THE RISE AND FALL OF THE INSTA-NATION

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m very happy to trawl the posts of Instagram of an evening… Gaping at women with perfect, sculpted figures who have uploaded the latest shot of themselves post workout / in a new bikini / just casually hanging out in uncomfortable-looking underwear. On occasion I’ve tagged a friend with a gaping heart-eyed emoji and had the same done to me. Chances are, we’ve all done it. We’ve all been the ones saying we want less fat, but bigger, perkier bottoms. Thigh gaps, but still “strong but skinny”. Essentially we’re all pushing ourselves into seemingly impossible body ideals without thinking for one moment what’s gone into the post we’ve just spent the past ten minutes gawping at. 

Yet whilst we all know that these girls are getting paid silly amounts to post these pictures (we’re talking thousands here), we still gaze on, wishing and hoping that tomorrow we will wake up with those same attributes, and bank accounts filled with the money to buy the clothes that will supposedly make us “Insta-famous”.

We know, deep down, that we are all gorgeous. Every imperfection and flaw that makes us into a human is a beautiful, unique aspect of us that without, we just wouldn't be us. We KNOW that even though our hair never goes quite how we want it and that that one tooth will always be a little bit crooked, that we are extraordinary people and that those who love us most will never let us forget it. 

I, for want of an example, have about 12 moles on one side of my face and one plonked right by my nose. One (ok maybe two) of those moles has a persistent, witch-like hair that gets plucked on a regular basis. I moan about them constantly but when I accidentally slap on too much foundation and they disappear, I genuinely don’t feel like myself. To me, these moles are a reminder that sometimes our imperfections are what makes us so bloody fantastic. Yet still I forget this when I look at the hordes of airbrushed women that flood social media. 

Well one of those girls; the ones with the glossy hair, white teeth and ‘perfect’ hip to waist ratio has decided that, quite frankly, enough is enough. Essena O’Neil, is an 18-year old Aussie who used to have over 500,000 followers on Instagram, 200,000 followers on Youtube and 60,000 on Snapchat. That’s almost a million girls watching her every move, buying everything she posted on her channels and falling asleep every night wishing that they could be just like her. She was getting paid serious money to post about everything from dresses to bikinis and brands were clamouring to have themselves featured on one of her channels. 

Now you may have noticed I just said used to… Essena has since deleted all of her social media channels and has started the fabulous movement; Let’s Be Game Changers. 

On each of her former posts, Essena has edited the descriptions. No longer do they contain various emojis, hashtags and effusive comments on how #adorable everything is. Instead, Essena has been honest about what went into each post. Behind every carefree smile and toned stomach shot, Essena admits that it took hundred’s of takes, very little food and quite frankly, being incredibly foul to those around her. So caught up in the initial ‘glamour’ that being an Insta-celebrity granted her, Essena let her life slip away around her as she hungered for the social gratification of people just like you and I, waiting for the wave of likes and heart-eye emojis to flood in. 

And who could blame her? She had countless adoring fans and an endless stream of adoration and praise at her fingertips, not to mention the pretty hefty sum that brands were paying her to do the simplest of activities that we all partake in on a daily basis. Pretty soon though, that instant gratification became less of a perk and more of an intangible satisfaction that could never quite be fed enough. 

Fortunately this young girl seems to have rather the head on her shoulders and she realised that not only was she damaging the self-esteem of her followers, but also herself. So, instead of feeding those cravings more and more, Essena has done what few girls in her position would have done and she’s fighting back against an industry that has immeasurable power over women the world over. 

“I can’t tell you how free I feel without social media. Never again will I let a number define me. IT SUFFOCATED ME”, says Essena, “I know you didn’t come into this world just wanting to fit in and get by.” Essena has realised that we are all far, far more than what our peers and the media define us to be. We are smart, intelligent, thoughtful and vulnerable human beings that quite frankly could all do with a little love. 

Now I’m not slamming every single budding Insta-Entrepreneur out there. That being said, I implore them, just as Essena has done to provide transparency that goes beyond a simple ‘#ad’. I implore these girls (and boys) of Instagram to take on board the enormity of the influence that they hold. Because alongside a hefty pay-check, they’re also taking on an incredible amount of social responsibility that frankly, they may not be able to handle. 

Social media, blogging, and all the rest of it started as a means for transparency to rule and for honest, frank reviews to take precedence over airbrushed adverts. But just as we’ve been sucked in by the adverts in the magazines, the same thing has happened to social media.

I want to know that although these supposedly perfect human specimens may be ‘blessed’ with some damn good genes, it took 40 shots, good lighting and that actually, that lacy bra with 74 straps which came with machinery to put it on is, whilst gorgeous when on, a bloody pain in the arse to wear.

I want it to be known that they didn’t wake up one day with a six pack and hair down to their bum, that in fact, they workout like a beast and their hair was very kindly helped along by some pricey extensions. 

So I want you, the so-called ‘celebrities of Instagram’ to be honest with us. To let us know that you wake up sometimes feeling just as crap as the rest of us. That we shouldn’t worry about whether our thighs are a teeny bit bumpy or that our skin doesn’t glow. 

Because the sad truth is that too many girls are wasting precious minutes of their lives mindlessly following you, thinking that your life is the definition of perfection. Yet surely you must know that nobody is perfect. That, in fact, perfect is an entirely fluid concept that in my honest opinion is a combination of wonderful, quirky imperfections that make each and every one of us unique. 

So follow in Essena’s footsteps and let’s all stop lying to each other. By all means, work with brands and help them promote their products - but do it with honesty. If a top doesn’t fit you but would look fantastic on someone with a different shape, say it. If a certain shade of lipstick or a new facial cleanser didn’t work out for you, because you’re skin is too oily or your lips the wrong shape, say it.

If a dress took four hours to put on because it requires professional assistance from a team of minions, say it. I, for one, would love you a whole lot more for your imperfections, your honesty and your integrity, than I do now when you your transparency becomes dishonesty. I’m sick of worrying about girls that lap up every word you say and bruise their self-esteem. Use that power and that influence that you’ve worked hard for to do some good. 

Step up girls, let’s be game changers.