Instagram Star Exposes Reality Behind Photos: ‘Nothing You See Is Real’

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Source: Instagram/Essena O'Neill

Source: Instagram/Essena O’Neill

UPDATE: O’Neill’s Instagram account has been set to private since her story went viral. Original embeds of her re-edited photos have been removed from this story.

One budding Instagram “star” is taking a stand against the perceived reality we so often envy when peering through our social media feeds by exposing the truth behind a number of her posts, and revealing she was often paid to wear clothing and pretend to be happy.

Essena O’Neill, who boasts an incredible 800k-plus followers on the photo-sharing app, announced last week she was “quitting” social media. Or at least, how she’s used social media before. She no longer wants to represent unrealistic standards of living and what we think happiness looks like.

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And O’Neill isn’t planning on going quietly.

Instagram: Essena O'Neill

Instagram: Essena O’Neill

The 18-year-old Australian stated, “Social media, especially how I used it, isn’t real. It was never my conscious intention, but I deluded a lot of people… Call it deception, manipulation, lying, not saying the whole truth… I was both addicted to social approval and terrified no one would value me for myself. So I rewrote the captions of these false photos with short shots of reality.”

O’Neill has now changed her Instagram profile bio, promoting the website, LetsBeGameChangers.com, a site that aims to “Make us more than our images.”

Instagram: Essena O'Neill

Instagram: Essena O’Neill

As O’Neill’s movement has begun to go viral, she posted a video with the below message:

“Anyone who spends hours and hours on a screen wishing they could have a ‘perfect’ life, this is for you. There is nothing cool about spending all your time taking edited pictures of yourself to prove to the world ‘you are enough’. Don’t let numbers define you. Don’t let anyone tell you you’re not enough without excessive makeup, latest trends, 100+ likes on a photo, ‘a bikini body’, thigh gap, long blonde hair. I was born into the flesh I have, there is nothing inspirational about that. I am just so grateful to think of how many young men and women might see this movement and stop limiting themselves to artificial ideas of happiness online.”

Many are applauding the young model for her inspirational message to help young men and women everywhere understand their value, individuality, and beauty, to embrace who they are rather than the unrealistic standards presented to us through advertising and marketing.

O’Neill added, “When you stop comparing and viewing yourself against others, you start to see your own spark and individuality. Everyone has love, kindness, creativity, passion and purpose. Don’t let anyone sell you something different.”

It’s a timeless message, but in our modern world where we barely disconnect from our digital life – or the digital “self” we’ve either consciously or unconsciously created through the years – it’s an important one. Maybe more so now than at any other time in the modern era.

Instagram: Essena O'Neill

Instagram: Essena O’Neill

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