Let's be gamechangers.
That's the call of Essena O'Neill, popular Instagram model and recent activist for more informed social media users, integrating a new hashtag #SocialMediaIsntReal.
Need to catch up? Essena recently took to youtube to voice why she was leaving social media. She had a crisis of conscience about what image she was portraying to people and where her own values lie. She edited her Instagram captions to give the "real story," which included a lot of things that we marketers already know that consumers may not: Instagram stars are paid to wear or use products, conduct endless photoshoots and editing to look a certain way, and craft messages that are meant to be deliberately aspirational to impressionable individuals looking for an icon to worship.
Some people are saying that O'Neill is lashing out against social media as a whole, but I disagree. She's making the point that many people use the platform (like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat) to present a deliberately cultivated image that isn't as easy-breezy as it may seem.
"We are a generation told to consume and consume, with no thought of where it all comes from and where it all goes," Essena explains. "I can't tell you how free I feel without social media. Never again will I let a number define me. IT SUFFOCATED ME. Not because I had 500,000 followers, I felt the same as a young girl, I would just spend hours looking at everyone else's perfect lives and I strived to make mine look just as good."
Since her confessional video went viral, many other Instagram stars are coming out to express similar sentiments. "Regular" people are also using the #SocialMediaIsntReal to display less-than-perfect moments in their lives, which I think is truly amazing.
As the inevitable Internet backlash gets underway (after a few days of people sharing her story and championing her efforts), I'd like to say kudos to Ms. O'Neill.
I love social media; there's no question about its power to incite passion and change. But there is a dark side. There is a generation of people growing up inundated with social media and they have increasingly heightened expectations of how they (and their lives) are supposed to look. Since social emphasizes life "snapshots" and rarely tells the whole story (like early mornings, hard work), it is easy to get caught up in a false reality–or feel bad about your life for not appearing the same.
I'm here to say, as a social marketer, that social media is a tool and it must be used responsibly. I love marketing, advertising, writing for social platforms and creating images that resonate with our clients' audiences (and ours!), but it is important for people to remember what they're seeing is only a teaser–a part of the whole story, and sometimes, the truth.