Essena O’Neill and the Curated Life

Jeny / Pixabay

I’ve written before about the need some people feel to obsessively over-edit every picture ever taken of them, but I came across an interesting story this morning and wanted to share.  We are all aware of the “curating” of Instagram feeds and other social media.  People want to make their lives look perfect.  Health and fitness bloggers want to make their bodies look perfect.  We see stories of a person who finds an old friend on Facebook and is immediately jealous of their life, only to discover that the life curated online isn’t their true life at all.

Of course, I’m not against putting your best foot forward.  There are definitely some photos of me that I would prefer to keep off of social media.  (I’m sure everyone has a bad camera angle.)  And I’m not against using photo editing software in general, just the over obsession with it.  Remove that annoying pimple, fine, but don’t reshape your whole face.

A popular social media personality from Australia named Essena O’Neill just quit social media and she did it in the most awesome way.

Buzzfeed does a great job of summing up her story.  She made social media her career, and made a living from it.  But she was spending hours upon hours curating and planning and working to get the perfect look and the perfect picture.

And now she has quit.  She has quit social media and in doing so, is making a point to say how miserable she truly was.  Her accounts made her look so happy with a fabulous life.  But she was miserable.

She talks in the video to her 12-year-old self, the sad girl who wanted to be pretty and popular and who obsessively stalked celebrities and models online and decided she also needed to be popular, because that’s how she thought she would be valuable.

In the video, she says “You don’t have to prove your life on Instagram for it to be a good life.” She’s not against social media, but the way we currently use it, and I absolutely agree.  We’re so surrounded by the curated life.  People are so obsessed with making their lives look amazing on social media.  I’m sure I’m guilty of this at times too.  (Though my Instagram is still 90% cats.)

We all know “that person” online that seems to have the perfect life, but we don’t think about how long they must spend making that life look perfect.  And that’s an incredibly sad state.  We shouldn’t have to be fake.

And we should remember that much of what we see IS fake.  We shouldn’t look at other people and compare our lives to theirs because what they’re presenting might not be real.  And even if it is real, it’s certainly never the whole picture.  Clearly we all try to put our best foot forward in public, and I’m not saying we shouldn’t. We should just remember that there’s more to the story.

Essena has created a website, Let’s Be Game Changers, designed to encourage people to live authentically, not for the online life.  I really hope young people take a look at this and try to find some balance between their online life and their real world life.  And maybe we old people should do the same.  It doesn’t mean you can’t share your life online, but share your life, don’t create a life for the screen.




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