“I spent hours watching perfect girls online, wishing I was them. Then, when I was ‘one of them’ I still wasn’t happy, content or at peace with myself. Stripping away distractions made me question everything I did online. I want you to do the same.” Australian teen model Essena O’Neil.
At the pinnacle of fame and profit from her extremely popular YouTube channel and Instagram account, O’Neil decided to discontinue all of her social media accounts due to the adverse effects she was feeling. She said she was becoming overwhelmed with social media in her life and owed something to her twelve year old self: a real life.
While this story is booming all over social media, I can’t help but wonder about how the secretive, but pretty people of youth culture are really affected by the hyped-up image they feel obligated to show the world.
The glamour queens of the internet, in most cases find themselves so caught up comparing themselves to others through looks, likes and followers that it becomes so easy to rely on those things alone for a self-esteem boost or bust.
Alexandra Sifferlin, in her Time magazine article, “Why Facebook Makes You Feel Miserable,” wrote about two German universities that found that, after spending time on Facebook, one in three people felt worse, meaning “lonely, frustrated, or angry,” because they saw themselves as inadequate in comparison to their other “friends.” Trust me, I’ve found myself in the same place, and it’s not as pretty as the picture turns out to be.
Hannah Montana can say “nobody’s perfect,” but let’s say you decide to take a selfie. Well, 50 snapshots, 5 filters, and a snazzy song lyric in the caption later, it’s “sooo perfect” to post that the whole “independent thought” and “different” aspect of your life can start to dwindle.
I’ll admit, O’Neil may have made some overshot statements about how people use their social media accounts for these grand advertisements and esteem boosts, but, for the majority, did she really?
Initially, social media was meant to be a communication tool, but what we don’t realize is that that “communication” is through posts, comments, and anonymous messages from people who might not even really be who they say they are behind the screen. There is this whole new false sense of connection where we have a fear of missing out, but what we might be missing out on could all be a play on facts, shapes and words.
Not all cases are guilty of this, though. There are many positive messages conveyed on the Internet, but in its current status, most of the YouTube videos and selfies out there monetize the users. Through this, people and products are being seen, but they aren’t really being heard. And, in most cases, it’s all about the money, money, money.
People will build careers and their lives out of social media, but what happens when it’s all over? Where do you go? Many people living like O’Neil don’t have that part figured out. It’s like a star-struck celebrity living in the lime-light and glamour of our perception only for the public to find out, usually post-mortem, unfortunately, that they are suffering from severe mental illnesses like depression. Yes, it’s such a touchy topic, but it brings the whole “money doesn’t buy happiness” card to a table with even bigger bets on the line.
Now, don’t get me wrong! Social media is so convenient and we need it in order to make the world a little smaller and to grow as a community of humans sharing the big blue planet together, but we also need to use it correctly: for good, not for bad; for justice, not for evil; and for real, not for deceit.
I’m glad Essena is trying to move on with her life, even if it seems quite extreme to some, and, overall, it doesn’t matter what filter you decide to slap on to the subject, a pretty picture doesn’t mean there’s a pretty perfect life on the other side of the screen.