Dear Essena O’Neill- I am not a Liar
By now, you probably have heard all about Essena O’Neil (a popular social media maven) and her meltdown over social media (specifically Instagram) being fake and a lie. If not, you can read about it here.
Before I get into why this whole thing has bothered me, I do want to say that I get it: Social media can be addicting and teenagers are the most susceptible to that addiction. I do think that the movement to teach them that it isn’t all about likes and engagement is important, but I also think there isn’t anything wrong with someone wanting to feel good about themselves. There have been some strong points made during this debate, but I think there has been some harm that has come from it as well.
Essena specifically targeted the social media platform Instagram, which is what I want to address specifically today.
Let’s chat about Instagram:
As someone who is now working her tail off to pave her own way in the online world to make an income off her blog, my Instagram game is important to me. It does bring me joy to see new followers come in and it does excite me when a photo breaks 400 likes. It means that I am sharing something that is making a connection with someone else; that my viewpoint and vision are being appreciated and valued. It means that there are people out there who feel the same way about something that I do and I can connect with them over that! It means that I will have the opportunity to further my brand, my career, and my goals to make an income without having to go back to work.
Essena said: “How can we see ourselves and our true purpose/talents if we are constantly viewing others?” Since deciding to pursue blogging full time, I have discovered so many passions and talents that I didn’t know I had, including rediscovering my love for photography (I took several photography classes in college but lost the spark a couple years ago). I’ve learned that I can share my story on social media, and make genuine connections with other cancer survivors or those who struggle with anxiety. And, when I scroll through my Instagram feed and see beautiful photos, I am filled with inspiration and wonder. I have never seen my purpose in life so clearly as I have in this last year and it’s not solely because of social media, but social media is helping to make it possible.
And in a way, my happiness does rely on my Instagram/social media because having a successful online presence allows me to not only to work with companies I love but share my voice on things that matter to me. And, it means that I can continue to work from home, which is a career I never thought I’d have and one I’m realizing I always wanted. If I had to go back to work a 9-5 in the corporate world I would be bummed out, disappointed and let down. But my social media accounts do not run my life and they do not dictate my self-worth. It will only ruin my life if I let it.
Here’s what I’ve learned about Instagram:
It’s not a lie. It’s some of the people who use social media that are the liars. I think that Essena realized that the way she was using social media was unhealthy for her and I applaud her for making a change. However, instead of accepting blame herself for getting caught up in it all, she blamed it on Instagram. And, to top it off, after claiming social media is a lie (while using social media) she now has a Vimeo site where she continues to publish videos and she launched a new website. I’m sorry, but isn’t that a tad bit hypocritical and confusing to her initial message? I really don’t think it’s fair of her to come out and generalize that the entire population is lying because that means she is calling me a liar. I am not a liar.
Yes, I do take the time to think about the pictures I share on Instagram. Yes, I do thoughtfully think about what angles I want to take my photos at, what lighting to use and yes, I do take the time to edit them so they are visually appealing. Yes, I do take the majority of my photos for Instagram on my DSLR because I see the world better through my lens. Yes, I have been paid for a couple of my Instagram photos, and I have disclosed every single one of them. And yes, I do choose to share mostly positive messages on my Instagram because isn’t there enough negativity in the world?
I guess what I am saying is that I feel like this whole thing about social media being a lie is hurting business owners, photographers, and artists. And I don’t think that’s fair to take away the credit from people who work hard to share their voice and their photos.
I’m not in the social media game to be a fashion icon or model, but I am in it because I am a #girlboss trying to pave her own way and social media can be a powerful and positive tool for success. I have a story and a vision to share and I have an amazing platform to do it on; one that has allowed me to make genuine connections and real friendships. I think that’s because I strive to be an honest person in real life, so I want that to translate through my social media accounts.
I want you to know that I promise to always be honest on social media. I will always disclose through appropriate hashtags if I’m getting paid to share something (usually with #ad). I am not out to deceive you. And if you see a picture of me with my makeup on and a cute new shirt, it’s not to make you feel bad about yourself! If anything, it’s to share the message that I have a past, that I have scars and that I am finding ways to overcome them and that I want to connect with people who are doing the same. I hope that my social media feeds uplift you, encourage you and if anything, let you know that you are not alone. I hope that you smile when you see a picture of Rosie pup, or that you get brave to try that shade of lipstick I might have recommended. I hope you know that I am not perfect, that I don’t have a perfect life, but I do try my hardest to be honest. So no, I am not a liar. And that means that my social media feeds are not lies, either.
I know this is kind of a hot topic, but I want to know how you feel about social media. Do you feel like it’s a lie? What can we do better to make social media a safer place? (Please be kind in the comments below!)