Essena O'Neill, a 19-year-old "Instagram celebrity" from Australia, quit social media this week. In an attempt to make a change, she created a website, "Let's Be Game Changers," and edited captions on her existing photos to "REAL captions" showcasing what actually went down when she took each picture and why the posts shouldn't be inspirational to other girls.
In other words, Essena O'Neill is a badass bitch.
I started my blog as a personal outlet to talk about myself and my interests. Now, four years later, I am by no means an "Internet celebrity." However, the goal of becoming an Internet celebrity has certainly taken ahold of my website and my writing and my life. I write not for myself, but for you. I write more often about what I think you want to hear, and not what I'm actually thinking. I write about topics deemed trending by social media networks, and not always topics that I find interesting.
I care more about how many likes my posts get than I do about how many compliments I receive in real life. Recently, I've had more than one person say to me, "I loved your last article!", and my response hasn't been "thank you"... It's been, "Can you like it on Facebook?"
Over the past year, my happiness has become a result of page views and post likes -- and when the page views and post likes aren't there, I go into a state of depression.
A couple months ago, I had posts receiving upwards of a million views (and sometimes more). I was on such a high, and I upped my expectations of every post I put out there because of it. Unfortunately, the page views soon started declining, and as they did, my mood did, too. Because I was too busy to dedicate my entire life to the cause that is reaching Internet-celebrity status, I stopped socializing just to work on getting my social media recognition back to where it had been. Nothing was working, though.
I felt like one of those celebrities who had her five minutes of fame, and now the time was up. A couple good songs or a couple good movies, and she just can't seem to get another hit. That must suck. That must really suck.
I wasn't a celebrity, though. I wasn't a movie star. Or a singer. I was an average 20-something girl working full-time and running a blog in her spare time. So why was I letting something I did for fun on the side control so much of my life?
I had to stop.
And I'm still trying to stop.
Seeing Essena's mission to make a change on social media has inspired me even more to stop. I need to stop writing about what I think people want to read, and I need to write what I would want to read. I need to stop caring so much about page views. I need to stop letting the number of likes I get on a post define me. I just need to do what I love, and most importantly -- I need to be happy.
Being average is fine. Being average is relatable. Being relatable is real. And people like real, or at least they used to.
This is why I stand with Essena. Not for the same exact reasons, but for more reasons. There is more to the problem with social media than just what Essena is speaking out about. Let's stop letting the Internet dictate what we like, what we talk about, and how we feel. Let's find ourselves again and get our own interests back. It will be better for our personalities -- and maybe even for my writing. Who knows.