Creating a Fake Life Through Social Media

When model and Instagram star Essena O’Neill made her recent much-publicized exit from social media, she told her legions of followers that the obsession for more likes and views was suffocating her.

“All day long, I just kept looking online, thinking they had perfect social media lives,” she said. “And I tried to make my own just as perfect.”

If that kind of sentiment sounds familiar to you, it’s because it probably is.


See her breakdown below:

The way O’Neill described social media pressure is a fair representation of how most people experience the online world. Before her break, she had hundreds of thousands of fans, and reportedly was making as much as $1,400 for each one of her sponsored pictures that she would post on Instagram.

When the young superstar admitted that she was under terrible social media pressure to constantly share herself, and receive approval, it was for a valid reason.

MIT psychologist Sherry Turkle, an expert in analyzing people’s relationships with computers, stated that she is quite familiar with similar stories from people from all ages and walks of life.

“Increasingly, our social media lives equate psychologically to ‘I share, therefore I am,'” said Dr. Turkle, the author of “Alone Together” and the head of MIT’s Initiative on Technology and Self.

“We start to think that our self-value is measured by how many likes we get, or by how many people view our posts. People take selfies to commemorate an important moment, as well as to post it online. People are constantly monitoring how we are perceived by other people.”

Being aware of this phenomenon can sometimes rise to an extreme level. O’Neill has confessed that she spent many hours retaking her photographs until she got one that portrayed her in a perfect, effortless pose.


Indeed, some people even turn to plastic surgery due to this social media pressure. Cosmetic surgeons have stated that people under age 30 have been seeking more facial procedures due to the popularity of selfies, as reported by a survey conducted in 2014 by the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.

Related: Back to School Teen Surgery on the Rise 

Online social sites make people over-examine their own appearance, and often develop negative images of themselves,” stated Edward Farrior, president of the academy.


Dr. Turkle reported that many of her patients had to quit their use of social media due to this pressure, and countless others have to temporarily restrain themselves from going online. Some patients say that social media sites are a waste of time, but feeling the pressure of keeping up with others is a heavy burden as well.

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