In case you missed it, on Tuesday this week an Australian social media personality named Essena O’Neill posted a dramatic and tearful video in which she announced that she was quitting all social media platforms. She said that she was abandoning her previous online persona and founding a new website which is the opposite of everything she once represented. That video has now been taken off YouTube but you can read a full explanation and breakdown of it, written yours truly, right here.
Essena’s video has reignited a debate that has been rumbling online for years – that being the question of how much an online personality should balance their business interests and their creative interests, for the sake of both the audience and their own happiness.
It also raised the issue of how social media success can consume people in a negative way. This is something has been discussed by YouTubers many times before, including Charlie McDonnell:
And Chris Kendall (Crabstickz), who summed things up very simply and clearly:
Many YouTubers have already responded to Essena’s dramatic exit. Some have agreed with her, some haven’t.
Dodie Talked About Social Media
Dodie discussed the dangers of combining your ‘brand’ with your actual personality. She argues that your brand should be you and not some ‘happy, perfect human being’ as ‘you can’t live up to that.’
Rosianna Halse Rojas Discusses Social Media & Community
Rosianna argues that it all depends on what you choose to interpret as ‘value’ and ‘success’.
TiffanyFerg Is Conflicted
Tiffany applauds Essena for her personal growth and the way she has re-evaluated her life, but criticises the ‘binary’ way Essena talks about the issues at hand. Tiffany argues that you cannot say that social media is purely bad or good – it’s much more vague than that. She states that it depends very much on who the person is and why they are doing what they’re doing.
She ultimately argues that “you need to acknowledge the separation between a person and what they post.”
Some YouTube commentators did not agree, however:
Is that too harsh? Do you agree with Tiffany? I can tell you who definitely doesn’t – YouTubers Nina and Randa:
Nina And Randa Disagree
In what is an undeniably clickbait-y title, Nina and Randa accuse Essena of being fake and call her video a ‘hoax’. Their video often dissolves into personal issues involving Essena (which seems unhelpful). However they do raise similar points as Tiffany, in terms of this possibly being an issue that affects Essena singularly, but might not apply universally:
WhatTheBuck Is Skeptical
Michael Buckley loves Essena’s message but highlights how her move will likely just lead to her having an increased online presence and likely make money from it. He doesn’t think she’s a bad person, but doesn’t think she is realistically going to actually quit the internet – just change how she approaches it – and profit from it as a result.
Who Is Right?
There is definitely an argument to be made that Essena’s issues may be somewhat unique to her – that is especially shown in the way she openly discusses her own history of body-image issues. There are many other people that operate on social media while maintaining a healthy mindset (such as TiffanyFerg) and it seems unrealistic to paint everyone with the same brush.
Regardless, it is undeniable that Essena can act as a fantastic role-model (or perhaps quite the opposite) to people looking to move into social media on a professional level. Her video is about her reaching out and begging people to realise that just because something looks fun or easy, that absolutely does not mean it is. Her video is a fair warning from someone who has been there before – and it reminds us of the age-old rule of social media – you should do it for the love, not the likes.
To make that clearer, we’ve placed it on a scroll:
What’s Next For Essena?
Essena has posted a video on Vimeo (as she has quit YouTube), tearfully thanking people for their positive feedback on her new choice of direction:
She has also posted a video complaining that she does not want all the attention she’s been receiving and saying that we should all be discussing more ‘important’ things:
We don’t yet know what the future will bring for Essena but we wish her well and we hope that her videos serve to help people better understand the realities of social media, both as a consumer and a creator.