Thursday, 5 November 2015

A Few Thoughts On Essena O'Neill & Social Media

I'm not usually someone who gets involved with internet drama or whatever but I felt like the Essena O'Neill debacle really called out to me. Although I don't agree with everything she's said/done, I feel like I understand where she's coming from in some ways but not so much in others...

If you don't know what I'm talking about then this article should clear things up for you. In a nutshell, Essena O'Neill was a popular Australian 'Instagrammer' with about half a million followers aswell as about 200k subscribers on Youtube. Last week, she decided to 'quit' social media. She deleted thousands of videos and photos and edited all the captions on her remaining Instagram photos to show what she was really thinking/doing when the photo was taken. She also posted a video listing the reasons why she was quitting social media - mainly blaming the fact she had just got completely caught up in the '2D world' of social media and wasn't properly living in the real world.

Obviously, this caused a bit of a shit storm on the old internet. Mainly because of the irony of the whole thing ie. using social media to announce you are quitting social media. And claiming you don't want to be paid for posts on social media, but then asking viewers to 'support' you if they like your new website. It comes across a bit hypocritical, some would argue.  

HOWEVER, I still feel like there is a lot we can take from the whole thing and here's just a few thoughts I have on Essena's messages and ideas and just social media, in general...

- You don't have be consumed by it
If blogging/instagramming/youtubing is your job then I guess this is easier said than done. If social media actually paid your bills, like it did for Essena, then it would be a harder to just switch off from it. But, when it doesn't, there's no reason at all for it to consume you. For you to be tricked into thinking that these perfect lives you see on the internet are actually anywhere near perfect in real life. Take it with a pinch of salt. Accept the fact that it is very easy to just put your phone down, close your tab and move on with your actual real life.

- Social media is powerful and I can't see that changing
If social media didn't exist, my last job role wouldn't have existed. I managed social media accounts (amongst other things) for a company and I know a lot of other people with similar roles. If companies are willing to hire people (and pay them!) to run their Twitter/Instagram/Facebook accounts, then clearly there's a reason for it. Because social media is powerful. It's instant. It's current. It's a way to communicate with your audience and to promote yourself or your company without having to use any fancy marketing techniques. I can't see that changing anytime soon. Social media genuinely does have the ability to make or break someone/something and that's a pretty crazy thought!

- But not everyone is aware of it's power
There are still those people out there who will have a Snapchat story of their entire night out then call into work 'sick' the next morning and wonder how their boss knows they're actually hungover. And there's still those people who will make racist/sexist remarks and end up having to delete their entire profile when they it goes viral and they receive an angry backlash. Not everyone is aware of the fact that one tweet can go viral or that one Instagram photo could be worth thousands of pounds. 

- Everything isn't always as it seems
It's easy to go on someone's instagram and believe their life is as perfect as their pictures make it seem. Maybe it is. But it's likely it isn't. As Kylie Jenner once tweeted: "I only show you what I want you to see." And it's true. We choose what to upload, at the end of the day. We have a vague idea of the message it will send out and the way it will portray us to our followers each time we upload an image or write a status. I think the main thing we can take from Essena O'Neill is that everything isn't always as it seems on social media, however, moving on to my next point...

- Social media isn't all fake
Essena renamed her Instagram profile 'social media is not real' and, obviously, it isn't. But I don't think it's as contrived as she suggests (for everyone, anyway). I mean, yes, some people do spend hours making their insta grid look picture perfect but not everyone does. Some people do genuinely just use it to update their friends and family with their lives and will upload the first picture they take. Not everyone is obsessed with flatlays and filters.

I could write reams and reams about my thoughts on social media/blogging/the internet. But I'll leave it at that. 

What are your thoughts on Essena O'Neill 'quitting' social media and the messages she put across?

B x

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