There's been a massive shock for all people who care about social media about the model (now ex-model), Essena O'Neill quitting social media. My first reaction was, 'why do people care?' but after watching the video and learning a bit more about Essena, I realised why there was so much spotlight over her decision. Obviously, if either you or I quit social media (assuming you're not some Instagram celeb yourself), nobody would really bat an eyelid. They may think we were suffering from some form of a premature middle-life crisis over quitting a platform that dominates life. But, they would probably resume with their own life and post an Instagram snap five seconds later. Essena O'Neill has every young girl's perfect ideal life from the outside - a perfect body, perfect lifestyle and appearing to be perfectly happy all times of the day. So, did I find it shocking that her video displayed her crying and claiming to be unhappy? Not at all.
'Models' are chosen for a reason. They are desirable and portray a life that is elite and quite frankly, very unrealistic. However, if they posted real pictures of their real lives, their social media would be average - and what's so interesting about another average girl/guy? Who wants to see a post of a girl cuddled up in bed, no makeup, unposed, unedited and sprawled with a hot water bottle across their stomach with a hashtag 'menstrual cycle time'? Who wants to see a picture of the guy at the gym passed out because he pushed himself too hard with a hashtag 'trying to live up to society's standards'. Well, to be honest, me. It's about time social media started portraying reality rather than fantasy. You can't filter life but you can filter a photo. Life isn't perfect, you can't filter out its imperfections but you can on Instagram. The people behind the lens are normal. They have struggles and they are just as normal as you or I. Even un-famous people take to Instagram to portray their life as idyllic and flawless. The reason Instagram is such a successful platform is because it presents an image of life or a person that is perfect.
While it's not just on Instagram that people portray this perfect life (Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter are all suspects), I am targeting the specific platform in this post because of the recent post that Essena O'Neill has brought to attention. The video that Essena O'Neill posted on her YouTube account showed the results of what a 'perfect' life bought her - absolutely nothing. Essena was tired of showing the world a false portrayal of her life, admitting to having Instagram 'photo shoots' for the perfect shot. Neither you nor I can deny that when taking a selfie, we probably have about sixty different versions of the same photo because we don't want our 'nose to look big' or we want the angle to hide that monster of a spot. I decided to write this post because quitting social media is something that I have considered a lot over the past few years. Social media, for me personally, does not bring me happiness. I have never enjoyed being ogled at on Instagram when I upload a new photo, anxiously waiting for people to like it in order to avoid social embarrassment (please reach double figures - please). However, I would be lying if I said that I didn't enjoy an observant role on the platforms at times. I occasionally enjoy seeing a video of someone working out, showing off their health driven food and seeing a piece of the world I wouldn't have been able to see if it weren't for the person travelling taking that photo. The majority of the time I avoid the apps to avoid feelings of envy and sadness. In a time where you're feeling alone or things aren't going your way - the apps can be toxic. They make you feel empty and unfulfilled. But, that's what you sign up for the minute you create an account.
Accepting the feelings that social media inspire when you interact with the platform is the first stage in accepting the current world and its way of 'socialising'. It's a materialised form of communication and while it saddens me that people like Essena O'Neill achieve solely severe unhappiness from participating in such sites - ultimately, they are unavoidable. One of the reasons I have never closed my accounts is because in doing so, I would be cut off from how people interact today. I limit my time on the apps now to a maximum of five minutes, however, sometimes the effects of what I see do linger for a few minutes after, but I tend not to dwell on them. What I am seeing and what you are seeing on social media sites is a perfect portrayal of a false reality. Once you acknowledge that, you really can begin to enjoy the platform. Sure, there are some legit accounts out there of people who post pictures of their dog, a big ass bowl of oreos and crisps and their bloated pre-Christmassy belly - but the majority are not. If Essena O'Neill felt the need to quit the platforms to regain her happiness - good for her. However, had she only stuck it out and transformed her account to reality, I would've given her an even bigger round of applause.