From the outside, teenager Essena O'Neill looked like she had it all. Nearly 700,000 instagram followers, a quarter of a million YouTube subscribers, offers to model in LA and sponsorship opportunities.
At first, the Australian thought she had the dream life. But recently, she realised she was "addicted to what others thought of me" and felt "lost, lonely and miserable".
"I believed how many likes and followers I had correlated to how many people liked me," she explained on her new blog, 'Let's Be Game Changers'. "I didn’t even see it happening, but social media had become my sole identity. I didn’t even know what I was without it.
So, last week, the 19-year-old announced she'd be quitting social media, deleted more than 2,000 of her Instagram images which she said "served no real purpose other than self promotion" and edited the captions to tell the truth behind her "perfect photos".
O'Neill revealed even as a 15-year-old she restricted her calories and excessively exercised.
"[Those are] not goals."
The teenager is now exposing what was behind her "candid" Instagram shots - "stomach sucked in, strategic pose, pushed up boobs" - to show young people how fake social media is.
"I just want younger girls to know this isn't candid life, or cool or inspirational. It's contrived perfection made to get attention."
Writing on her new blog, O'Neill adds: "I had all the attention I had ever dreamed of and more. And… I had never been more miserable in my life.
"I was a living paradox of conditional self-love and constant self-hate. What do I mean by conditional self-love? I liked myself based on how tight and toned my body was, how pretty my hair and makeup was, how hot the guy I was talking to was, how happy I looked in photos, how many people liked my photos… my whole idea of self worth revolved around my appearance and my social media status. Basically, my self worth relied on social approval."
O'Neill, we salute you.Suggest a correction