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Teen Instagram Star Quits in Powerful Video: “I’ve Let Myself Be Defined By Something That Is Not Real”

Editor’s Note: Since this post was originally published, Essena O’Neill has deactivated her Instagram and YouTube accounts.

From the outside, social media sensation Essena O’Neill had it all  fame, fortune, and what appeared to her more than half a million Instagram followers, a fabulous life.

But all that liked and followed was not gold for the 18-year-old Instagram sensation who announced on YouTube she was quitting social media for good.

“I have an insight into a world of social media that I believe not many people are aware of in terms of how it works in advertisements, how I know a lot of other social media personalities, and just how fake it all is. I say fake because I don’t think anyone has bad intentions, but they got sucked into it like I was.”

And it’s easy to see why. Advertisers lined up and followers couldn’t get enough of the seemingly effortless brand of perfection O’Neill offered, but the Australian native would come to discover the steep personal price of social success.

“I let myself be defined by numbers … the only thing that made me feel better about myself, really, was the more followers, the more likes, the more praise, the more views I got online. It was never enough.”

Within the last week, O’Neill deleted 2,000 images from her Instagram profile, updated photo captions in an inspired effort to pull back the curtain of social perfection, and renamed her account “Social Media is Not Real Life.”

And regrets, O’Neill has more than a few. “At nearly 19, with all of these followers, I don’t even know what is real, what is not, because I’ve let myself be defined by something that is so not real.” Continuing about time wasted staring at a screen, she goes on to remind us, “We are not followers, we are beings of individuality and love.”

In an age when social reigns supreme, we applaud O’Neill’s courage of conviction as she takes her next brave steps pioneering positive social change on her website, Let’s Be Game Changers. If we could, we’d like this times a million.

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