Under Pressure

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When Essena O’Neill uploaded an honest and raw ‘expose’ of the dark side of social media (mainly instagram) the other day it went viral instantly. Here sat a beautiful 18 year old girl with over half a million followers expressing how much pain and sadness living a life “defined by numbers” had caused her. This struck a certain chord with me as I also spend a fair amount of time thinking about my social media – to me it’s part of what I do and taking it seriously is natural to me and necessary in order to succeed in this digital world.

Essena stated how much pressure she felt and how she could only feel happy when her followers and likes were going up. She expressed how miserable it had made her and I can totally relate. Unlike Essena I’m not a teenage instagram celebrity, but I can sympathise with the fact that she has spent some of her most formative years under the instagram spell and putting herself under extreme pressure to be appealing to her instagram followers.

EmbarkingĀ on a career where you have to look at yourself as a commodity and assess yourself from a distance can be mentally exhausting – unlike other careers where you are judged on how good your work is with blogging/instagram and vlogging you are judged on your social currency – how popular you are and that’s based on how good you look, how cool you look or how thin you are or how amazing your personality is (that may sound un-superficial, but trust me it’s probably the most superficial of them all, the personality that is judged is based on YouTube snippets of how you come across on camera, not what you’re truly like as a person). It’s incredibly tiring and puts young girls under extreme pressure.

I myself have days where I struggle to sit down to make a YouTube video because I think back to my 18 year old self who worked on two political campaigns and who had massive career ambition to work in the world of political journalism, I worry that YouTube/blogging and instagram has dumbed me down, however, where I don’t feel upset is that I’m proud of what I produce. I love creating content, as I’m slightly older (crazy that 24 in this world is considered on the older side of things) I feel like I can switch off and separate. I don’t live and breathe my social media, I take it seriously and enjoy taking beautiful images but I can also switch off from it and engage in conversation, visit art galleries and I spend my mornings catching up on global current affairs – it keeps me grounded.

I went through a phase around a month ago where I became totally sucked into the instagram numbers game vortex, if a photo got below average likes I would want to delete it immediately, if I didn’t go up x amount of followers a day I’d feel like I had let myself down. This gave me a constant ache in my left shoulder blade and left me feeling pretty crap. I ended up deleting Social Blade from my phone; an app which works out your social worth based on your social media stats – incredibly addictive and incredibly psychologically harmful.

Taking a step back is far healthier, I still produce beautiful content that I’m proud of, however I don’t beat myself up about it. I hope Essena finds happiness now that she’s taken herself off the instagram grid, and I’m happy that someone has spoken up about the dark side to instagram fame – there’s always more followers and likes to acquire and having a sense of determination and drive is a must in any career arena, however, also being able to switch off and enjoy life in all of its forms is the greatest blessing.

What are your thoughts?



  1. Sabine
    November 4, 2015 / 4:17 pm

    On the one hand I totally agree with Essena because it can be quite harmful for your body and mind to constantly live under pressure to be judged on your online appearance, especially if you consider her young age. When I was that age I was terribly insecure about my appearance and needed appreciation even from people with whom I had no special relationship, like random classmates. However, that changed when I was about 19 when I realized that you can be happy without listening to other peoples opinions. As a economics student I can say that whatever your job is there is no place in our modern world where you can escape judgemental voices or pressure to show a good perfomance. In the end, I think she just took the wrong career path which sounds rediculous at that age. Nonetheless, it makes so much sense she quit her job because it disagreed with her ethical attitude. It’s so important to do what makes you happy and if that’s not the case I totally understand somebody wants to chose another path. By the way I love those kind of blog entries, definately my favourites along with ootds šŸ˜‰

    Greetings from Germany

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