Social media and Essena O’Neill

Hi everyone,

How’s your week going?

I’m off to Austria (Vienna) and Hungary (Budapest) later this week, so it feels like days are passing very slowly because I’m so excited for Friday morning!

Has everyone seen the postings about the 19-year old Australian woman, who made it big on social media and is now fighting back? If not, here’s a link to the story:

Essena O’Neill’s story

Recently, I saw on Facebook, a “counter” to her comments:

Zack James counter message

For those that didn’t want to read the articles, here’s a brief summary: Essena made it big on social media. Now, at the age of 19, she’s going back and saying how fake it was. Wishing she had spent the past few years of her life doing things that matter, and not valuing her worth based on her looks. She’s gone through her posts on Instagram and posted true captions, how many photos taken, how she got the picture, what’s been sponsored, etc. She blames Social Media for essentially losing those years of her life. The counter is a man, Zack James who says that she needs to take some responsibility for her own life and choices, and says there is nothing wrong with Social Media in itself.


The above is Essena O’Neill (she’s 15…)

I read both of these articles and had a few differing opinions. But before I go into this, let’s just accept that they both have their own motivations. Zack James owns a social media platform, so he will want people to continue to consume social media as we always have. Essena O’Neill is creating her own platform, and is encouraging others to use it for a more wholesome experience. So let’s accept they have their own motivations, and just put that aside.

Personally, I kind of think they’re both right in some aspects, but they’re both wrong as well.Why do I say that?

Well, firstly, Essena has had a lot of advantages because of Social media. It sounds like she made pretty decent money from the products she was placing. She wouldn’t have had those opportunities without social media. She was able to capitalise on a market, and found success within. That for me, is a positive for social media that wasn’t an option even 10-15 years ago.

I personally, love social media. I enjoy posting photos from my life, or sharing links I enjoyed. But a lot (all?)of social media behaviour is faked to create an illusion of perfection. Everyone posts their favourite moments, and no one posts their real lives. We post our crazy adventures and it feels good when people like it! Blogging is the same way- I like blogging because I enjoy the act of it. But it feels really good when someone comments on my post, or if a friend tells me they liked something I wrote. We all want to be social accepted, and social media can give us a contrived sense of that.


My social acceptance above through a group photo from my yoga teacher training program.

I’m not going to put up a Facebook post telling everyone how I had a shitty day, or that I fought with my boyfriend, or that I washed my dishes, and I would say that’s true for most people. I experience all of those things but I’m not going to post about it- because that isn’t socially acceptable social media behaviour.

Because of this Social Media is wrong in a lot of ways. It promotes unrealistic expectations for our life and our bodies. When I looked at Essena’s photos, I was jealous of her body. She’s beautiful! Yet in a lot of those photos, she’s 15! My body will never again look like a 15 year olds, because I am 29 (almost 30!) and therefore my body has matured and developed. And this is another way that young people, and specifically in this case, women, are being shown that they’re worth is based on how they look.


Would she have gotten those contracts if she looked like an “average” 15 year old? What about if she was an average-looking 30 or 40 year old? Chances go down even further that those opportunities would be the same. We are a youth obsessed culture, and we praise thinness above all else.

So that’s where I think Zack James is wrong. She cannot take full accountability of the situation, as in some ways, she has been taken advantage by Social Media. She’s been told (and through the actions of all those following her, shown) that her worth is based on how she looks each day. And while that is not a new message, it is a message that took her 5 years to unlearn and find something new.

As well, by her coming clean that these are not photos that just happened to be snapped as she was walking out of her house- but instead were a production of lighting, make-up, working out, counting calories- it shows the honesty. It shows people that this is not how anyone looks naturally, and it took effort. And hopefully it will make a few people feel better about themselves, when they first wake up and their hair is sticking in a million directions and they have a few zits on their chin.

Wes camera 042

This is me (and my mom) when we wake up! No make up and messy hair!

What do you guys think? What are your thoughts from this?

Also- for some positive Social Media, check out these Instagram profiles to follow for some positive body images, link courtesy of Buzzfeed:

13 Body Postivie Instagram Accounts

And feel good about who you are today.


One thought on “Social media and Essena O’Neill

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s