Essena O'Neill, Instagram star who quit the internet, named one of TIME's most influential people on the internet

O'Neill no longer has an online presence, but she still has influence 

Heather Saul
Friday 18 March 2016 13:23 GMT

Essena O’Neill, the former Instagram star who quit the internet after declaring social media to be fake, has been named as one of the most influential people online by Time magazine.

Time’s list of the 30 most influential people on the internet includes unsurprising entries such as Kanye West, Kim Kardashian and Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg, the YouTube blogger known as PewDiePie who has almost 43 million subscribers.

O’Neill famously deconstructed her Instagram page to prove it was not a reflection of reality before shutting down all of her social channels and announcing her intention to write a book.

O’Neill had quit her university course to pursue a career as a social media influencer after amassing 500,000 followers on Instagram. She was also signed to a modelling agency and built up a YouTube following with her vlogs, even travelling to LA to meet with other leading social media influencers.

But then she shared original versions of the edited posts and outlined how each one was altered or sponsored before closing her accounts. In an essay explaining her decision to her followers, she said: “Social media was my full-time job and took up majority of my life. I would spend eight hours a day photographing, styling, editing, filming, scrolling.

“Finding people with similar passions was incredible – eating out for free, every little moment could be a perfect candid snap or silly vlog, we’d talk about my nonstop boy problems, and bitch about other youtuber’s/instgaramers that I knew personally. That was my life. Constant shoots, photos, editing and an artificial smile. I am not one bit proud of my actions, if that’s not already clear.

“I was able to fund travels to Thailand and LA off Youtube payments and paid posts… Of which I deceived and acted like I bought the products of free will.”

Her declarations that social media is not real life revealed a darker side of becoming a social media influencer and sparked a debate about the validity of posts that are made to look like a person’s reality, but are actually anything but.

TIME also included Matt Drudge, founder of the eponymous Drudge Report news aggregation site, and Tess Holliday, the plus size supermodel.

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