By Lyndsey Hall
In October, one of the world’s top social media influencers renounced her online following and exposed the truth about the “fake” image presented by some high profile accounts on social channels like Instagram and YouTube.
Nineteen-year-old Essena O’Neill from Australia had amassed a following of over half a million on her social media accounts, by sharing photos and videos of herself; usually in exotic locations, wearing fashionable outfits and generally enjoying the high life. However, she has now revealed that the pressure to always appear perfect made her “miserable”; admitting to spending hours taking hundreds of almost identical photos, and then digitally editing them, until she was happy. She also labelled many of her own images as “contrived”, revealing that she was often being paid by brands to share photos of herself using their products, without highlighting to her followers that it was, in fact, advertising.
“Social media isn’t real life”
On October 27th, O’Neill changed her Instagram account name to “Social Media isn’t real life” and removed almost 2,000 images, changing the captions on her remaining 96 photos to reflect the reality of each image. She admitted to hardly eating on some days when she posed in a bikini on a beach, and wearing “a lot of makeup” to cover her acne in selfies; revealing an unhealthy obsession with portraying “contrived perfection”.
Blogging is top career choice amongst young people
According to O’Neill, the format of social networks such as Instagram, Facebook and YouTube, where approval is based on a system of ‘Likes’ is creating an unhealthy need for social approval amongst young people. A new study has also revealed that young people in Britain consider blogging to be the top career choice, after witnessing the rise of successful bloggers like Zoe Sugg (aka Zoella) and Sasha Wilkins (Liberty London Girl).
Of those who selected blogging as their number one career choice, 26% said it was because they didn’t think bloggers had to do much work, and 16% said blogging was “easy”. The average salary expectation for blogging, according to the study, was £8,500 per month; which suggests that young people today expect to make a lot of money by doing very little. Worryingly, 19% said they wanted to be a blogger because they believe they are “admired by others”, proving that young people are desperate for approval from their peers.
Some of O’Neill’s fellow bloggers have taken to social media to blast her recent exposé, labelling it a publicity stunt for her new website Let’s Be Game Changers. With the new blog, O’Neill hopes to provide content that will inspire young teenagers, instead of merely presenting an unattainable lifestyle, and encourage her fans to lead a life free from digital distractions.
Is this the beginning of the end for influencer marketing? Could one Instagram celebrity bring down an entire industry built on popularity? Or is O’Neill’s change of heart just another clever way to boost her brand and promote her new offering? Let us know what you think in the Comments, or on Facebook and Twitter.