Essena O’Neill. When you hear this name now what bell does it ring? I hate that I linked a wikipedia page to her name but honestly, the girl we all thought we knew, has vanished. Essena, in late 2015 ‘quit’ social media due to the persona she created overwhelming her, leaving her feeling isolated and alone. She created an online presence that portrayed her to be always effortlessly happy and healthy not to mention flawlessly beautiful. Essentially, Essena was seen by her audiences to be the ‘perfect’ girl with the ‘perfect’ life that everyone thought was just ‘goals’. This all came unstuck when she decided it just was not her anymore, and so a new persona arose…
Essena showcases the downside of creating an online persona, one that is so far from the truth it was exhausting to keep up. In her series of photos (which are posted below) she highlights that in order to fit into her own fictional ideals she would often not eat and describes her use of social media to be an “addiction”. O’Neill openly admits “I now wish I wasn’t wearing such a mask”. She used social media platforms, especially Instagram completely to her advantage with clever use of paid promotions, editing, hashtags, demonstrating values her followers aspired to etc. Then, she tore her own persona to shreds…. Makes me wonder, was she really just building a new online face?
Creating an online persona can be a dangerous game, however I believe we all do it to a certain degree. For instance, I know I would never post an unflattering image of myself online or hashtag anything that might paint me as a less than perfect person. With the exception of an experimental Instagram I share with some friends called “theflippedside” where we aim to post snapshots of our real lives. Let’s take a moment to contrast the two.
Obviously the pictures of me between these two accounts vary greatly! The persona I project on my own Instagram is that of a very happy young woman with great friends and family; a social being. The other account is reality, I am not ashamed to admit I have blemishes, I dropped a smoothie on my foot or that most days I stay in my pyjamas. That certainly doesn’t mean I want to post it online though! ‘The flipped side’ highlights that whether we realise we are doing it or not, everyone has an online persona that emphasises the good and omits the average and hides the bad.