In the back of our mind, we know that perfect Instagram feeds are often an illusion. Airbrushed skin and tousled hair are carefully created with multiple filters and photo-editing apps. The omnipresent teeth-whitening devices and detox tea are sponsored products. But on another level, we kind of believe that maybe, if we push ourselves through one more workout class, visit another dermatologist, and save up for a new wardrobe, we can be on the level of our favorite Instagram celebrity.
Australian teenager Essena O'Neill had tens of thousands of social media followers (nearly half a million on Instagram alone) until last week, when she decided to shatter the illusion of her fake fame. "I have created a celebrity mentality of myself online and I wish for that to stop right now," she announced. "I get people saying every day. . . . 'I wish I was you.' Lately I've realized how horrible that is." Instead of completely erasing her accounts, however, she renamed her Instagram account "Social Media Is Not Real Life" and edited all the captions on her images. Instead of seeing lighthearted phrases or emoji, you can now read her thought process behind each shot, including her struggles with acne and self-esteem.
"Social media isn't real. It's contrived images and edited clips ranked against each other. It's a system based on social approval, likes, validation in views, success in followers," Essena explained in her last-ever post to Instagram. "How can we see ourselves and our true purpose/talents if we are constantly viewing others? Many of us are in so deep we don't realize its delusional powers and the impact it has on our lives." The teen is now working on a new website called Let's Be Game Changers, where she explains how making money from Instagram really works and the values that she actually wants to share.
Read on to read her brutally honest captions — and don't be surprised if they make you want to take a break from social media.