Instagram star quits social media and reveals the truth behind her perfect selfies
At just 18, she has more than 500,000 followers on Instagram, and 260,000 subscribers on YouTube.
On Tumblr, she has 200,000 followers and she has 60,000 followers on Snapchat.
She gets paid to wear clothes and post selfies on her social media channels.
So why did popular Australian Instagram personality Essena O'Neill quit social media last week?
Because social media was making her feel "miserable" despite "having it all".
She said: "When you let yourself be defined by numbers, you let yourself be defined by something that is not pure, not real."
Her mission now is to expose the dark side of being a social media personality, and she's done just that, by editing the captions on her Instagram photos to tell the ugly truth behind her perfect selfies. The photo below shows O'Neill in her posts (left) versus what she looks like in person.
The caption on a picture of her in a bikini reads: "NOT REAL LIFE - took over 100 in similar poses trying to make my stomach look good. Would have hardly eaten that day. Would have yelled at my little sister to keep taking them until I was somewhat proud of this. Yep so totally #goals."
"Social media isn't real. It's purely contrived images and edited clips ranked against each other," O'Neill wrote on her new website, Let's Be Game Changers.
"It's a system based on social approval, likes and dislikes, validation in views, success in followers... it's perfectly orchestrated judgments. And it consumed me."
She said that many social media stars lived a very contrived life based on validation.
O'Neill wrote: "I created with the sole purpose to feel approved of. Social media allowed me to profit off deluding people. I created an image of myself that was merely contrived perfection."
She has since deleted about 2,000 photos from her Instagram, but kept some and edited the photo captions to show how much work she put in to create candid shots, and to reveal how she really felt behind her smiles.
To get one good Instagram picture, she would sometimes take up to 200 shots, and then edit the photos with multiple apps.
And if you were admiring her toned abs, O'Neill probably sucked it in to make it look even better.
Now, O'Neill says she's focused on spreading positive messages her new website Let's Be Game Changers.
She wants to address issues like addiction to technology, gender equality, environmental awareness and minimise celebrity culture as well as promote veganism.
She said in a video that she eventually wants social media to not be "based on views, likes and followers."
O'Neill said: “You want to be valued and loved but you also want to be free. Do you know how good it is just to have a day and not to think about anyone else, or what anyone else is doing, but be with real people?”
Many of her followers have come out in support of her.
"So much respect, girl!" one poster exclaimed.
Another wrote: "I can't tell you how lousy it feels seeing all these beautiful people all over social media and wondering why I'm never that skinny or why it's so important or feeling less about myself."
Sources: Buzzfeed, Mashable, Let's Be Game Changers
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