I was having coffee with a friend recently and I was asking her if she had seen a particular blogger on social media. She replied, “No, I don’t really use social media anymore… It actually makes me quite depressed.”
Believe it or not, this is the reality for thousands of boys and girls, and it seems like Essena Oneill, a major Australian social media influencer and so-called “Instagram model” was and most likely still is going through something very similar. This reponse is in relation to her sudden and recent social media campaign launch and website, Let’s Be Game Changers. If you haven’t seen it and you aren’t sure what I am talking about then I recommend you go to her website http://www.letsbegamechangers.com to find out more.
We shouldn’t be so quick to defend or judge Essena on her actions. She makes valid, credible points, while on the contrary social media is a necessary tool for many social media influencers to use. There is no argument to win here. Personally, I think it’s about understanding each perspective.
Aside from her Youtube and Instagram success, Essena is a sensitive, 19-year old girl trying to figure life out, and we have all been there. We want to speak out about something that is really bothering us, I guess like I am now. Only Essena had the tool to tell everyone, all over the world. She may not be handling herself perfectly or saying exactly what we want to hear, but nobody is perfect in real life, so nobody can be perfect on social media.
While someone’s Tumblr, Facebook or Instagram may look a certain way, this isn’t a clear and honest perception of who they are and how they live their life. However, this is an incredibly hard concept to grasp if you aren’t aware of the logistics behind a strategic social media account that is literally used to influence and ultimately make money. From what I take on Essena’s message, she is trying to tell girls, and boys, to stop trying to strive for the type of perfection that they see on these kinds of social media accounts. Instead, she wants them to channel that energy into things that they are really passionate about, like the passions that she suppressed for so long.
Most of the girls or boys that people are imitating or striving to be like are often models or incredibly creative people that have really honed their message and the image that they want to portray to the wider world. It’s a very, very small portion of who they actually are. Why? Because it’s not real life!
Yes, very lucky people do get paid for the content posted to their social media accounts, but that’s the primary factor that needs to be remembered. They are working, that is their job. That photo of the ridiculously attractive couple that went on holiday in the Carribean and seem to be incredibly in love. It’s not 100% real. That photo is like that for a reason, and the attention it is receiving is fueling it’s purposes success. And guess what? You have the power to decide whether you want to feed into it, and help its success, or not. Adding to this, social media branding and/or marketing is not for everyone and it doesn’t need to be! There are thousands of careers and opportunities in life that don’t require validity through social media followers and attention.
What Essena is going through is not unusual. Luckily when I was in high school the whole Instagram phase hadn’t quite introduced itself yet, and for that I am so grateful. I wouldn’t have the knowledge that I have now to deal with the pressure that it places on so many young people. In fact, I don’t know if I would have coped. Imagining if boys only judged me on my filtered Instagram photos, or to only be considered important on the basis of my Instagram followers. All the while I wasn’t even sure who I was as a person yet!
If you are a major social media influencer, there is no need to be offended by Essena’s message. You have the power to speak out and help people like Essena, but that perhaps aren’t as lucky, in all senses. Although a relatively new phenomenon, social media is a major factor towards self-harm and suicide. So before you go criticizing her or defending yourself, take a step back and understand this is an 19-year old girl who is first and foremost a human being. She didn’t directly offend you, and her message is impacting people for a reason. Take responsibility. What you are doing is not wrong, by any stretch of the imagination. I blog, I enjoy it, actually I love it. It’s my hobby and my outlet. However, let’s not pretend that social media is a whole-hearted perception of who you are because it is NOT. Images on social media are strategic and purposeful, and real life is not, and that is okay.
So let’s not judge Essena too quickly, or too harshly, despite how easy it is to do behind our phones and computers. You might believe it is a hoax, or a cry for attention, but this issue is real, and there are thousands of people around the world that are silently relieved to hear her broader message.