Essena O’Neill: The Instagram Star Who Quit Social Media

Amelia Diamond | November 3, 2015

Essena O’Neill is brave. You’ve heard about her, right? The social media star who quit Instagram, YouTube and Tumblr to break free of the delusions and squash her addiction to the likes and the comments and the fame. She’s giving up a modeling career, sponsored posts and adoring fans because she’s tired of being fake. That word, “brave,” is the one you’ll catch most frequently if you scroll through the comments of her now defunct Instagram account. It’s as though her followers — old and new — have been longing for someone to break through the glass screen of their phone and tell them that none of this is real.

“No shit it’s fake,” was my kind, thoughtful, initial reaction. But I’m jaded: I work in this world. The fourth wall has long been broken. When I see a model smiling with a coconut on the beach, I do not think, “Goals.” I assume she’s photoshopped then think, “I bet that model hates coconut. Good for her, though. Make money. A job’s a job.”

Young girls do not know this. The 8-year-old nor 13-year-old nor 16-year-old versions of me certainly wouldn’t. What you see in the media skews your perception of normal. I was reminded of this when conducting interviews for our story on the lack of diversity in fashion. It’s why the industry as a whole cannot rely on the ideal of “one.” Without people shouting their truths from the rooftops of their platforms, it’s much easier to carry on with filters over our eyes.

But something wasn’t sitting well with me. Was it that her actions felt too dramatic — almost to the point that I wondered, “Is this a hoax?” Was it that she kept her Instagram up (with edited captions, yes, but still: she’s accumulating followers). Was it the knowledge that every media site would pick this up for the SEO, because everyone was talking about, because they didn’t want to be left behind?

I think it’s because I felt that if we didn’t pick this up — have a Man Repeller opinion on the matter! — we’d be left behind. I work on the Internet. I’ve written sponsored posts and posted fake smiles for Instagram. “Oh shit,” I wondered. “Am I fake, too?” I definitely have been.

But I know at my core that part of what makes working here special is that we try to simultaneously entertain, do our jobs and be honest with you guys.

Surprise! I ended up writing about it. Her overall message is important: no one is perfect, “goals” are often fabricated and the reality behind so much of what we see as voyeurs of social media is no more “real” than the Real Housewives franchise. But that’s not the only reason why.

I seriously, truly needed to hear from you guys. It’s the conversation and connection that keeps the tinted windows rolled down. So, when you heard about Essena O’Neill, the former social media star who said goodbye to it all, as consumers of “content,” as digital natives and immigrants alike who work in the industry or far from it, what did you think?

All Images via @essenaoneill


  • I just want to quickly b4 the comments roll in( hopefully they be rollin’) say that Man Repeller is incredibly real, I don’t see you guys as model barbie perfect instragram stars. You are writers, comedians, intellectuals, and so fashion(?)!!! This girl went through the side of social media that is based solely on looks. Ya’ll are WAY more than that. You’re a community, you’re a cult, weirdo- hub etc. GOTTA GO LOVE U BYE

    • anyways. After actually watching her video (not the entire thing, we get it, girl, chill) I definitely see the marketing ploy, trying to sell herself as a pretty face gone generational voice.

      • BK

        Thank Jesus someone else thinks this. All of my friends have bought this girl’s fake story hook, line and sinker and it depresses me.

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  • Diana

    I think Essena has had difficulty because she’s grown up while being active on social media since she was 12. 12!!! I didn’t even own a computer at 12. I watched her last video on Youtube where she says that if you told her at that age she would have 500k Instagram followers in a few years, she would have freaked out cause that was her *dream*. She sought validation through social media and eventually as she grew older and more business savvy, realized that it wasn’t real and true validation (cause social media is a business) and that impacted her self worth. As an adult with a media studies degree who has been using social media as a form of personal and business branding for years, I can’t exactly relate to her perspective, but I am sure a lot of younger internet users who are growing up with social media might benefit from this.

  • Anoushka

    Completely agree that the whole thing doesn’t sit well, though her message is important and hard to deny the language she uses feels like a cheesy pinterest motivational life quotes board – maybe I’m too old and cynical!

    • cindy kazanjian

      Maybe I’m too old and cynical but I feel the same way as you. Yes, she is young but she could have edited that video down – – 17 minutes to say the same message over and over again.

  • Katy Koop

    I thought it was interesting- it seems a lot like the Miley Cyrus thing: she’s using the fame that she already has to rebrand herself as the new brand she wants to be now. Good for her- but what she’s doing could be construed as ‘fake’ but I think it’s going to be an interesting new chapter for her. She’s definitely not actually taking a break from social media. It’s a stunt. And if it’s a stunt that allows her to rebrand, I think that’s a good thing.

  • Cat Linton

    It’s all PR. She realised relying on her looks wasn’t sustainable. She will make much more $$$ writing a book about this experience of ‘QUITTING” than she ever did from being pretty. The sad thing about all of this is that there are women out there who do much braver and honourable things that deserve the title of a ‘role model’.

    • amg


      • Logan

        She is even asking on her new website for people to donate her money so that she can keep up her lifestyle!

        • cindy kazanjian

          I didn’t notice that – – wow, just wow! Maybe she should entertain ads on her site.. . . .versus asking for money outright.

        • omg stop.

    • Lua Jane

      Exactly. Not to hate on a pretty skinny girl, but this all screams like another “look at me”. Man Repeller is on social media. They even promote certain lifestyle and have made it lucrative business, but what they do was never so potentially damaging because there is a female and human voice and rationale to it. This is a story of a girl who capitalized on being super thin blonde, and now decided she should capitalize on supposedly realizing it’s all an illusion. Give me a break.

      • cb

        So exactly! In one of her videos she was crying and saying how amazing it was that she woke up to emails from Good Morning America and the like.

        • Natalie

          I agree! I was all about her message until I heard 1. how she was asking for donations and 2. that she was hype about gaining more attention

  • Belle

    I understand that being her job social media would have consumed her entire life (even more so than everyday people) so I commend her for realising there is more to life. However, what I don’t understand is why she has this new website where she is still putting up vlogs through vimeo, posting photos etc. Sure she is also spreading a message but it seems as though she has quit social media only to use her own site as a very similar alternative now with a lot more traffic coming in

    • DarthVadersCats

      What I gathered from her posts is she wants to be honest now, and not do sneaky sponsored shots etc.

    • Miranda Babbitt

      I also think it’s because this way people can’t “like/dislike” her photos, and then other people (young, impressionable folks) won’t come on the site and be like, omg, I would never get that many likes. But yeah, on the fence about her whole website thing.

  • Liv Kilponen

    This is classic burn-out. I think that it is easy as a young person to romanticize what is, ultimately, a job. I watched a few of Essena’s videos and nothing about her “life” in relation to endorsing products seemed to worry me terribly much. Sure, she can quit her job now and become some kind of spokesperson for veganism or whatever, but I guarantee somewhere down the line she is going to have a day where she doesn’t “believe” in what she is doing completely – and that is okay. It’s a job.

    It’s one of those realisations that you have as a young person in ANY field of work – that sometimes, you do have to sell a product, a service, or yourself, even when you don’t want to. That’s what a job is. But obviously when you don’t have the maturity to approach that idea at a distance, particularly as a sixteen year old, you can become completely absorbed in it and attached to it in a really dangerous way. For me, it goes back to this preoccupation us millenials seem to have with work that has to be “fulfilling” and “meaningful”, rather than something that allows us to afford living. Our expectations are so high and our attachment to that work so passionate that when we can’t reach that “meaningful” level ALL of the time, we crash and burn.

    As for social media removed from the endorsement side, my sister who is only three years younger than me is very reliant on her phone and social media, and so are all her friends. The normality of image obsession is there, and it’s a little scary to watch.

  • Brielle Saggese

    Essena’s comments completely make sense for her situation, but as for the average Instagramer joe, I don’t think they necessarily apply in the same way. A complete social media detox doesn’t really make sense if you’re using it in a healthy fashion. You don’t watch a Billy Mays infomercial and think to yourself, “Wow, that customer’s life really did change after purchasing that $19.99 Mighty Putty!” In the same way, you can’t think that every model posing with a bottle of coconut milk is the full story. Nine times out of ten, I’m sure she likes her 2% a whole lot better.

