A letter to all the young girls

Image result for moody teenager

Dear young girls across the world,

I found really sad to read in the news today that among 10 to 15-year-old girls, the children’s society charity reported that 14% are unhappy with their lives as a whole, and 34% with their appearance.

I actually find this statistic quite upsetting because I for one, have never struggled with being unhappy as a child. My levels of happiness have decreased since being an adult of course, that’s a given right? But to acknowledge that there is a number of young women out there, who are fundamentally unhappy with themselves and their environments, whilst by contrast the study found that boys’ sense of happiness remained stable, is a really alarming piece of information that leads me onto a number of things that could be causing this turbulence in the pre teen and teenage years of womanhood.

First of all, Instagram

Yeah, we all have it, yeah we all pick the best filter so it looks like it was 5 degrees hotter than it actually was on holiday and yeah we all mindlessly scroll through post after post wishing we were ‘that skinny’ or could ‘cook that well’ or was ‘that rich’.

But we need to wake up and smell the sausage and carrot pasta (a cheap, easy and not very instagrammable meal for anyone who is interested) and admit the fact that Instagram is FAKE.

I will tell my sister who fits into this teen age bracket that what you see on Instagram, celebrities, personal trainers, fashion bloggers, your friends afternoon tea post, most of them, are set up, they are organised, they are faked, or exaggerated, they are not representations of real life. Real life is the bunch of candid snaps of you and your mates as you lark around in the park doing cartwheels and pulling funny faces at each other, the ones you wouldn’t put on Instagram. But instead, people choose the one where they are delicately (and in some cases seductively) licking an ice cream, which they probably have no intention of eating, despite still having the metabolism of a child (god damn you, it runs out pretty soon after 19 let me tell you!)

Have fun, take photos, don’t think about poses or what looks best on Instagram. Because the thing that looks best on Instagram is not the ‘best version’ of you. It’s the staged version of you. God the only staging I was doing at 15 was pushing around the crappy crates we had in our drama classroom to make a stage out of.

Secondly, The Kardashians, and Gigi and all those other models

You don’t look like Kylie Jenner, or Gigi or Bella Hadid, and you’re sad about it. But you also don’t have millions of dollars and the desire to get your face sliced up and stiched back together before your 17th birthday. These girls PAID to look like that. They went under cosmetic procedures to look like that. They (well their equally as deluded) rich celebrity parents paid for it. You’re going to have to make do with a Natural Collection eyeshadow pallet and some sparkly lipgloss. It’s what it’s all about. Boys might ogle at Kylie and Gigi and Bella and all the other ‘models’ out there, but believe me, they are all too ugly to even get within a foot of a girl who actually looks like that IRL (I’ll give you a clue: no one actually does). So don’t sweat it that Callum in Yr12 fancies Kylie Jenner and you wished you had bigger lips. In a year’s time you’ll realise that Callum only wants a fumble up your bra at that house party of the year and that you’re actually beautiful because you’re smart and respectful of yourself. Sure, slap a face of make up on if you want, we all do it from time to time. But take it from a girl who tried to hide away from having red hair and pale skin because it wasn’t deemed ‘attractive’ enough, being a bit different or not having peroxide blonde hair and an orange tan actually works in your favour as you get older and boys like Callum fade and boys like Chris who studies medicine and your mum just ‘can’t wait to meet’ comes into the picture.

And finally, there’s all this outward confidence, but what happened to all the inward loving?

Take some time out from the pressures of being 15. You’re being grilled by your parents to do that extra French homework, and you’re also being told to tidy your room for the 5th time this week and not stay on your phone all night and why aren’t you coming to watch Coronation street? I was 15 ten years ago, and although it feels like ages (I am old n haggered lol) it really wasn’t. I still remember the fights with my parents (soz guys), and the binge eating my feelings on 6 KitKats after school and then trying to eat dinner. But your parents are nagging you because they are terrified they might have done a shit job and you’re actually going to end up working full time in McDonald’s, so prove them wrong on that one. You’re being asked to tidy your room because it’s a tip and its actually a lot easier to sleep and chill out in a tidy room and if you eat 6 kitkats after school, so what? Go on a run with your mates (not alone you’re 15 and female, society hasn’t moved on that much in 10 years on that front) or join an after school sports club because god damn it when you move to London at 21 and find out it costs £300 a month to play for a netball team when you used to play it for free, that’s a kick in the teeth.

In the words of a wise man (apart from the toe cancer thing) called Bob Marley. Don’t worry and be happy. Because you’re 15, and frankly wait until you’re 25 and having an existential crisis about whether you’re a child or an adult or if you have enough money to eat that week. That’s when you actually need to freak out.

Yours sincerely,

Girl who did it before you.

twitter.com/g_hetherington

p.s don’t you just love the picture, it’s me at 15

Millennials and the Media

themorningnews.org

Today at work I attended an event to celebrate International Women’s Day called How To Extend Content Reach to Women Ages 16-25. This was a big talk hoping to enable people of older generations to get ‘down with the kids’ and understand why we like social media so much.

