In October 2015, teenager and model Essena O’Neill quit social media. Despite having over 500,000 followers, she shut down her Instagram account. She began the conversation on the fake-ness of the platform.
She deleted more than 2000 photos and edited the captions of the remaining posts so that they were more honest. Photos of her in a bikini were suddenly captioned with statements like “stomach sucked in, strategic pose, pushed up boobs.”
In the video above, Essena describes the time she turned off her phone for a week and realised she didn’t know herself without social media and without her physical appearance. She remebered obsessively checked how many likes her first selfie had for a week after she posted it. As a result she realised that she was showing people that “likes and views equal worth.”
At 12 I thought I was nothing, and here at nearly 19 with all of these followers, I don’t even know what is real and what is not because I let myself be defined by something that is so not real. Being with people in your real life, hugging people, talking to people, going into the park out with nature, that is real f**king life.
Essena explains that her reason to quit social media was her 12 year old self. At 12 she compared herself to images of models with the “perfect” lives and felt worthless in comparison. However 6 years later she was one of those models. People looked up to her; people wanted to be her.
Following Essena’s dramatic departure from Instagram, others have followed in her footsteps. Editing their captions to be more real. Revealing the truth behind the carefully constructed images.
Last November London-based model, Stina Sanders, posted pictures which showed a more realistic side to her life. A photo of her chipped pedicure. A selfie after finishing her 2 month psychotherapy session for anxiety. Another selfie just before a colonic irrigation procedure. By the end of the week she had lost around 5000 followers.
Blogger and model Rebecca Pearson opened up in an article about the behind-the-scenes action of her Instagram posts. She remembered getting angry with her boyfriend for ‘not taking it seriously’; not actually exercising and just putting on her workout clothes for a photo; and editing the colour of her smoothie to make it look more appealing.
Similarly Alexandra Harvey wrote for The Tab about her experience of editing her captions to be more realistic. Seems like there’s a common theme with each of these stories. Every single one of these girls receive a huge amount of support. People are happy this is being said.
We are ready for this realisation and this Instagram revolution! Clearly many us are aware of the falseness of the mass-filtered lives seen across Instagram, but we’re too scared to speak out. Too worried about losing followers and likes. We are petrified of the idea of not conforming to society’s expectations of how we should look, act and be on social media.
But really? It’s time to start speaking up and stopping conforming. It’s time for a more honest Instagram. Start actually living life, not living for Instagram.