    • No way, coconut milk is so much more delicious! 😛

  • Chandler

    I think she has good intentions, but I agree with you! But in my opinion, Instagram would be boring if people didn’t get creative with it. I mean who wants to buy a J.Crew top of the picture isn’t good/flattering? No, you want to buy the shirt beautifully detailed in a photograph. Instagram is a form of marketing and in marketing it is important to put on a best face, while still being transparent and honest. I think so many millennials are afraid of competition, disapproval, etc. People want it all to be an everyone wins, never disagree with each other to maintain peace, opinion-less world now. And I for one don’t agree! I like numbers factoring into Instagram not to validate me as a human but to help me understand what I am doing well as a creative being and what I can do better. I do believe there is moderation in all things but I think the problem is less of the actual social media itself and with people comparing themselves instead of letting it motivate them. I love you Leandra and I am sure I just rambled nonsense but I agree with you!

    Chandler Roberson

  • Mikayla

    Nope! I first heard of her years ago when I was a True Teen (I’m maybe two years older than Essena) and she was a bit of a newcomer on the weblebrity scene. I heard her name when she published what was, essentially, a guide to disordered eating. Pre-prescribed “workouts” and snacks, suggesting only “a fistful of food” for dinner, posting “before and after pictures” of herself where the before was a picture of a normal-looking, active young girl and the after was a picture of a skin and bones child. Her suggestions were not just silly, but irresponsible; recommending that people who were essentially children (she was 16 and most of her followers were younger than she) go to bed feeling hungry and wake up hours before school to run miles on an empty stomach, suggesting that sunscreen use was more likely to cause cancer than regular sunbathing in oil, etc. Then she linked up years later with established terrible influence Freelee the Banana Girl and started pushing her awful advice. It killed me to watch the younger women I mentored take everything their fellow child said to heart.

    If this is Essena realizing that she messed up, good for her. If this is just her struggling with “fame,” eh. She and her handlers are irresponsible and have been putting young girls at risk for years. Whatever it takes to get her off the market and into treatment.

    • gwalda

      yes!! im not sure why no one is talking about the disordered eating etc… THAT is a huge part of what i hope she means by ‘fake’ and why she’s making a big deal out of it. like a couple fake smiles and posing etc, whatever, but its the fact that images like that sell this idea to girls that they’ll have a perfect life if they too become thin and toned not realising the crazy amount of effort and dangerous practices she had to go through…. not surprised that a fashion blog wouldn’t want to go there though tbh

    • “weblebrity” hahahaha that’s a good one! Never heard that before.

  • Mowi Awara

    That is my first time ever posting a comment 🙂 I think it is important to make a distinction here. Of course you guys from MR pursue another intention with social media – (f.ex Leandra who is making fun of the #ootd) but I think what Essena did is still a breakthrough because she belongs to a generation who grew up with social media. She showed young girls the “real” world behind those pictures on instagram – and believe me there are a lot of girls out there who do not understand the business behind instagram, but how could they? We are talking about kids who are 11 and 12, they are not in their 20s and actually experienced a life before social media. And I would still call her courageous for telling the truth because I can hardly find a young “famous” social media queen who tells the truth behind her pictures. Nevertheless, I also find it odd that she has right away a website etc. but still, this can be seen as a wake up call, even if it means that people stop using instagram for a week or begin to question the intentions of the persons. However, isn’t it odd that now everyone shares her video and post about it for finally telling the truth? Because we also have to feel a bit of shame for playing a part in this!

  • While I do think that her problems with social media are partially due to her own actions of wearing sponsored clothes, faking things, feeling like she needed to edit pictures (she wasnt forced to do these things – i think?) she raises an INCREDIBLY relevant and extremely important issue of we need to stop focusing on the likes, followers, numbers and go back to what is human. People are getting brainwashed. Depressed. Anxiety. Living and dreaming on a 2D screen. Especially in the blogging/online world. It seems to me the majority of people (not the man repeller community- Hey guys!) but many teens/20somethings aspire to be Leandra, or Chiara or Kristina, Aimee ect and why? Because they are articulate? Smart? Strong? Mostly it is because these women are beautiful, skinny, wear designer clothes, have “perfect” lives with perfect avocado toasts and are valued as having all of these followers not and that is the issue. The numbers are overshadowing CONTENT, intellect, wit, authenticity, the PERSON. Scrolling down is very mind numbing and we are all part of this stupid, egoistic, creepy system of like4like followmefollow… or ill say a cheeky comment on your website saying how much” I love it” but am actually just promoting my own blog ect and this is a vicious, dangerous cycle which I am happy Essena brought to light (as I have my own online magazine and hate self promotion but feel the need to post a picture on Insta with #fashionblogger to gain promotion for handknit hats simultaneously feeling like a complete fool…for example) While I am not sure her intentions are 100% pure – we the iGeneration are discussing it and why not put the phone down and enjoy (real) life not stare to oblivion on a screen at (edited) images we aspire to based on their number of likes (you can buy that too these days) I think its better to make a change now not when we are 95 thinking oh damn I spent 5 hours a DAY on FB, insta, twitter? Excuse this beast of a post! p.s man repeller is the most “authentic” real-talk site in my eyes so… Keep it real 😀

  • Molly

    I’m honestly sort of worried about her :/ If you 100% build your life on something before you see the nasty truth about it, the truth winds up being ESPECIALLY nasty (and also then what do you do with your life?). She’s had a hard & fast realization and has been pretty dramatic about it; I hope she can make a turnaround and make her realizations into something productive for other young women who might be trapped in the same mindset.

    • Molly

      (What I’m tryna say is let’s get her started reading MR :p)

  • Luce

    I was literally waiting for you to write something about this!!
    I don’t know how I feel about this. I feel sorry for her because she’s clearly very sad and I’m happy that this has gone viral in the fact that it will make some people think twice when looking at Instagram feeds. I work in social media and am myself a blogger so I’m not oblivious to this, but it does drive me insane when I know for a fact that the person behind the Instagram feed is nothing like that in real life. It’s recently led me to unfollow a lot of people who post images like this. I know that the majority of people who post images on Instagram and social media are real people, but everyone takes 20 pictures of the same selfie to get the right one before putting it through VSCOcam! I do the same thing!!
    It just makes me so sad that she got so consumed by social media growing up.

  • amg

    I would venture a guess that most of my friends had never heard of this chick until today when she trended on FB in a brilliant marketing ploy —nothing “brave” about Essenia – it’s sort of sad really. While the message is a good one, it seems like it’s being used to rebrand and sell her in a new way. I’m sure she’ll get plenty of talk show time because everyone wants to hear that the gorgeous supermodel really is as human as the rest of us.

  • Mallaury

    Hi Amelia. I write because I can definitely have an objective point of view on this big shit! I’m vegan and therefore in the youtube vegan community for a long time. I did not follow Essena yesterday :it’s been a while and THEREFORE I saw all the videos she deleted one week ago, that CLEARLY shows she’s breaking down step by step. The buzz is tremendous right now, but I advise you to go to check Nina & Randa’s vid (twins on youtube who ACTUALLY welcome her in LA, on their couch, just before she came back to create this buzz) who show that it’s a pure hoax. I can tell you because I know every people form vegan community she lived with, and all Nina & Randa’s arguments are true… It’s simply orchestrated buzz… So bad.

    • Interesting video, I appreciate their thoughts more than Essena.

    • Mowi

      To me this sounds like a bitch fight between teens who are upset because they feel the need to justify their life on social media! No one knows the whole story BUT if this Essena girl has depression than the twins should realize that it is a mental condition you have to live through your entire life, a trip to beautiful sunny LA might be a distraction but does not “cure” your mental state. Even if she did not quit social media, she made a point that social media is just like most industries such as fashion, music – you meet a lot of people but you for yourself have to decide who are real friends or just acquaintances.

    • God, even if what Ninda and Randa said is true, they were completely out of line. That video was so unnecessary. Also kind of proves Essena’s point- instead of contacting their supposed friend and voicing their feelings to her in private, they chose to capitalise on the whole situation, making a YouTube video (and money) off of it. So disgusting!

      Also, I personally don’t think it’s a hoax, but even if it were, an important message is being spread and positive changes are being made. I hope all this bitchiness doesn’t get in the way of what is still a great movement.

    • BK

      God that is just about the bitchiest thing I’ve ever seen. These girls are obviously upset about what was said in the original video about people in L.A but to post some meticulous response going through every single thing this girl said and picking it apart doesn’t make them better people than her. I understand why they felt the need to respond, but this video makes them come across as petulant and mean. I wish milennials would think twice before posting absolutely everything on social media for the world to see. They have no idea how these tell-all videos, constant oversharing, could come back to affect them later in life.

  • afrome

    whether it’s PR or not, I think it puts pressure on a lot of fashion/beauty bloggers to address the elephant in the room (i.e. they are being paid handsomely to wear what they’re wearing). It’s fine to get paid to blog about stuff, but acknowledge it, and express some sort of personal, truthful opinion about what you’re selling!

