I generally try to refrain from expressing any potentially controversial opinions on here. I used to have so many very strong opinions when I was young, but as I’ve grown and spent a lot of time abroad, I have learned that things I may feel strongly about are quite often wrong. Up until the day I left Thailand, I was still getting into “disagreements” with friends on certain subjects; the most recent involved whether or not stores should have a return policy, which is something that is such a DUH in the west, but thats besides the point.
I’m sure you’ve all heard of Essena O’neill by now – the Instagram star who “quit social media”. I know, it’s old news and I really wasn’t going to talk about it, but it keeps coming up in conversation, so I have decided to say something. After all, this girl has somewhat discredited what I do and I love what I do, so I gotta bring it up!
When I first found out about her newly publicized beliefs, I looked through some of her newly edited Instagram captions and laughed. After all, they were pretty darn accurate and definitely funny, but the idea is nothing revolutionary; aren’t we all aware that Instagram photos are staged and filtered?
Once the entertainment of it all had passed, I thought about it and here’s what I determined: she had used social media to quit social media (including a Youtube video of why – the irony), then she became more famous than ever by announcing that she no longer wanted to be famous, then she used social media to ask for crowd funding because she no longer had any income. The girl who went viral famous on the internet had done so by “quitting” the internet. Is she potentially a publicity genius?
No one knows her true intentions, so I can’t really make any strong assumptions about why she did what she did. However, what we can be sure of is that we have a teenage girl who became very unhappy and angry with the world around her. It is clear from her Youtube video that she was desperately in need of help and support and that she blames social media for her unhappiness.
She just turned 19 about a week after she quit her job in social media. When she renounced her online presence, she had already been blogging for 3 years which means she started out in the industry at 15. At the age of 16 she had amassed a following that was making her over $1000 a photo and was constantly being watched by over half a million people. Regardless of the industry, any job that has you in the media at such a young age is going to cause issues – just look at Justin Bieber, Britney Spears, the Olsen twins or any other child start out there. This brings me to the question of whether or not social media on a whole is to blame for her sadness. Could it be the fact that she was doing a full-time job, earning an income that no teenager knows how to deal with and essentially famous at a time when one’s mental wellbeing is precarious enough when you only have your circle of friends to deal with? Frankly, who isn’t insecure at that age and looking for validation in all the wrong places? I would be pretty messed up if I was in her shoes at the age of 16 and making hundreds of thousands of dollars by broadcasting my entire life on the internet. I very well could have been taking photos while lounging on beach chairs in a bikini with my boobs pushed up as a young teen, but my parents never would have let me do that and for that I am really lucky. I think there are many more issues at play than just the thing we call social media.
There are many girls like Essena in the world who become consumed by virtual validation at a young age, but does this mean social media is something that needs to be stopped or simply regulated better in youth? It hurts my heart to know that young girls have a misunderstanding about what it means to be a blogger. Whether you’re a fashion, food or travel blogger, we start writing about our interests as a creative release for our passions with a hopes to inspire others. If we’re lucky, we will be able to turn that hobby into a job and as far as I’m concerned, that’s a truly beautiful thing. Perhaps this story would have a different ending if Essena had been old enough to be comprehend her insecurities and understand that she doesn’t need to quit social media to change how she relates to it. She is a very intelligent girl and if she had started when she was old enough, she could have had a wonderful career doing something that she loved.
I believe that as young girls grow older, they will gain the perspective to understand that social media really has nothing to do with how important they are as individuals. As someone who is slightly older, I am able to comprehend that a blog becomes a marketing tool once it begins to derive income; that like any other marketing tool, you use various metrics to judge the success of your campaigns. In the case of social media, those metrics involve traffic, likes and engagement, but these numbers have absolutely nothing to do with who we are as people. As adults, we are able to understand that these numbers relate to your work’s success in the market and have no representation as to how much you are loved as a human being. With blogging, just like any other job, you will have good ideas and bad, successful plans and failures, but these phenomenons are in no way a reflection of who you are, but simply how well your job is going. It saddens me that Essena was so young and never taught to understand this.
The way I currently see social media is not how I saw it as a teenager. Although the industry can be a scary and consuming thing, it does not need to be “ended”, but needs to be regulated and understood. I think that unfiltered and raw apps such as Snapchat and Periscope are helping our youth to understand some of the false images that are portrayed by the other “preplanned” platforms such as Instagram and Facebook. The increasing popularity of these applications shows that the industry is evolving which is great to see. The understanding that “social media it not real life” will grow as more people talk about it. This is why I decided to write this post. At the end of the day, is it purely the presence of social media that can make us unhappy, or our understanding of how we relate to it?
I would love to hear how you feel about social media, so please leave a comment if you have any thoughts and opinions.
Top: Latin Catwalk – Skirt: TopShop – Blazer & Bag: Zara (old)
Earrings: H&M – Shoes: Adidas – Ring: Pandora – Necklace: Diamonds of Eden