Yesterday, an 19-year old girl who is young, attractive and popular on Instagram, Snapchat and all the usual suspects "quit" her job as a social media personality after fearing she was drowning in the fraudulent life she had created for herself online.
Essena O'Neill recorded a heartfelt video on why she was leaving behind her Youtube films and edited images when she realized how unhappy and miserable she was; acknowledging that the lifestyle she had meticulously fashioned to share with others online was not real.
"I quit social media for my 12 year-old self"
she states with genuine sadness,
"Everything I was doing was edited and contrived. Everything I did was for views, for likes, for followers".
She continues by saying,
"I let numbers define me at 12 and that stopped me from becoming the person I am and that should be...I've been living in a screen."
I find her honesty refreshing, brave and also a real temperature gauge of the mentality of today's generation of young Millennials and Gen Y who spend their time chasing Facebook and Instagram likes; creating a storyline for a life they want people to believe they lead through filtered pictures and upbeat videos.
I applaud Ms. O'Neill's zest for telling others that it's OK to be happy in your own skin and to enjoy the life you have. The pursuit of accolades from strangers should not be a measurement for a successful life. Browsing pictures that have been carefully constructed to look as glamorous as possible and yet appearing as part of a typical day for a person you don't know is not a reflection of your self-worth by comparison.
There is a clear and present danger that millions of children and teenagers are chasing views and likes to fuel their self-esteem. Online personas are the new status symbols - your job, your friends, the events you go to, the places you visit, even the food you eat has to continuously raise the ante. A recent study showed that teenagers with high emotional investment in their Facebook and Twitter profiles suffer from low self-esteem, anxiety and depression. A startling revelation to say the least.
Thankfully, the social media community has started to recognize the issue that is building among the ranks. Socality Barbie gleefully satires pretentious images, Samantha Ravndahl, a very talented make-up artist with 1.9 million followers recently shared a make-up free Selfie with un-styled hair and exposing a little acne - the caption read "Because it's easy to get caught up thinking everyone but you is flawless 24/7." Satiregram also pokes fun at Instagram clichés and includes written descriptions of pictures we see often on the site but also the funny reasons why people really post them.
Add to the mix Oscar-winner Kate Winslet who recently spoke out about the harm social media is causing among young people. In an interview with The Sunday Times, the mother-of-three discussed the pressures young women feel when they are immersed in an online universe, stating that it was a "huge problem" and
"....all they ever do is design themselves for people to like them. And what comes along with that? Eating disorders. And that makes my blood boil. And is the reason we don't have any social media in our house."
Although we may relish the opportunity to open a window into our lives for others, it should be genuine and authentic to who you really are. Why? Because YOU are, and will always be, enough.
To echo Essena's sentiments, happiness starts from within and should be uplifted by the family and friends you choose to surround yourself who are real; the people you can touch and talk to face-to-face.
A thumbs up icon will never do justice for the accomplishments you make in life, no matter how big or small. Popularity is fleeting but great self-esteem lasts forever.