So I’m sure you, reader with internet access are aware of tween sensation Zoella, online alias of blogger and YouTube queen Zoe Sugg. Zoe has created a multi-million follower empire from her bedroom using nothing but her laptop and camera, reining in 10-16-year old girls in their millions.
Zoe then did what appears to be the next step in YouTube fame and wrote a book. I use the term “wrote” lightly here as it has came to light that a ghostwriter was used to tell the story of Girl Online, a controversy that has split the internet.
I personally am on the side that gives not one singular fuck as to who actually penned the book. Zoella may have a background in writing but writing a blog and writing a novel require an entirely different set of skills, it would be naive to assume otherwise.
Yes, we could go on to discuss the ethics of leading her followers on to believe that the words in her book are her own, but girl’s gotta make a dolla’. And what makes more dolla’? “Hey, I wrote a book!” or “Hey, someone wrote a book for me!”
My problem lies with the contents of the book, which regardless of who wrote it is extremely problematic.
Zoe’s book, Girl Online is your average teen romance novel. 15-year old British girl goes to New York with her (borderline offensively) stereotypical gay BFF, meets older, cooler musician, falls in love, shit goes down, yadda yadda I won’t spoil it for/bore you. The only difference with Girl Online is that our protagonist is a blogger with anxiety.
As we all know Zoe herself has anxiety, and uses her platform to discuss mental health with her followers which I think is fantastic. We live in a world where there is so much stigma attached to mental health so to see someone with such a huge following discussing it so openly is just incredible. Not to mention the guts it must have taken to put herself out there. With so much negative connotations surrounding mental health for her to go “This is me, I have this, this is how I deal with it,” is incredibly brave and I found a great deal of respect for her.
But then I read this extract from her book which left a bitter taste in my mouth
Way to trivialise anxiety Zoella.
Anyone who suffers with anxiety can tell you there is so much more to it than taking the perfect selfie to post on social media and I am so disappointed to see this message sent to hundreds and thousands of girls.
This book is now the fastest selling debut novel ever. This book has sold nearly 80.000 copies in a week. This book trivialises mental health.
I wanted to be 100% informed when I wrote this post, so I bought the book myself. The kindle edition, so it only cost me 45 minutes of catering to snotty customers every whim. The rest of the book was no better, which I will go on to discuss once I’m done with picking apart the faults in this horrendous list.
One could point out that the list says “Top Ten Reasons For Teenage Girls Getting Anxious” and not “Top Ten Reasons For Teenage Girls Having Anxiety” but we must remember that Zoe Sugg has become “the face” of anxiety, she can’t throw around the word anxious without people naturally associating it with anxiety disorder. They have, and will continue to do so. Also there’s that one small factor that the WHOLE FUCKING BOOK IS ABOUT A GIRL WITH ANXIETY.
If this were any other book then I wouldn’t have batted an eyelid at this list, I would have assumed this is a list of teen troubles and that was that. But this isn’t any other book, this is a book thats main themes are directly linked with anxiety and panic attacks and to have this list in this book is dangerous.
Zoella’s main target audience is young girls. Young girls who will almost definitely be going through the things listed. Young, impressionable girls who very well could read this list and think “Hey, I worry about these things does that mean I have anxiety?”
And this is where it gets dangerous.
There have been a great deal of cuts to the mental health sector recently leaving those with depression, anxiety and other mental health problems waiting months for professional help. Now we have the potential of girls using this list as an anxiety checklist, going to their GP because they’re “supposed to know how to pose like a supermodel.” Making it even harder for those with life crippling mental health problems to access the care they desperately need.
It goes without saying, I am not a healthcare professional. It is not, nor will it ever be my place to decide who is unhealthy enough for medical help but I do know that worrying about boys is not the same as anxiety.
Not only is this potentially dangerous but it’s also bloody insulting. There are people who haven’t left their house in weeks because they are so effected by their anxiety, and let me tell you they do not give a flying fuck about selfies.
Of course things on these list can contribute to anxiety, for example there are many people who have anxiety due to their looks but there are underlying problems. Simply worrying about a boy is not anxiety.
Then there was the rest of the book. I was SO hoping that it would go on to talk about how to help anxiety but it didn’t really. The main character said that thinking of the sea helped, and then she met a boy who seemed to take all her problems away. And then that was it really.
Brilliant. Got anxiety? No problem, just go to New York and meet a hot musician he’ll help you relax!
I finished the book feeling bitter and hurt. How could someone that knows exactly what it’s like to suffer with anxiety write/put their name on a book that does nothing but further reiterate the stigmas attached to mental health? How can she take her platform viewed by millions and then use it to trivialise anxiety in such a way.
I know a lot of people are going to disagree with me. I’ve already had some hurtful comments aimed at me on twitter but this is truly how I feel. Please feel free to discuss your thoughts in the comments, I am always open to listening to other peoples opinions.