Essena O’Neill has a YouTube Channel with over 250,000 subscribers and this week, in a tearful video, she announced that she was quitting the website entirely. In fact, she announced that she is giving up on all social media, for an extremely powerful reason.
As of today (4th November) Essena has now taken the video down, for unknown reasons. But luckily for you we watched it while it was still up and have provided a breakdown of everything you need to know:
In the video, Essena describes how she became obsessed with her social media image and persona:
“Everything I was doing was edited and contrived and to get more views.”
Her life on platforms like YouTube had moved beyond having fun and became something that consumed her life and actively made her stressed and unhappy. She explains that her whole life had become centered around numbers and sponsorships and that when she wasn’t checking her subscriber stats, she was trying to please a company that had sponsored her.
“The basis of what we were doing wasn’t just love … it was social media – which is now a business.”
She says that it all started when she was 12 years old. At that age she struggled to deal with society’s perceptions of beauty and felt inadequate compared to the beautiful, popular people she saw online. She decided that if she could also become an online star, then that would give her life purpose and make her feel better about herself.
“I told myself that when I have heaps of views…I will feel valued, I will feel happiness.”
Instead of getting what she wanted, she only found herself more miserable. The pursuit of an online persona did not bring her any actual fulfilment in real life. It was a hollow success:
“You’d think getting 100,000 followers would be amazing …. yeah it was – for the day. But then you want 200,000.”
In the video, Essena is also upfront about the work that went on behind-the-scenes to make her social media posts so engaging. She has reveals that she has now gone through her Instagram and re-captioned most of her pictures with descriptions of what was ACTUALLY going on:
“This is for my 12-year-old self.”
Essena has now founded a new website called ‘Let’s Be Game Changers’ (link here). On the site, Essena says that she, “lived through screens. And… created a celebrity construct of myself, believing it would bring me happiness.”The aim of the site seems to be to bring people together for meaningful discussions and pursuits. Essena is tired of being a fake version of herself and wants to become – and to help others become – a more informed, productive and creative human being. Essena states that she wants to use her site: “to meet people who share this passion, learn with them, create with them, live with them.” She then asks, “are you one of them?”
“When you let yourself by numbers, you let yourself be defined by something that is … not real … not love.”
We will be releasing an article discussing this video in more detail very soon, but in the meantime it’s clear to see that Essena is highlighting a very real issue. We all love social media, but we can’t let it consume us – and if we find ourselves in a position where we are taking part in, or consuming, social media in an unhealthy way, then we have to take a step back and rethink things, like Essena has. She has made herself a wonderful role model for people everywhere (especially young people) who are at risk from being swept up in the dream of being a social media star at any cost – and we think she’s inspirational!
UPDATE: YouTubers have been reacting to Essena’s video. For all the info click here.