Newspaper article Sunshine Coast Daily (Maroochydore, Australia)

Celebrity Blogger's Online Honesty Shock

Newspaper article Sunshine Coast Daily (Maroochydore, Australia)

Celebrity Blogger's Online Honesty Shock

Article excerpt

A Sunshine Coast teenager with more than 700,000 followers on Instagram has added a scathing public break-up to her social media fame, with videos and blog posts that have gone viral worldwide.

Coolum's Essena O'Neill, 19, gained about 200,000 Instagram followers in a matter of days after she deleted 2000 of her Instagram photos and re-labelled the rest with more "honest" captions, declaring "social media is not real life".

Her strong words were meant as a plea to other young women not to believe everything they see online.

"Social media isn't real," the teenager, who celebrated her birthday yesterday, said in an initial YouTube video released on Saturday.

"It's purely contrived images and edited clips ranked against each other.

"It's a system based on social approval, likes and dislikes, validation in views, success in followers. It's perfectly orchestrated judgement.

"And it consumed me."

In a time where teenage girls turn to Instagram for inspiration and role models, Ms O'Neill's honesty was a refreshing shake-up of the so-called "Insta-famous" social media persona, where female bloggers - many of them only teenagers - can earn thousands of dollars for posting one Instagram photo.

"I didn't pay for (this) dress," she wrote on a photo from last year, which showed her smiling blissfully, clad in a white, figure-hugging gown for a school formal.

"(I) took countless photos trying to look hot for Instagram, (but) the formal made me feel incredibly alone."

On another photo taken, framing a close-up of Ms O'Neill's face, she wrote: "This is what an addiction to your appearance, social media and just social approval looks like.

"I won the genetic lottery. These thoughts are not original, others have said them before me and others can say it all better. But you listen because I look pretty here. That's messed up."

Ms O'Neill, who could make up to $2000 per post, also pointed to earlier photos of herself dressed in bikinis, skimpy workout gear or pulling her shirt up past her stomach, noting she was only 15 or 16 when the shots were taken.

"And yet another photo taken purely to promote my 16-year-old body," she wrote.

"This was my whole identity. That was so limiting. Made me incredibly insecure. You have no idea."

The altered Instagram posts were the first in a series of sweeping measures by the teen, who directed her viewers to a new website, letsbegamechangers.com.

The website called on young women to go social-media-free for a week, recommended self-help books including The Power Of Now by Eckhart Tolle, and encouraged readers to "create something".

"Give this world you," she urged.

"What's something you love? Gives you passion? Something you find relaxing or thrilling? Doesn't matter what, just do something, anything. You know you are capable of so much more. …

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