Essenna O’Neil – Quitting Social Media – Response

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Hello lovelies,

I thought I might write a post on the recent video published by ‘instafamous’ vegan model Essenna O’Neil. If you haven’t seen the videos then I shall link them. The first one describes her dismissal of how people make money on social media and you can find it here. The second video of the emotional description of her experience of social media in general and why she wishes to ‘quit’ is here.

If you don’t have time to watch the video, the basic points Essenna makes are:

  • social media is bad
  • social media is a business used to make money and this is bad
  • people are unaware of advertisements
  • social media promotes unhealthy body image
  • social media caused her to become obsessed with figures, numbers, money
  • comparing her beauty to others made her unhappy
  • her pictures were posed for and dishonest

This video appears to be going viral and I am already anticipating that eventually the public eye will see it and use it to state that social media is terrible and our generation is brainwashed and we are all living in a 2D pixel world and completely not living our lives to their full potential.

I have a few things I have to say in response to the video and comments made by Essenna O’Neil and, as is no surprise, I am defending social media, media platforms, publicity, advertisement and making money on the internet. (Call me bias).

Firstly, as a personal note to O’Neil, it must really really suck that she has had such a negative experience of social media. It’s upsetting that it encouraged her to desire unattainable body images and it’s embarrassing that she went on to promote the same unhealthy body image. It’s unfortunate that her relationships with advertising  and companies who paid her were bad enough that she felt the need to shame them. The points she makes about loving yourself without obsessing over how you could become more beautiful in order to gain more likes on an online photo are entirely correct and well intended but the main issue that she discusses, and in fact, what she blames absolutely everything on, is social media. And that is about where I stop agreeing.

The problems that Essenna had regarding body image are personal and, if anything, down to her modelling career as, of course, we all know, it is an unhealthy institution that does encourage people to make themselves sick in order to be the best and stay ahead of the game; those who starve are seen as committed and rewarded with brand deals and, whilst it is terrible, that has nothing to do with social media platforms, which are what she blames it on.

Her distress at the fact that she wasted a lot of time over her media platforms and statistics are, again, personal. She speaks for herself as an individual and, frankly, it’s sad that she did spend so much time on social media but most people don’t spend that much time on social media. It is a personal choice. Nobody forced her to waste eight hours a day scrolling through instagram comments. I don’t know anyone who is so obsessed with their online personality that they don’t leave the house so when Essenna starts to preach at her audience: ‘Go outside!’, ‘Talk to a real person in real life!’ and ‘Ride a bus!’, I really don’t think people need to be reminded. Social media is just a mindless hobby or a way of connecting with people or a career that people can switch off from, it doesn’t make anyone less likely to go outside for a walk or go to work or go see their friends or live a real life; it does not handicap reality unless you choose to obsess over it.

The final point that I want to address is in regards to advertisement and making money off of social media platforms. Whilst she portrayed it in a negative light, it seemed as though this was because she thought of it as dishonest and deceitful. She stated that it was wrong to post a photo to Instagram in a dress you didn’t buy or promoting a product; she calls herself and others out as fake for doing so and I want to argue the opposite. Legally, you now have to make perfectly explicit that you are advertising something with a hashtag. If you actually tag the product then people know that what you are talking about/wearing is something that you have been paid to mention. This lets people decide for themselves whether or not you are being honest in what you say about a product and/or company, or whether you are motivated by money and don’t believe in the promotion itself.

This, like many things, is simply a matter of trust. Ask yourself: do you trust what this person is saying? Are they trustworthy? Do they have a personal interest in what they are promoting? Do you think they filter their offers and brand deals in order to promote only what they believe in to maintain genuine truth with their audience or are they likely to be swayed with financial promise?

Yes, it is true that people who make money online are their own ‘brand’ but that doesn’t make them fake or dishonest or deceitful. So long as they are real and honest and don’t pretend to be something that they’re not, you need not fear them. Maybe it is a hobby, maybe it is a job but finding a career in social media isn’t a negative thing and I shall be disappointed if the public eye sees it as such. A few years ago we had a job crisis and young people were increasingly unemployed and lacked opportunities. We should move with the times, accept that technology is here to stay and praise those who are inventive and resourceful enough to create a career out of it; these people are making job opportunities for themselves, they are grabbing the bull by the horns and getting what they want from life, making their own job where there isn’t one for them in real life.

Isn’t that amazing?

To say that this is negative simply because it is online is naive. I am a sales adviser. I am paid by a HUGE company. I make money through commission. This is my ‘in real life’ job. I fit bras and then I tell people how much I would recommend this bra or that bra for a hundred other reasons. If someone doesn’t buy a bra, then my code doesn’t get scanned and my figures look bad. So, regardless of my personal opinions on a product, I will push them. Tell me, what is the difference between someone accepting paid advertisement on their instagram and someone promoting a product in real life as a sales adviser?

Nothing. There is no difference. Why? Because, in both circumstances, you are saying something because you have been paid to say it. People do it in business and normal jobs in real life all of the time. It is no different just because it is online, in fact, it is less deceitful because you have made it explicit that you were sponsored. It is more deceitful in real life, where you don’t follow up a recommendation with, ‘then again, I am paid to say this’.

Social media need not be feared. It is good or bad depending upon how you use it.

I will never promote something that I don’t believe in.

I will never not tell you I have been sponsored.

I will never pretend to be something I am not for fear of misleading you. People are not perfect and this blog has always celebrated that.

Do not blame social media for one person’s bad experiences and unhealthy obsessions. So long as you find the balance between life and social media, and once you acknowledge that this is a career, a job, a means of making money for some people but that doesn’t make them any different from someone making money in the real world, you might find yourself appreciating social media even more. There are so many opportunities within it. Yes, like anything, it is a business, but you get to choose the ‘brands’ you follow. And I hope ‘Hannah’s Happy’ will still be one of them.

Have your own opinion,

Hannah x




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