On Oct. 27, Essena O’Neill, an 18-year-old with an Instagram account that had over 500,000 followers, deleted over 2,000 posts and altered the captions of the remaining photos with descriptions that pointed out her truth behind each shot. Each of the 96 remaining posts were now captioned to point out the complete madness behind the Instagram modeling industry, and how unhealthy and self-destructive it is to those under its control, according to O’Neill.
O’Neill did not stop at just Instagram, however, quickly striking out at such social media sites as Tumblr and Twitter for contributing to the widespread epidemic of a need for social acceptance. She called for those who supported her cause to quit all social media, and went on to create a website, www.letsbegamechangers.com, that explained the reasoning behind her movement.
The main issues that many are finding with O’Neill’s bold statements, however, are their generality in the face of an obviously complex issue and the inherent contradictory nature of her sudden change in character.
In the wake of O’Neill’s announcement, Bonny Rebecca, a friend of O’Neill’s, made a public comment on Tumblr that read, “Essena has put out all this information about what SOME instagramers are like…I have been left with everyone comparing us and thinking that she is implying those concepts are relevant to my account…thats NEVER what I have been about.”
A major fault in the accusations raised by Essena is that they treat the online community as one whole, and consider her own personal experience to be representative of the over-arching experience of every individual that has ever liked a tweet or posted a selfie.
Is there some truth to her statements? Absolutely.
But has every member of Instagram felt an insatiable need for likes and attention?
Some statements are simply too bold to be made.
With O’Neill’s creation of a website in which she can share her videos and opinions with the world, many have begun to draw the conclusion that perhaps O’Neill has an unquenchable need for a public spotlight. O’Neill, of course, has condemned all such claims.
In fact, her website’s homepage states, “I’m over this mainstream world and the mainstream way we use the internet,” yet her site has a subscriber email service in which those who choose to follow it may be made aware whenever she posts something new, and her posts have the option to be shared on other social media sites, including Twitter and Tumblr.
O’Neill has undoubtedly brought light to a very real issue that has surfaced as a result of the fairly recent explosion of social media, but the methods in which she chose to do so are questionable at best. Those who support what she has to say have given her praise like no other, while those who find her to be contradictory have regarded her as nothing more than a teenager who is vying for attention.
In any case, Essena’s message at its core is something that is very important to keep in mind with the ever-increasing expansion of social media, and the results of her social experiment will speak volumes for the overall success of her feat, contradictory or heroic.