by Camille Fowler
Within the past couple of years, social media has been used as a tool to glamorize day-to-day life, turning a few of these users into micro-celebrities. The majority of these Instagram and Tumblr accounts belong to models that lead expensive lives of exploring the world and buying expensive clothing and accessories. Within the past month, controversy over the legitimacy of social media has sparked around the globe, attracting the attention of media outlets and stars everywhere.
The controversy began when Instagram sensation Essena O’Neill posted an attack on the credibility of social media on her online accounts. O’Neill posted an emotional video on YouTube in which she recounts instances when she starved herself to look better in a bikini photoshoot or how she would use several editing apps to alter her photos.
The Australian model claimed that she was miserable living a life of numbers and followers. She edited and deleted over two thousand Instagram photos, changing captions to show the illegitimacy of the photos that thousands of followers worshipped. O’Neill revealed the truth behind the photos, which included skipping meals, spending hours putting on makeup and posing at resorts that she wasn’t actually staying at. O’Neill decided to tell her followers that social media is not real life. However, O’Neill’s protest against social media has provoked responses from other media stars who lead a similar lifestyle.
Shortly after O’Neill posted her video, her friends Nina and Randa Nelson responded with their own video, claiming that Essena’s Instagram hiatus is a hoax. The Nelsons are famous models and social media stars in the same way that O’Neill was before her hiatus. O’Neill met the women through social media and the Nelsons opened their homes to Essena when she came to Los Angeles, allegedly paying for her food often, driving her around, and helping her adjust. Nina states in their video that “The most ironic thing to me is that she’s talking about all these fake people and fake this and fake that, but it’s like, when the reason she is so upset and so down is because of the breakup with this guy, but she is putting all the blame on social media and saying that everyone in L.A. is horrible and cares about fame, that’s what is fake. That’s not real.” The Nelsons claim Essena’s hiatus is a ploy for more fame and followers, and that the real cause of her misery is a recent breakup, not her frustration with social media.
Essena Oneill’s drastic change also drew responses from Instagram star and model Alexis Ren. Ren posted a photo on Instagram with a lengthy caption regarding her opinion on the legitimacy of social media. Ren highlighted that she disagrees with O’Neill that social media is fake. Ren said that social media allowed her to connect with people from a young age, and that she is “grateful to be a part of this generation where we can express ourselves so beautifully and communicate with people across the world as if they were standing right next to us.” Ren explained that social media is how you create it to be, and “everything is how you perceive it.”
The controversy over social media had prompted many conversations and arguments over whether or not it is completely superficial. The story has been covered by almost every media outlet in America, and thousands of people and Instagram followers have shared differing opinions on the subject in response to Essena O’Neill.