When “Instafamous” Brings Emptiness

Curators’ Corner

When “Instafamous” Brings Emptiness

Social media plays a massive role in our daily lives, especially for the majority who are downright addicted. The quest for followers, fans, Likes, retweets, favorites, comments and any other form of social approval you can name brings with it an overpowering vanity that can often yield feelings of inadequacy or depersonalization.

In fact, a recent study by the Happiness Research Institute in Denmark found that participants who quit Facebook for a week were happier, less lonely and less stressed. Ironically enough, they also experienced a boost in their social lives (you know, like actually talking to people, and meeting them in person and stuff).

Nevertheless, any of us who get that feeling of accomplishment when we experience approval on social media would be compelled to believe that being all-out “Instagram famous” would bring joy and fulfillment. But Australian model Essena O’Neill has shown us otherwise.

O’Neill, a petite blonde 19-year-old who had accumulated more than 612,000 followers on Instagram, publicly decried social media while editing the captions of her photos to “expose the harsh and often humors reality behind the #goals #instafamous culture [sic].”

“Please like this photo, I put on makeup, curled my hair, tight dress, big uncomfortable jewellery. Took over 50 shots until I got one I thought you might like, then I edited this one selfie for ages on several apps just so I could feel some social approval from you,” one caption read.

Another said, “NOT REAL LIFE – took over 100 in similar poses trying to make my stomach look good. Would have hardly eaten that day. Would have yelled at my little sister to keep taking them until I was somewhat proud of this. Yep so totally #goals”


“Without realising, I’ve spent majority of my teenage life being addicted to social media, social approval, social status and my physical appearance,” O’Neill said before signing off. “Social media, especially how I used it, isn’t real.”

The model has since revealed details of the obsessive dieting and consuming lifestyle that came with being “Instafamous” in a video titled, “You’re My Inspiration.” She has also begun to focus on “real life projects,” such as her new website, letsbegamechangers.com.


The response to O’Neill’s sensationalism seems to be somewhat evenly split between advocates and critics. Regardless, the real lesson here is that you shouldn’t allow social media to take over your life – don’t let it define you. Love who you are, and use social media to share your real-life moments and perspectives.