Much has been made in the past few days of the fact that Instagram ‘star’ Essena O’Neill has quit her ‘dream life’ on social media.
I have been mulling this over since I first heard it being discussed on the radio earlier in the week. Essena, an Australian model and YouTube ‘star’ (that word again) stated that “the pressure to sell a ‘dream life’ on social media made her miserable”.
Essena went back through her Instagram account and edited all the captions to show how she was really feeling at the time of each photo, how many takes it took for her to get the perfect selfie, how much money she was paid for sponsored photographs. According to news reports, she has, in the last 24 hours, deleted her account all together. Some friends and colleagues are calling her sudden “volte face” on the source of her fame a grand PR stunt or a hoax. If you google her right now her results run to over 15 pages on Google (and that’s just when I got bored looking).
I have no idea whether Essena’s declarations are a PR stunt or not. What I do know is this…
Social Media has become an easy scape goat for many things recently – bad behaviour, radical behaviour (feminism, religion and racism), our youth growing up with low morals etc. etc. etc.…
It’s not Social Media that does this, it is people. People behave badly, people have radical beliefs and our youth grows up with low morals and high expectations of what they are 'due' because some parents are failing to instil any values in them. All that Social Media does is bring it to the fore.
We’ve always been able to drool over people’s kitchens and clothing in magazines and on tv. These days we can see ‘real’ people’s perfect kitchens, perfect outfits and perfect children online in an instant.
But here’s the thing. How we chose to react to these things is our choice.
That’s right. OUR CHOICE.
Here’s a little advice from that grand old dame, Eleanor Roosevelt
Essena chose to let social media become her life. No one asked her to sell her soul on Instagram. It was her ‘career’. She is a model. I expect she enjoyed the fruits of her labours from the sponsored posts. Hell, if someone offered me £500 to pose with a yoghurt, I wouldn’t complain that it took me 99 attempts at a selfie to do it.
Every day on Instagram I see photographs of beautiful women (most of my followees and followers are over 35 and they won’t mind me saying so) and lovely homes, fab outfits, amazing holidays and lovely smiley happy children. I have also seen, in the past few months, photos of hilariously-dodgy-looking birthday cakes, mad dogs with wet owners, broken mugs with spilt coffee and silly piss-taking selfies. These people know how to laugh at themselves too. And I love looking at their photos because I am nosey!
Maybe it’s because I have a few more years of life experience than Essena has, but I don’t for one minute imagine those perfect photos ‘just happen’. I know that kitchen will have been cleaned to within an inch of its life pre photo (mine damn well is if it’s to feature in photos!). I also know that the fashion blogger has spent ages perfecting her selfie and her OOTD (outfit of the day). And what’s wrong with that? It’s their choice, no one is making them do it. And to be honest, they would probably do it anyway, photo or not, because they want their kitchen to be tidy and they want to look nice, regardless of whether a camera is pointing at them. When you begin to feel obliged to produce such beautiful photos, the only person putting that pressure on you is you.
Social Media has been responsible for much good – it has brought people together who may never have met (or found each other again), it provides a platform for political debate (although some people cannot help but let it degenerate into a name calling bun fight), it provides information and raises awareness of world issues. It brings into contact millions of people which, for some, might be their only interaction with other adults that day.
Social Media is like it is because "people" have made it that way.
Not because Social Media has made people that way.
If it’s making you miserable, stop*
*applies to all areas of life, not just social media