Edit: Apparently, Essena’s whole quitting-social-media thing is a hoax. A few of her friends (whom she met via social media) who had let her stay at their house in LA while she was there for vacation released videos saying that Essena’s huge meltdown was mainly due to a break up with a guy in LA. It also seemed like Essena might have been exaggerating or even making things up about the whole issue. I do still think that at the time, Essena wasn’t thinking anything through before posting them online, you know, being young and reckless and all that stuff. She’ll probably wake up one day and realize what a huge mistake she has made, but that’s her problem. I’ll leave the links to the videos below. Bear in mind that these are people who knew her personally.
VegSource (Nina and Randa’s father): ESSENA ONEILL – The REAL Behind The Image (this is the most detailed one)
NinaAndRanda: ESSENA O’NEILL Quitting Social Media Is A HOAX
Word From Willie: ESSENA ONEILL IS FAKE
I LOVE social media. I enjoy posting my creations on these platforms, not because I want to be famous, but because I enjoy creating and editing photos, videos and blog posts. Personally, I don’t find much joy in creating if I’m just going to keep it to myself. I want to share my creations, get some feedback on how I can improve on my crafts, maybe even influence some people.
I love social media so much that I would even go as far as to call myself a social media addict. But recently there was this huge deal about this girl quitting social media which made me go, “well, okay, maybe I’m not that much of a social media addict”. I use the term ‘addict’ in an offhand manner most of the time, I’m not actually addicted to anything, but this girl, woah, she defines the term ‘addict’. This girl, Essena, she’s someone famous I guess? I didn’t do much research about this whole topic because come on, I love social media way too much to spend half a day watching videos about how social media is not real. I just got the gist of the whole issue via BuzzFeed and other YouTubers’ videos, along with a few articles here and there. From what I gathered, Essena is (was?) a famous Instagrammer, she also does YouTube but I think her main focus is Instagram. She has basically lived her entire life editing her photos to make herself look ‘perfect’ besides measuring her body to fit those of beauty models’ and now, she’s realizing how miserable she was throughout those years, working towards Internet fame, so she decided to quit social media.
The thing is, she doesn’t just want to quit, she wants to bring awareness to others that social media isn’t real. Initially when I read about this, I was defensive, because I’m pro-social media. I was offended by the way she easily wrote social media off as ‘not real’ because it was as though she was saying that I’m living in a bubble of delusion. Also, I hate stereotypes and generalized statements. Hate them. They’re all over Facebook. Fucking ruins my day. You can’t just shove everyone and everything into a box and label them! That’s stupid. If you ever come up with or share a statement like that, please do everyone else a favour and strangle yourself.
As I’ve said, I was initially upset and was going to post a long rant, but due to past experiences I know that that’s never a smart move, so I gave myself time to digest this news. I tried to understand where Essena was coming from and I think I get it. I think that she was preaching from the point of view of an Instagram model and failed to acknowledge the other parts of social media. I feel that she was seeing social media as this vortex of darkness and misery which sucks all emotions out of humans because that was her experience when she was using it. She probably unconsciously phrased her sentences wrongly and they came out harsher and more offensive than she’d intended to. I do kinda get her because those were the mistakes I used to make on my old blog where I would preach about girls dressing revealingly or using makeup. I was uneducated and uninformed and my narrow-minded views definitely pissed many people off. But, thank god for the Internet, I’m now well-informed.
As much as I disagree that social media isn’t real, I can’t exactly say that social media is real either. The way I see it, there is the real side of social media, and there is also the fake side of social media. An example of the real side is when YouTubers talk about their lives and share stories, nothing’s fake about that. Whereas an example of the fake side would be when YouTubers shoot fictional short films, they’re obviously not real. What I’m trying to say is, just because social media isn’t real doesn’t mean that’s a bad thing. It’s only a bad thing if you use it wrongly, if you share stuff on social media just to become famous. Essena says she takes 100 shots just to get the perfect photo. Well, I do that too, only I don’t photograph people, I photograph things. I take 100 shots to get the perfect photo, then proceed to edit the photo and tweak the settings until I’m satisfied. It’s fake, of course, with the 100 shots and all the editing, but does that make it bad? No, it just looks more appealing. Speaking about photographing people, not everyone fakes their bodies. Sure, maybe a small fraction of us do it, but I see so many plus-size people do fashion and they look great, they’re able to become Instagram models just like Essena without measuring their bodies. You don’t have to be fake to be successful or beautiful.
Many people fake their characters online as well, and it’s not a bad thing. I’m talking about people who aren’t naturally accepted by society, people who are bullied because of the way they look, or people who have mental illnesses. These people have a chance to reinvent themselves on social media, to be who they really are inside, to live the life they wish they were living. These people have a chance of having their views heard via social media, a privilege that they might not have in real life.
Essena also expressed her thoughts on the sponsorships she does, and from her Instagram captions (she has already privated her account, so don’t bother checking) it seems that she thinks they’re ‘fake’, as in she doesn’t actually like the products she’s advertising. I know so many YouTubers who refuse to do sponsorships if they don’t like it or if the advertising requirements don’t fit their channel. They don’t allow sponsorships to ruin their content. It’s really that simple. If you don’t like the product, don’t do it. Only advertise products you genuinely like. If you’re not going to get your monthly income because you don’t do sponsorships, get a job. I know several YouTubers who have part-time jobs (some even have full-time jobs) outside of YouTube.
I did manage to browse through Essena’s new blog and I think it’s a good thing she’s doing, using it as a platform to bring awareness to more important things in life like culture appropriation and global issues. However, I skimmed through one of her blog posts and the way she described social media users, it’s like she thinks that our intelligence is limited to Drake memes and poop emojis. She has no idea how much we get educated every time we are on social media. Sometimes I discover new things because someone tweeted about it, sometimes I learn from YouTube videos, sometimes I read articles on Facebook. I’ve learned so much from the Internet and social media. I’ve widened my knowledge on the LGBTQ+ community, especially the ‘T’, ‘Q’ and ‘+’. I’ve learned about the different cultures in countries all over the world. I’ve educated myself about feminism and what it really means. All of which would have been impossible if I wasn’t on social media, and that includes Essena’s story which I first came across on Facebook!
Okay. This is where I stop understanding her. Since quitting social media, she hasn’t done any sponsorships and is now facing difficulties paying her rent. Her solution? Ask for donations via the Internet. I would say, “but you said that social media isn’t real, so why are you asking for money on it to pay for your real life rent right now huh?” but I’m trying to be understanding here. I feel that maybe she found herself in this situation all of a sudden (which she never thought about prior to making her decision to quit social media) and panicked, and this was the only solution she thought of at the time so she immediately put her plans to action without thinking much. I don’t know, it’s just a guess. She really should get a real, non-Internet job as soon as possible though, since she has already quit social media. She should learn to make an honest living and not rely on her fans for rent money.
Essena did mention one important thing though, she mentioned that numbers don’t bring happiness, and it’s true. Okay, maybe it brings happiness, but short-lived happiness. I’d be lying if I were to say that the number of likes and followers I get on Instagram doesn’t make me smile at least a little. Being average-looking, coupled with the fact that I’m not a social butterfly earns me an average number of likes and followers. The likes and followers I get obviously come from acquaintances and strangers who find my photos worth liking (also, spam bots but I prefer not to acknowledge them) so of course I feel a little happy when I get more likes and followers. It means that my photos are worth liking. Sometimes, I get ridiculously upset about the number of likes I get when I compare my photos with other people’s photos. But, unlike Essena who is (was???) crazy obsessed with numbers, I just mope for 10 minutes and then totally forget about it. The same goes to the happiness I get from the likes and followers, I completely forget about them after closing the app. I don’t spend hours dwelling on the numbers, it doesn’t really matter to me, it’s not like my life or job depends on it. I think it was a little different for Essena because she posted photos of herself whereas I post photos of other things. She measured her self-worth with numbers because it was her body people were liking.
At the end of the day, it all boils down to the way we use social media. Doesn’t matter if it’s real or fake, if you use it wisely, it won’t ruin you but if you base your self-worth on it and develop an unhealthy addiction towards it, it will tear you apart.
Fun fact: I initially titled this video ‘Social Media: Yay or Nay?’ but right after I shared the link on Twitter I got a reply saying “I think you meant ‘yea or nay'”. I Googled it, turns out the correct spelling is ‘yea’, so add that to the list of things I’ve learned via social media ;)