Pro: Essena O’Neill’s condemnation of social media is justified

Social media is everything: Instagram, Youtube and Vine are new vehicles of fame, and it is a rare day when you don’t see someone taking pictures of food for Snapchat. People are consumed by the popularity of their virtual identities. Teens especially seem to place an alarming amount of stock in validation from online sources. But in November, 19-year-old Australian social media star Essena O’Neill quit Instagram, Youtube, Facebook and Snapchat, through all of which she had a huge fanbase. She publicly condemned social media for “brainwashing teens,” for the creation of absurd beauty standards and superficial personas. And though O’Neill’s own platform is attributable to the very thing she now decries, her message remains true: Social media is a lie.
Online identities are comprised solely of the parts of themselves people choose to show — Instagram stars like O’Neill, though they may be conventionally attractive, are not the image of human perfection that they show the rest of the world. O’Neill herself spoke about the hundreds of shots she took to find the perfect picture and the drastic dieting methods she developed to obtain a “perfect body.” She worries now that she may have influenced others to develop dangerous eating habits as well — a valid concern. The very nature of social media, of displaying a highlight reel made up of the most curated collection of images possible, puts a devastating amount of emphasis on body image — and an unrealistic, unhealthy body image at that. 
O’Neill revealed other truths about the seemingly flawless and endlessly enviable lives of social media stars: For instance, it is not uncommon for relationships to be concocted among two people so both may boost their online popularity. While this may not be harmful, it definitely affirms that social media is a facade. Yet the facades still inspire obsession. The human ideal should not be a lie; we should look up to figures with actual substance, not just aesthetic beauty.
The facade of social media has become a distraction from human progress. People are so mesmerized by virtual reality that they forget the value of real life and judge themselves by absurd standards of online popularity. The number of likes on a photo should not be the gauge of happiness or self-worth. And as O’Neill discussed, it is incredibly damaging for people to feel valued solely for something that is not even representative of their true self. People should focus on their real worth — their talents, their ambitions — and understand the fraudulent nature of the vast majority of Internet superstars.
It is admirable that O’Neill, a prominent figure in social media, spoke out on the superficiality of social media. While her words may not absolve her of all wrongdoing, she is brave to support such a view.
Social media is not all bad. It is an effective platform for education and change, as well as a place to explore interests and budding friendships. But these aspects of social media are not the lie — it is the inhumanly beautiful people, the unattainable perfection, the superficial values promoted. O’Neill is right to reject that, and she is right to move on from her past toward a brighter future.