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Culture > Digital

Is Essena O’Neill’s Social Media Fake or a Publicity Stunt?

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at VCU chapter.

In one quick glance of 19-year-old Australian Instagram model Essena O’Neill’s former Instagram account, her life seems perfect.

In recent weeks however, O’Neill has admitted the secrets behind her account. O’Neill says she used to admire women who were tan, had tight stomachs, firm breasts and thin thighs. But now, O’Neill is saying that she was paid to wear clothing and promote products. The Instagram model also said that when she was around 15 and 16 she had a “conditional view of self-love.”

“Strength to me at the time meant skipping meals, it meant eating as [little] as I could, it meant I saw food as an addiction,” O’Neill said to People Magazine.

Since O’Neill’s recent revelations, the model decided to “quit” social media all together in a “Social Media Is Not Real Life” movement. She recently deleted most of her old photos and replaced the remaining ones with what was really going on in each photo. She says social media is nothing but a “system based on social approval, likes, validation in views and success in followers.”

“I posted images like this of myself and everyone told me how much of an inspiration I was. It’s heartbreaking to think that young girls would screenshot these images and then work out excessively and calorie restrict, or just have an idea of self-based on aesthetics like I did, and then punish themselves for not looking like me.” O’Neill tells People readers.

In a Youtube video titled “Essena O’Neill Quitting Social Media Is A HOAX”, O’Neill’s friends Nina and Randa Nelson call O’Neill out for her claims that social media is fake. In this 15 minute video, the Nelson’s play clips from O’Neill’s YouTube video “Why I REALLY am quitting social media” and provide disclaimers to each of her claims.

The Nelson’s aren’t the only ones criticizing O’Neill for her recent social media campaign. CEO of Rise 9, a company that helps others grow their social media, Zack James, wrote an outraged response to Essena O’Neill on his personal facebook page. He begins with “Essena O’Neill is wrong: Social Media isn’t a lie.”

James continues to say “You decide to take money for a dress? That’s your choice. You decide to spend hours taking the right photo? That’s your choice. You decide to live a life that you feel is a lie? That is absolutely your choice.”

Other celebrities have admitted that they think social media is a lie as well. Kate Winslet told The Sunday Times that “[Social media] has a huge impact on young women’s self-esteem because all they ever do is design themselves for people to like them. And what comes along with that? Eating disorders. And that makes my blood boil. And is the reason we don’t have any social media in our house.” In a Marie Claire interview Julia Roberts compared social media to cotton candy; “It looks so appealing and you just can’t resist getting in there,” Roberts said. “And then you just end up with sticky fingers and it lasted an instant.”

Food Instgrammer Charlotte Palermino recently took up O’Neill’s challenge and went seven days without filtering her photos. In the end of her week long experiment, Palermino said “No Essena O’Neill epiphany. If anything, I realized I really like taking food pictures; it just shouldn’t interfere with the things I’m doing or the people I spend time with. They’re more interesting than a double tap anyway.” You can follow Palermino’s week long social media experiment here.

In light of all the recent comments, O’Neill says “You only know I am some slim, blonde, genetically blessed girl that got lucky with her facial features, how long her torso is, how naturally slim her arms are, how firm her breasts are,” she says. “There are so many inspirational, beautiful, loving, full-of-life beings that don’t meet these impossible standards. And they deserve to feel beautiful.”

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