Essena O'Neill
Online entrepreneur Essena O'Neill has over 600,000 followers on Instagram, but the 18 year old has hit back at the superficiality of social media telling her followers that it is not real life.

As she quits the photo sharing site, O’Neill has rewritten captions on her most popular posts, calling out the contrived, unrealistic and, in some cases, sponsored photos.

The Australian teenager said she was able to make an income from marketing products to her 612,000 followers on Instagram – "$2000AUD a post EASY". But her dramatic rejection of social media celebrity has won her praise.

On 27 October she deleted more than 2,000 pictures "that served no real purpose other than self-promotion", and dramatically edited the captions to the remaining 96 posts in a bid to to reveal the manipulation, mundanity, and even insecurity behind them. O’Neill did not respond to requests for an interview.

A photo of her wearing a bikini, once captioned "Things are getting pretty wild at my house. Maths B and English in the sun," has been edited: "see how relatable my captions were – stomach sucked in, strategic pose, pushed up boobs. I just want younger girls to know this isn’t candid life, or cool or inspirational. It’s contrived perfection made to get attention."

"Why would you tell your followers that you're paid a lot to promote what you promote? Why would you tell your followers that you literally just do shoots every day to take pictures for Instagram?" she said in a 22-minute vlog posted to YouTube, titled "HOW PEOPLE MAKE 1000’s ON SOCIAL MEDIA". "Like, it’s not cool. No one thinks that’s radical, or revolutionary.

"Yet I, myself, was consumed by it. This was the reason why I quit social media: for me, personally, it consumed me. I wasn’t living in a 3D world."

"I remember I obsessively checked the like count for a full week since uploading it," she wrote of her first-ever post, a selfie that now has close to 2,500 likes. "It got 5 likes. This was when I was so hungry for social media validation ... Now marks the day I quit all social media and focus on real life projects."

O'Neill has started a new site, letsbegamechangers.com, where there are "no likes or views or followers" and she promotes a vegan lifestyle and healthy living.

Her first post challenges readers to quit social media for a week.