Essena O’Neill announced that despite having more than half a million followers on Instagram, 200,000 on YouTube and Tumblr, and 60,000 on Snapchat, she is quitting social media for good. The 18-year-old Australian was living what seemed like a “perfect” life, but she’s taking a stand against the ideals social media presents. On Monday, she posted a YouTube video—her last—explaining her decision after deleting 2,000 Instagram photos last week and renaming her account to “Social Media Is Not Real Life.” She even edited the captions on photos she kept to reflect the truth of what happened “behind” the image.
“I’m quitting Instagram, YouTube and Tumblr. Deleted over 2000 photos here today that served no real purpose other than self promotion. Without realising, I’ve spent majority of my teenage life being addicted to social media, social approval, social status and my physical appearance,” she wrote on an Instagram post from Oct. 27. “Social media, especially how I used it, isn’t real. It’s contrived images and edited clips ranked against each other. It’s a system based on social approval, likes, validation in views, success in followers. It’s perfectly orchestrated self absorbed judgement. I was consumed by it.”
In the caption of the YouTube video from Monday, O’Neill spoke about how unhappy her social media obsession made her. “I spent hours watching perfect girls online, wishing I was them. Then when I was ‘one of them’ I still wasn’t happy, content or at peace with myself,” she wrote.
Now, the teen is launching her own website called Let’s Be Game Changers where she hopes to continue to educate people about the destructive nature of trying to gain approval online. “I know you didn’t come into this world just wanting to fit in and get by. You are reading this now because you are a game changer, you might not know your power yet, I am just finding mine, but man… when you do… far out you’ll go crazy. It’ll be brilliant. You’ll be brilliant,” she wrote.