Essena O’Neill, an Australian model, made headlines after she traded the perfectly crafted captions on her Instagram posts for the real “Behind the Image” captions. She starved herself for photos and took hundreds of pictures just to get the ‘perfect selfie’. The captions O’Neill shared include her yelling at her sister until the photo was perfect and posing in a candid way that was anything but candid. O’Neill also posted a video explaining her reasons for quitting social media and the reality behind the self-promotion of ‘Instafamous’ models. In reality, O’Neill says she was the furthest thing from happy.
“I was surrounded by (people who had) all this wealth, all this fame, all this power, and yet they were all miserable, and I had never been more miserable,” O’Neill shared in her YouTube video. “I was the girl that had it all and I want to tell you that having it all on social media means absolutely nothing to your real life.”
More than 20 per cent of teenagers log on to their favourite social media site more than 10 times a day, says The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) in their clinical report The Impact of Social Media on Children, Adolescents, and Families. There are many growing concerns around social media including how it is viewed, marketed, and used.
Taylor Waines and Chris Rego discuss the pros and cons to social media.
Social media is harmful to self-image, consumers, and social interactions. Social media distorts a person’s self, and causes one to lose sight of who they are.
The constant need for online acceptance creates what psychoanalyst D.W. Winnicott describes as an unhealthy False Self. The False Self is a persona rooted in compliance, Winnicott says in his paper The Maturational Processes and the Facilitating Environment: Studies in the Theory of Emotional Development. The purpose of the False Self is to defend and act as protection of the True Self then adapt appropriately for social situations, says Winnicott.
When a person uses their False Self so much that they lose sight of their True Self, they create an unhealthy False Self. “At the extreme of abnormality, the false self can easily get itself mistaken for real,” Winnicott says in his paper.
If you live too much in your unhealthy False Self, your mental health may be at stake and you may become depressed or anxious, according to Carrie Barron, M.D. and Alton Barron, M.D. in their book called The Creativity Cure. “The real self is under threat of annihilation; suicide can then be a reassertion of the true self,” noted Winnicott.
In order to get rid of the problem, it is important to uncover your True Self, and differentiate it from the unhealthy False Self. With trends like the Kylie Jenner lip challenge, where teens suck on a cup to enlarge their lips, many are just trying to fit in. By doing so, they lose sight of their True Self. This urge to be accepted creates an unhealthy False Self.
By quitting social media, O’Neill and many of her followers are on track to develop their True Self.
While social media may contribute to the creation a False Self for some, for others, social media might help build confidence. Social media is subjective in that it is dependent on the individual, business or relationships one is building.
Social sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are mostly used for the expression of an individuals’ own personal tastes and interests. It is up to the individual to determine what is posted. These social media platforms are ways to share not just tastes, but also talents, hobbies and even details of one’s own life.
YouTubers Nina and Randa Nelson were friends with Essena O’Neill, the Australian model who quit social media. The Nelson sisters disagree with O’Neill’s stance on social media.
“Not everyone on social media is fake…I think that the person who’s fake here is Essena,” Nina Nelson says. Many other YouTube personalities, and models came forward in response to O’Neill’s video. They agree that social media is what the user makes it.
Social media can also be used as a platform to share problems, and seek help. Some online communities help to support, advise and, in some cases, even assist financially. Though some see social media as a hindrance to mental health, it can be beneficial to those affected by mental illness. Illnesses such as depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder drive many to seek out others online because they can share more freely on an open forum. These forums allow for discussions of the fears or stigmas that sometimes accompany illnesses.
“Excellent health resources are increasingly available to youth on a variety of topics of interest to this population, such as sexually transmitted infections, stress reduction, and signs of depression,” says The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) in their clinical report.
It may be true that social media can create an online community but it is undeniable that social media is harmful to some people’s self-image, many consumer habits, and individual social interactions.
Businesses use social media to manipulate people into buying products. From selling fake followers to YouTube views, businesses can deceive people through their online presence. A false image can be created and cause many to see a business for what it is not.
In 2013, New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman busted 19 companies for creating fake reviews. These companies hired people from all over the world to write fake reviews making one to 10 dollars per review. This spawned the term ‘astroturfing’, which means fooling consumers by creating fake reviews of a person, brand, or product.
