The internet world erupted this week, struggling to make sense of Essena O'Neill's apparent quitting of social media. It's taken a while for me to form my own opinions on it, but now that I've thought about it a little more, here are my own two cents.
If you don't know what I'm talking about, this article should clear things up for you. In a nutshell, Essena O'Neill was an internet famous, Australian 'Instagrammer' with about half a million followers, as well as large followings on other social media challenges. After becoming disillusioned with social media, she has deleted thousands of videos and photos and edited all the captions on her remaining photos to show the 'real truth' behind the pictures. She also posted a video explaining her choice to leave social media - citing her desire to live in the 3D world again as her main reason.
Although it may just be the cynic in me, the whole thing seems a little hypocritical. Using social media to announce you're quitting social media, rapidly increasing your internet fame at the same time and, all the while, asking your viewers to 'support' you (financially) if they like your new website - which, coincidentally, is still a form of social media. Nevertheless, I think there's still a lot that we can learn from her choices, and I would never want to form a solid judgement without knowing all the facts.
- Social media is art not reality
It's easy to scroll through Instagram and envy the lives of everyone you see, but the reality is, their lives will not be as perfect as the pictures make it seem. A photo takes a millisecond to take, it's not a representation of someone's day, and people only share what they want to. I'm well aware my own life looks completely different online to real life, its realising everyone else's is too that's the problem. Photos can be edited to within an inch of their life, but at the end of the day, no one wants to share their worst bits with the world, and understandably so - I see nothing wrong with making the internet as positive as possible, but that doesn't mean we need to fake things to do so.
It would be a lie for me to say that I don't take a ton of photos before choosing the one that makes me look the best and maybe even editing the odd spot out and getting the lighting right post click. But that doesn't mean that's not not okay. Everyone wants to look their best sometimes and as long as you aren't basing your whole self worth off likes, follows and views, all social media is allowing us to do is have a platform to share something that we love. Our intentions will determine the satisfaction that we gain.
It would go against human nature to share the worst bits, but perhaps the answer is just to be more honest. I for one know that I haven't always been, for example I hadn't yet shared online that I've been ill for a while now and have only really left my bed to go to school over the past couple of weeks, hence the slacking on the blogging front. I'm working on putting together more posts on both the health and mental illness issues that have been affecting me to come soon because I've since realised the importance of opening up and staying honest but just because something isn't shared online it doesn't mean that it's deceit. Sometimes we need an escape from reality, and others we just aren't quite ready to share.
- We could all do with being a little less consumed by it
I for one could take a lot from this point. I've wasted hours of my life scrolling though other people's feeds, and often wanting what they seem to have. Sometimes, we could all gain something from switching off the phone and living in the moment.
- Whether we like it or not, social media is powerful
Many companies in recent years have latched onto the power of the influence online personas have on their viewers. New job titles are created everyday because of the power of the internet, and that's not about to change. Companies have dedicated teams to update their online profiles and for good reason, social media is current, it's relatable, and it's cheap - if they're willing to spend money on it then you know it must be worth it.
Honestly, I don't think that many people were shocked at the revelation that people who are famous on the internet are paid to promote products. All in all, I don't really have a problem with it - good on them for being able to turn it into a job - but it's the integrity of the person involved that matters. I have never to his day posted about samples with ungenuine opinions and would never accept money for something I didn't believe in. As viewers, we need to be savvy but in the end I think that it's a two way street and if you are willing to compromise the trust of your subscribers, then it is your own problem rather than social media's.
- But we don't have to hide from it
In a parting gesture, Essena renamed her instagram profile 'social media is not real' and obviously it isn't - nothing will ever replace the 3D world that we live in. But that doesn't mean that we shouldn't be on it. Social media is not the problem, your attitude is. Use it to create beautiful photos you are genuinely proud of, promote a message, share your life, keep in touch with family and friends. I see nothing wrong with only sharing the good parts, just make sure that you can separate it from your reality.
I'm not sure that a lot of this makes sense, and this post is a bit all over the place, so I'll leave it at that for today. I hope you liked this more thoughtful post and I would love to know your thoughts.
Photo from fromroses.com