Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Essena O'Neill: Stll Inspiring Offline

While cooking and cleaning around the house, I have developed a habit of listening to "vlog" style videos on YouTube for some background noise.  Up to date on all my subscribed YouTubers' videos, I browsed through YouTube's recently uploaded video feature to find some white noise to help entertain me through my chores.  I came across a recent video by YouTuber and social media celebrity Essena O'Neill.  To be honest, although she has a large following all across social media platforms, she's an entertainer younger than me, catering to a younger audience.  I had never heard of her before.  However, the title of her most recent video instantly peaked my interest and being quite adventurous when it comes to watching new videos, I decided to listen to it.  Note:  I consider this "adventurous" only as a mock on how society's values have changed with the influx of social media presence, as O'Neill's video teaches.  

At a little over 17 minutes long, Essena O'Neill's video is at the lengthier side, but if you live on social media, thrive off of your internet presence, or compare your success to others you see online, I highly suggest that you listen to her message whether it be while driving or while doing chores.  Note:  Her YouTube channel was closed, but a reuploaded video is linked down below.

Basically, O'Neill used to live off how many followers she had and how many "likes" she received.  She crafted a whole online persona that thousands adored and that garnered modeling contracts and multiple promotional relationships.  Through her image and partnerships, she made enough money to live a comfortable lifestyle, and she even received free products throughout her career.  However, all that she had worked hard to acquire never left her feeling fulfilled or happy.  She broadcasted an inspirational figure to others, yet her own image was fake.  Every day, she spent much of her time trying to edit the perfect post that would bring in tons of "likes", but what did these "likes" really do for her?  What did these "likes" do for society?  She wore a shell that others looked up to, but she could not fathom why.  Focusing on social media did not give her a chance to focus on life around her, and she felt that her many years spent on social media cut her off from actually living.  After meditating and struggling with these pestering thoughts, she finally decided to quit social media, only to stay on her website where she could write freely without concentrating on likes or followers.

I have often complained of society being too fixated on social media, relying on it for conversation, relationships, and entertainment.  I worked as a teacher and saw social media's negative effects on children's creativity and communication.  I have regretted my own amount of time spent scrolling through images and reading statuses.  Thinking about all of this, I wonder why we are on social media in the first place.  What are our goals?  What are we trying to achieve?  Why am I using it? 
With the way that society has evolved to be accustomed to having access to social media, it may be unrealistic for everyone to take the brave path of completely obliterating all use of it.  Social media advertises, it connects, and it helps to share ideas.  The online world definitely has its perks that are easily accessible by many.  However, our use of social media needs to be checked and limited.  If we obsess over it, spending most of our days "liking" and "swiping", we miss out on so many opportunities, adventures, and conversations that exist.  If we compare ourselves and our own "fame" or "image" to those we see online, we lose focus on what is true and on our own self worth.  If we center our goals around our popularity in the media world, we limit the impact that we have in the real one. 

After watching the video, I really started thinking about my own personal goals and whether or not social media fits in with them.  In this life, I want to inspire others through my writing and through my art.  I want to publish my children's books so that I can send positive messages to children, making them smile in the process.  I want to write articles where I can help others love themselves and be the best that they could be.  I want to spread messages of the positive influence of simplicity through my nature photography, proving that materialism is not the only way for us to have all we need.  I want to spread childhood whimsy through my drawings, helping others to hold onto the aspects of childhood that can make a real difference in the world.  Most of all, I want to help others be happy. 

Will using social media help me achieve my goals?  Maybe, maybe not.  Right now, I mainly use Instagram as an inspirational tool and creative outlet because I haven't found a way to publish my art or my stories.  Will I stop using Instagram as my poor man's gallery of sorts?  Probably not, at least not until I find a way to make an actual career living out my dreams.  Nevertheless, I want to change the way that I use it.  There's no reason for me to obsess over the amount of "likes" that I get.  There's no reason for me to compare my status or my talents to anyone else.  There's no reason for me to spend more time living in an artificial electronic world than making my dreams happen in the life where I can breathe out positivity. 

Essena O'Neill's move has sparked controversy, especially by those living "offline".  Some question her genuineness, claiming that this move is a giant publicity stunt.  Going off of O'Neill's own advice, it is impossible for me to make that accusation as I don't really know her or her motives.  Others argue that O'Neill lived in a "fake" world because of her choice of posted content.  Whether or not this online upheaval is a sham, we can all use her message to examine our own motivation of being online. 

Although Essena O'Neill declares that she no longer wants to impact off of social media, I think that her last move on social media has the potential to create the best movement that she has ever been able to do.  Her message can help better the lives of many of us who abuse social media, letting it get in the way of actually doing something good and meaningful in this world.  She reminds us that more is done through doing rather than through clicking.  She helps us realize that what is projected online is not always pure. 

Remember that your quality is not validated when you show people what you've done or achieved; your value is not based on someone else's approval of you or your popularity over others.  You are worth only what you put out into the world and how you choose to live your daily life, so go offline once in awhile and live it.  

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