Essena makes a ton of great points in her YouTube video, which I may or may not have listened to while driving home stuck in Houston traffic. Being brought up in a society where social media influence is so heavy, young girls are bombarded with images of beautiful women, expensive products, tropical locations, healthy foods, you name it. The pressure to be "perfect" weighs over their heads, and at times, unfortunately, I don't think they know any better.
I applaud Essena for sharing her message, and she's only 19 years old. To work with handfuls of companies, receive various paychecks, and combat the pressure to be a perfect mold, I'd say she's doing a damn good job of trying to keep it real and remain down-to-earth.
When your childhood involves too much technology, you're immediately removed from reality. Essena's spot on with that. What's the point in having thousands of followers and likes if you aren't enjoying life? Life isn't always about staging the perfect photo, having flawless makeup, and styling a trendy outfit. Life's messy. Life's not easy. Life is in the moment, in the now, and part of the beauty in that is not being able to stage our thoughts. We put entirely too much emphasis on our "online personality" as I like to call it: who we are on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, through text messaging. None of that is truly us, live, and in the moment.
I couldn't agree more with her mention of getting out and talking to a stranger, walking your dog and striking up a conversation with your neighbor. I can't tell you how many times I'm in an elevator and I go to smile at the others, but everyone is looking down at their phones. It's a f*cked up society we live in right now, but it is what it is. We make the choice on whether or not we want to base our self-image on a number, or if we want to base it on our own moral code, actions, and experiences.
Update: It looks like Essena officially deleted her video but it has since been reposted to various other YouTube accounts (this is not her account, but this is her video):
Essena discusses the "fakeness" of social media and the images we see online, and she's right about this being a business. You're fooling yourself if you don't think there is some serious cash behind many of the Instagram photos you see. Believe me, I work in the industry. However...it's the influencer's job as an individual to follow their own values and know when to say no to a company. I see how things could get out of hand when sponsorship opportunities are being thrown at you left and right, but it's your own job to know what you feel good about promoting and what might just not be a good fit for your lifestyle.
My only issue with the points Essena brings up: Social media may not be real life, but it also doesn't have to be fake. So many young women have the mentality that their peers, role models, Instagram-obsessions, etc. live a perfect life. All of these unhealthy habits and thoughts start with comparing themselves to others. And not only comparing themselves to another woman, but comparing their life to a digital page that is 100% manipulated. If we can get this message across and really start seeing how unhealthy this is, I think we'll all be better off.
I see nothing wrong with taking a picture of yourself wearing makeup because you feel good that day. I don't view that as fake - I view that as normal confidence. I see nothing wrong with taking a picture because you've worked your butt off and feel amazing in your skin. Or, if you don't work your butt off and you feel amazing in your skin, that's beautiful too. Take that picture.
I'm all for empowering women and for showing that social media isn't everything -- It ain't. I do think that young women become too wrapped up in what's happening on their phone, in others' lives, and that we can all live in a false sense of reality when we're too engaged. But I also think that social media is fantastic, and that if used appropriately, we can all benefit from it.
I think the big message here, especially to teenagers, is that social media means absolutely nothing if you are not out there making the most out of your life. Social media is meant to share the life you're living, and it gives us the ability to be able to look back at great moments we want to remember. The likes, followers, and dollars will never be able to fill a bigger void.
I just don't think social media needs to be this dramatic. If we could all see it at face value, use it healthily, and enjoy every other aspect of life, we'd avoid the majority of these issues.
So props to you, Essena O'Neill, for showing how important life outside of the social media world is. Let's look up from our phone, away from the screen, and enjoy the bigger things in the real world.