The Illusion of Social Media: A Toll on Self-Esteem


Essena O'Neill

Ronny Pena, Staff Writer

Essena O’Neill is an Australian social media star. She has over 600,000 followers on Instagram, 200,000 on YouTube and 25,000 on Snapchat. In a generation of social-media, follower-obsessed teenagers, O’Neill is the envy of many. Images of O’Neill in bikinis, in exotic locales, parlay an enviable glamor. However, it all turned out to be a “contrived perfection made to get attention.” An illusion…

O’Neill, now 19, has had a revelation. Beneath the surface of her seemingly perfect life, she was unhappy. Unfulfilled. Every action staged. While her hundreds of thousands of followers experienced vicarious delight through her edited, filtered photographs, O’Neill herself was not satisfied. She deleted countless pictures and videos off of her social media accounts and changed the captions, hoping to relay the message that it was simply all an act. According to O’Neill, “Social media is an illusion.”

O’Neill’s story has sparked conversation about social media. What are the consequences of social media on this generation of teenagers? It is very much who you follow, not your social media presence itself that is the source of the problem. Social media is very much all about exposing the best aspects of your life to your followers. This creates a constant need to compete with others, which takes a toll on your self-esteem. Social media can create a feeling of unworthiness that it often cannot repair. O’Neill has exposed the world to a very real generational problem. A seemingly charmed life could very well not be what it seems.