The whole time I was sat in the audience listening to experts on outreach and consumerable content to my age group, I couldn’t help thinking, ‘yeah you’re kind of right, but you’re also a bit old to get it too’. I mean these women – who are by far some of the best in their field – most of them weren’t even that much older than my age demographic, and not to exclude the male on the panel too – were probably all just shy of 40.

But that’s all that’s needed in an age gap for people to either completely understand – partially understand – or just not understand at all, however hard they try.

So why are we as an age group so reliant on social media and consumable content? Personally, I do actually think that this is dependent on regions too. For example, I think if I lived at home in Manchester with my parents still and worked at Topshop still like I did when I was 16-18, then still at the age of 24, my content consumption would be different. I wouldn’t be seeking the reassurance of coping with living in London, the anxiety behind looking for my next job or even the kind of content I share to make myself look like a) my degree was worth it and I’m smart, b) I’m fun, kooky and laid back and c) I’m unique and different to everyone else. And we all lie to ourselves, because we all do it. Every single one of us.

Social media in particular has become this breeding ground for narcissism and even writing this, I have to make sure that I reiterate the phrase I constantly have to tell myself which I read somewhere a few years ago (ironically probably on Instagram) ‘Don’t compare your behind the scenes to someone else’s showreel’. And it’s so true, along with ‘Don’t believe the things you tell yourself late at night’. As a demographic, we have become to intense and complicated and multifaceted that we are actual subjects on actual studies about our actual thought processes behind how we use social media. When you separate yourself from the context of this…doesn’t it all seem a little mad?

I occasionally use emojis, I can read a daily mail showbiz article or two/three/seven before I go to bed, and I can scroll through Kylie Jenner’s Instagram wondering whether it’s ok to think that an 18 year old has a nice butt? But it doesn’t mean that I’m not reading a really interesting book about character analysis or that I aspire to be like Kim Kardashian. And this is the slight point that not only are middle aged people trying to understand us online are missing, it’s the point that we are the first generation who cannot be cornered into one group of content consumers, because content is so diverse and also SO available, meaning that whilst I’m tweeting about Pretty Little Liars, I’m writing a document about Workhouses and the Poor Law Act of 1834.

What the media middle agers need to now do is respect these differences and use it to make their content even more distinctive, and allow our responses as the targeted audience to do the talking. This makes it into a cycle of creating and consuming content specific to requirement.

Young people use the internet and social engagement to learn to be ourselves, and play with our identities. We don’t need to be pigeon holed, because no pigeon is the same.

 

RTS Futures Event – I Made It In Digital – 27/04/2015

rts

Attending this event last night with my friend and co-founder of an exciting new venture, I expected the same kind of deal from an RTS Futures event, a whole lot about what you can do in the future but not a lot about how to get there.

However this appointment hosted at The Hospital Club put forward a panel that in the world of digital are golden and the best part is, it was young people giving advice to other young people, older people and anyone that has an interest in digital people.

On the panel hosted by the ever entertaining and BBC Radiobabe Alice Levine was Steve Bartlett, a 22 year old (and definite heartthrob) entrepreneur, successful on the back of the UK’s largest influencer marketing agency Social Chain; Fleur De Force one of YouTube’s highest viewed beauty and style vloggers; Dan Biddle, Head of Broadcast Partnerships @Twitter (and resident funny guy too); and the ever so fashionable Kat Hebden who heads up the teams for the UK brands you might have heard of such as X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent. Together this super panel promised to deliver to us young hopefuls, the chance to understand why they themselves made it in digital, but also why their business models made it too.

A summary of points from the panel-

Branding-

  • Building yourself up as a commodity takes time and means you have to be proactive on yourself. No one to tell you what to do and when to do it but yourself.
  • Being passionate about your content is as important as the content itself, if you’re not, it shows.
  • Adapt your skills as you go along. Just because you don’t know anything about X,Y,Z doesn’t mean you can’t learn it along the way and incorporate these new skills later on.
  • There is pressure to deliver good content, make sure the content is fitting in with the brand’s (whether a person or product) personality is the first step.

Broadcast Vs Digital

  • The speed of decisions is different; you can be much more reactionary. You can find out about a topic or product, review it and plug it all in the same day in a matter of hours.
  • You can go back on digital by deleting. Something doesn’t get a good reaction? Delete. Something doesn’t get a reaction at all? Delete.
  • With digital you can pay attention to audience feedback and this can generate new ideas as well as make decisions on future projects.

Questions to ask yourself

  • How am I/my product/my brand relevant to my chosen audience?
  • Am I consistent with promoting myself/my product/my brand?
  • Is my content engaging and starting a conversation among my chosen audience?

Things to remember

  • Don’t be the cool dad on Twitter trying to get down with the kids. Be yourself and this will show with how you appear online.
  • Don’t watch other people’s/brands content and replicate, or think that’s how it should be done, find your own niche.
  • Don’t be afraid to just do it. If it doesn’t work, that’s why there’s a big Delete button.

I think the discussion was summed up very well by Kat Hebden who said. ‘Content online will change along with how we consume’. Digital is an ever changing world/cyberspace and there’s no better time to join in and give it a go in whatever shape or form.

The next RTS Event is First Dates: Falling in Love with Ideas being held just round the corner from the BBC on Hallam Street on Monday 11th May and tickets can be purchased for £10 from the RTSFutures Website here.