8 April 2020

In 2015, 19-year-old Essena O’Neil – an Instagram model with over 800,000 followers – announced she was quitting social media.

Her digital lifestyle was making her feel alone and tired of competing for attention. Through commenting on her own various images, she aimed to expose the truth of the world she’d been so successful at filtering. One post revealed she had taken a photo more than a hundred times and another where she had starved herself to obtain the ‘perfect’ shot. She was determined to see her digital lifestyle changed.


Essena’s openness about her digital lifestyle reveals that there can be a dark side to our presentation online. It revealed particularly that what we post online can be false. In Essena’s case, her glossy images failed to convey the depth of pain she felt in her life. Similarly, what we post online can be filtered. Again, in Essena’s posts, she promoted the belief that her image and lifestyle was effortless but in reality it had taken considerable time and sacrifice to achieve her ideal.


So, why do we feel we need to present ourselves in a false and filtered way? One reason could be because as an article in TIME magazine states, “Social Media has become a toxic mirror.” Essentially, the seemingly perfect images we see on platforms such as Instagram make us look at ourselves in a negative light. We compare ourselves to others, feel insecure about ourselves and then respond to this online by presenting our own ‘perfect’ life.


It’s fascinating how a photo platform such as Instagram has become a competitive stage for us to declare how successfully we’re living life. But as we consider our digital wellbeing I wonder if there are healthier ways to use this space. Here’s some questions to reflect on that may help:

1) How did I feel when putting this post together?
2) Why am I posting this online? What’s my motive?
3) Why is this other person posting this image online? What’s their motive?
4) Does this image truly represent my life?

As we consider these questions we may find that we can navigate our digital lives on a social media page like Instagram so it becomes less toxic. Instead, we can embrace our lives as they truly are in a more positive way.

Next week, we’re considering a similar theme as we look at how phone apps make us feel! See you then.