The story of Essena O'Neill, the social media star who has quit social media, struck a chord and generated a discussion about online personas and the very nature of happiness. Instagram-famous teenagers who have yet to denounce social media either felt personally insulted by Essena's assessment, or they just straight-up wanted the attention that comes with a reaction video to a viral story. With titles like "ESSENA O'NEILL Quitting Social Media Is A HOAX" and "ESSENA ONEILL IS FAKE," teens are waging a full-blown war.
The worst, most prominent video has to be from Los Angeles sisters Nina and Randa, who ranted for 15 minutes. It's a particularly obnoxious video, where Nina and Randa give Essena's video a kind of Daily Show treatment in which they play clips and "fact-check" them like they're Fox News.
They commented below their video:
Essena, this was mean what you did. You didn't just "quit" social media. You attacked other people by saying that they're fake and deceiving others. No YOU were fake and deceiving other people. It's not fair to say other people are doing that, and to use your trip to LA as evidence. You owe some apologies.
Nina and Randa's brother Willie didn't want to let this opportunity to get views go by, so he released his own video. He also has never heard of the apostrophe:
Anyone who watched or read about Essenas viral message about how and why she is 'quitting social media' has been duped and was LIED TO. Essena Oneill's 'movement' is not based on reality," he writes, "ESSENAS WHOLE MOVEMENT IS ABOUT NOT BEING FAKE BUT SHE IS BEING FAKE BECAUSE SHE IS LYING TO EVERYONE ABOUT WHAT REALLY HAPPENED WHILE SHE WAS HERE. PLEASE DO NOT BE DUPED BY ESSENAS LIES.
Essena jumped back in with a Vimeo video, inherently more dignified than YouTube, telling people to move on. But move on they do not.
YouTube personality Aaron Idelson also got defensive, and rushed to argue the virtues of social media. His stance is that there are fake people everywhere, in real life and online, and that the best approach is to cut fake people out rather than to remove yourself altogether. Plus, social media isn't a fake version of life, it's cutting different pieces of your life together "to look amazing."
The most philosophically informed response comes from British YouTuber Acacia Brinley. “This is what happens when you mix social media and creating a brand with your own life and your own personality. It’s hard to put yourself out there as a brand,” she explains, “You’re getting mixed up between modeling world and social media world... There's a right way to doing social media, and you weren't doing it right, and that's why you're unhappy."
Vegan YouTuber plvntstrong is skeptical of Essena's cleanse altogether: “She deleted a bunch of YouTube videos but she’s creating a website so she’s not really leaving social media, she’s just switching her platform and how she presents her information."
We'll see what becomes of Essena's site, Let's Be Game Changers, but in the meantime, the cultural commentator by the name of plvntstrong might just have a point.