In late October 2015, then eighteen-year-old model and vegan advocate Essena O'Neill deleted over 2,000 photos on her Instagram that had over 600,000 followers. She renamed the account "Social Media Is Not Real Life" and rewrote captions for old posts. She also decided to quit all other social media accounts, including Tumblr and Snapchat.
In her book, "American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers," Nancy Jo Sales writes, "O'Neill did a powerful thing: she'd said what many people were already thinking, or had thought at some point as they posted another selfie or edited picture that made their life seem more perfect and glamorous than it actually was."
O’Neill said that when she quit social media she had several projects planned, after having performed sponsored posts and received payments from YouTube.
In the first few days following her announcement, O'Neill's decision was shared widely on the internet. O'Neill received praise while also being criticised for eliciting "confusion" amongst her following. 
After her announcement, she decided to launch a website called "Let’s Be Game Changers," meant to "inform people". In the site, she posted videos questioning social media and encouraging followers to think about the way they use social media. The site also featured a section called "behind the image," which served to shed light on the details and preparation behind her previous images posted to her Instagram account.
Among those who criticized her were fellow Instagram users Nina and Randa Nelson. The twins produced a video titled "Essena O'Neill Quitting Social Media Is a Hoax", which questioned her claims. The twins said Let's Be Game Changers was in fact "100-percent self promotion." In a forum post on her site, she stated that she would not engage with the accusations.
O'Neill took down Let’s Be Game Changers in December 2015 because being online "felt toxic", followed by an email newsletter sent to her followers. Around this same time, Let's Be Game Changers redirected to a blank site with her name on it. She then announced that she would be writing a satirical book called How to Be Social Media Famous.
- Ceron, Ella. "Social Media Star Essena O'Neill Shares a Tearful Thank You After Her Eye-Opening Instagram Posts Go Viral". TeenVogue. Voguez. Retrieved 14 April 2016.
- McCluskey, Megan. "Teen Instagram Star Speaks Out About The Ugly Truth Behind Social Media Fame". TIME. TIME. Retrieved 14 April 2016.
- "She quit Instagram, now web celeb Essena is starting over". Sunshine Coast Daily. Australian Regional Media. Retrieved 14 April 2016.[permanent dead link]
- Weyman-Jones, Laura. "Insta-famous Essena shuts down her social media accounts". Sunshine Coast Daily. Retrieved 14 April 2016.
- Jo Sales, Nancy (Feb 23, 2016). American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers. New York: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. ISBN 978-0385353922.
- Hunt, Elle (2016-01-05). "Instagram star Essena O'Neill: 'The way it all turned so negative just numbed me'". The Guardian. Retrieved 14 April 2016.
- Hunt, Elle (2015-11-03). "Essena O'Neill quits Instagram claiming social media 'is not real life'". Guardian. Guardian. Retrieved 12 October 2016.
- Mapstone, Tessa. "Social Media Celebrity's Instagram truths change mindsets". Sunshine Coast Daily. Retrieved 14 April 2016.
- Olya, Gabrielle. "Essena O'Neill Admits to Skipping Meals and Exercising Obsessively to Feel Confident on Social Media". People Magazine. Retrieved 14 April 2016.
- MacMillen, Hayley. "Former Instagram Star Essena O'Neill Reveals The Unhealthy Way She Stayed Thin". Refinery29.
- "Insta-famous Essena breaks down as story goes viral". Sunshine Coast Daily. Australian Regional Media. Retrieved 14 April 2016.
- Shunatona, Brooke (2016-01-05). "Essena O'Neill Reveals Surprising Future Plans in 6,200-Word Email". Cosmopolitan. Cosmo. Retrieved 14 April 2016.
- Elgot, Jessica (2015-11-04). "Social media star Essena O'Neill deletes Instagram account". The Guardian. Retrieved 14 April 2016.
- McCluskey, Megan. "Instagram Star z O'Neill Breaks Her Silence on Quitting Social Media". TIME. TIME. Retrieved 14 April 2016.
- Rodulfo, Kristina (2015-11-02). "100 Shots, One Day of Not Eating: What Happens When You Say What Really Goes Into the Perfect Bikini Selfie?". Elle. Hearst Magazines. Retrieved 14 April 2016.
- Ceron, Ella. "The Model Who Quit Social Media Reveals How Much Makeup Was Behind Her Perfect Selfies". TeenVogue. Vogue. Retrieved 14 April 2016.