Award-winning student news since 1978

The Brookhaven Courier

Award-winning student news since 1978

The Brookhaven Courier

Award-winning student news since 1978

The Brookhaven Courier

Instagram darling turns anti-social


By Carmina Ticareñ

New Media/ Fashion Editor


Some see social media as a villain out to control society by brainwashing everyone. Others see it as a heroine here to shed light on interesting topics and bring the world together. As a new media editor, I see social media more as a positive outlet than a negative one.

On Nov. 2, Essena O’Neil, a 19-year-old Instagram personality and model, posted what she claimed will be her last video on YouTube. In that video, she said social media is not real life and that she was getting rid of her Instagram account. She encouraged her followers to be “game changers.” She told viewers she was addicted to social approval online without realizing it. She then suggested viewers get off social media for a week.

Although she is off YouTube and Instagram, she tells viewers to go check out her new blog: On that site she posts videos through Vimeo instead of YouTube. According to her blog, at 18 years old, O’Neil had over 500,000 Instagram followers, over 275,000 YouTube subscribers and over 200,000 Tumblr followers.

Her Instagram pictures consisted of her creating what appeared to be effortless candid photos. She would post pictures showing her toned, tanned, small body wearing the swimsuits she promoted. On her blog post titled “How To Make $$$ on Social Media,” she said she would make an average of $800 for posting those pictures. O’Neil said she would earn $3,000 when she uploaded a full featured [brand] video on YouTube.

Her Instagram account no longer has any of her old pictures. Before she deleted them, she edited the original captions and wrote edited versions. According to, some of her bikini pictures were retaken over a hundred times. On her website, she says she would only go to the beach to take pictures in her swimsuits.

I don’t think O’Neil used social media effectively. She was too obsessed with numbers and being popular online. In her final YouTube video, she said she wore outfits she would have never worn if she didn’t get paid to do so.

I thought this generation was more outspoken and not afraid to say what is on their mind. Maybe I just follow Instagram personalities who are not afraid to say “no” to brands.

Sure, you want to share the happier side of your life, but you don’t have to be fake about it. Social media should be used as a liberating platform that allows users to express their ideas and opinions while being fully genuine. Social media platforms such as Instagram and Tumblr are great for photographers and artists to showcase their work.

If you have a fake online personality, it’s going to catch up with you like it did with O’Neil.

I wouldn’t mind getting paid to promote cruelty-free cosmetics. If I wear a lipstick regularly and love it, I would promote it. I wouldn’t promote a product that doesn’t reflect my beliefs or even a product that I would never use. Being a brand ambassador for a brand you love is not a bad thing.

About two months ago, I started following Dounia Tazi (@dounia.t) and Mina Mahmood (@bae.doe) on Instagram. They use social media to promote body positivity, confidence and to tackle inequality.

In an online response to O’Neil quitting social media, Tazi wrote an article for, she said social media offers representation unheard of in mainstream media. “To insinuate that girls with a large following are as consumed as [O’Neil] was is ridiculous,” Tazi said. “We can indulge in self-vanity and then go on to advocate for social issues.” She said people can spend a few minutes snapping pictures for Instagram and go on with their day after that.

Tazi said social media users can selectively share moments online without the pressure of portraying a perfect image. “We can use social media as an outlet, as a temporary escape from reality if we please, as a platform to spark conversation, but also as a place to dump selfies.”

When using social media, it really comes down to who you follow and who you look up to. If you follow people and obsess over a person’s beauty online rather than their work or message, then yes, you’re probably going to be brainwashed into the artificial social media.

If you follow people who have a positive message or influence your creativity, then you’re using social media effectively. It’s not hard to unfollow online accounts that don’t benefit your well-being.

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