  • Paula

    It’s great she’s said, “It’s all fake.” But the next day she’s looking for monetary support because she has no income?!?! I’m sorry, but get a job, it’s what the rest of us do.

  • Stephanie Valle

    Honestly, the first thing that crossed my mind was: ‘girl, just because you have 500k+ people listening to you, it doesn’t mean you’re the first/only one to think/say this’. So, basically she struck me as a little naive for taking herself too seriously. As the video progressed, I began to empathize with her because she seems to be going through the classic identity crisis we all probably went through when we were younger. The difference is obviously that while I, for instance, was selling all my shit, deleting my Facebook account, and cutting 20 inches out of my hair, she happens to have a huge career online and therefore a huge audience to share that “journey” with.

    So, patronization aside, I do respect the fact that she had the impulse to share (since she could have just deleted all her social media and get on with her life offline), in spite of the fact that she feels like she’s the chosen one to “wake people up”, because frankly, she might as well be precisely that in the eyes of 11-to-18-year-old girls thinking critically about social media for the first time.

    • amg

      As a parent it wouldn’t occur to me that my kids would take all of this social media phoniness seriously, because we discuss this constantly.
      There are “checked out”
      parents who aren’t having these important conversations with their kids and so for starting the conversation, I give her credit. I don’t think for a second think she had any altruistic motives however.

  • Olivia O

    I think my biggest problem with this is her message: “You can be free – do what I say. You can choose – choose what I say. Think differently – like me.”

  • Alisa Kharikyan

    I honestly think it’s fine for bloggers to get paid to wear certain brands. It’s really a new form of advertisement for brands. Replacing the traditional forms of marketing (tv, direct, etc) and evolving into to the new channel that is social media. As for her drastic change, I think that this whole “new age” lifestyle is another type of business and it sometimes doesn’t seem that way as they make it seem like it’s “benefiting” the human condition.

    • amg

      Yes! There was an article recently about the food bloggers and the pursuit of healthy eating as a

  • Marinae

    Last week, and last month and last few months to be honest, the internet was discussing how perfect the couple of Alexis Ren and Jay Alvarrez is. Now there is this girl/woman, Essena, who is actually telling us that they are not #GOALS. Yes, maybe a lot of people knew that “no shit it is fake”, and I have heard it too, (that everything on the internet can be fake and blah blah blah) but it is way more different to hear it, compared to actually knowing it. She was popular. She was cool, she had an amazing lifestyle. She was #GOALS. Many of us aim to take great pictures with the only purpose of uploading them to Instagram and looking cool. We know we are not being 100% honest, but we are not too conscious about it.
    I like Essena. I like how this is one more step towards self-confidence and honesty, and I love the support that is receiving worldwide.

  • Evelyn

    Is it completely obscene to also wonder where her mother/sisters/support units are? I’m not old by any means (I had a cell phone in high school and laptop my senior year), but my internet adventures weren’t this intense at that age. While I think it’s fantastic that young girls can have a creative outlet to not only experiment with writing/social media/what have you but also broadening their world to see what’s going on outside of little town XYZ, shouldn’t her parents be looking to themselves for reasons why their daughter spiraled into something potentially harmful? I would hate to think that a 16 year old is expected to have the emotional understanding to withstand a viral backlash, along with the repercussions of what it took to maintain her “worth” all on her own. ON HER OWN. Heartbreaking.

  • Davison

    My angry thoughts as a YouTuber (lolpervs) and Instagrammer (davisonvideo)

  • Courtney

    I am very close to her age and I have had many friends go through similar break downs. My generation has grown up surrounded by media portraying this perfect life- she fell into the trap. Girls all fall into this trap my age. I’m a high school senior and it is so hard to manage a life, a job, clubs, passions, and a status on social media. This just reveals a lot about society and I too want a revolution. I am not that into social media, but I think that is because I’m fortunate to be surrounded by people who share their love for me. So many people don’t have people providing them with alternatives to feel important. I admire her. We need a social revolution to humanize the world again. It’s hard to see friends break down for the same reason. While I don’t again with the exact ways she has transformed etc, but teenagers need to hear this general message. I want the world to be taught how to embrace the humanness of humans again and not what is on rectangular screens.

  • sepiolidae

    Even if this is a wholly contrived move on her part, I think that this kind of contrived choice can still benefit anyone who feels pressured by the weird aspirational realism of #fitspo Instagram celebs. I assume that there are times where the person behind every online persona known for a certain “brand” wants to do something different, but still has to show up to meet their audience’s expectations. And even if she still makes bank by keeping it “real” and turning “authenticity” into her new brand, at least it’s a better message for those too young to have developed a perma-skeptical face and a *raised eyebrows* look at the world.

    And I also appreciate the implication that MR staff might also feel fake at times, too. It’s a comforting reminder that cultivated coolness isn’t effortless or always fun; I hope we all presume that some days, folks have to show up and write about the beauty of bead-embroidered wide-leg wool pintucks… even as they might be sporting off-brand lounge pants while doing so.

    I was pretty grossed out by Jezebel’s post on the topic that immediately jumped to statements like “Our good pal Essena is rearing up against The Man in the only way she knows how–by getting even more attention.” Even if this is a totally inauthentic move, there’s no reason to immediately remove any agency from a young woman. Pleased to see that MR presents a more balanced–but still smartly skeptical–perspective.

  • soniadelvalle

    When I first started seeing the pretty digital headlines this morning, I was like “oh, another #makeupfree #nofilter media celeb viral story”, but of course I clicked that link and what struck me the most was her age: she was 15-16 having all that pressure on herself with no space to figure out who she was beside her looks and her outfits and the amount of likes she got. I think she just had a (very public) breakthrough, like many of us did when we realized that were more than what people said about us and learned to kinda just be ourselves. And that’s something valuable to put out there since there are so many kids consuming all of this “fake” without knowing the inner workings of the ‘industry’ (I’m sure I’ve been fooled by the awesome beach shots and gorgeous product placement instagrams). So, yeah, I think it’s important to establish that those idyllic sunsets, flawless #ootd and perfect makeup selfies aren’t what real life is supposed to be 100% of the time, because that’s not how it works!
    That being said, you guys have never actually seemed fake to me. I dare say we get a pretty honest view into your lives. We read about how you work your asses off, we see you chat with the UPS delivery guy and you actually talk to us! But that circles back to the whole thing about knowing who you are and being unrepentantly yourselves. You’re not here to impress, and yet, you do.

  • Yeah, exactly, something feels off. I don’t know what it is, but it’s strange. I followed this from the first “we are brainwashed” post and it’s all just strange.
    But, besides that, I think what lacks in her argument is nuance. Essena is saying that social media is “the epitome of evil” and that “it’s all fake” and “everyone’s depressed”. But that surely isn’t true, right? When I look at somebody like Margaret Zhang (who I find very inspiring) for example, she looks pretty happy to me. And I know that not everything she posts on Instagram is “real” per se, but it’s not one giant pile of fake shit. Not everyone is posing and unhappy, only some people are.
    Other than that, outside of fashion and models and beauty, social media is very important in giving people who wouldn’t otherwise have one, a voice and a platform to spread ideas and voice what’s happening in their world on a political level, for example the videos of the Egyptian revolution of 2011. And it’s used to spread hateful messages as well, unfortunately.
    So what I miss, is the nuance that social media is both good and bad, and not only one of those two.

  • I haven’t watched her video yet but I will say I feel very old for not even knowing who she was in the first place… I wouldn’t remotely put this website and you guys occasionally doing sponsored posts in the same category of whatever she was/is doing to get a paycheck. I’m not knocking her at all because like you said, it’s a job. (in college a woman paid me to come over and chat with her about her divorce. I met her at the library. Long story- but i do odd things for money too is what I’m saying). I think the first step to quitting social media would be to delete my Instagram? I find it odd she still has it up there. Everyone’s lives look better on social media. Sometimes I wish my life was half as exciting as it looks on Instagram, but I don’t feel like a fake when I post one great picture out of the 100 I made my dog pose for. I still am remaining true to myself and to Winston. I think she feels worse for lying to herself than lying to her followers. It will be interesting to see where she takes it from here. If it allows one middle school girl to not feel the pressure to look perfect everyday and instead have her focus on friendships and grades and play practice, then I guess she did a good job, but what do I know. I still feel old. Who is she again? I need to watch the video…

    • BK

      True confession here I put my dad’s reading glasses on my elderly dog purely to take a photo for likes on Instagram with the caption “HEY GRANDPA”. I still feel true to myself. Not sure how Wags feels tbh but he seems okay

  • BriannaW

    I can completely relate with her opinions on social media addiction and how easy it has become to focus more on the lives of others through insta, tumblr, or youtube and forget to live your own. However, I feel not everything about social media is negative. Social media can be used for entertainment , to motivate , inform, and or celebrate the life you do have. Yes, maybe it brought on depression for her but that doesn’t necessarily mean it prompts depression for others. I think the key is to not depend solely on social media for your happiness but to simply take it at face value and not let it affect the life you aspire to live or the person you want to become.

