Essena O’Neill Just Took Social Media By Storm, Says It’s Not “Real Life”

Can you imagine being well on your way to a million Instagram followers and then calling it quits? That’s what Essena O’Neill did on October 27th. She began by deleting 2,000 photos off of her Instagram profile, leaving a stark ninety six. However, these aren’t just any 96 photos. The remaining Instagram posts tell stories, inspire, and reveal that “Social Media Is Not Real Life”. Through these confessions, nineteen year old O’Neill reveals that she would refrain from eating, take hundreds of different photos, as well as edit and filter the images, all before she posted. Her honesty in the cultivation of these images is powerful. As someone with two sisters, I was particularly moved when she mentioned her family like in the post below:


Essena O’Neill’s heroism goes beyond body image issues. On her newly captioned Instagram she also discusses the business of being paid to promote products on the particular social media apparatus. As seen below, Essena touches on some feminist capitalist issues. What does it mean to live in a world where women’s bodies are a corporeal investment for products? She further raises tough questions by interjecting her age into the post. Moreover, she reinforces the idea of body positivism by admitting that she won the genetic lottery; and, there is nothing inspiring about luck.


Further, O’Neill is not just making a commentary on the consumption of media, but consumption period. Now a proud vegan, Essena pens on a post of eggs and bacon, “Chicken periods scrambled up with pig flesh”. In another post, she discusses the consumption of minority culture, through cultural appropriation.

Essena O’Neill isn’t stopping at Instagram either. She has also posted an emotional eighteen minute video on her youtube page, “Why I REALLY am Quitting Social Media”, that is for her twelve year old self. Most important for the future of her quest for more conscientious social media Essena has started a website, Let’s Be Game Changers, to continue promoting the message of self acceptance. On the site, she encourages people to quit using their apps for a week at least, to start the healing process. Although I myself probably am not ready to go cold turkey, i’m ready to start working towards a world where my friends don’t pull me aside at parties to snap twenty posed photos, and instead, take photos more candidly.


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