The video every teen using social media needs to see. Now.

Door shut. Again. You open quickly. What are you doing? Nothing much just checking Instagram.

In kitchen. Swirl of pre-dinner chopping and banging. Teen in corner swiping through phone. In and out of conversation. Trying to be in, but really out. What are you doing? Nothing. it’s just a funny video on Facebook.

In the car. The beep or the scroll. What about just looking out the window? Mum, I do that all the time.

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There’s no doubt that social media can pull teens (and adults) into another virtual world even when they are standing right next to you. The quick glances, quicker fingers and empty answers become part of everyday life. You keep saying as they flick and scroll through: you know none of that is real? It’s contrived. No-one’s life is like that. They say: Yeah, I know that.

Lots to see in this alternate universe Image: iStock.

Even if it has been explained and debated at dinner tables and on car trips a thousand times, the desire for a piece of the world like they see on those glowing screens must exist somewhere. All those perfect lives, and perfect bodies, and perfect wardrobes and perfect everythings. I mean, why else look? Why else follow? Why else 'Like'?

Then there is the posting itself. Your teen digests a stream of contrived images and then it's their turn. 100 pictures of them artfully tying a shoelace to get one worthy pic to post. No wonder when you steal a glance of yourself unposed, unfiltered in the mirror you are disappointed.

Essena O'Neill, 18 (19 tomorrow), from Queensland had over 574,000 Instagram followers and more than 250,000 subscribers on YouTube and has decided to give up her life as a social media 'identity'.

Essena O'Neill. Image: Instagram.

O'Neill said she was "addicted to social approval and social status" and that the images she posted were completely contrived (and often paid for by sponsors) and that they robbed her of living a normal life for most of her teenage years.


Her days were spent "fabricating the illusion" that she was a happy, beautiful, carefree blonde instead of being happy, beautiful and carefree. She would spend 50 hours a week creating social content or checking her social channels for likes and the number of followers she had amassed and that this "self absorption" saw her miss out on the real world, real relationships and working out who she really was. Her work in social media left her feeling "empty and unfulfilled".

O'Neill used social media to announce she couldn't do this anymore. The video she posts outlining her reasons for leaving this new world is distressing, honest and thought provoking. When you put so much out, when you spend all your time making sure your perfect life fits perfectly inside this small screen, how do you grow outside of it?

Video via Essena O'Neill

O'Neill has now updated the captions on her Instagram to reflect the reality, and what she really felt at the time of taking the shots.

Giving yourself over to social media in those moments in the back of a car, or waiting at the dentist, or while people are trying to have a conversation with you isn't just doing nothing, flicking through some pics. Something goes on when you pretend to be something you are not and you hunger for a life you have no hope of ever obtaining. Something gets taken away.

That something has happened to Essena O'Neill and her reaction to the emptiness that she has been left with is probably the first real thing she has posted in years.

Click through the gallery below for O'Neill's updated captions. 

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