The inside of the tube has spoken. The video blogger, or vlogger, Zoe Sugg – better known as Zoella – has opened up about the mental health issues that the children of the Internet – she is 28 – face because they live on the Internet. It magnifies some things, removes others utterly, and can have the potential to become a mirror which distorts absolutely everything.
Zoella is rich – her vlogging has made her a $4.8 million fortune – and loved (she lives with another vlogging star called Alfie Deyes). She is also very influential – currently no.2 on the 2018 influencer rich list.
She is an Internet princess from an Internet dynasty – her brother Joe is also a famous vlogger and soon-to-be Strictly contestant – she creates Internet content from her own soul and sells it for profit. She is, essentially, a confessional writer, and the appetite for new confessions as often as the punter wants is insatiable. Because this is the Internet Age.
At the root of it is money. Zoella‘s website – chatty, colourful, unthreatening – has sections (departments) called Beauty, Food, Life, Places, Style – and Shop. The shop sells mostly make-up, and also, when I last checked, a cape made of what appears to be tinsel. She has two YouTube channels: the first sells things, and the second is the video diary of her own life that accelerates the selling of these things.
Almost everything that Zoella is, and does, is streamed over the Internet. That must ache after a while, particularly if you grew up with it. But privacy is an ebbing concept, and I think of Zoella as a Rapunzel, trapped in a computer programme, combing her hair and then telling us about the conditioner she used, for want of anything better to do.
But then in a post on instagram where she has 10.7 million followers (apologies for the glut of numbers, but all Internet stars deal in numbers, because the numbers made them stars) she has revealed battled with anxiety and revealed that she has been “working” on her anxiety for three and a half years. That is the authentic voice of the workaholic. She is “working” on her happiness. “I definitely beat myself up about it more now than I used to,” she said, “I get frustrated & feel deflated.” I am not cynical enough to believe she said this for hits. I believe her.
“One of the biggest issues most people face when dealing with mental health issues is the internet,” she says, “It‘s a cure, but it‘s also a curse.” The cure is like-minded people, who feel as she does, and can support her; except no-one feels as she does, except perhaps the no.1. on the 2018 influencer rich list. So, who can support her?
She is alone in her pixelated castle with her handsome vlogger prince. The curse is that these like-minded people might as well be fictional, for the impact they have on her life apart from money. Zoella‘s 10.7 million Instagram followers are not her friends, even if they admire her prettiness and her taste. It would be more accurate to say that they are consuming her.
Zoella‘s 10.7 million Instagram followers are not her friends – it would be more accurate to say they are consuming her.
Zoella‘s whole brand is based on a warped ideal of friendship. Here she is, in her familiar house, which her followers know but have not visited, smiling brightly and confiding in them in a bubbling, hesitant voice. She is an ideal friend – a 12-year old‘s idea of a beauty – but she is not a real one. Nourish yourself online and what is left over in the real world? Not a lot, which is why anxiety in the young is spiking. They have a lot to worry about. Friendships could ease it, but possibly not ones like this.
“We are a generation of scrollers & we consume so much on the internet that we probably don‘t realise how much of it is detrimental to us or our wellbeing” she says. She is right and why wouldn‘t she be? This is what she knows because it is her job to sate the hunger she has created.
There isn‘t much data yet on exactly how the Internet is destroying our mental health, and interfering with our normal processes, but any avid user with any self-awareness could tell you it makes you feel insane. I could barely settle down to write this column for shouting at people on Twitter. We will know soon how the whirly-gig of internet is affecting us and the post-Zoella generation may well burn their smartphones.
I don‘t care about her blusher tips, or where she drank tea, or what kind, but this post of hers felt truthful. It is hard to interpret it as anything other than a cry for release from inside her digital prison. It remains to be seen whether she will join in the swell of support for scroll free September. Until then, I am sure, it will be a case of back to selling.