Essena O'Neill made headlines when she quit social media in 2015. Now, she wants it all back.

It was the self-shame of Insta fame that captured the world’s attention.

In 2015, Essena O’Neill, a then 19-year-old influencer from Queensland, famously reprimanded the artificial reality of her own ‘influencing’ and quit social media.

O’Neill had amassed a loyal following of 800,000 before she changed her username to “Social Media Is Not Real Life” and made a 17-minute-long YouTube video where she tearfully admitted she had formed an unhealthy addiction to her own Instagram likes.

It made worldwide news. Even The New York Times wrote about the Australian teenager who resigned from social media.

Watch: In 2015, Essena O’Neill posted a video explaining why she was quitting social media. Post continues after video. 

Video by Youtube

It has been four years now since the saga, so… where is Essena O’Neill now?

The former influencer has resurfaced online this week, speaking to YouTuber Tiffany Ferguson in a 30-minute interview uploaded on Friday.

In an unexpected revelation, O’Neill says she has returned to Instagram and wants the followers back.

“I think as much as I can critique myself, there was something so special about what I had online and I just want it again,” she said.

“You don’t know what it’s like to have people who actually listen to you, who actually want to read every word you write, who actually take the time to say, ‘Wow, I loved your opinion.'”

Essena O'Neill now
The 19-year-old influencer from Queensland famously reprimanded the artificial reality of her own 'influencing'. Image: Instagram.

When asked what she misses most after quitting the influencing world, O'Neill responds: "The insane pleasure of earning money like that.


"Working minimum wage and then getting paid to promote a cute vegan product, it's different. It's a different life. It's a different whole f***ing world."

As for her views on social media, O'Neill insists that the internet isn't all bad. She has set up her own Instagram account once again, and says she is excited to return. She stresses she wants to move away from "this individualistic mindset which our culture, I think, breeds".

On Friday, O'Neill, who at the time of publication has just over 2,000 followers, posted her first picture to Instagram in four years, with a caption that began: "So coming back online... I'm terrified!"


View this post on Instagram


So coming back online... I'm terrified! ???????????? Okay so I've been an avid fan of @tferg__ Internet Analysis since it began, and ahhh her perspective and world view really resonates! When I first messaged her on Twitter about a week ago I was so fucking nervous... but talking with her on Skype about just everything was honestly too good to write about... it's so strange admiring someone from afar to then connecting on that personal level... almost too good to be true... eternally grateful... if you like my thoughts, you'll fall in love with her content. Tiffany's integrity and analysis/scope inspires me... but her friendship is something I've wanted for a long time ???? My fave vids of hers: Dark Side of Family Vlogging, The Workload Of College Is Overwhelming and of course The Worst Things about "No Longer Vegan" videos ????????????

A post shared by Essena (@essenaoneillwtf) on

O'Neill also now has a website, Authority Within, where she posts things that are of interest to her.

As for what her life looks like in 2019, O'Neill admits: "Four years - a lot can change. I've been studying, I've been working many shitty jobs and I've been struggling. It hasn't been great."

In another part of the interview, the now 23-year-old shares, "I've been very isolated and I've smoked a lot of weed and I've read a lot of books."

She also explains that she is now onto her third attempt at a university degree, after first studying psychology and then english literature and political science.

She said personal reasons have prevented her from finishing her degrees, saying at one point: "I've been trying to do things for four years, and failing." She's now studying a degree called Integrative Psychotherapy at a private university.

Clearly for Essena O'Neill, she is now trying to navigate the digital world that once caused her to have an "emotional outburst", and figure out how carve out her own corner of the internet without letting it impact her mental health to the same extent it once did.

You can watch Tiffany Ferguson's full interview with Essena O'Neill here