Tag Archives: instagram

Thoughts on Validation, Social Media, and Essena O’Neil

I struggled with this post. When every website and their mother (on Facebook) are covering a story, jumping on the bandwagon feels like clickbaiting. I had a lot of feelings about the whole thing that I wanted to share, but I didn’t want to sound like a jerk. Ultimately, I don’t know what this girl’s going through. But I had something to say. And y’all wanted to hear it, apparently.

Essena O’Neil is a content creator, primarily on Instagram, who you probably had never heard of before her video and new website went viral on Monday. I hadn’t, as her audience skews younger and I’m more of a casual user of Instagram (Instagrammer? IDK, I’m old). A few days ago, Essena decided to quit social media and move all her content to a new site, letsbegamechangers.com. For years, she sought validation through likes and followers. Her posts were perfectly curated to show her “living her best life” when she was really struggling. She posted pictures in dresses for thousands of dollars that never made her feel quite right.

I’ve spent most of my life comparing myself to my peers. In middle school, I thought the girls who looked great in Soffee shorts and played multiple sports and were actually able to straighten their hair had perfect lives. I felt inadequate in high school because I knew I’d never get into an Ivy League school. Even now I compare myself to people with better jobs, apartments, and more frequent flier miles. Instagram was invented after I graduated from high school and started to figure myself out. I can’t even imagine going through most of my childhood with the giant magnifying glass of social media.

There’s a huge lack of guidance on social media available to teens. Platforms grow and change so quickly that it’s difficult for even huge corporations to create best practices. People tend to take very polarizing stances on social media, particularly when it comes to young users. It’s a fun way for people to keep in touch with each other and share their lives with the world, yet we’re quick to damn it. It’s hard to find rational opinions in a sea of voices.

Essena’s Instagram account now reads “Social Media Is Not Real Life.” This is inarguably true. What you see of someone’s life on YouTube or Instagram or wherever is a curation of their life, the best parts of themselves. When you don’t see someone outside of a little box on a little screen, it’s hard to imagine them complexly. This isn’t that far removed from middle school me imagining the perfect lives of the girls in the Soffee shorts. I didn’t see them at home. I didn’t know what they were going through. I couldn’t imagine them crying on the floor because they felt like they looked hideous in every piece of clothing they owned. In this case, I think that Essena is doing something special for her young audience.

When you’re a content creator, you constantly have to reevaluate your goals. What am I trying to say with this blog post? Will this video help someone? Why am I sharing this photo? I will often catch myself considering a post that I know will get lots of traffic, but ultimately serves no purpose. Clearly, that’s why I felt weird about this very post. I felt like I needed to get my feelings on the virtual page, though, despite my lack of eloquence. It meant something to me.

Emma Gannon put it pretty damn well with this quote from her Medium article:

Social media is not to blame here. It’s up to us not to treat it like a game. Treating it like a numbers game will only end in tears. Chasing clicks will leave us hollow. Creating meaningful content that people enjoy will make the difference. Social media can be fantastic if we keep it fucking real.

I don’t think teenagers are dumb. They astonish me with the things they create and the influence they wield. But when you’re at an age where social validation is such a huge part of your existence, chasing clicks seems natural. Will it lead to brand deals/recognition/whatever the teens want these days? Sure, but it might feel icky after a while.

Make things for yourself. The views might follow, they might not. Just do what feels right.

Here are some people who had some more eloquent thoughts on this than I did:

Rosianna: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G5Q-_2BHSYc

Lucy: https://twitter.com/meowitslucy/status/661710497520230400

Five Amazing Spots in NYC

According to Timehop, one year ago I was preparing to move to New York to start yet another round of internships. At the time I was excited, but pretty apprehensive. Everything seemed so temporary: I was living in a privately-owned dorm with mostly college kids, my internships ended in December, and I had four months to find a “real job” or move back home. In hindsight, I was putting way too much pressure on myself (as I am wont to do).

I guess it worked out, though. Here I am, a year later with a full-time job in the entertainment industry, a big-girl apartment, and some semblance of a life and routine.

Now that I’m not constantly freaking out about my future (the operative word here being “constantly”), I’ve had some more time to explore the city. Here are five of the best spots I’ve found over the past year.

1. Perk Kafe

perk kafe

There are tons of cute, bespoke coffee joints in New York, but most of them aren’t in Midtown. Luckily, Perk Kafe fills that void in Murray Hill in a decidedly unpretentious way. They offer awesome coffee in a very aesthetically-pleasing (albeit small) environment. And they don’t balk when I order decaf! It’s a nice alternative to grabbing Starbucks for the 10th time in one week.

2. The Bell House

the bell house

Confession: I don’t love going to Brooklyn. It’s a long train ride, I don’t know the neighborhood that well, and I never feel cool enough to be there. However, I will gladly endure the G train for a show at The Bell House in Gowanus. Their calendar is filled to the brim with comedy shows, live podcasts, concerts, dance parties, and more. Once a warehouse, the space has an old-timey feel to it, and almost reminds me of the rec hall at my summer camp (in the best possible way). A few months ago, my friends and I attended Shipwreck, a night of erotic fan fiction from some of today’s best writers. That night’s theme was Moby Dick, and featured Cecil Baldwin of Welcome to Nightvale as the designated reader. Although I’m not super-familiar with the book, I still laughed my ass off.

3. Strand Bookstore

Strand

Yeah, yeah, everyone loves the Strand Bookstore, with its miles of books and fun tote bags. There’s lots of hype around this Union Square institution, but for good reason. If you have a favorite literary niche, they have the books you want to read. I usually find myself in their (extensive) drama section, checking out new plays and the classics I haven’t gotten around to reading quite yet. You can also trade in your books, CDs, and DVDs for cash or store credit. Sounds like a sweet deal to me.

4. Sheep Meadow, Central Park

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If the last place on my list didn’t make me sound basic, this one totally will. The Sheep Meadow may be one of the most visited spots in Central Park, but it’s so vast that I’ve never had trouble finding a spot in which to read and soak up some Vitamin D. The open space also allows you to see how nature meets metropolis as the trees give way to fancy apartment buildings for gazillionaires. It’s a great spot to vedge out on a Sunday. Just remember to bring your own water.

5. Fat Cat

fat cat

I fell in love with Fat Cat after stopping by for a round of pool on my friend’s birthday. Located in the heart of the West Village, Fat Cat is a jazz bar/gaming center with a little something for everyone. Grab a soju cocktail, listen to some great tunes, and challenge your friends to a game of pool, ping pong, or even checkers. That night I remembered that I’m pretty terrible at pool, so next time I think I’ll opt for Scrabble. The prices are reasonable and the vibe is awesome, so I’ll definitely be back.

Fellow New Yorkers, tell me some of the best spots you’ve found in your adventures around town. My goal for year 2 is to explore as much as possible, and I’m always looking for new recommendations. Cheers to another year of fun!