  • Greer Clarke

    This’ll be quick, but basically the second paragraph of this article was YEP MY THOUGHTS EXACTLY.
    I think it’s easy to scoff if you don’t have a problematic relationship with social media, however if you’re somebody who is at risk you would eat this stuff up. And I think that’s a good thing. Possibly over-correction, but better than the alternative; eating up all the Essena posts before this vid that make you feel shit.

  • rebunka

    I’ve followed her for a while and something about this feels so shady. Just a couple months ago she dropped out of college to pursue her social media career and travel. No one was forcing her to be a model or endorse companies and get paid that much–that was the “career” she actively pursued while couch-surfing in LA. And then she decides to give up social media…by moving to other social media platforms and asking for “donations” for her rent money? Wouldn’t someone actually trying to distance themselves from that world just do it? Delete the accounts, find a way to earn money honestly like a real person, maybe ask for donations to charity instead? How is bashing social media while still using/profiting from it changing anything? Maybe there’s something I’m not getting, but I found her arguments really nothing new. Why are people (and media outlets) going so crazy over this–because she’s a hot young (now ex-)model?

    • BK

      Yes to all

  • Sarah Crawford

    I completely agree with you, I feel like what she’s doing is very dramatic and is still generating celebrity around her… which is what she claims to hate so much. I think social media is like anything in life – it can be used for good or for bad, depending on what you do with it. Everything in moderation.
    There are so many people and companies like Man Repeller who are using social media to create entertaining, relatable, realistic conversations – I don’t think that every social media platform is the devil. I think it’s what you do with it and it can be a powerful force for change and good.

  • So many interesting things to consider, none of which I can be bothered to put into a well-rounded, thought-out, well-written paragraph.

    One thing I do think is worth mentioning, though, is that the real issue here isn’t her “quitting” social media, it’s that we are watching a young girl publicly break down and not acknowledging that very fact. There are deeper, more emotional issues at the core of this, and the sad part is that we live in a world where if you want to lose your fucking mind and (hopefully) refocus, it isn’t valid unless you publicize it.

    • Agreed.

      I attempted and failed to put my thoughts in a well written paragraph! I find it sad that people need to feel validated in this way as well. Privacy is not valued anymore.

  • I agree with some of her thoughts but not all. Having worked with a fashion blogger who has a million followers and seeing “the real them” and how they operate was an eye opener and I learned more about the behind the scenes of blogging that Essena discusses. I had many friends who thought it was cool I worked with this person and who thought her life was so perfect. Others admitted looking at her photos made them feel poorly about what they were doing in their lives and her photo shopped images caused them to feeling overweight and ugly, especially while pregnant and had to try and not look at her photos so they would not feel bad about their body during and after pregnancy. This is largely because this blogger portrayed herself in a way to make it seem like she truly got dressed up every day and had a perfect, rich, fabulous life but was an every day normal girl. It made me question a lot of what was being shown on social media because unlike magazines I think many women began to think a lot of these Social Media Stars lives were real “goals,” when really a lot of bloggers are just advertisers (which is not necessarily a bad thing!). On the one hand I am surprised such a tech savvy generation would fall for the smoke and mirror facades that are presented to them, but if you do not deal with photography, styling, social media I can see how you could get caught up in thinking the fantasy is real. Overall I think the fashion blogger I mentioned is not a bad person and is just doing the best they can with the life experiences they have had thus far (even thought they were pretty awful to work with and gave me no credit for any of the work I did for them. There is not a lot out there to protect small businesses in working with bloggers, they threatened to ruin my business reputation but I digress…). I am all about supporting other women and at the end of the day am proud for what this blogger and others like her have accomplished and think Social Media can be such a great platform for people. I am rambling but think the public just needs to be aware of how these things operate. As long as you have the right mind set I think it is nice to have a break from every day life and to see things in a fantasized way, it can be inspiring. But if a blogger or social media individual is going to try and present their fake “fabulous life” as real I think they just need to be careful about the message they are sending to their followers and should link better to their affiliates.

    It makes me think of how upset people get with photo shopping (which I completely understand and agree with 90% of the time), but this is not anything new. People started photo shopping images back when all you could do was have your portrait painted by an artist. We just need to be more educated as a consumer and know when to appreciate something for being artistic and when something is harmful.

    I think moderation is key and there are goods and bads to anything. Essena went a little overboard with her opinions and I feel she is using this as a platform for her new website. I do not really see how her videos not posted on Youtube makes that much of a difference.

    So many unorganized thoughts… forgive me for the long ramble!

  • Ero Fix

    I would never compare your blog to an Instagram model. Your views on fashion are full of substance and you were the only publication to make me give Kim Kardashian’s business sense a serious think. I check in every single day hoping my runway favorites make it onto your blog because I appreciate your style, I enjoy your musings, and you make me feel like the culture I belong to as a member or the fashion industry is not the shallow sub-culture the graphic designers back in art school acted like it was. You’re a daily reminder that this is an artistic community, and that, aside from being the best-looking artistic community out there, we’re also one with a sense of humor, taking nothing too seriously. I don’t believe people ever feel that way from just one model, they just see a fantasy laid out before them. You are living a different kind of dream.

  • Madeline

    I think it’s a bit blah. Trends are trends, and the *ad* bikini selfie *ad* is a bad one. Will it ever pass? Good for her for pointing out that things aren’t always true online, but haven’t people been telling us that, like, forever? She is definitely doing this partly for the popularity/moneymaking aspect, but at least in a positive light. I agree that it was dramatic, but I do hope that this causes a shift in the marketing and online world, maybe forcing brands and influencers to think twice before pushing product to the people. x

  • Emy M

    Eek, at least she doesn’t forget to liberally apply air quotes to nearly ever sentence.

    As a viewer, this comes off to me as a personal breakdown that oozes with a certain teenage melodrama. I was also very turned off by some of the captions that were like, “I endorsed this, but it didn’t mean anything, it wasn’t even VEGAN.” Yikes.

    The concept of being a professional social media persona is still a fairly new one. I suppose it can be very easy to blur the boundaries of am I sharing my personal life/style or am I being paid to endorse products?

    I think the real problem she’s seemed to have awoken to, is the pesky business of pinning self-worth on outsiders’ opinions. Most mature adults wouldn’t derive 100% of their self-esteem from their job. It seems Essa generally had unhealthy confidence and lacked meaningful relationships.

    A lot of this video feels very high-school — trying to ascertain who or what is “fake.” Ugh, exhausting. I could really go long here, which makes me realize why the social media think piece is such a thing.

    My opinion is that she is young and has a ton of growing-up / soul-searching to do. She also has the exposure to be able to share statements like this, and make a headline ripple.

    • BK

      the air quotes help to puncture and deflate her massive ego

  • Stefanie Pink

    It is sad that she lived a life who felt fake to her. It is up to everyone of us whether, how often, and what we post on social media, and I think it is a little over the top that she starts a whole campaign against social media now! There are people out there who enjoy taking pictures, editing and posting them. That Instagram is not real life is nothing new, you just have to be conscious about that! Still, it is brave that she stood up, and maybe it gets some teenagers to think about this more deeply. I just hope that this is not a media strategy, and just another campaign, because she gained like 250.000 new followers since publishing her video!

    x Stefanie

  • DarthVadersCats

    I’m a little bit demotivated to see the comments that still see her as fake, I think she is just super enthusiastic about this which sometimes doesn’t sit well with those of us who are already self aware, maybe? Anyway, I think she’s taken down her instagram and YouTube now and just has her new site lets be game changers or something.
    Initially I thought she was just another kid who thinks Instagram is fake (it doesn’t have to be, digital love I think is mostly unreal but it can most definitely be uplifting etc) but after looking at her captions I think it is VERY important that she’s pointing out that she had to take hundreds of photos, suck her belly in, was sponsored to do things and how at a young age of 15/16 she saw herself as sexualised. Most of the time we realise that celebrities have been photoshopped and we can never look like the girl in the magazine but Instagram is more or less real people doing real things (or so it seems like to the impressionable I know cause I’ve been there) so I love that she’s pointing out that it can be as curated as a magazine editorial.

