“I took over 100 in similar poses trying to make my stomach look good.”

Australian teen Instagrammer, Essena O’Neill has walked away from 700,000 followers this week across Instagram and YouTube, in protest of what she’s calling a “false reality”.

Since Tuesday, the health-focused vegan YouTuber has deleted some 2,000 photos from her Instagram account, renaming it, ‘Social Media Is Not Real Life’ and re-captioning all remaining images to explain the highly artificial nature of how each photo was constructed and not a reflection of her actual life at all. It’s all part of a kind of online protest against social media which the Insta-star says she hopes will open the eyes and minds of young women who feel inadequate for not being able to replicate the lifestyles depicted in the social media accounts of bloggers like her.

“Social media, especially how I used it, isn’t real. It’s 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 self absorbed judgement,” she told followers in a video this week, entitled ‘Why I Think Social Media Sucks’.

O’Neill’s candidness about the pressure to look perfect and manufacture idealistic images in order to attract ‘likes’ and thus personal validation, has hit home with thousands of women who are already hailing the blogger a hero for her honesty and bravery in walking away from lucrative social media fame.

In her tell-all video and Instagram captions, O’Neill revealed to fans she was receiving up to $1,000 per image from clothing brands for showing off various items in her posts, and has admitted to taking “over a hundred” shots just to get a single image she felt was worthy of posting, all with the aim of garnering maximum ‘likes’ and followers.

“I told myself, if I got heaps of views on Youtube, I would then be happy, feel like enough…[I] 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.”

But some bloggers are already saying O’Neill’s online protest is nothing more than a publicity stunt.

“She’s still promoting herself on social media! And what’s wrong with promoting yourself anyway? What’s wrong with sharing a photo with your friends, or a brand that you like, that you believe in?…Yeah, we’re promoting a message, we’re promoting our art, our music, stuff we love,” say twin sisters and fellow health and fitness bloggers, Nina and Randa.


Regardless of her critics, O’Neill says she plans on forging ahead with going social media free and instead focusing solely on her new blog, Let’s Be Game Changers, which is focused on her newfound self-love message. And because that’ll see the Insta-star incur some pretty significant financial losses, she’s set up a support tab on the site, where she says, “The button below is my open hat to you. If you get something from what I’m doing, pay what it’s worth to you.”

According to the blogger, her main motivation in shutting the accounts down and leaving only the re-captioned images as a reminder is ultimately to warn young women against the dangers of tying your self-worth to your physical appearance.

“I wish someone would have shook me and said ‘You have so much more in you than your sexuality’…I only realised at 19 that placing any amount of self worth on your physical form is so limiting! I could have been writing, exploring, playing, anything beautiful and real… Not trying to validate my worth through a bikini shot with no substance.”

Comment: Do you applaud O’Neill for her actions, or do you think they could be a publicity stunt?