By now you must have heard about Essena O'Niell. If you haven't she was an Instagram Celeb, Youtuber and Model who has recently quit social media platforms because of the effect it was having on her and her outlook towards life.
Now, I firstly have to say I think her decision was clearly absolutely right for her and of course I'm supportive of anyone finding what is making them unhappy and making a positive change. Nobody should have to feel the way she has. However I have to disagree with the negative outlook on social media as a whole that is now being placed and debated pretty much everywhere and anywhere.
For me social media on a whole has been positive. It's allowed me to find something I really enjoy like blogging and YouTube, find cool interesting people who have their own stories to tell, a place for discussion and it's been a place where a lot of my friendships have been formed. I like to share things and talk to people and social media allows that. I have a platform where I can write which I might not have without it. Basically, I love social media.
We all know social media portrayals of ourselves are manipulated to look a certain way, even if done without thinking about it. For example, if I like how my makeup looks one day I'll probably take a selfie and I know which way to pose for it and add a filter that makes me feel good about myself. I don't personally think that's being fake however there's definitely a difference between a quick selfie with a filter slapped on and heading out for a photoshoot, intense editing and tensing your stomach for the perfect for Instagram.
One of the key factors in this whole thing is body confidence, the images we consume and how they affect us. It's no secret that society is riddled with feeling inadequate. I would be lying if I said I didn't post certain things for attention or likes to feel validated. We all do. I mean, I in no way have the numbers that she has/had but the other day I got around 50 likes on a photo of myself and it made me feel better about my appearance and confident. If one gets 11 or less, I used to go to the 'oh god is it that bad? am I unattractive?!' mind set but now, it doesn't matter to me. If I like the photo, I'm going to post it regardless.
What scares me is that she's only 18 and got into social media fame/modelling at a young age. No 12 year old should be measuring their thighs and feeling that awful about themselves. The rise of some social media stars at such young ages frightens the shit out of me. There are vloggers at age 14-16 that have over 100k followers across different platforms. FOURTEEN. I'm 20 and that number of people terrifies me. I would in no way be able to handle social media fame at 14 if at all. I can't speak from experience of having social media your as job or your brand but I can imagine how hard it is to live up to these expectations and pressure to feel you have to be seen as happy all the time and I'm glad for her she is moving away from it to be truly happy.
With social media, you need to be able to switch on and off. I am not one to spend all day on my phone constantly scrolling and double tapping. I'll put the phone away for a few hours and just quite literally switch off. I know, and hope a lot of people know the clear difference between social media life and reality. The next time you see the perfect Instagram feed remember that that person wouldn't post a photo of them crying their eyes out when they're deeply sad or having personal issues. As Dodie Clark said there is a wrong way and a right way of using social media. You need to find a balance between real life and social media life. Social media is what you make it.
Social media when used right is a pretty incredible thing. You just need to look at all the charity campaigns and stories that wouldn't have made it into the news if it weren't for the driving force on these platforms. I think what she's done is great for highlighting what is actually going on behind the screen, I just don't think it's fair to damn all social media.
I cannot stress enough that if you're on social media for the likes and numbers, it's so easy to tell. Essena is completely spot on when saying numbers do not define you nor do they make you happy, because it absolutely doesn't. So next time you see that perfect Instagram feed, appreciate the images by all means but don't take them as a representation for a perfect life. Take it all with a pinch of salt. Be yourself.