Teenage Instagram star Essena O'Neill quits social media: 'It's not real life'

O'Neill has urged her fans to give up social media for at least a week.Instagram

Teenage Instagram star Essena O'Neill who amassed hundreds of thousands of followers online has turned her back on social media, branding it "unhealthy".

The 19-year-old announced a week ago that she is quitting Instagram, YouTube and Tumblr, where she has posted thousands of photos and videos.

"Without realising, I've spent majority of my teenage life being addicted to social media, social approval, social status and my physical appearance," she wrote.

"Social media, especially how I used it, isn't real. It's contrived images and edited clips ranked against each other. It's a system based on social approval, likes, validation in views, success in followers. It's perfectly orchestrated self absorbed judgement."

In a 17-minute YouTube video posted online yesterday, O'Neill said that despite being surrounded by "all this wealth, all this fame, all this power...I had never been more miserable. I'm the girl that had it all. And I want to tell you that 'having it all' on social media means absolutely nothing to your real life.

"Everything I was doing was edited and contrived to get more value and to get more views."

O'Neill has deleted 2,000 photos from her Instagram account that she said "served no real purpose other than self promotion" and edited the captions on many of those she retained to be more honest. She says she would pose for photographs in outfits she wouldn't even leave the house in, and restricted her diet and "excessively" exercised to maintain her tiny figure.

Real caption edit: @rachael_consaul took some great photos. Without a doubt she is talented. Originally I wanted them for my new site essenaoneill.com

"I was attracted to the idea of being liked and of value. I put my value in numbers, not real life people, moments or my natural passions of art, writing... Posting on instagram consumed me. I can't you how beautiful life is without a phone, without social media, without comparing, or likes or followers. We are not followers, we are beings of individuality and love. I have never felt so free," she wrote of choosing to change her lifestyle.

O'Neill has set up a website to encourage her fans to follow suit, and urged them to try giving up social media for a week.

"I want you to actually do this and see what happens. My whole life changed when I did. I finally woke up. I saw more, I listened more, I had more time, I found myself becoming more and more creative, less stressed, happier and with this new sense of power.... but most of all I just FELT MORE. I want you to feel this too. It's so beautiful. It's real," she said.

"When you stop comparing and viewing yourself against others, you start to see your own spark and individuality. Everyone has love, kindness, creativity, passion and purpose. Don't let anyone sell you something different."