A Sunshine Coast model has taken to YouTube and Instagram to challenge society’s obsession with social media.


Essena O’Neill, 19, who has been posting pictures to Instagram for four years, announced on YouTube she was “quitting social media”, including her Instagram, Tumblr and YouTube accounts.

She went through her Instagram account and deleted more than 2000 images of herself and edited the captions on others to reveal the story behind the image, writing that she was paid up to $2000 to promote some products.

“The reason why I quit social media was because for me, personally, it consumed me,” Miss O’Neill said in the video.

“I was living in a 2-D world.”

But Miss O’Neill said she came to realise she was “living a fake life” that promoted the message that women and girls needed to change their physical appearance to be accepted.

“Who told me as a young girl I needed to post a lot of body pictures to be of value?” she said in the video.

“Who told me I wasn’t enough without it, because that’s what I thought.”

Miss O’Neill also used the video to point out how wrong she thought it was that people listened to her because she had “won the genetic lottery”.

Miss O’Neill said she would spend hours scrolling through her posts to Instagram, Tumblr and YouTube, obsessing over the comments and likes the posts attracted.

She also used the video to expose the amount of money people on Instagram were being paid in supposedly candid photos.

“If you have a lot of followers and they’re tagging a brand in the photo, 98 per cent of the time it’s a paid post,” she said.

“And that’s not a bad thing, I’m not against making money off social media. I don’t think people realise how much money there is in social media.”

In her recaptioned Instagram posts, Miss O’Neill draws attention to the real story behind the photos, including whether it was a paid post and how the image was set up.

Miss O’Neill said she encouraged her social media followers to look at who they followed and consider what messages they were promoting and why they were following them.

“We are the youth, we are the future and if all our time is just comsumed by why people like us, or why people don’t like us, or how I can look better or how I can dress better – it doesn’t exist, it’s not even that important,” she said.

“What’s important is our ideas to innovate the future. Look at the world and think ‘I don’t like that, or I can’t accept that, I want to change that, I want to be the change’.”

She posted a statement to Instagram a week ago explaining her decision to quit social media:

“I’m quitting Instagram, YouTube and Tumblr. Deleted over 2000 photos here today that served no real purpose other than self promotion. Without realising, I’ve spent 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 judgement. I was consumed by it. I spent majority of my day aimlessly scrolling, hours on YouTube… How can we see ourselves and our true purpose/talents if we are constantly viewing others? Many of us are in so deep we don’t realise it’s delusional powers and the impact it has on our lives. There’s a select few photos I left here, half are original captions that I believe to be educational, the other half are photos that deluded you. It was never my conscious intention, but I deluded a lot of people…Call it deception, manipulation, lying, not saying the whole truth… I was both addicted to social approval and terrified no one would value me for myself. So I rewrote the captions of these false photos with short shots of reality. EVERYTHING EXPLAINED IN THE LINK IN MY BIO. There’s no likes or views or followers there. Just my content as raw as I want. It’s all going to be free of course. My main vegan videos will still be on YouTube, but vimeo will host all the new quality content. Made to help not to get views or $$$. How will I spread my message? Organically. If it moves someone, they tell their friends about it, simple as that. I’ll be talking about vegansim, creative imagery with purpose, poems, writing, interviews with people that inspire me, and of course the finical reality behind deluding people off Instagram…I was so caught up in it all. P.S when the new form of social sharing comes out, something that doesn’t revolve around likes and views but based on similar topics/quality for example, I will see you there, whenever that day comes…. We must create change.”


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