My Reaction to Essena O’Neill

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In case you haven’t yet heard about Essena O’Neill, here is a BuzzFeed article that has all of the information collectively, or at least the best collective article I’ve seen.  If you don’t want to read it, she was an Australian beauty vlogger/model/Instagram personality who has recently “quit” social media, however, she is now running a blog, and has changed several of her Instagram captions to better explain what was happening in the picture, whether it was branding or how long it took her to pose for what was supposed to be a candid shot.

O’Neill wrote on several of her captions that she was paid to wear clothes and put them on Instagram but would never wear them out of the house. A lot of it went back to how she was almost sexualizing herself as a 15-16 year old girl. In her video she talks about how upset she was as a 12 year old, seeing people with thousands of followers and that’s what she wanted to be so she started cutting down on her size, measuring herself, doing what it took to be those people, at just twelve years old. This is so sad and scary to me, as my youngest sister is just 14 and I hate hearing things like that. I think it is almost because of this that she started to overly edit and pose for her photos. She created an image to be #goals and the person she always wanted to be, however it was entirely manipulated to become that person, it was never actually her.

To me, this idea is so interesting. I love social media, I love to research about it, I love how it connects people and how it is used for advertising. It’s fascinating.  The numbers also intrigue me, but it’s the meaning of the numbers that I find interesting. Each of those numbers is 1. a person, 2. add up to establish the “reputation” of the blogger/YouTuber/other social media “celebrity”.  It’s crazy to me how much of this could be manipulated, how many of these people we look at on Instagram/ YouTube/ blogs are faking it, or at least faking part of it.

I had heard that Dodie from doddleoodle posted a video response on her vlog channel, doddlevloggle about the subject, where she essentially said that you need to find the balance of who you are and branding yourself  and you  need to stay true to yourself, because you will not be able to live up to it, and I totally agree with that. My brand, if you can call it that, is me, one-hundred percent me, and my thoughts. Whenever I do something that’s not me,  I have to fix it because it makes me insanely anxious that  I am not being myself online. Like Dodie, I am an oversharer, so this is the perfect platform. She also went on to talk about how O’Neill is still going to be using social media as well, which isn’t bad, but she’s also not quitting.

I’m finding this whole discussion that social media is “bad” silly.  Social media is driving change throughout the advertising and marketing industry. You are ignorant to believe that if Zoella recommends a very specific store or if Bethany Mota promotes a product that hundreds upon hundreds of teenaged girls aren’t going out to buy it, why do you think so many YouTubers are now on the New York Times Bestsellers list? They have more influence than mainstream media cares to admit.  We live in a digital culture, social media has to be used, companies are going to thrive off of the “Insta-Famous” to promote their products and what it comes down to is the person who is doing the promoting and how they care to do it. If someone ever decides to pay me for a blog post, it will be clear that is a promotional post for a company, you don’t have to pretend it’s not a promotional things, people like it more when you’re upfront. Then you won’t have this anxiety that you aren’t being yourself and you are pretending to be the perfect person.

Since starting this post, her Instagram has been deleted. Maybe she is really trying to get rid of all social media, but her blog is still up. I don’t know. I understand where she is coming from, but social media will never go away. I feel bad that she struggled so much from her experiences with social media, but it will never go away. She wants people to connect over global issues rather than likes/followers/subscribers which makes sense, but I think you can do that without the worrying. She really emphasized the point that social media isn’t real, well I can’t say that I agree with that. It’s all how you decide to put words out and share yourself. I choose to be me, maybe I embellish my instagram captions (“lost in london” I wasn’t actually lost) but really the reality of social media is here to stay. While yes, we should put our phones away, trust me, it drives me crazy how attached I am to my phone as well as everyone else, but, we have them, we are on them, and it is part of our lives that will be here to stay.

Choose who you are going to be online, don’t be fake if it’s going to force you to internally combust. Take control of your life and who you are online.

Let me know your opinions in the comments, I look forward to reading them! Are you going to quit social media? I’m not, we are a generation of the internet, enjoy it, or don’t. That’s  your choice.

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