  • Yes, her reaction was way too dramatic. Plus, she hasn’t quit social media entirely, which I feel is very hypocritical. She started a new webpage and still is accumulating fans through her channels. I feel like this is a marketing exploit waiting to be uncovered. But then again, I guess that if you do become a “social media sensation” at a very young age, you are doing this pretty much without purpose. And it makes us, people who are here to proudly use our voices for good, look bad. She needs serious counseling if she really plans to take this seriously. She had a huge following, she could’ve transform her image in the right way without loosing so much of her “followers” in the meantime. That is why I think she is using this as a way to get more. There are a thousand examples of people using SSMM as an authentic outlet for their expression, like MR!
    Also, people on the internet are not going to change, us “leaders of opinion” should change the conversations. Don’t blame it on the platforms.

  • Bella Charlwood

    I think Essena makes some great points, we live in an overly recorded world and the impact is greatly negative on naive young girls. However her execution and over promotion of her message in a way that completely cancels her point out (overly using social media to prove the badness of it? Validating her message cus its gone global and everyone is talking about it?) seems like a business ploy to me. Her denouncing of fakeness seems very fake to me.

  • Anastasiya Mozgovaya

    i do not think that the biggest issue is about social media, it is in our minds and in the way we see the world and what kind of values we have.

    and i talk more about it here:

  • Don’t know Essena at all and don’t get any media addiction, but would like to add some very general, non-personal observations about situations like these: I am sure it is very wise to question such public(ized) actions as hers.
    On the other hand, one should also question the doubters’ motives for not believing her: apart from being media-savvy and experts at gauging faux moves, I think a good motive would be dislike for people who appear holier than us, wishing them to be false to feel better about ourselves.
    Complicated, this. 🙂

    • BK

      Third alternative: people are concerned about her because she’s just a teenager in the crosshairs in a very public sphere. I’m a cynic and think that this is a clever ruse of her construction, but I’m also concerned for her. She’s a kid, at the end of the day, and I hope that whatever happens her family are keeping an eye on her.

      • Just found out, yes: she’s very young. Not good.

  • Miranda Babbitt

    So glad the Man Repeller crowd picked this up. You guys are always on point.

    I think the biggest thing that upsets people is that her message is getting somewhat diluted by all the other forms of traffic she’s getting. From the outside, it definitely looks like a marketing ploy, especially when we think about the book deals, potential TV appearances, etc.

    …but I just can’t help but see her as being honest still. I think that this scale of a message, from this level of an “instagram/YT celebrity”, is going to catch people’s attention. It’s not like people wouldn’t want to write about it, or talk about it. It’s *kind of* like if Kanye decided that rap was killing his soul, and he switched to baroque music. People would be like whaaat….. he just wants attention…. because he’s getting attention!

    The attention she’s getting is sparking a discussion WAY more meaningful than the shit she was doing before.

    • Miranda Babbitt

      maybe that kanye example was weak, but oh well, kanye deserves a mention anywhere, amirite

  • Carol Gillott

    I immediately thought when is MAN REPELLER going to come clean about who pays for all the clothes and what is sponsored, what is not?
    That’s what i thought. Being entertaining doesn’t cover it. What’s not entertaining about Essena? Is MR above the crowd of attention seekers?
    Me thinks not.
    Re:Essena..asking for donations cos now she can’t afford her fancy digs?
    Get real. Go home and live with the parents like most 19 year olds or earn a living like the rest of us.
    Washing all the crap off yr face isn’t going to earn my $$.
    Expecting others to pay for your lost childhood, for the bad choices you made is ridiculous. Time to do something worthy for others without payment attached IMHO.

    • BK

      I want “washing all the crap of yr face isn’t going to earn my $$” on a tshirt, or maybe in the lyrics of the next Jay-Z song

  • leokadia

    also a bit at unease about this whole Essena movement from the last few days. Some problems that came to mind while thinking about the context of “fake” postings:
    AGE: wow, I wasn’t aware that social media fame is such a thing for teenagers and they seem kind of deluded about it. Only this could make Essena’s revelation seem so dramatic. Shouldn’t we adress the responisbility of brands that use such young girls as means of advertisements?!!
    GENERALISATION: social media is so much more than instagram accounts promiting a fake perfect world. And even those aren’t necessarily bad as they can stimulate inspiration. Fake doesn’t have to equal evil. I agree though, that it is problematic, if people can’t prescind here.
    EXTREMISM: Essena’s personal view on the problematic seems to be very extreme. But then again, so seems her lifestyle pre revelation. I just feel like this is important to keep in mind when thinking about the issue. Makes me a bit uncofortable when people promote a extremist lifestyle.
    Patronizing: I observe it goes two ways here. For one, I feel patronized by a young instagram celebrity who has to shout out that she lost her naiveté , also by all the other channels that followed in her footsteps to suddenly realize that some social media lacks authenticity. My reaction on the other hand is also patronzing as I am thinking “oh poor you that you had to habe this insight in such a public and dramatic way and were so deluded before”
    The good thing is though that this has really sparked a good, big and needed public debate about authenticity

  • stephanie sawma

    Well, as of this morning she deleted her Instagram account…I like her message but part I don’t understand why is she asking people to donate money to her “cause” (AKA to pay her rent, which she mentions she can no longer afford)? If you want to quit that world shouldn’t you go out and get a job in the real world? I think it’s important to remind people that that twinge of jealousy you may get when looking through someone else’s Instagram feed isn’t always what you’re making it out to be. We spend so much of our time comparing and sometimes maybe even making ourselves feel bad about the life we are (or aren’t) living. It can mess with your head and with the way you carry yourself. So the over-arching message is commendable, the way she is going about this is mildly questionable.

  • Edda

    I don’t see it as everybody does as a ploy. Everybody has a different relationship with social media, as all there is in life it has it’s pros and cons. She’s exposing herself, how miserable she felt for editing her life so it seemed insta-worthy and how influential it is to younger generations. Because as a 19 year old I can talk for myself and others (that may agree) that there is a point where we are consumed by the constant imagery we see, which “goals” we should have, how we should look like, what to wear, etc. it does affect us.

    So being her the first to openly say that everything we consume not necessarily is real and it’s edited makes us feel more normal. And I’ve read her website and seen her other videos, and the message she’s preaching is to be more authentic, and to start conversations about things that matter in the world besides vanity.

    Life is about balance. It’s ok to be on social media, and you can have a healthy relationship with it, the thing is is to recognize bullshit when we see it and not take it.

  • Jocelyn Jacobson

    I think it has a lot to do with her age. I used to look at models in magazines when I was young and think wow I wish I looked like that. As I’ve gotten older I’ve learned to love and appreciate myself in a way that I didn’t when I was younger and was more concerned with getting other peoples approval. I do see how social media can make getting approval from others something people seek out above other things. How many 18 year old girls have that level of confidence and knowledge to understand social media for what it is and see it at face value? It’s not the enemy but a tool that can be used however you want. You can see other people as competition or you can be inspired. It all comes down to your perception. I love seeing fashion bloggers on social media. I think it makes fashion more relatable and real even if they are being sponsored. It means that you don’t have to be model or a fashion designer to be noticed in the industry and I think that’s really cool!

  • Dona Papayas

    I think she is so young and when you are a teenager everything is blew out of proportion, also you want everyones approval and you are going through so many changes that yelling to your litle sister to get a perfect photo can be stressful. But then you grow up and you have husband, rent, responsabilities, etc. And I think those problems become a bit irrelevant and you are glad you can have some fun taking photos and earning money for them can be helpful. I don´t think she was working with brandsshe really ove and thats a problem. If you don´t love what you do is better if you look for something else. Also it pops in my mind that this is making her more famous, so it can just be a very clever strategy.

  • Lyla Smerchinski

    “The management of insignificance. It was the great syncretic bond of US monoculture. It was everywhere, at the root of everything – of impatience in long lines, of cheating on taxes, of movements in fashion and music and art, of marketing… It was the feeling that celebrities were your intimate friends, coupled with the inchoate awareness that that untold millions of people felt the same way – and that the celebrities themselves did not…celebrities were not actually functioning as real people at all, but as something more like symbols of themselves.” – This is a quote from the “Suffering Channel” by David Foster Wallace. I think he explains our fascination with celebrity or even instagram personalities… the thought that a celebrity (or instagram model) cannot function truly as a real person but more as a symbol. He has very interesting commentary on the idea of celebrity and “reality television”. I wish he were alive today in the era of mass social media.

  • it looks like her Instagram is gone which is a shame bc I wanted to read all her edits. I think it’s awesome that she did this. I’m sure she’ll be back.
    I’ve always taken a middle road with my selfies- first as an artist, I’ve always taken photos of myself for art reference- but normal selfie photos I have always stood firm in choosing photos that look like me, not some idealized version of me. And I have to admit to feeling pleased when people meet me in real life and say, “You actually look like your photos!” Note, I don’t generally choose photos that make me look incredibly haggy either.
    As someone who knows how to use photoshop, I’m immune to the craziness of celebrity photos. I do have to admit, I’ve actually not bought magazine when they make someone I like unrecognizable.

