Essena O'Neill: Instagram users follow suit by sharing pictures with 'honest captions'

O'Neill's #socialmediaisnotreal revolution is catching on

Heather Saul
Friday 06 November 2015 13:34 GMT
(Essena O'Neill via YouTube)

As Instagram and YouTube influencers rush to prove their channels are comprised of more than just covert adverts, some are following the example set by Essena O’Neill and re-captioning their images with the truth about how they arrived at the final, 'perfect', picture.

The 19-year-old model from Queensland, Australia, quit Instagram and YouTube after exposing the reality behind paid for posts to her 600,000 followers. In an emotional video, O’Neill said the pressure of looking perfect and projecting an idyllic lifestyle had left her miserable. Now, other popular Instagrammers are also reassessing their own relationships with social media with the hashtag #socialmediaisnotreal.

Baylynne Williford, a pre-law student living in the US, is one of a number of Instagram users sharing unedited pictures and re-captioning edited pictures with the “honest” captions for her 70,000 followers.

“I have changed into someone who validates their self esteem and self worth on likes/comments on my photos and I'm over it," she wrote. "From now on, I will be posting unedited photos with me as I am, or what I am doing. Not just me trying to look like something I'm not in real life. I've changed the caption on all my photos to show the truth behind it, and even deleted some I thought were too edited. This is real and this is me. Welcome to a new era.”


Don't save her, she don't wanna be saved EDIT: airbrushed so my skin looked perfect and unnatural

A photo posted by Baylynne Williford (@baylynnejoy) on

Tristyn Renã is an Instagram model with over 100,000 followers. She addressed O’Neill’s claims by sharing an unedited picture of herself without make-up and in a subsequent post shared a hashtag to highlight that it was sponsored by a company.


Thank you @exning for bringing this to my attention! It's super hard for me to post this because I've always been very insecure about my makeup-less face, but it needs to be done! #nomakeup I completely back the #flauntyourflaws movement. I was 18 and carefree when I started getting facial piercings (I had 13 in my face at once at one point lol) 8 years later, the hollow needles used on my face left horrible scaring and I've edited them out of almost every photoshoot, and most of my Instagram photos. I am also in total support of @essenaoneill and the #socialmediaisnotreallife tag. Mostly everyone I know puts up this front to impress their followers. Let's get back to basics and stop living in such a self absorbed world of image crafting for likes and followers. Love yourself for who you are, not what everyone else perceives you to be on social media. #takeastepback

A photo posted by Tristyn Renã Daily (@tristynrena) on

Callipoe, a model, echoed this sentiment with her own post.


@essenaoneill's message is an important one but one that, I hope, we all already know. You are not your follower count. No one has a perfect life. We spend too much time connecting with people across the globe than connecting with those in the same room. #socialmediaisnotreallife While I don't agree with Essenia's complete demonization of social media or the sweeping generalizations she makes I think that the #flauntyourflaws movement is extremely important so here is a picture with absolutely no editing and #nomakeup Here are my lack of eyelashes, my over plucked eyebrows, the bags under my eyes from not sleeping for almost two years, and my crazy frizzy hair that I hated all of my childhood and into most of my early adulthood. If at any point you find that the things you spend your time and energy on are toxic to you personally, please cut them out of your life but the thing is, for me anyway, the Internet is actually one of the places that I learned to love the things that made me unique instead of feeling pressure to look or act like someone else. (@suicidegirls played a big roll in this) I think I would be straightening my hair to this day if there weren't so many galleries and websites and groups about people embracing and loving their natural curls. I might have been ashamed for my small breasts bc main stream media glorifies boob jobs but I found out how many people love them... Or just don't care (if you have a boob job and it makes you feel good I think that is great). Because of the Internet I've been able to connect with people and feel a sense of community and understanding that I didn't always feel with the people around me (especially as a teenager). The Internet and social media have made my world bigger by giving me instant access to people from all different walks of life. It has helped me follow specific interests that weren't always covered in school. It has helped me explore my sexuality. It has acted as a way to easily remain close with even my very best childhood friends who are now hundreds of miles away scattered across the west coast. Basically #ilovetheinternet and think that like all things, it is what you make of it. Anyway if you

A photo posted by @localsparrow on

Alexandra Harvey, a student at the University of Birmingham, amassed over 6,000 followers on Instagram with her posts.

Like O’Neill, Harvey has re-captioned her images with the truth behind how they came to be taken. In one image of a designer bag that was gifted to her by her boyfriend, Harvey says she got out of bed, put on a dress and put in hair extensions, despite only the tips showing in the images, just to take a picture of the bag.


A photo posted by Alexandra Harvey (@lexirowan) on

Yoga instructor Kassandra has a few thousand followers on Instagram and on YouTube, where some of her videos have been watched over 70,000 times.

After identifying with O’Neill, she announced her decision to take a hiatus from Instagram on Wednesday.

“I realised sometimes I go on social media platforms and I look at all these other people who have these beautiful lives and they're presenting themselves as if they just have everything and it makes me feel like s***,' she said.

“The last thing I want to do is to contribute to that, I do not want people to go on my social media accounts look at my pictures look at my videos and think to themselves, wow, she's got it all, my life sucks.”

O’Neill is now posting content through her website and via Vimeo, and has vowed to never share a paid for post. She continued her mission to expose the truth of social media on Thursday by sharing a five minute video deconstructing one image from her Instagram page.

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