Instagram star Essena O’Neill garnered thousands of fans from her carefully curated pictures, until she succumbed to the pressures of social media and decided to quit the game.
O’Neill started to reveal how fake her pictures really were by sharing the truths behind each image — how she refused to eat, how it took multiple tries before she got the perfect shot, and how she sometimes only wore an outfit for a single picture. She then started the movement Let’s Be Game Changers, but her decision was met with criticism as some felt she was doing it all for self-promotion.
But now O’Neill is back, but not for good — she’s reappeared to share her feelings with followers about the unexpected reaction she received when she removed herself from social media. She shared her truths in a very lengthy 6,210-word newsletter, which was posted by Tumblr account “agirlnamedally” yesterday.
“I’ve tried to write this newsletter for weeks… but up until today I just couldn’t find the words,” O’Neill began. “There is so much I wish to say, more than any email could fill… I guess that’s the point of the book, but even so I’ll try and keep this brief, for the people who heard what I was trying to say.”
She then goes on to explain how her social media journey started, and how it changed her life.
She wrote, “Social media was my full time job and took up [the] majority of my life. I would spend eight hours a day photographing, styling, editing, filming, scrolling… Finding people with similar passions was incredible — eating out for free, every little moment could be a perfect candid snap or silly vlog, we’d talk about my nonstop boy problems, and bitch about other youtuber’s/instgaramers (sic) that I knew personally. That was my life. Constant shoots, photos, editing and an artificial smile. I am not one bit proud of my actions, if that’s not already clear.”
Even though O’Neill was enjoying the perks of being famous, there was something seriously lacking in her life: happiness.
“What’s ironic, during all of this struggle I was getting more and more followers, thinner and thinner, better and more visually appealing pictures…” she wrote, adding, “Online it looked like I had the perfect life… yet I was so completely lonely and miserable inside. I hid it from everyone. I smiled and laughed in pictures and vlogs…”
And then she finally addressed the backlash she received from the public after making a move away from social media.
“During the next 24 hours I was just shocked and honestly just confused… the way it all turned so negative just numbed me… As if I was making it all up? For what? Money? Fame? I had that before so that makes sense?
“That I was a genius manipulator and knew this would make world news? I was a hypocrite because I used social media to explain my story to the half a million people that once idolised me? That I was a fraud, a hoax, a brilliant actor just because I was smiling in the pictures and said those smiles weren’t real?
“Seeing people I knew making videos as if my personal life, tears and obvious vulnerability… as if it was some kind of joke to them? I couldn’t believe people couldn’t just call me first, but wanted to make such a public spectrum… it worked, they got views…”
O’Neill also described the really hard times she faced, saying that at one point she “felt like dying.” (Her email is lengthy and if you wish to read the entire thing, please go here.)
But her Let’s Be Game Changers site is now defunct and redirects to a holding page, which according to The Guardian said that she would be writing her first book, How To Be Social Media Famous. It is now just a black-and-white page with the words “Essena O’Neill.” And people appear to be questioning her motives for the movement in the first place.
O’Neill has deleted her Instagram account, but imposters have popped up online, and the comments left on O’Neill’s old images prove the frustration shared by many. They include a comment from Instagram user t.kxo, who writes, “you talk about how much you dont [sic] want attention, and how you dont [sic] want to be surrounded by these ‘fake’ people on social media. Have you ever stopped to think that you are the ‘fake’ and attention seeking person you hate so much?#JustSaying”
While naikexx accused O’Neill of wanting more attention, writing, “WOW LOOKS LIKE SOMEONE WANTED ATTENTION THIS YEAR good job you really reached there and you sure did get a lot of people’s attention.”