Instagram is NOT REAL LIFE. Three words that are disrupting social media and have us all looking at our timelines—and ourselves—more honestly. This week, Australian model and Insta-famous teenager Essena O'Neill flipped the script on the very platform that made her famous—and media brands around the world are paying attention. In a powerful series of images, she exposes just how contrived and posed her images are. That perfect swimsuit shot of her on the beach? Not really. She took over 100 photos to get that one. What about her fresh-faced image sipping juice? Please. She was paid $400 by a company for that supposedly natural shot.
"Social media isn't real. It's purely contrived images and edited clips ranked against each other. It's a system based on social approval, likes and dislikes, validation in views, success in followers ... it's perfectly orchestrated judgment. And it consumed me,” she shares on her website. I found myself drowning in the illusion.”
She’s not the only one drowning in the illusion. Whether you’re Insta-famous or Insta-anonymous, we all are guilty of keeping up appearances on social media. Kim Kardashian, Miranda Kerr and Kylie Jenner are just some of the women notorious for the art of faking it, with duckface pouts, ever-shrinking waists and ever-expanding breasts and butts that defy science (and gravity). These women could teach advanced courses in Photoshop. But they’re not the only ones. How many times have you met someone in person who looks nothing like they do online? Girl, is that really you? I can’t tell until you suck it on, stick it out and run the X-Pro II filter on your face five times.
It’s all about perfection—taking the perfect selfie, finding the perfect lighting, angling your torso just so as to create a perfect, hourglass body. If you happen to be human and you know, have what are now thought of as flaws, don’t worry! There's an app for that. Apps like Facetune, Cream Cam and Skinny Camera promise to erase every pore and extra pound. If a photo is worth a thousand words, a photo on social media is worth a thousand lies.
We've forgotten what a photo (or a woman) looks like without touch ups. Those little things—the way you crinkle your eyes when you smile or those freckles across your nose--are no longer viewed as unique and beautiful. We aren’t always smiling, smizing or doing yoga poses while quoting deep Buddhist sayings and that’s okay. We don’t all have bikini bodies or want to do squat challenges and that’s okay too. Embrace your reality on social media. Real life is real and your truth can’t be filtered.
Watch Essena's emotional response to the positive reponses she's received by sharing her story.