  • Saw the article on WhoWhatWear. Didn’t feel particularly interested, since I don’t follow her. But I’ve seen some of her videos and in all honesty she strikes me as a child, very unaware of the realities that is the world. Even in her “healthy” vegan videos, it struck me that there was a veil of deceit – faked perfection. And the saddest part were the comments, of young girls crying “she’s so perfect” and the famous “goal” phrase.

    Man Repeller has engaging and interesting conversations. It’s an example of what the Internet should actually be utilized for. Don’t worry Amelia, we have all posted a fake smile or two on Instagram. It makes you human. And the fact that you own up to it makes you cool.

  • anon

    funnily enough, the first thing I thought was not “this is so fake” or “this is just another way to get attention on media.” It was, “it would have meant so much to me to see this three years ago” and “thank you so much for putting this out there”. As someone who has struggled with body image issues and an eating disorder for a very long time, growing up with social media as a teen ( I am about Essena’s age) made everything so, so much worse. So much. I cannot emphasize that enough. It’s obvious that stuff on instagram is staged, making everything look prettier than reality is the point of instagram, and I think even younger users recognize that. But the other thing instagram does is immerse you in its world so completely that on some level it does convince you that it is reality–or that it could be your reality, if you only had a different body or bought different clothes or traveled or had different friends. Everyone creates a separate self on social media, and because stuff like instagram is so visual it plays to the most shallow aspect of that self- image. And we are completely taken in by it. Sure, you may be a “jaded adult” that knows it’s all posed, but you fucking eat it up. It’s just like advertising- we know they’re trying to convince and often it’s obvious how hard they’re trying, but it doesn’t change the fact that it works incredibly well anyway. You browse instagram fifty times a day and draw inspiration from it…now imagine a teenage girl doing the same, but instead of admiring clothes she’s trying to squeeze herself into the box of body image or a “better” life. The irony is that Essena’s change in view and promotion of her true self, rather than the edited one, is the equivalent of a really good publicity stunt. So while it may comfort some twelve year olds (and me, deep inside) that she’s blatantly reminding us of the fakeness of it all, it goes to show that nothing on the internet can every be actually, truly, heartfelt and “real,” because the point of the internet/social media is to cultivate and groom and shine this alternate reality.

  • Fearless Flyer

    Honestly, I think it’s one of the most important things for young women to see. I’m 26 now, I’ve grown up during the boom of social media, and I’ve been simultaneously cultivating my online reality, whilst being warned by feel-good Dove commercials that PHOTOSHOPPING IS REAL.
    I find it fascinating, like a behind-the-scenes. But for people like my little cousins, who came into the fully formed social media world – I think it’s damn near vital.
    They missed the backlash and panic to social media, they missed the important, ‘be your most authentic self’ messages, because what’s popular now, what’s trending, is ‘Authentic’ life posts.
    There’s a level of expected staging in all social media that it’s impossible to know if it is acknowledged or not.
    Far be it for me to condemn a beautiful shot on insta, I love them. I also know what they are – staged moments, like art.
    But for young women and men, I absolutely hold with Essena. She’s quitting because she realised that a person’s worth isn’t their body.
    That she’d been consummed by how she looked, and she had been lost.
    The fact that she’s making this so public is because it demands to be talked about. And that is brave. For someone who lived by other’s opinons to open herself up to the kind of criticism that only comes with being a public figure with something to say.
    It’s an important lesson, whether it sticks is another thing entirely.

  • I would have been on board with her choice if she didn’t asking people for money afterwards. Or sell out her friend who she was doing all of this instagramming with, leaving her to pick up the pieces.

    Social media is what you make of it. It can be positive or negative. I am quite over this social media bashing and the snobbery over it. And no, I am not buying the book she eventually writes or subscribing to her newsletter or donating to whatever charity.

  • I only hope that she stays committed to staying offline…at least for now. After hearing her speak about it, I get the impression it’s not being on social media that bothers her – it’s that making a living on sponsored posts means she is pressured to give up control of her image, overall message, and being a good role model.

    I have seen several people on social media, YouTube, blogs, and the like say that they are going “off the grid,” only to end up back on a few months later. She already sounded extremely stressed and upset that she wasn’t going to make enough money to pay her bills in the near future…which is a huge reason people end up back online, in spite of how degrading they feel it is.

    My hope is that she finds another path that keeps her financially stable, and allows her to maybe come back to Instagram/YouTube/Tumblr on her own terms someday, if she wants to. She seems like a genuinely nice young woman who could be a great role model to younger girls, and it’s a shame that she feels so put down by all of it.

  • Honestly, I think to do social media right, you have to be yourself. That get’s tiring too, but trying to be something you’re not is always going to be more exhausting and draining.

  • Lou

    I hadn’t yet heard about this woman, but it’s definitely a fascinating topic. But my honest thought? I clicked on the hyper-link “modeling career” assuming (logically) that it would take me to a brief summary of the story I hadn’t heard about yet, so that I could then return and read the rest of it. Instead, Manrepeller has me going to a completely unrelated old post about Kendall Jenner. Um. Yeah. See, to me, that’s weird and doesn’t feel honest. It feels like “CONSUME AS MUCH OF US AS POSSIBLE SIMULTANEOUSLY!” which is what most are shouting on the internet. Your articles may strive to be honest, but the constant, sometimes-a-stretch linking to past articles is not.

  • Claudia Tetreault-Percy

    You guys are the realest people, of all shapes and diverse backgrounds, of all styles of writing, that make up a blog that I read every single day(not even a joke) that actually makes me feel like achieving things. Like being my ambitious self. Whether its being inspired by a new outfit I can put together or reflecting on a latest fling thanks to your ‘ask a guy’ advice, I feel like you guys put the ‘real’ in a high fashion world that is, yes, while not accessible to all of us, something we love and are passionate about. All said and done, your honesty and humour is PERFECT. Do not change a thing. Repellers be lovin’ you.

  • Initially I felt a little sorry for her, and I still kind of do! Personally I believe it all comes down to self-perception and how you feel about yourself inside! I feel like yes social media can be very demeaning and can make you lose a lot of self-esteem, but HECK so can glossy magazines and MULTI-BILLION dollar hollywood movies! The issue is that she is young and she needs to go on a journey of self-love and get to a point where she is comfortable in herself, if she was, she wouldn’t have felt like she was being dishonest to her followers and feeling so unhappy! I have also spoken out about this issue on my blog here and would love to know what the rest of you think about it aswell! Here’s my link

  • Nicky Odujirin

    The only thing I don’t understand about the whole thing is why she’s asking people for money. If she no longer wishes to make money off of social media, why doesn’t she just find another job like most people do?

    • BK

      Because she knows her face brings in the $$$$

  • Aubrey Green

    This is my first time hearing about this. Why did she quite exactly? Because she was tired of seeing the fake, or she didn’t wan to be putting fake things out there, or both? I think that it’s sad that you have to announce that you are leaving social media – why not just leave and not announce it, wouldn’t that make a bigger statement?

  • Patti Prado

    Personally I think it’s kind of a hoax bc she’s still using this attention as a business plan. Most of us know certain posts from major influencers are sponsored, it’s not a secret, it’s a job and she had a great career. My initial reaction was “mental breakdown” and then “wow she’s so ungrateful” and finally “ok, so she’s asking for money this must be her new job.”

  • Shannon

    Essena quitting social media reminds me of Cara quitting modeling and opening up about how even though her life was viewed as enviable by millions, she wasn’t happy and needed to focus on the things that actually made her happy. I think of social media as a curated view of one’s life, it gives part of the picture not the whole thing. Her’s was an accurate version of her life and how she made a living at that time. I think this dramatic change might have come after she had an awakening that having her life revolve around social media was doing more damage than good. I don’t think Cara or Essena speaking out or deciding to move towards things that made them happy is necessarily brave but, it always refreshing when people break through the glossy perfection that what we are sold we should be attaining to. This is one of the many reasons I appreciate this site so much, a space where the beautiful things are the interesting ones.

