Essena O'Neill Reveals The Death Threats She Received After Quitting Social Media

Photographed By Rockie Nolan.
Essena O'Neill had 500,000 Instagram followers and a lucrative career based entirely on her online stardom, when in November, she announced that she was quitting social media to focus on educating her fans about its potential evils. Today, O'Neill, 19, sent a 6,210-word email newsletter in which she opened up about the backlash against her dramatic exit, and revealed her plans to write a book.

"I was lost, with serious problems so beautifully hidden...if anything my social media addiction, perfectionist personality and low self esteem made my career," she writes. "Over-sexualisation, perfect food photos, perfect travel vlogs — it is textbook how I got famous. Sex sells, people listen to pretty blondes, I just happened to talk about veganism, a trending thing on YouTube... I used people, and time after time let people use me."

After O'Neill deleted her Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat, and Tumblr, she started a website — then called Let's Be Game Changers, now just a placeholder site with only her name on it — and a Vimeo channel that is now defunct. She also received a wave of adverse reactions to her move. "I was just shocked and honestly just confused…the way it all turned so negative just numbed me," O'Neill describes. "I received so many death threats — 'Kill yourself, you attention-seeking whore that only cares about herself and cuts out all your friends, you deserve to die, so please just do it now and save the world some more embarrassment.'"

O'Neill says that she is now healing, planning to work at a bar, and pen her first novel without the toxic influence of social media.
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