Anybody who's ever Facetuned a selfie or tweeted a humblebrag to mask the vast pit of loneliness inside them knows that social media isn't real. But Instagram-famous teen and Australian model Essena O'Neill is using the huge platform she amassed by posting bikini photos and brunch tableaus to expose the truth about social media: that it's "fake" and almost entirely staged, and that many of its celebrities are as sad and empty as the followers commenting "#goals."
"I found myself drowning in the illusion," O'Neill wrote on her new 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 and dislikes, validation in views, success in followers ... it's perfectly orchestrated judgement. And it consumed me."
"A 15 year old girl that calorie restricts and excessively exercises is not goals. Anyone addicted to social media fame like I once was, is not in a conscious state."
She's since deleted thousands of Instagrams and gone back and changed the captions on her remaining photos to show what was really going on when those pictures were taken.
"NOT REAL LIFE - 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. Yep so totally #goals"
"NOT REAL LIFE - I didn't pay for the dress, took countless photos trying to look hot for Instagram, the formal made me feel incredibly alone."
"Was paid $400 to post a dress. That's when I had maybe 150k followers, with half a million followers, I know of many online brands (with big budgets) that pay up to $2000 per post. Nothing is wrong with accepting brand deals. I just think it should be known. This photo had no substance, it was not of ethical manufacturing (I was uneducated at the time). SOCIAL MEDIA IS NOT REAL is my point. Be aware what people promote, ask yourself, what's their intention behind the photo?"
"The only thing that made me feel good that day was this photo. How deeply depressing. Having a toned body is not all we as human beings are capable of."
"This is what I like to call a perfectly contrived candid shot. Nothing is candid about this. While yes going for a morning jog and ocean swim before school was fun, I felt the strong desire to pose with my thighs just apart #thighgap boobs pushed up #vsdoublepaddingtop and face away because obviously my body is my most likeable asset. Like this photo for my efforts to convince you that I'm really really hot #celebrityconstruct"
"and yet another photo taken purely to promote my 16 year old body. This was my whole identity. That was so limiting. Made me incredibly insecure. You have no idea."
O'Neill says she's quitting modeling and social-media sponsorships, and is hoping to use her platform to spread the values of environmental preservation, veganism, and "being present." Unfortunately, her posts seem to have sparked a war among the Instagram teens.
Update: O'Neill appears to have deleted her Instagram, but she uploaded a new video to Vimeo.