got one I thought you might like, then I edited this one selfie for ages on several apps." On a picture of her lying on the beach she wrote, "NOT REAL LIFE—took over 100 in similar poses trying to make my stomach look good. Would have hardly eaten that day." In another series of pictures, O'Neill called attention to the brands that had paid her to promote their products.

O'Neill's revelatory posts come on the heels of Zendaya sharing her unretouched photos and Gigi Hadid's Instagram defending herself against her body-shaming critics. O'Neill's recent actions will hopefully inspire a continued shift toward living a more unfiltered life on social media. Not only will it do wonders for our collective self-esteem, but also, we can finally stop debating that age-old question: Which filter looks better, Valencia or Crema?

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Photo Credit: Instagram