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Earlier this week Instagram ‘star’ Essena O’Neill quit Instagram in a flounce heard around the world.
I have to admit: I rolled my eyes more than once at the articles I read online after she ‘bravely’ came out to admit that many of her Instagram images were staged.
We live in a time now where a lot of – if not most of – our media consumption comes from Socially crafted platforms. I think it’s fair to say that I definitely didn’t like the way Instagram and Pinterest used to influence the way I felt about my own life; if I wasn’t living in a candy dream of bunting and stripy straws I’d feel inadequate. But I think as a society we’ve wised up to this now and we know that, just as in magazines, often what we see is a very rosy view of reality. Yes, Essena was a beautiful girl who seemed to be living a charmed and fun life, but do we honestly buy that it’s all real? Naaaah.
However, I do have problems with some all-out lies I see over blogs and Instagram. There is one well-known blogger who shamelessly Photoshops her images, claiming to her young and impressionable audience that ridiculous ways of eating keep her skinny when really it’s the stretch and blur tools in Photoshop. I find that and non-disclosure of freebies and advertising dishonest (and illegal!).
But is there much wrong with us mere Instagram mortals wanting to put our best realistic face forward for the rest of the world to see?
I don’t mind admitting that I post many of my selfies from the car or in front of a window, purely because the lighting’s better and you can’t see my eye bags. If I snap an image in my house it’ll be in the tidy living space, not in front of the hellhole of toys that is the kids’ bedroom. But I can still look through my Instagram feed and think- yep, this is real life. It’s a bloody optimistic view of real life, but nothing about it is fake.
I think about this a lot in terms of raising my daughter. It’s up to me to shape and form how she perceives the world but more crucially how the world perceives her. I want her to know that it’s OK for her to want to present the best version of herself if she wants to – as long as this isn’t limited to the way she looks. I think it’s important that we are good people, inside our hearts, in how we treat others, in the work we do and yes – finally, if that’s what makes us happy, in the way we look. I’d lead by example in this way whether I wanted to or not: I like to wear lipstick and have a good hair day and not have a wobbly bottom and choose a lovely outfit. It makes me feel good about myself… but that’s OK because I also look after what I manifest from the inside, too.
Reviewing the situation with Essena O’Neill it seemed that she wasn’t making herself feel happy, and that’s where she was going wrong; portraying an unrealistic view to the outside world that effortless beauty led to happiness which led to her feeling more and more unhappy. I’m all for a little less beauty, a little more realism and therefore more happiness.
By leaving Social Media in the manner Essena did she has swapped one form of aspirational self-promotion for another, making sure she’s garnered as much attention as possible along the way (and then asking for monetary donations while she’s at it). I’m going back to the eyerolling now, but this really made me think: girl, you’re going to be as unhappy as you were before. She’s now abandoned all her Social platforms after claims she wasn’t authentic hit the news (as has Sociality Barbie: GUTTED), but how long before she’s back, I wonder?
The lessons I take away from this is re-enforcement for what I’ve been hoping to teach Elfie all along: just be authentic. Be your happy self. Be the good person you want to be, and happiness will follow.
In full honest disclosure: thank you to the lovely people at Monsoon for sending these dresses from their Heritage Collection for Elfie and I to wear (mine/Elfie’s). I was having a terrible hair day after I felt unhappy about my hair cut, Elfie was being a little monkey and didn’t want me to pick her up for a cuddle. I did however feel great about my cleavage. So thanks, Monsoon!