Who is Essena O’Neill?

I am so proud of Essena O’Neill. I did not know of her before, but after hearing from Joy the Baker of what she has done, I just want to yell from the rooftops, “GO GIRL!” If you do not know who this girl is (like I did not know until just yesterday), Essena O’Neill is a nineteen-year-old girl who became famous through her presence on social media. It seems that the main way she used social media in the past was through modeling and uploading photos of herself… Correct me if I’m wrong… She got sucked under by the drug of followers, likes, and worldwide social media approval. But as of only a few weeks ago, she has come up for air and sworn off social media by way of a new blog called “Lets Be Game Changers” (elimination of apostrophe her choice, certainly not mine).

In this blog, she has talked a lot about her recent discovery of being free of social media. I am proud of her because she made the choice to do something thousands of people do not want her to do. She stepped back and asked, “After all this attention, this great body, popular photos, modeling jobs, and the ability to make a career out of social media, why am I still unhappy and lonely?” She slowed down and realized how fake it all is. Looking at other people’s photos on social media, we begin to think that those people’s lives must be wonderful, that they must have everything together. And then we look at our own lives and think of the messes we have made, the dissatisfaction we have with our bodies, the loneliness we feel, the size of our salary, or our lack of romantic relationships, and we are unhappy with what we see. We want the lives of the people we see on social media, but instead we are stuck with our own lives. We think those other people’s lives must be amazing when in fact they are just as messed up and lonely as our own.

A few weeks ago, Essena O’Neill took a step back (or more like a hundred steps back) and, realizing all this, wondered, “Why am I promoting a culture of fake lives by trying to convince my own viewers that my life is amazing too, when I know it really is not as good as it looks?” And that is how her new blog was formed, at least from what I can tell… So thank you, Essena, for using this platform of hundreds of thousands of viewers to promote a healthier way of life – a social media-less life where we focus on who and what is around us, where we are real with each other, and where relationships are more important than numbers of viewers.

As I said earlier, Essena is nineteen. Yes, she is technically an adult – and I am sure has already gone through plenty of growing up – but she still has some growing up to do (as do we all, really). I hope that after a short period of anger at social media, she will finish with the angry and continue on with the healthy-way-of-living videos. She also already has me a little worried. In her second video, she mentioned the number of followers on her blog. I really hope that she does not become obsessed with numbers of viewers on this new outlet as well. And when she gets off of this no-social-media high, I hope she will not get burned out, but will continue to fight for a better world. If she continues on with what she is doing using a positive outlook, she can be incredibly powerful in today’s culture!

In June of 2014, I deleted my Facebook account. I did not have 500,000 friends or followers like Essena, but I did have over 1000. Goodness gracious! How could I call all 1000 of them my friends? Well, I didn’t. But  I did make sure I had met each and every one of them in person before friend requesting them, but that was my only criterion. Despite the exorbitant number of “friends”, Facebook is not all bad; it can be a good way to stay somewhat connected with old friends and acquaintances (trying to stay up-to-date with everyone’s email addresses without Facebook is a NIGHTMARE!), and it is good for looking at and sharing photos with people. (It is so hard to get pictures from friends’ weddings without Facebook!) But those were really the only reasons I considered keeping my account. There were so many more reasons to delete it than to keep it. The biggest reason was the photos (yes, the photos are both a pro and a con for me). Looking at other people’s photos, it is extremely difficult to not think everyone else’s lives are better than your own. But of course they look better than yours because it is the extremely rare person who will post bad photos of themselves on Facebook! And even if they posted bad photos, you still would only get to see the moments where they actually took photos. There are so many other moments of life – the normal moments – that are not photographed. And if they were, who would look at those photos? Not me! BOOORING!

Since I deleted my Facebook account, I have NOT ONCE regretted doing so. If I ever wish I could just get that one photo from that friend’s wedding or from that one night this semester I went out with friends, I then remember that the remembering of the event is WAY better than the photo of the event, so why stress about getting the photo? I don’t.

All that to say, thank you Essena O’Neill for being brave. Even when life gets you down and you are tempted to become that popular Instagramming model again, remember that real relationships, taking in the things around you, and stopping to reflect on the good as well as the bad are all way better than photographing each of those moments, being popular, and getting millions of views.

Read from the beginning: https://soarwithlaughter.com/2014/09/02/soar-cloud-high/


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