Watch CBSN Live

Instagram star Essena O'Neill quits "self absorbed" social media

Instagram model quits "phony" social media bi... 02:04

With more than 777,000 Instagram followers and nearly 270,000 YouTube subscribers, teenager Essena O'Neill thought she had everything she ever wanted.

Last week, she changed her mind.

The 19-year-old Australian broke down in a viral YouTube video to explain why she's quitting social media, shutting down her Instagram, Tumblr and YouTube channel.

O'Neill rewrites a caption on her Instagram photo to read: NOT REAL LIFE - took over 100 in similar poses trying to make my stomach look good. Would have hardly eaten that day. Would have yelled at my little sister to keep taking them until I was somewhat proud of this. Yep so totally #goals Instagram/@essenaoneill

In a caption on her video, she explains how "contrived, fake and forced consistently proving to the world 'how amazing my life/body/self is.'"

"I spent everyday looking at a screen, viewing and comparing myself to others," she continued, confessing that she measured her self-worth through likes. "It's easier to look at shiny and pretty things that appear happy than stopping and just getting real with yourself."

O'Neill deleted more than 2,000 photos from her Instagram account and edited captions on remaining photos to spread the truth about the images.

The social media star made an income by posting videos and photos online.

In a re-edited caption, O'Neill wrote: Was paid $400 to post a dress. That's when I had maybe 150k followers, with half a million followers, I know of many online brands (with big budgets) that pay up to $2000 per post. Nothing is wrong with accepting brand deals. I just think it should be known. This photo had no substance, it was not of ethical manufacturing (I was uneducated at the time). SOCIAL MEDIA IS NOT REAL is my point. Be aware what people promote, ask yourself, what's their intention behind the photo? Instagram/@essenaoneill

With 150,000 followers, the Instagram star said she was paid $400 to post a photo of her wearing a dress.

"I know of many online brands (with big budgets) that pay up to $2,000 per post," she wrote. "Nothing is wrong with accepting brand deals. I just think it should be known. This photo had no substance, it was not of ethical manufacturing."

The teen is now spreading a new message to her fans: be "game changers"

She launched a new website to "promote veganism, plant based nutrition, environmental awareness, social issues, gender equality, controversial art." All of the content will be free -- made to help, not get views or money, she stressed.

However, the website does include a "support me" button, which asks fans to donate what they can to support her new passion.

"If you get something from what I'm doing, pay what it's worth to you," she wrote in the description. "I want you to simply 'pay what it's worth to you' by using the button above."

Essena O'Neill YouTube

Some people are praising the teen for her bravery; while others question whether this is just another publicity stunt.

Fellow Instagram celebrities and twins Nina and Randa Nelson called her recent move a hoax.

"I see why the story sounds so incredible," the sisters spoke directly to O'Neill in a viral YouTube video on Tuesday. "But you're not quitting social media, because you're probably watching this video right now.

Despite criticism, hundreds of people also defended the star's actions and thanked her for taking "a step forward."

"What you are doing is amazing!" one fan said. "We need to change a generation that thrives on validation from social media!"

O'Neill hopes young girls continue this discussion, giving one last piece of advice: "Don't let anyone tell you you're not enough without excessive makeup, latest trends, 100+ likes on a photo, 'a bikini body', thigh gap, long blonde hair."

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue