Essena O’Neill’s Story and What It Means to Me

At first, I had no idea who Essena O’Neill was, or what her story was about. After scrolling through my Instagram feed, Facebook, and seeing her name pop up in a few blogging/creative groups that I am a part of, curiosity eventually killed the cat and I started to Google her name and do some digging to figure out what this whole social media fiasco was about. To give you a bit of a back story, Essena O’Neill is a 19 year old Australian model/vlogger/writer/and internet star. Before calling it quits on social media, she had about 500,000 followers on Instagram and 200,000 subscribers on Youtube. In the social media and internet obsessed culture that we live in today, I would say she “made it” in terms of popularity.


Now, if you haven’t watched her emotional Youtube video talking about her life, how she started becoming obsessed with social media, and why she was quitting social media, I would suggest you do. It’s a bit lengthy (about 17 minutes long), so make sure to make yourself a bit comfortable!


After all of that, I have to commend her for being so bold on “cold turkey-ing” social media, and bringing up some problems that social media brings.

Do I agree with everything she said in her video? No, not everything. As a lifestyle and travel blogger, I use social media everyday to promote my content and to connect with fellow travelers, bloggers, and creatives in general. Was I always like this? No way! When I was younger, I disliked social media and was always the last one out of my friends to create any sort of platform (whether it be: Facebook, Myspace, Xanga, Twitter, Snapchat, etc). I thought these applications were a waste of my time, my phone’s battery life (when we didn’t have portable phone chargers), and I couldn’t multitask Snapchatting while trying to actually do something.

The game changer: INSTAGRAM. Instagram is by far my favorite social media platform. The application allows me to view beautiful feeds, get a snapshot into someone’s life (real or fake), and allows me to find things that I never knew existed or would be interested in! So, here are things that I think Essena O’Neill got wrong about social media:

  • Not ALL social media is FAKE:
    Too much of something is always a bad thing!! People can become addicted to social media. I always tell myself moderation is key (with cake, and with Instagram). It’s easy to get sucked into this world and become addicted to gaining followers, likes, fans, etc. And after scrolling through endless feeds of perfectly styled photos, lives, and lifestyles, it’s easy to start comparing ourselves to the successes of others. What I think Essena got wrong was that not all of social media is fake. Sure, we post the highlight reel about our lives, but who would want to scroll through the “not so great days”? Social media allows us to share our accomplishments, things we’re proud of, inspiration, and that really good hair or makeup day to others who can SHARE in our successes and draw inspiration from it!
  • Promoting products doesn’t mean you’re a sell out:
    While I’m not exactly there yet in my “blogging career” to be writing about products I’ve received, I do follow a lot of travel, lifestyle, and food bloggers who do get paid for sharing their reviews about a product. In her video, Essena O’Neill calls all people who are being paid to promote products “fake” and not real. She tells us that she would’ve never worn an outfit if she hadn’t gotten paid to do so. While others may be promoting products that they don’t actually like and products they don’t use, for earning money; there are a lot of bloggers or social media icons out there that DO share products they really enjoy and use in their daily lives. Plus, people can tell when you’re being real with them or when you’re being fake.

Important Lessons to Gain From This:

  • Like I said before, too much of something is always a bad thing!! Becoming addicted to social media is fairly easy these days. Spending hours and hours scrolling through other people’s feeds, lives, and pictures will ultimately drive you crazy. You will eventually start comparing yourself (I know, because this happens to me) and “comparison is the thief of joy“. Everyone’s life is very different, and what one person’s life may look like in one small square picture, may not actually be how their life really is.

  • Validation through likes, followers, subscribers, and fans is not healthy. Your value and your worth are not based on a number or how many adoring fans you have.
  • Getting paid to talk about a product that you received for free is not a bad thing. Heck, I wish I was able to do that! As long as you are being honest with your opinions, that’s what matters.
  • Companies are targeting their audience through social media platforms; it’s how the business is these days. Our generation is changing and evolving so quickly. Social media is one of the top influencers of consumers today, and if companies are reaching out to you to promote their product because you are the best outlet to get their message across, then good for you!
  • There are things on social media that are not meant for everyone. Why is there an age restriction on Facebook or Myspace? Some videos on Youtube can’t be seen unless you’re logged into your account and have confirmed that you’re “of age”. Age restrictions are not always a bad thing!
  • Trying to shape your life to look like someone else’s is not healthy. Actually, that’s just a bit creepy. We’re all different, so there are things that will work for us, and won’t work for us.

Things I Love About Social Media:

  • Inspiration:
    Before, I only used social media to post about what I was eating, a lot of selfies, and that’s about it. Now that social media has evolved and changed so much, it’s more of a source of inspiration for me. I am able to find creatives, bloggers, or travelers that are doing something that I find to be truly inspiring. Also, through my own social media platforms, I’m hoping to inspire others to travel and create something different.
  • Change:
    It’s no lie that social media is creating a lot of change. Whether that be good or bad change is up to you. For me, the inspiration I draw from my social media outlets and the people I follow inspires me to change something in my lifestyle I am not happy with; to become a healthier and happier version of myself. For example, I’ve been following a lot of plant based or vegan Instagrams lately, and although I could never go plant based or vegan (I love chicken wings too much), it is inspiring me to try different recipes and make healthier choices with my eating habits.
  • Connection:
    My favorite aspect of social media is being able to connect with people, whom I might have never met. I’m able to easily share my stories, find other people’s stories, and have a conversation with them. Also, as a blogger who focuses mostly on travel, I can connect with other travelers or always ask about traveling advice from locals! I really do love social media because of the way it brings creatives, bloggers, and travelers together.
  • Learning:
    Tying into everything I’ve been saying about inspiration, change, and connection, I’m adding learning to the list! Social media opens up doors (for me) to find something that I could be interested in, through other people’s posts, and inspiring me enough to change something in my life. This usually leads to learning about something that I originally would’ve never been interested in. For travel bloggers, there’s so many tips and tricks out there that full time travel bloggers can share with others to save money (that’s learning!).

Overall, Essena O’Neill made some good points about social media and some of the problems it causes with young teenagers who may or may not be revolving their lives around becoming “internet famous”. With that kind of power and influence, it should be used for inspiring and teaching others/helping people! But, with that power also comes a lot of pressure (ie: Essena O’Neill quitting social media).

I believe that the way you use social media is up to you. One thing is clear, that your validation should not come from the amount of likes you accumulate, the amount of followers you have, or how many people are commenting and “fanning” over you. Social media, the way I use it, is a platform for inspiration, creation, sharing, and learning. It’s a way for me to connect with others who share in the same outlook I have, who have the same vision, people who are looking to inspire, and also keeping up with my friends back at home (#FOMO). Oh, and since we’re being honest, I like to creep a bit on people’s lives… hehe… but don’t we all?

What do you think about the situation with Essena O’Neill? How do you view social media?


P.S. I’ve included the link to Essena O’Neill’s blog, here.

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