When I read about Essena’s decision to quit social media, initially, I sighed with relief.
Truth be told, it was the first time I’d heard of the young woman but when I read that she was openly acknowledging that ‘social media isn’t real’, I exhaled. For many reasons. Mostly because I learned that this 19-year old has more than 700,000 loyal followers across Instagram, SnapChat & Youtube, whom were now being told that the façade of perfection promoted on social media is exactly that. A façade.
But, the more I’ve read, the less relieved I feel. As the hours tick by, as Essena’s situation becomes increasingly ugly, worry has taken the place of my initial relief.
She is asking her followers for money, saying she can’t afford her real life. Two of her former friends have made a video of their own – already a viral sensation – describing her decision to quit social media as a hoax. Essena is still posting on various platforms and I am crying on the inside.
At the risk of sounding like an overbearing parent and a patronising elder rolled into one, I want to take Essena aside and suggest she walk away from the internet for a while.
A couple of months ago, not for the first time, I found myself the target of some pretty ugly online abuse. It came on quite quickly and for reasons I can’t properly explain, on that day, these messages brought me to tears. Proper tears. Tears so full and so relentless that I dove into a taxi rather than getting on my bus. I was not fit for public consumption.