On Tuesday, much of the internet caught up with the cruasade of Essena O’Neill, the 18-year-old Australian Instagram model who affixed sadly realistic captions upon her “inspirational” photos. Essena currently boasts 870,000 Instagram followers (up from 750,000 only 24 hours prior) and about 300,000 YouTube subscribers. Essena voiced her motivations of wanting to seek a simpler, more realistic life and inspire young people to see the reality behind heavily-posed, unreal photos.
Essena’s new way of anti-social media living points toward her website, LetsBeGameChangers.com, where she has posted a series of teary videos. She posted two clips on Tuesday. The earlier video is a 17-minute missive where she details her need for a simpler existence to erase the internet BS and help motivate young women. In the video, she does make a request for donations: “I’m not a purist. I need money to cover the basics. If you get something from what I’m doing, pay what it’s worth to you.”
There’s no word yet on whether Essena’s fundraising will be successful, but on Tuesday afternoon, she posted another teary video — this time full of gratefulness. Essena says she knows people think she’s “an attention seeker,” but she’s happy because media outlets picked up on her story. Essena reveals a full email box from supporters and notes an invitation to appear on Good Morning America. She published this statement along with a video of thanks:
“Never did I think this would be shared so globally. I have so much I want to say and talk about. Thank you to all these media outlets for helping start this discussion. I am so so so grateful. I’m crying because I needed to hear this when I was younger, heck anyone who spends hours and hours on a screen wishing they could have a ‘perfect’ life, this is for you. There is nothing cool about spending all your time taking edited pictures of yourself to prove to the world ‘you are enough’. Don’t let numbers define you. Don’t let anyone tell you you’re not enough without excessive makeup, latest trends, 100+ likes on a photo, ‘a bikini body’, thigh gap, long blonde hair.”
Perhaps Essena’s story will resonate with the younger generation, who remains vulnerable not only to peer pressure but also the unrealistic filters of Instagram.