Opinion | Why you should listen to Essena O’Neill, but why you shouldn’t demonize Instagrammers who make a living out of advertising products


Starting off the day with positive vibes #breakfast #cappuccino #work #makeyourdreamshappen #danielwellington

By now you’ve already surely read about Instagram star and 18 year-old model  Essena O’Neill’s decision in quitting social media. However, her decision is much more than about simply quitting Instagram: It’s about her quitting a whooping 500k followers and thousands of likes define her and her self-esteem, about not letting numbers take control of her life. She makes a strong case against it, but there’s also something that needs to be said regarding instagrammers and bloggers advertising products.

Granted, Instagram and the media in general endorses a lifestyle and physical appearance most people could never live up to. In a fashion world full of photoshopped bodies and faces, strict dieting and rigurous exercising done by young girls to fit in the media’s beauty ideal, Essena’s decision is a message to the world and a movement that should be heard by everyone, especially by other teenage girls, who like her, feel worthless and seek online success and attention to gain approval and self-esteem. They won’t find it there nor by starving themselves for the perfect body, but only within themselves.

Nevertheless, making a living out of advertising brands like bloggers and instagrammers do shouldn’t be demonized or viewed negatively. Essena reveals in one of her pictures that she got paid $500 to wear a dress for a shot in a negative way. While she is only 18 years old and probably doesn’t need to support herself and is still young enough to decide what she wants to do with her life, others get paid to advertise products professionally. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it.

Let’s put it this way: Nobody would ever satanize a model for advertising Chanel. Neither would anyone demonize  TV, internet, nor radio commercials. So, why should anyone consider that what a blogger or Instagrammer does is wrong?

You might think that the difference is that a commercial openly advertises a product, while a blogger doesn’t always do this and you might have a point there. But many of us do disclose what we are gifted, so judging in a case-to-case basis is better than generalizing and putting all bloggers into one category.

Essena and bloggers like myself, who occassionally advertise a brand, post pictures on Instagram for absolutely different reasons. Essena admitted that when she was 12, she wanted to have societal standards of beauty and show them to the world via  Youtube/internet to find self-worth and approval. She wanted to be a model. However, most of us bloggers do not publish our pictures, because we even think we are beautiful, nor because we want to show our bodies or faces (I hardly ever post selfies and I reluctantly do sometimes, since I have to show my face at some point), less because of money a/o fame, but because of a very simple fact:

We love fashion.

Yes, I love fashion. I love styling, I love playing with proportions, I love clean cuts, tailored clothes, unique designs, and above all, I love inspiring people. If a brand contacts me and I accept advertising one or several of their products, it is only a product I would buy myself, a piece of clothing that suits me and my style, and I think it is like that for most bloggers.

Sadly, most people who aren’t bloggers still don’t understand that blogging is not a hobby, nor is limited to simply shopping or shooting and posting pretty pictures, but it is a job like any other. Granted, it is a privileged job, but that doesn’t make it any less work than any other job, if not even more. For this reason, the fact we advertise products shouldn’t be viewed negatively. Also, the fact we try to make our pictures showing our outfits or products perfect shouldn’t be viewed negatively either.

Why? Producing an image wearing something or showing something is art for many of us, which is why said images don’t necessarily need to portray our ‘real’ lives. Additionally, who would buy a product that isn’t presented in a perfect way with a perfect picture? You’re right, not many people, so the fact that we often post ‘perfect’ pictures should be seen as part of our job, not as something shown with the intention of boasting of unattainable lifestyle and appearance standards.

I want to clarify that most of my outfit pictures do not contain gifted items and if I never got paid for posting a piece I styled, I would go on passionately and happily doing so, because this is what I love to do. To get paid for what you love to do is, like I mentioned before, a privilege that most people in the world don’t have and it is something I am thankful for.

That being said, the intention behind what I wrote is not to undermine Essena’s message to the world, because I personally think what she did is admirable and very important. My intention is to contribute to society’s understanding of what bloggers and many instagrammers do and why it is a job that should be respected and acknowledged as one, like any other does.

Despite my sometimes pessimistic tone, I do have hope that in a decade, bloggers will not have to explain and justify themselves and what they do, but that it will be considered a job by most, particularly many brands and PR agencies who think that a pair of shoes can pay the rent. Hey, it happened with website designers, who were not taken seriously a decade ago, so who says it won’t happen with bloggers and instagrammers? Indeed, it is a struggle, a struggle all of us bloggers have to go through.

Update: It seems there are two sides to Essena’s story and you can watch here what her friends have to say about it. No comments.

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1 comment

  1. Beautifully put! This is a well written piece that is great for bloggers to read. I so agree. I have not monitored my blog, but applaud those who do, it is hard work. I love love the artistic quality of the bloggers I follow, it seems that there are so many talented photographers, and stylists are there. I consider most post I read as art, and continue to be inspired.
    XX, Elle

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