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Vimeo emerges as unlikely winner in Australian teen’s high-profile Instagram exit

Vimeo appears to have trumped YouTube as an unlikely winner in one Australian teen’s high-profile Instagram exit this week.

After having what US Magazine described as a “crisis of conscience” about the world of social media and, specifically, Instagram, 18-year-old Essena O’Neill closed down her Instagram account with more than 600,000 followers — and has apparently found a new home on Vimeo.

Vimeo describes itself as a community for creators offering “high-quality tools for hosting, sharing, and streaming videos in gorgeous HD with no ads.” That seems to have appealed to O’Neill, who said the platform is “made to help not to get views or $$$.”


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While O’Neill initially said she would continue posting some content to her YouTube channel, that now appears to have been shut down entirely, with links to earlier videos posted there now unavailable.

She uploaded a fourth video to her Vimeo channel on Wednesday afternoon (Australia time), but took it down within 45 minutes of it going online. (Update: It’s back.)

In it, she called out some publications for sensationalizing her story over the past few days as just another teen’s social media meltdown, rather than focusing on her message and the issues she is trying to highlight — what she sees as a culture of “contrived perfectionism made to get attention” and $2,000AUD-a-pop Instagram product placements.

Here’s the description accompanying her third Vimeo video uploaded in the past 24 hours, entitled “Overwhelming and beyond words grateful“:

Never did I think this would be shared so globally. I have so much I want to say and talk about. Thank you to all these media outlets for helping start this discussion. I am so so so grateful. I’m crying because I needed to hear this when I was younger, heck anyone who spends hours and hours on a screen wishing they could have a ‘perfect’ life, this is for you. There is nothing cool about spending all your time taking edited pictures of yourself to prove to the world ‘you are enough’. Don’t let numbers define you. Don’t let anyone tell you you’re not enough without excessive makeup, latest trends, 100+ likes on a photo, ‘a bikini body’, thigh gap, long blonde hair. I was born into the flesh I have, there is nothing inspirational about that. I am just so grateful to think of how many young men and women might see this movement and stop limiting themselves to artificial ideas of happiness online. 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.

While Vimeo may be a temporary solace for the teen (it’s far from certain that she will remain on the platform long-term), what’s most poignant here is the questions it raises around Instagram’s place in the lives of today’s teenagers.

O’Neill may have hit back at the Instagram culture as being fake and contrived, but other case studies have shown that Instagram can work effectively as a platform for raising awareness on important issues without requiring such high-profile exits.

Indeed, O’Neill initially took to editing her Instagram captions to reveal what she saw as the real insecurities behind the glamarous photos. As The Guardian notes:

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.”

Who’s to say that might not have been an equally (or more) compelling protest to the culture she is rebelling against?

In any case, whether O’Neill remains on Vimeo or not, it’s interesting to see how the platform has remained relevant to the Instagram generation — and how it continues to attract a loyal community despite the dominance of ad-enabled YouTube.

YouTube, Inc. is a consumer media company for people to watch and share original videos through a Web experience. It allows people to upload, tag, and share personal video clips; browse original videos uploaded by community members; fi… read more »

Vimeo is a cleanly-designed video sharing website that allows people to publish their videos for public consumption or just for friends and family. Vimeo launched support for high definition video in October 2007, further establishing … read more »

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