  • Natalie

    I agree with her message in regards to feeling “fed up” with social media. Yet, she was just saying what everyone was thinking and only gaining publicity because it is relatable. People are acting like she is Socrates. Without a doubt, she still wants to be famous and well-known, but instead of being “just another Insta model” she wants to be remembered as someone that is motivational and revolutionary in idea. However, her ideas aren’t that revolutionary. Everyone has always thought that social media isn’t real life, she’s just the first one to speak loudest about it. I don’t think it’s a publicity stunt because I think she is truly disgusted with social media, but still has that same desire to feel valuable and important through fame. She just wants to be famous through a matter more substantial than cool pics. I was gung-ho about her message until she asked people to donate money to her so she could continue living in her apartment……get a real job then like the rest of the world???? I was also hesitant when she posted an “update video” saying how hype she was about being emailed by Good Morning America. If she really hated fame, then why would she be so excited to receive more time to exploit herself. Regardless, props to her for making fun of her own insta pics and being smart enough to say what everyone else was thinking. Her message was refreshing to hear; I just wish it could have been conveyed by someone more relevant so it wouldn’t even be questioned as a publicity stunt.

  • matestinha

    When I first read about Essena I too thought “hoax”. Then I watched her entire explanatory video and thought “well, good for her. She seemed to be really hurting herself with all this.” Easy to say it being twenty-something and having already learned a thing or two about the difference between internet-selves and real-life-selves, but the teenage me once thought this perfect people were all real and awesome and “goals”. So kudos to Essena for being able to break free from this fake self-imagery she built on the course of her teens.
    Kudos for MR too, for being painfully honest as necessary.

    • matestinha

      (although the whole keeping instagram up thing seems a bit distant from her – pardon me – goals)

  • Erin Jade Griffin

    Essena O’neil has drawn a lot of attention to herself over the past couple of days. According to her videos that she has posted on Vimeo, that was never her intention. She thinks it’s ironic and funny that her life and views on social media are now all over the media headlines. They are just proving her point. On a lighter note, I have never thought of Man Repeller as a site that is deceitful to it’s followers. There are many bloggers/insta stars that do make their lives seem perfect, but we can see right through it! I follow MR because it’s not like that. It’s different, and WE CAN TELL. Thank you for the good, real contents of this beautiful site. God bless. <3

  • Caro

    I think she’s a woman who wants her voice to be heard- she tried one way, realized she hated it and now here she is again. She wants her voice out there. I’ve got no problem with it- I value honesty more than anything so I’m down with this.

  • Blondes & Bagels

    Other bloggers who she visited in LA are now coming back at her saying the whole thing is a hoax – so there’s that – but I DO think you bring up the main point that I think is SUPER valid which is WE may know social media has a level of fakeness, but younger girls viewing it may NOT know. Younger girls looking at the Gabby Epstein’s of the world may think she’s got this totally glamorous life (and hey, maybe she does) and that her incredibly thin body is beautiful (which it is), but should that be the standard? We should absolutely celebrate all people, all women, all lifestyles, all body types. But there’s such a huge lack of diversity (as you mentioned) that unfortunately young, impressionable girls on social media may not know where the line between staged and reality really is. Whether she did this all as a big hoax or not, it still is a super interesting topic to think over and I’m loving this new level of transparency happening – I hope it continues!

  • Stephanie Tweel

    To be honest, I think this is a ploy to use media attention to get money. But beyond that, Essena uses social media as a scapegoat for her own insecurities. I understand that social media exacerbates the issue of false perceptions of beauty and unrealistic beauty standards, but so does the Internet. So do magazines. So do songs. So do TV shows and movies. These messages surround us and ‘quitting’ social media (only to launch another mediated platform in an effort to “get the attention away from herself”) seems contrived. Also, look at the publications that are buying into this: magazines and sites geared to young adult and adult females — the very publications that publish edited images of models month after month. Essena’s overall message is good, but it’s certainly not news and it loses credibility once you take a moment to notice the drama with which she tries to deliver this message, as well as the glaring ironies in her campaign. She doesn’t talk about the “real” issue – she doesn’t admit the lengths she went to get that body or where her notion of beauty came from. All I got from this is a beautiful young girl hit a plateau in her “Instagram” modeling career and is now re-branding herself to elevate her level of fame. This story could be replaced by one that actually promotes a sharper awareness into the issue at hand.

  • Abbie

    She seems psycho! Social media has created millions of opportunities and jobs for people who are PASSIONATE about what they do! Yes, brands sponsor posts. So what? It helps the brand, as well as the influencer. Both make money. If an influencer doesn’t actually like a brand, then don’t do the sponsorship. Simple!

    To say that social media isn’t real is simply ridiculous. It’s very real, and now acts as a lot more than just a place to post pictures. SO many jobs have been created through social, including my own. There are so many more opportunities now for creatives and it’s wonderful!

  • Amanda

    At first, I could empathize with Essena, and definitely see correlations between what she’s talking about and the people that I know; girls my age (17/18) who are quite obsessive about their online presence and are very careful about what they post. But as I kept watching, something seemed a little off; which was the fact that she blamed everything on social media, and took no ownership for her own actions. Here’s a very well-written response I read by Zack James which explains it better than I can:

  • Dre

    As much as we now know that social media like Instagram has certain depressive effects on people because, like Essena is saying, some of it is fake/we only show a certain side of life which gives unattainable standards for certain people and make them compare and feel bad about themselves; Facebook, Instagram and the likes are all just platforms.

    What they are is what we do of them. The real problem is what we as a society have decided is *goals* or that followers are important, and all the other stuff we feel we need to be successful on social media. Because let’s face it, not all of it is bad, they are ways to connect with friends and family, discovering new exciting or inspiring things and nowadays useful tools for work. Instead of blaming the three buttons that allowed us to post a picture, we should be trying to change how we view and use them.

    Ps: I know this post wasn’t made to reassure you on your use of Instagram etc, but I too want to add that I don’t view manrepeller that way at all. What is awesome with MR from what I’ve read and seen is that you’ve set guidelines you will not budge on like staying true to your brand and have integrity concerning what you will accept or post. You’re kind of a mix between Prada and DVF, Prada because of the pretty ugly style translated into your “women can wear whatever the F they want” and DVF because you promote confidence, being yourself and intelligent discussion rather than promoting industry standards and having the latest thing.

  • Obviously, there’s a fair share of evil on the internet but think of all the good that’s come from it, (e.g. KONY 2012, #BlackLivesMatter, #BringBackOurGirls, #HeForShe and SO much more..) Social media is a double-edged sword and I don’t think we should label it as “evil” if one person had a bad experience on it. As a sixteen year old having been on social media since I was twelve, I know likes don’t translate to anything and that social media isn’t real but at the end of the day we’re all real people and there wouldn’t be the need to blame social media if we were all honest in the first place.

    (P.S.. I love your articles so much!)

  • I watched the video and I was actually thinks she wants even more likes!
    you had very good point – if she would want to quit she would.. no she just renamed her post.
    i understand that little/young girls wanna be IT girls. But do you truly believe everything posted online is true?
    i this she just made everything “too much”

  • The Fluffy Owl

    I don’t think she’s quitting, it seems like “rebranding”, I’ve read she’s still using the internet and social media as a platform, only it’s more “real” this time. Which means it’s just a different flavor of fabrication.

  • Sydney Scott

    AAHH I’m so glad you
    brought this up, because I really don’t know what to think about the whole
    situation. The part of me that hates the idolization of these “Tumblr
    Girls” wants to say “Yaaaasss kween!! U go!!Preach!1!!1!!”…
    But since half of me is cynical and so beat down by people trying to
    “just be real”, I just don’t know what to think. Her intentions
    are clearly sincere, and I definitely feel bad for her because obviously
    she realized she did wrong (and wants to make up for her mistakes) . And
    of course she didn’t ~plan~ to turn this into a marketing scheme, but it
    seems like that’s what the situation has become. Now she can proclaim that
    she “stands out from the others” on Instagram that she was once
    like, giving her self brand a good-guy niche. Although she obviously
    wasn’t aware of her self-promotion involved in this “movement”,
    attention is still attention, and I think at the end of the day it’s just
    one person realizing she made a mistake. Which is great for Essena (and
    any teenage girl who truly believes that Instagram sets the standards for
    living). I’m glad to see that these girls are realizing that they are so
    much more important than their Instagram layout…But for us who already
    know that social media is essentially just a branch of business marketing,
    her whole epiphany just comes off as another form of self-promotion.

  • francesca

    I don’t think it’s honesty, not entirely anyway. She is known to sort of speak the truth of veganism, animal cruelty, so forth. Being outspoken is part of her brand, so I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that increased following added to the desire to ‘break free’. I’m curious to see how long this lasts. Also, it’s interesting to see that a lot of her sponsored pictures stayed up. She didn’t have to edit the caption of all of them, a few would have been enough. Is she worried she is going to get into trouble with the companies that paid her for removing content? What’s her end game? I’m skeptical.

