Eighteen-year-old Essena O’Neill has built a career off social media, thanks to the hundreds of thousands of people who follow her on Instagram and YouTube.
She “had it all,” but now the Australian is walking away from all of it, for good.
The reason: Her mental health was in jeopardy because of the constant pressure to be perfect and promote a lifestyle that wasn’t sustainable for her — or anyone else, for that matter.
“I was addicted to what others thought of me, simply because it was so readily available,” she wrote. “I was severely addicted. I believed how many likes and followers I had correlated to how many people liked me. I didn’t even see it happening, but social media had become my sole identity. I didn’t even know what I was without it.”
O’Neill also redid all of the captions on her photos to describe what was really happening instead of the perfect facade she put on.
“… stomach sucked in, strategic pose, pushed up boobs,” O’Neill wrote of one Instagram bikini shot. “I just want younger girls to know this isn’t candid life, or cool or inspirational. It’s contrived perfection made to get attention.”
“‘Please like this photo, I put on makeup, curled my hair, tight dress, big uncomfortable jewelry… took over 50 shots until I got one I thought you might like, then I edited this one selfie for ages on several apps — just so I could feel some social approval from you,’” she wrote on another.
O’Neill delved deeper into the insecurities she developed over the years as a result of social media in this YouTube video — and why it’s healthier for her to quit, even if she’s not sure what she’s going to do next to make money. “Yeah 16-year-old Essena would have been like ‘WTF girl you have the dream life,’” she wrote of her decision. “So why did I feel so lost, lonely and miserable?”