I gave my Instagrams honest captions to show that social media is not real life

Essena O’Neill isn’t alone in lying to make herself look better online

19-year-old social media star Essena O’Neill has made headlines worldwide over the last few days for her honest revelations about the flaws of social media. 

After quitting Tumblr and Snapchat, the star, who recently turned 19, reinvented her YouTube and Instagram accounts with “honest captions”. After realising her accounts were a false representation of her real life she renamed her Insta account “Social Media Is Not Real Life”, replacing the captions to reflect the truth behind each photo, including how many shots it took to get each picture, how she really felt while taking it, how little she would eat to achieve the body in the pictures, and which brands paid for the clothes and products she was wearing.

In a video posted on her Vimeo account, she says: “I want you to know that I used to be obsessed with being ‘followed’ or being liked. I was obsessed with people liking me. Nothing’s wrong with that. That’s beautiful. Everyone wants to feel valued and loved. But on social media as it currently stands, a number will never give you that feeling.”

Plenty of us feel just like Essena, inadequate and insecure when we compare ourselves to the avocados and beautiful Valencia-filtered lives of the people we follow on Instagram. I’ve been guilty of it, I even wrote an article in which I tried to get as many likes as possible on my Insta photos. But after following Essena’s honest story, I decided to go back and recaption them to reflect the true nature of what it took to get them.

Plenty of people messaged in to support me, and I even, oddly, got a few more likes. One friend even texted me to say: “Being honest about the lengths it took to get the perfect photo makes you seem more human.” She said the humorous aspects of my captions made me seem more relatable to anyone who had ever struggled to take a selfie.

Writing these captions was extremely eye-opening for me. It forced me to come face-to-face with the extents to which I am willing to go in order to perpetuate my “brand”. The lifestyle that I choose to show off to the world which is by no means representational of my real life.

My life involves a lot more eating in bed while wearing more than one jumper and marathoning Netflix, a lot more ugly crying on my best friend’s bed, a lot more running around with my baby brother, a lot more falling over and laughing with my friends on nights out.

I’m sure it comes as no surprise when I say that these raw and real moments are the best parts of life, and by excluding them from the shiny image we project onto the world, we are making our lives seem more glamorous, but we’re also making them completely fake and empty.