COLD TURKEY: Essena O’Neill Quits Social Media

When Aldous Huxley imagined Brave New World, I wonder if he predicted how much technology would take over our lives. Did he think we were capable of handling unforeseen technologies such as Instagram? The role technology has played in our lives is similar to how fish see water — we know it surrounds us, but never give it a second thought…Until this week, when Essena O’Neill drained her fishbowl.

At only 19 years old, O’Neill has come to represent the dichotomy of social media. Finally, someone has gone against the grain, swam against the current, insert superlative cliché here. And in doing so, she has started a conversation that needed to be had: how should we use social media?

By her own admission, O’Neill would intently monitor the progress of her photos, anxiously viewing the rise in likes and comments. She said in a recent video:

“Social media was not the root of my problems…My own pressure and my own ‘self-absordness’…stopped myself from talking about things I care about. I want to start a conversation about anyone wanting to change their life. I wanna do stuff that matters to me.

“We are more than bikini body pictures”.

So by removing her Instagram and YouTube accounts, she has cathartically freed herself of said baggage.

O’Neill said on her website:

“Ethical advertisement, seeking social validation and spending hours just scrolling online. They were my main points. Please check out the ‘game changing stuff’ for all the documentaries, talks, music and art I believe is worth talking about. Stay true to you and love this earth.”

Some people are applauding her abstinence from Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube; while others claim her decision is the machination of an innovative PR stunt.

Looking at this positively, one side of the Twitterati have cited O’Neill as being brave for challenging society and social media’s constructs.

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On the other side of the divide, Sydney PR and talent mogul Roxy Jacenko told Triple J’s Hack on Tuesday:

“The reality is, we [the Instagrammers] are no different in the digital world to that in a magazine, newspaper, a radio ad or a TV ad.

“This is a professional business for a lot of people”.

But perhaps by trying to figure out whether or not this is a stunt, we are missing the point. Social media has become such an omnipresent part of our lives, almost everyone with access to the internet has an account of some sort. So rather than trying to take the moral high ground when commenting on O’Neill’s decision, let’s collectively realise people are entitled to use social media as they please, just like we are allowed to socialise however we please.