  • SChase

    There will always be backlash and social commentary on a social media star. So whatever her real reasons were, I think you’re right to point out that much of the MR demographic are self-aware social media consumers and participants. And MR does a stunning job of keeping that aspect real. It’s more important that the 12 – 18 somethings who idolize these accounts get a little dose of the truth. Maybe there’s no such thing as altruism, but hopefully the effect is positive.

  • l:ly

    I think that what she did was more important than brave. Brave is thrown around so often now I feel like it’s losing its meaning. It is brave to be a fire fighter or a police man. It is brave to dismantle a bomb. It is brave to confront your rapist. It is IMPORTANT to realize that what you are doing is toxic. It is important to think about how your actions effect others. It is important that you live a life that makes you feel good and that you define success on your own terms. It is BRAVE of her to make edits and call out how she actually felt and what was happening. But it isn’t brave to quit the internet. Important for her health and the well being of her fans, yes. Brave? Not so much.

  • Erick Jhorbel

    She dead today =(

  • I think this “offline” status is becoming a trend. A “cool” thing people do today, just like going paleo or being kind to everyone. Don’t get me wrong; it’s super ok to form nice habits and help others… What I’m not in favor is letting your whole friends know it and listening to their “oh you’re so cool, I can not do it”, “you are my hero”, etc…. Just do it, like Leandra did. We all need to leave our phones away for hours and figure out what to do in free time plus enjoy our own company . But please, don’t seek for attention. Isn’t what you are running of?

  • I think it’s really strange that Essena is being held up by the media as an Instagram model. Anybody who has followed her for a while will know that she is a thoughtful, intelligent, articulate young woman who has long been voicing her opinions on all sorts of social issues. I’d consider her a vegan activist, not a model.

    That’s why her abandonment of social media didn’t come across as a sudden shocking change to me, nor did it come across as dramatic or fake. I think what she’s doing for young women like myself is very important and should be applauded, not picked over and criticised as it has been by a large portion of the media.

    Essena’s website, Lets Be Gamechangers, encompasses so much more than this social media battle, providing information on an array of global issues, and encouraging young women to believe that they have the power to make positive, important changes to the world. I’ve been getting involved in the forum and it’s amazing speaking with like-minded young people (like I’m talking 14/15 sometimes) who feel so strongly about certain causes.

    Basically, I just think it’s completely and totally ace, and can’t wait for the media to get over their routine round of cynicism and move on to talking about all the good this is doing.

    Oh and in regards to the whole social media thing, I think social media can be used very positively in connecting like-minded people, sharing big ideas, and spreading the importance of creativity. That said, I would love to see social media become a more supportive place (if Essena’s ordeal shows us anything, it’s that social media can be super bitchy!), as well as more honest or transparent.

    Phew that was long!

    Jessica, 21, Australia.

  • BK

    BREAKING NEWS: Girls smokes weed for the first time, realises shit/thinks about capitalism, subjects followers to her epiphany but (not inadvertently) gains attention from a far broader demographic because a) there is a constant, panicky hunt for stories that characterises internet news media, b) she’s hot so people like looking at her and will pay attention, c) she knows exactly what she’s doing and this sudden holistic social media purge is nothing of the sort. It’s a clever rebranding effort wearing the hat of a ham-fisted, vaguely condescending public awareness campaign on the dangers of selling yourself out entirely to bullshit, eating disorder-propagating teatox companies or disgusting fake tan brands.
    She’s still a kid and is obviously still trying to find her place in the world which isn’t easy for anyone. However what occurs to me about all of this is that she’s employing exactly the same methods to perpetuate this new so-called detox message as she did to make money before – namely, advertising on social media (that thing she said she’d quit), still with her pretty face plastered all over it because she knows that’s what brings in the $$$. How is that better or any less image-obsessed than what she was doing prior?
    What this sweetheart really needs to do is actually detox from the Internet – throw her laptop in the sea then go do some community work or volunteering – anything to give her some some REAL perspective about the world and make an actual difference to people who need it (it should go without saying she’s not allowed to post about it on Facebook afterwards).

  • I see how it is important to let young girls know that what ‘celebrities’ post on Instagram isn’t ‘real life’ and that there’s nothing wrong with having an Instagram that doesn’t have thousands of followers and that being true to yourself is more important than appearing perfect.
    But Essena’s appeal for donations because she can’t afford rent, her tear-y YouTube videos and her 180• turn just don’t sit well with most people that aren’t teenagers. She spent the last 4 (?) years being paid for posting about products. How come she doesn’t have any savings? How about looking for a new job before quitting the one you have? It is As if there weren’t any other options for her to make money apart from her online presence, only that she now promotes being ‘real’.

    PS. I Love Man Repller! ??❤️??

  • Luisakath

    It’s not about the world of Social Media being all fake.
    It’s more about her realizing that what SHE did is all fake.
    Yes, bloggers get paid. Instagramers. YouTubers. Hello web 2.0.
    But hey, lets look back at TV, newspapers, magazines. Hell yeah, we all know
    that no drink in the world can make you look like you just saw in an advertising. Still, two days later we find ourselves standing in line in the next grocery store, buying this magic water. “I mean, just one try…”

    With Social Media companies just found a new way to market their products in a way more personal way. Its not just anybody on the screen. Its somebody wearing or praising a product, that you feel connected to. You know their names, their ages and can follow each step of their lives.

    And here’s the crucial point. Lets go back to why I said, that it’s more about Essena realizing, that what SHE did is all fake.

    For her, Social Media was a way of getting attention and acceptance. And that’s where its getting interesting – as she was so fixed on getting more “fame”, she only posted what she
    thought others would like. Did any job that could bring more followers and likes. And totally forgot about her own personality. What we have seen on her profile, was a fictional character – built on product placement, inspiration and goals. Of others.

    That doesn’t mean that the whole Social Media world is fake. It’s about her, maybe being too young to realize who she is and what she would like to support – based on her own interests, not on the pursuit of fame.

  • Kate

    tbh she/this story bores me. maybe it’s cause i’m old enough to recognize her life wasn’t real and i was never fooled by the many instas of people’s seemingly perfect lives. maybe it’s cause while she says she’s quitting social media, she’s still on social media promoting something else so she reeks of hypocrisy. also her being white thin n pretty as she promotes something trendy like veganism just says to me that she hasn’t really learned the error of her ways like she claims.

  • Raquel Avila

    I didn’t know who she was, maybe because I don’t use YouTube. But it’s interesting overall. Although she’ll probably you write a book and make a “comeback” at some point. But maybe people wouldn’t care because everyone who was interested in her would be moving onto other things. It might strike an initial interest, but it’d sort of be like when the Kardashians have something “crazy” happen in their life, so you wonder “what stupid thing did they do now?” But you either don’t even click on the link to read, or skim it and shrug it off.
    I think the removing yourself from social media thing is great though. I’ve uninstalled a lot of apps, and only access websites through safari or chrome. It’s amazing how much time you get back. I still find myself on Facebook and Tumblr because I really like news and current events, so I usually scroll until I find one Id like to read more on.

  • M Rae

    haha but really who we should pay more attention to is this guy

  • Sarah

    oh I thought the same exact thing you did, “yeah no shit it’s all fake” … it’s also ironic how she’s using social media to spread the message … against social media, it just ironically highlights the fact that social media isn’t the real problem… I feel bad because she’s young, she’s 19, so she doesn’t realized that we all know her tea or whatever was sponsored, but like yeah, people can see through it.

    • Sarah

      Also, it bothered me how she acts like our entire generation used instagram the way she did … self-promotion (of her body), when we don’t actually all do that, at all. Not all of us have body image issues, honey

  • Marissa

    Real simple, she didn’t take down any of her social media and she made a page for “donations” and a new site. She wanted to seem “different” and wholesome and true but she is doing the same exact thing with a new outlook. She just wanted to make sure she was one of the first to have this “honest” and new approach to the internet fans. I call bullshit.

  • Sarah Pfeil

    I def think this is the story of one person who is physically attractive and bases their self worth on it, just like narcissist have been doing since time in memorium, and in return the public is rejoicing in the idea a pretty girl is martyred by her own prettiness while simultaneously reinforcing the idea that you can’t both invest in writting/art whatever else she said she *should* have been invested in, and your sexuality- women must CHOOSE. The public loves her suggestion that she made the wrong “choice” and love a good repentance story. I didn’t know anything about this but was flummoxed to find that video of the twins she stayed with, which seemed much less dramatic, was one of the only videos I’ve seen on youtube with more dislikes than likes that wasn’t overtly bigoted. She’s just repackaged some timeless western narritive of the beautiful but cruel princess finding the error of her ways and becoming a nun to help the poor and living happily ever after and the public is eating it up.

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