Social media darling stuns followers: 'It's not real'

Social media darling stuns followers: 'It's not real'

(CNN) - A teenager with more than half a million followers on Instagram shocks her fans with the announcement she's quitting social media - claiming it's not real life.

Social media validation. It's about the number of likes you get when posting an image or video. For 18-year-old Australian former model Essena O'Neill, it became an obsession.

"I had the dream life," she said. "I had half a million people interested in me on social media - on Instagram, sorry - I had over 100,000 views on most of my videos on YouTube. To a lot of people, I made it. I was signed, I'm still technically signed with - and I don't want to model at all anymore - one of the biggest agencies in Australia. I had one of the biggest agencies in America wanting me to sign me for my modeling and for my YouTube, and I want to tell you that having it all on social media means absolutely nothing to your real life."

O'Neil revealed just how contrived in a YouTube confession.

"Everything I did was for views, for likes," she said.

To her Instagram followers, O'Neill revealed the truth: that the touched-up, enhanced photos of her social media life are far from real.

She writes: "Spray tan, paid promotional tea, barely any clothes. I was 15. This is what I thought was inspiring.

On one image: "I had acne here, this is a lot of makeup."

On another image: "Not real life - took over 100 in similar poses trying to make my stomach look good. Would have hardly eaten that day. Would have yelled at my little sister to keep taking them until I was somewhat proud of this."

On another: "Was paid $400 to post this dress."

"It was social media - which is now a business," O'Neill said. "If you don't think it's a business, you're deluding yourself."

She claimed her fixation was prompted by insecurity, not confidence.

"Everything I did in a day was to be that perfect person online," she said.

O'Neill's confession received a lot of support on Twitter.

Cara wrote: "I never paid attention to Essena O'Neill but I really admire her bravery and honesty now."

Lindsay pointed out the irony: "Essena O'Neill: 'social media isn't real please stop worshipping me' Me: *worships her even more*

And a few were skeptical.

Amy wrote: "I feel like in 10 years she's going to watch that back and perhaps wished she hadn't posted that video." 

O'Neill followed by posting: "Confidence is not 'they will like me,' confidence is 'i'll be fine if they don't.'"

Copyright 2015 WVUE via CNN. All rights reserved.