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Why do girls never change in their obsessions?


Zoella (Zoe Sugg)

Perhaps it's a generational thing but even though I still consider myself to be fairly young, I really don't get the appeal of the video blogger.

But if the popularity of 24-year-old Zoella (Zoe Sugg) is anything to go by, it seems that I am in a minority. Living in Brighton, UK, the bubbly brunette has over six million subscribers to her video channel and her recent book - Girl Online - has sold more copies than JK Rowling did with her debut.

So, you ask, what does this girl do and why is she so popular? Well in a nutshell, she describes the minutiae of her life - what she had for dinner, what's in her handbag, how she does her hair and make-up - I could go on, but I've lost the will.

There was some backlash last month when it was revealed that her book was ghost-written, but this hasn't stopped her legions of fans who can't seem to get enough. Bewildered by her popularity, I asked some Irish teens and a few 'grown-ups' for their opinion.

18-year-old Elizabeth MacBride (below) lives in Kildare with her parents Julie and Sean. She has seen Zoella's videos and while she isn't a major fan, can see why others are smitten.

"I've always thought Zoella's videos seemed cute and harmless enough but have never been super interested in them. On the whole YouTubers are often glorified more than your everyday celebrity and I think it's because basically, they're just normal people with a basic understanding of cameras and an Internet connection - it makes people like Zoella so much more accessible for young people.

"And they'd look up to her more because she's just an average person who happened to become famous through the Internet.

"Her rise to fame may be a bit excessive, but there are plenty of people who are far more famous than her and have a lot less reason to be. I don't have a lot of time to watch Youtubers much anymore, but I have always loved the idea of having a platform to just be yourself on.

"However, unless you're in the one per cent of Youtubers that happen to amass millions of fans for whatever reason, it's usually just a shout into the void and a bit of a waste of time. Plus, I think I'd rather live in the real world, instead of in a computer screen."

Hazel Clifford (below) lives in Clondalkin with her parents Margaret and Tommy. She has four siblings and is training to be an actor at the LIR Academy. She doesn't spend much time online but believes her generation give too much credence to people who haven't earned it.

"I don't follow Zoella because she seems to be just another personality who is just all about looks. She has risen to fame so quickly because of her videos but I have no idea why she is getting to much media attention - I think it's a little out of proportion that she has risen to fame so quickly.

"Many of her fans were very angry to find out that Girl Online was largely ghost-written and that she spun a spurious tale for the sake of profit. None of my friends follow Zoella and I think the age-group of her fans is between 13 and 18.

"I don't think she is doing very much for the success she has achieved - people of the younger generation give credit to people where it is not deserved and in her case it's because her blogs are easy, quick and just out there.

"The success of people like Zoella is 100pc down to accessibility because everyone has smart phones or tablets. So when girls are online searching for something like how to do winged eyeliner, they click on You Tube and there is Zoella showing them how. Simple as it sounds, that is how she became famous."

Martha Cordial lives in Dublin 18 with her husband David and three children - Tom, Jamie and Sophie, who is currently doing her Leaving Cert. Surprisingly she has a positive take on Zoella and while her daughter isn't an avid viewer of the vlogs, she understands the appeal.


"I have watched Zoella and quite liked the content. Unlike the Kardashians and the many reality TV shows out there, I think that Zoella is a better role model for teens. I believe that something like the Kardashians is more fantasy than the real world. And this leads younger teens in particular, to get caught up in an environment that doesn't really exist.

"That's an ok situation for adults to be in, but I feel that kids don't have the necessary 'filters' to see fact from reality. So whenever these reality shows have been recorded at home by Sophie, I just wipe them off the box.

"However, with Zoella, there is a good mix of fun, an insight into a teen suffering from anxiety and some really good make-up tutorials. I think teens like the vlogs because they are short, snappy and don't require much attention. Basically, I would call it light and quite harmless compared to other shows out there.

"I wouldn't say Sophie is a huge fan but she does watch Zoella. Maybe because she is now 18 and is busy at school preparing for Leaving Cert, it wouldn't be as big a part of her viewing schedule.

"But as far as role models go in the 'manufactured' world, I think Zoella is ok. The fact that she mixes up anxiety issues with mundane things like what's the best eyeliner to use is good. I think that helps to give balance and show that even though she has issues, she's still a normal girl wanting to do the same things as her peers.

"So basically the core interest of teenagers hasn't really changed over the years. What has changed is the pace of communication due to social networking and the immediacy of recording every movement due to technology in general.

"Boys, make-up, going out, listening to music and having an interest in fashion - my generation was into these things, just like Sophie and her peers. The focus hasn't changed, just the speed - so peer pressure and technology has updated the mix.

"So even though I grew up in rural Roscommon, interests were generally the same then as they are now."


Child psychologist David Carey (left) is in agreement and says while video blogs of this fashion are mundane and relatively uninspiring, they are completely harmless and no different to some of the crazes which have been around down through the generations.

"To be honest I don't know what to make of this sort of media so I will call it "banality porn"," he says. "On the surface it seems pointless and incredibly boring but there may be an element of "entertainment" that I am missing.

"I suppose the short nature of her videos makes them easily digestible to those with a short attention span and a minimal craving for substance. I am not familiar with her book so can make no comments about it but if her videos are any clue it certainly will not be demanding reading.

"I don't think her popularity says anything about today's youth as there are a lot of children and adolescents who crave material of more substance that she provides.

"And I do not think it is negative at all. Really I think it is just vacuous, useless entertainment with no lasting value whatever.

"But if parents are worried about their children or teens spending lots of time watching videos of this nature - or indeed any other type, they should step up to their responsibility for supervising their children's screen time. It needs to be limited according to the age of the child. And it goes without saying that school work must take first priority."

Laura Haugh (below) of online parenting community www.mummypages.ie agrees and says the feedback from its members is that the media landscape has changed rapidly in recent years causing some vloggers to reach celebrity status overnight. With this in mind, parents are aware of the unrealistic world which is often portrayed online.

"Video bloggers such as Zoella are portraying an image of the 'perfect' life online and it is easy to see how tweens and teenagers become obsessed with the lives of online celebrities," she says.

"Our members believe that young people can be a little naive and often take everything they see online for face value. Zoella's video blogs may seem like they were effortlessly put together when in reality they involve hours of preparation and are heavily edited.

"So while parents are mindful of the pressures teens face in terms of exams, they are also aware of the image conscious society they are growing up in is and how there is a much greater emphasis on beauty and popularity.

"Teenagers who are exposed to the 'fake' happy or 'perfect' image portrayed by vloggers online can begin to benchmark their life against the one being portrayed online which can leave them feeling isolated and worthless."