18-Year-Old Model Proves That Instagram Perfection Is Not Real (PHOTOS)

Essena O'Neil InstagramHave you ever wondered what it would be like to be a social media star? With hundreds of thousands of followers commenting with the hashtag "#goals" on each gorgeous post? If one Instagram-famous teen is any indication, it's nothing like you might imagine. In fact, Austalian model Essena O'Neill is pulling the plug on her lucrative social media career, and she's got a powerful message for all of us.



"I found myself drowning in the illusion," O'Neill shared on her newly launched site, Let's Be Game Changers. "Social media isn't real. It's purely contrived images and edited clips ranked against each other. It's a system based on social approval, likes, validation in views, success in followers ... it's perfectly orchestrated judgment. And it consumed me."

O'Neill left her Instagram account standing, but she changed the name to "Social Media Is Not Real." And she's going back to delete thousands of photos, and change the captions of others to reflect the often painful reality masked by the enviable, picture-perfect shots.

We know that social media presents a curated, idealized, and dishonest view of life ... but do we really know? When we scroll through our Instagram feeds, there's a part of us that understands it's all curated, that no one's life is ever as perfect as the most perfect shot they share ... but still. It's so easy to get caught up in envy and comparison, and feel less than as a result. Less pretty, less successful, less fit, less popular, less talented, less beloved...

But what O'Neill is so powerfully showing is that we're comparing ourselves to something that doesn't exist.


"I’ve spent the majority of my teenage life being addicted to social media, social approval, social status and my physical appearance,” O’Neill wrote in one of her re-vamped posts.

This one is especially haunting and powerful to me ... "The formal made me feel incredibly alone," she writes. You'd never know that to look at the image, would you?

And this one, below, points out that what looks like a carefree shot of a perfect girl on a perfect day is actually paid advertising, preying on your desire to own a piece of the illusion:

How much work do we put into trying to make things look perfect, and into fitting an impossible-to-achieve ideal?

And how does it make us feel to compare our own messy, imperfect bodies and lives to the idealized, filtered, cropped images we see on Instagram?

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Does this sound familiar? ...

I'll be sharing these posts with my own tween daughter. And the next time any of us scroll through Instagram and start to feel that little tug of jealousy or self-doubt, we'd do well to remember O'Neill's powerful message. It's. Not. Real.


Image via essaoneil/Instagram

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