These five teens can thank the model who left Instagram for lessons on the dark side of social media


For a 19-year-old model with more than half a million Instagram followers, swearing off social media might sound like a bad career move. But that is exactly what Australian social media star Essena O’Neill did on Oct. 31, claiming it created a "brainwashed generation" and false impressions of body image. And as a result, for a brief moment, she may be even more famous.

That choice feels personal to some teens thousands of miles away. High School Insider asked local students to write about their reactions. Here is what five Southern California teenage girls had to say about O’Neill, as well as their own relationships with social media and body image.

Social media dream lives are stupid, but we do it anyway

Simone Chu, Arcadia High School

We’re Generation Z. We’re the digital natives, the tech junkies, the selfie-takers — or whatever else the marketing industry has branded us. Some of us remember the days of DSL modems and tape cassettes, and others were born into the age of touch screens and LTE. But the one thing that we all have in common is that we all consume, consume, consume. We are all connected to each other through our screens, and we are almost constantly actively on those connections, as much as we try to steer clear of them.

Social media is ubiquitous, and so very addicting, when entertainment and social validation are just a few taps away. And because it’s through a screen, we can build new personalities on social networking sites, as O’Neill said. We can put on new personas, pretend to be living the dream life — and, as she said, it’s stupid.

We all know this, the same way that smokers know that they’re blackening the insides of their lungs with tar. We know that people aren’t always who they pretend to be online. We know that we need to get away from the world of Photoshopped perfection and affectations and everything else. But social media and technology are so deeply entwined in the fabric of our everyday lives that there’s not much to be done about it now.

Social media is ubiquitous, and so very addicting, when entertainment and social validation are just a few taps away.

False revolutionaries in the online world

Isabella Balandran, Mater Dei High School

The Internet is the future and when used correctly, it can truly build careers, foster people’s happiness when sharing things they love, and allow us to connect with others on the other side of the world.

Yes, O’Neill is right when she says that young girls should know her photos weren’t candid. They were posed and Photoshopped, but so is just about everything else in the media.

O’Neill claimed to be at this “pinnacle of success” but what we can all learn from this is that fame and success do not equate to happiness.

A generation caught up in a false reality

Hannah Schoenbaum, Corona del Mar High School

Social media is the force that fuels the superficial desire to fashion one’s “perfect image.” It has created a generation of people so obsessed with the way others perceive them that they cast their eccentricities aside and become what they believe to be society’s vision of perfection.

Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and other forms of social media absorb the population into an Internet-controlled society, dictated by the desire to be pretty and popular. These apps create a false reality, encompassing nearly everyone with a smart phone.

Social media and insecurity

Naomi Kruh, Mira Costa High School

I will be honest, sometimes when I post a picture on Instagram I get this feeling and then start to question if I should have posted that picture or not. I am also not very active on my personal Twitter because I feel like I am being judged every single time I tweet something.

There is something about social media that I think makes people feel more insecure about themselves than they should be, and that’s why I believe social media can be detrimental for some people.

I do not care whether or not I have the most followers out of the people from school or that I do not get as many likes on my pictures as other people because it means nothing. Everything is virtual. Oh, you got another like on your picture? Cool, how does that extra tap on a screen make you feel?

There is something about social media that I think makes people feel more insecure about themselves than they should be....

Living social media free

Kristine Kuhn, St. Lucy’s Priory High School

Earlier this year, I took a social media break myself. As an avid user of Twitter, Instagram, Vine, Tumblr, Snapchat and Facebook, I was used to the panic of a procrastinator’s regret. I stayed up late many nights because of homework I failed to complete earlier in the day.

I also was very insecure with the number of followers I had on my accounts and likes I would get on my posts. I only posted things based on what I thought others would like.

During my month of being “social media free,” I felt the freedom O’Neill described in the first video of her blog. I was filled with a burning passion to do something beneficial and not waste my time. I flew through projects that would have normally taken me days to complete. I went out more with friends, focusing on having a good time instead of trying to take the right photo for Snapchat or Instagram. I interacted more with my family because I spent less time locked inside of my room doing my homework. I also discovered the career path I want to take. Knowing what I want to do in my future is probably one of the best feelings I have ever felt in my life.