‘Instagram is Not Real’: Essena O’Neill

So, this is all a reaction to this girl: Essena O’Neill, a former ‘Instagram Star’, paid hundreds of dollars to post pictures of herself in brands who has now decried Instagram as a massive phony enterprise, built on airbrushed lies and making others feel terrible about themselves. She’s replaced the usual smug #goal hashtags with anecdotes about each picture, such as not eating on the day of bikini shots and moaning at her sister for getting the angles wrong.


Bravo to her. I don’t see this as the start of an enormous backlash against social media. It’s with us now. But I must say that I do feel concerned at the level of importance the younger generation place on it all – and I’m not gonna deny, I am totally pray to that every now and then myself.

Basically, in the last few years, ‘Building your Instagram’ is the new ‘lose those inches’ for models who aren’t doing so well. And it’s true – where clients might have overlooked an extra inch on the hips, they certainly won’t book you if you have poor online presence.

But sadly, this is largely measured in NUMBERS. VAPID, MEANINGLESS NUMBERS! Numbers that can be BOUGHT! Likes that can be BOUGHT! Validation that is far less meaningful than, you know, real life achievements like good grades or great (face-to-face) friendships.

I do enjoy all my social media. Now I’ve found a groove that I’m comfortable with, I  enjoy making fun pictures and building my beloved Modeltypeface as a brand  – though I do resent having to come up with them 24/7. I spend most of my days in dressing gowns and my retainer, typing! (You didn’t read that). You would never know this from my Insta.

I think it’s a shame that, to grow your numbers, the surefire way is bikini shots, lingerie shots and a lot of flirting ‘kissy emojis’ with men who, actually, make our skin crawl a bit. And Essena is right – getting those perfect pictures can take AGES – time away from living in the present. I threw a strop on holiday after the 300 pics my boyfriend took of me spontaneously leaping in a minidress were a bit crap, and then I lost 50 followers anyway. I am on the Snapchat, the Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and some others I downloaded and never figured out too. I’ll make my boyfriend re-do a funny dance and send it to my friends, and I will (top secret) spend an HOUR trying to get a decent shot of myself, make up applied solely for that purpose.

Let me backtrack a second. I’m bloody old. When I was at primary school, there was one computer in the whole building and it would be wheeled into the classroom on a trolley, to great ceremony. It means that I remember life before phones, and I can recognise the importance of hiding said phone away when I’m having a conversation or enjoying a beautiful view. I don’t see everyone living like this – phones can permeate every single interaction.

Myself included, I think that we present a bit of a (smug) lie on Instagram, because it’s the recipe for numbers. But think about the effect of scrolling through those toned abs and sunshine backdrops day in day out. Have you ever felt inadequate next to other Insta stars? I have. I bet you have. And if we’re models and we can be ground down by this, then imagine being a 9 year old girl growing up in this world of social media!

Our Instagram can allow us to express ourselves, enjoy our beauty and promote brands we like and jobs we enjoy. But maybe a bit less of the airbrush, a bit more honesty and relatability and a dash of humour, too. We’ve got 9 year old girls looking up to us.




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PS tomorrow I have a post on building your Instagram….By having fun with it and taking pride in it! xx

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