“Companies know the power of social media and they’re exploiting it,” O’Neill the Australian model who quit social media, says in her video. She explained in her video how companies told her everything from what to wear, to where to put the product, to even what to say in each post. By doing this, O’Neill misrepresented herself and allowing businesses to exploit her for money regardless of her young age.
Social media is now a business, says O’Neill. “If you don’t think it’s a business then you’re deceiving yourself.”
While some businesses use the online realm to deceive, others use social media to build their brands, consumer base, and create a two-way conversation with themselves and consumers. Companies are using social media as advertising methods to create brand recognition.
Danielle Cudmore, the Corporation Communications Coordinator for the City of Oshawa said social media helps keep the people up-to-date. “ We’re able to get our information out to people…they’re getting it right there on their phone, they’re getting it in the moment,” said Cudmore. “They’re getting the information they need, and interacting with it online. This shows us that the message is being received.”
Social media allows for constant communication between businesses and consumers. “It can really establish more discussion and networking,” said Cudmore. Companies have begun hiring individuals to use their products on their personal social media sites and then show off and review said products.
The Nelson sisters, who were shocked by O’Neill’s video, shared their truth behind promotion. “We’re promoting a message, we’re promoting our art, our music, stuff we love,” says Randa Nelson.
Though O’Neill may have been ‘extorted’ as she says, many others who promote brands for money use it as a way to show followers their likes, where they get their clothes, and what products they use.
Companies use models on a contract basis, meaning it is ultimately up to the individual to decide if this is what they want to promote and associate themselves with.
The online realm promotes more than products, it also promotes socialization but this causes many to rely on numbers for self-worth. In the Merriam-Webster dictionary, being social is defined as “tending to form cooperative and interdependent relationships with others.” From that definition, the term interdependent means to have a relationship in which two people are dependent on each other.
O’Neill says there is nothing social about social media. Like many, O’Neill relied on followers for social approval. “I let myself be defined by numbers,” she says. O’Neill thought that more followers meant more friends, but she says she was wrong. O’Neill says she was just living in a screen.
As social media grows, people find themselves lost in the online world. “I can mindlessly click for hours,” said Michael Cameron, a professor in The School of Business and Information Technology at Durham College.
In O’Neill’s case, the urge to gain friends through the online realm pushed her to become increasingly unsocial. The depression and anxiety that some social media users may feel has been coined Facebook Depression, according to researchers.
Facebook depression is defined as “depression that develops when preteens and teens spend a great deal of time on social media sites, such as Facebook, and then begin to exhibit classic symptoms of depression,” the AAP says in their report.
The AAP urges doctors to increase their knowledge of the digital world and understand that this is a growing problem. As social media becomes more popular, Facebook depression will continue to appear more and more in youth and young adults. Without doctors who are properly equipped to treat these issues, the dangers of social media will continue to grow.
Regardless of the addictions that can come with social media use, it is possible to avoid these traps with time management and knowing when enough is enough. The time spent on social media sites varies from person to person.
When we asked how much time they spend on social media, students’ and professors’ answers ranged from 30 minutes to five hours. Allie Wadden, a Library and Information Technology student at DC, laughed as she answered the question, saying, “Probably a lot more than I should.” This can be a serious issue but with most things in life, it is all about time management.
It is up to the individual how much time they spend online. Just as a student has to carve out time for homework, it is up to the individual to think about how much time they are spending on social media.
Self-esteem is something many people deal with on a daily basis but social media can be used to build up a person’s self worth. When people post pictures, they feel they look good in and as a result receive positive feedback it helps build their self-esteem. It is crucial that individuals think about how social media is used in their life as well as how long they use it.
Technology is everywhere and humans are more connected than ever before, so it is important to remember the words of Oscar Wilde, “Everything in moderation, including moderation.”
In conclusion, the digital footprint left behind by social media use depends on the users and consumers of social media. When self-promoting, the lines can be blurred and many get lost trying to fit within the social norms. By erasing the boundary lines between the False Self and the True Self, many begin to promote their unhealthy False Self. This False Self is not only a factor in self–promotion but can be found in promoting businesses. In terms of being social, social media can both promote and hinder socialization. This allows people to communicate over long distances, but when used too much it can cause some to become anti-social.
“The bottom line is that social media is not a negative thing,” as Randa Nelson says in her video response. Rather, social media is a very useful tool when used appropriately and in a responsible manner.