An Australian model and Instagram star — Internet famous for sexy bikini poses and promoting brands in pretty pictures — has quit social media, and is now determined to reveal to her thousands of fans that her "dream life" was really fake.
"I'm quitting Instagram, YouTube and Tumblr," Essena O'Neil wrote in a final post. "Deleted over 2,000 photos here today that served no real purpose other than self-promotion. Without realizing, I've spent majority of my teenage life being addicted to social media, social approval, social status and my physical appearance."
Before deleting her account, O'Neil edited the captions on several photos to show what was really happening in the snapshots, revealing that a beach bikini photo actually took more than 100 attempts "trying to make my stomach look good," and that she "would have hardly eaten that day."
On a photo of her posing in a sexy white gown: "NOT REAL LIFE - I didn't pay for the dress, took countless photos trying to look hot for Instagram, the formal made me feel incredibly alone."
She clarified that there's "nothing zen about trying to look zen" on a photo of her posing on a yoga mat on the beach, and admitted that she was paid $400 to post a photo of a dress in another image.
The 18-year-old launched a website — pointing out that there are no followers or "likes" there — where she posted a video further explaining her decision.
"I had the dream life," she said, adding that she'd signed with a modeling agency in Australia and had numerous requests from brands to promote their products in exchange for money. "I had half a million people interested in me on [Instagram]."
"I was surrounded by all this wealth and all this fame and all this power and yet they were all miserable, and I had never been more miserable," O'Neill added.
"I'm the girl who had it all and I want to tell you that having it all on social media means nothing to your real life ... Everything I did was for likes and for followers. I did shoots for hours just to get photos for Instagram."
She renamed her Instagram account "Social Media Is Not Real Life" and says she's now going to spread her message "organically" and focus on causes she cares about, like veganism.
Fans had a mixed reaction to O'Neill's decision.
Some applauded her for being "brave" and "inspiring," while others questioned her intents: "You can't 'delete' social media and still have it," one critic wrote.