{thinking out loud} My thoughts on Instagram model Essena O’Neill and cultivated social media personalities

gymselfie1I’m sure we’ve all heard the story by now about Instagram model Essena O’Neill, an Australian teenager with over half a million followers who decided to quit the social platform in a blaze of glory, but not before showcasing what really goes on behind the cultivation of each picture-perfect shot by editing the captions.

β€œSee how relatable my captions were – stomach sucked in, strategic pose, pushed up boobs. I just want younger girls to know this isn’t candid life, or cool or inspirational. It’s contrived perfection made to get attention,” she writes.

While some people applaud her for her honesty and exposing the truth behind those seemingly perfect yet staged Instagram photos (where she was often paid up to $2,000 by a brand to wear their clothing in the post), others have slammed her for blaming social media on her problems and causing a stir just to get even more media attention.

What are your thoughts on this?

I’ve written before about the problem with gym selfies, why showcasing a cultivated, magazine-eque and unrealistic life can be detrimental to ourselves and our audiences and what a real day in the life of a wellness blogger looks like, where I challenged other bloggers to post un-posed and un-filtered photos of their less-than-Instagram-worthy moments. And although I don’t agree with blaming the medium, I do applaud Essena for what she’s trying to do — point out that what you see on social media is not always a reflection of real life. Though the way in which she delivered this message may have caused some backlash, I think we need to keep in mind she’s still a teenager and is just trying to figure out who she truly is and what her values are — albeit in a very public way, but at least she’s questioning them nonetheless. And think about who her primary audience is — though some of us may be thinking, “Well duh, of course those photos aren’t real life and she was probably paid to wear that dress because she tagged the brand in the shot,” young girls who are following her account and aspiring to be her may not see it that way. I think the more light we can shed on the subject of cultivated social media personalities, the better.

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What are your thoughts on this topic? Do you applaud Essena for how she edited the captions of her photos to expose the truth behind each post or do you think her public revelations were less than genuine? How do you feel about cultivated Instagram accounts and blog posts? Do you follow them, or do you prefer more “real life” accounts and blogs?

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Thanks Amanda for the link-up!