Defending The Selfie

‘With what purpose do you take selfies?’


The Obligatory Pre-Selfie Panel Selfie

It’s the question Frances Borzello posed to me during a Q&A at the Cheltenham Literary Festival  after I had (rather unsuccessfully) tried to explain that young people don’t always take selfies out of vanity, or because we want to share them and gain a following. My response at the time was somewhat unsatisfactory (in part because the panelists were being unfairly heckled by an angry Danish woman and thus we ran out of time)  so I thought I’d elaborate here.

I stand by what I said at the time, that selfies are an easy form of documentation  It’s no surprise that in a world where smartphones and cameras are ubiquitous, selfies have seen their rise. Unlike in the past where immense skill was required in order to recreate a likeness, self-documentation is perhaps more accessible to many of us. But I can’t help but feel there is something more to selfies than just the mechanics of self portraiture.

What I failed to elaborate upon was the fact that selfies –  for myself and many young people that I have met – are a reclamation of sorts. I know this doesn’t fit with the narrative perpetuated by the media, who seem to quite enjoy writing headlines about how selfies are damaging us and a waste of time. Seems a bit rich coming from the Daily Mail. 

Sometimes when I feel particularly shit, I will stage a little photoshoot in my room. It’s a ritual I’ve taken part in since I got my first camera aged 10 and although the equipment has improved (I no longer sellotape cameras to music stands in place of a tripod, for example) the principle has remained much the same. I sit there and take photos of myself.

Call it vain. Call it a waste of time. Just know it’s one of my most basic forms of self-care.


Maybe I’ve had a crap body day and would like to be reminded that it doesn’t matter that my thighs touch, or I’m not as thin as some other people and that ultimately I am more than the sum of my parts.


Maybe I want to try a new look, or to play a character, a different version of myself.


Maybe I’m trying to remind myself that my flesh form is actually doing a good job of keeping me alive no matter how much I’ve tried to damage it.


Maybe I’m teary or angry because, guess what, I’m human and I want to know that photos of myself don’t have to make me look like I have my life together. 


Maybe I’m genuinely enjoying life for once and want to remember it before that happiness is lost again.

And sometimes – shock horror –  I take selfies because I like my face.


Do you know how hard it is to like your flesh form when the world is hell bent on eradicating your self-esteem in favour of turning you into a consumer?

It’s very easy in a world permeated with toxic ideals fuelled by consumerist capitalism to feel like your body is not your own. You are a consumer, you are commodifiable and you are exploitable. Trying to retain any semblance of self when you’re constantly being sold to is really difficult when your insecurity is exploitable.

If nothing else, my selfies are a reminder that I am my own property and no-one elses. I know it doesn’t always feel like that, particularly if you’re a teenager and puberty has done fuck knows what to your body but you are more in control than you think. Trust.

Do I always know what I’m trying to achieve with my selfies? Not all. Sometimes I don’t know until the end of the process.


‘Not worried about being too visible now?’

This was a set of photos I took on National Coming Out Day, mid breakdown as I watched the ending of Pride. At the time I was crying too much to be thinking, but looking back I know those images act as a prompt for an actually quite helpful dialogue.

I always feel like my idea of selfies will never really fit in with what is the popular census – though when has anything I’ve done ever conformed?! 90% of the selfies I take never end up anywhere. They’re not for fame or popularity, because as we know I care little for the latter. 

Even if selfies are vain, or selfish, neither of those are the worst  things you could be, at least in my mind. Having a high opinion of oneself is hard, as is putting yourself first above others. They’re also coincidentally both qualities which are vilified, particularly in women.

However, looking after yourself is important because you can’t help anyone else if you’re not in a good place first and its nothing to be ashamed of. I reckon people are so often made to feel as though being insecure is somehow endearing (I mean, how many times have you rebutted a compliment because you didn’t want to seem arrogant) but there is power in knowing yourself and being confident in who you are. 

So call me selfish, call me vain, call me stupid. I’ll be sat here looking after myself the ways I know how and refusing to let you get to me. Even if my looking after myself involves crying in front of a camera for half an hour, at least I’ve taken the time to know what works for me.

PS All the panelists were really cool and you should definitely check them out. Do it. Now.

Michelle Thomas:

Emma Gannon:

Frances Borzello

Creating > Popularity

Why do we create things?

I mean there are certain things we have to create, like meals. I think we can all agree that cooking is quite important (likewise we can all agree we should have paid more attention in food tech). But other things, like art, music and writing are viewed as somehow inessential for our wellbeing.

Which is complete and utter codswallop.

I don’t tell people I know IRL what I make online largely because previous responses have been along the lines of  ‘but you aren’t going to get popular making that’.

So what?

There’s these revolutionary things called enjoyment, contentment and satisfaction. The three, in my mind at least, are far more important than popularity. Popularity has made a lot of people extremely unhappy. FACT.

And  I don’t doubt there’s thousands of popular people making content they no longer enjoy but feel trapped because they’ve created a brand for themselves (see Louise Pentland’s recent move from SprinkleOfGlitter). Which isn’t to say all popular people are unhappy either, but I imagine there’s few people who are able to gain popularity without at least limiting parts of themselves.

I reckon we’ve forgotten that people aren’t, in their natural state, particularly marketable. We’re not. We mess up, we make mistakes, we think and do terrible things. Sometimes we’re brilliant and sometimes we’re bastards. Perhaps we don’t want to admit it because public reputation is the way we measure our success, but we are.

There is so much power in simply being and doing the things you love without any promise of recognition. Sure, it’s nice when someone likes your work, but that feeling of satisfaction underpins the warmth we feel when appreciated. That isn’t to say that it is easy, or that you will be popular for it. I see so many people (myself included) who waste so much of their time and energy pining after something as intangible an unpredictable as popularity.

We forget about the process.

I love making things – terrible drawings, awful fanfiction, horrendous bass guitar covers. I’m not a particularly talented creative – I’m not precise enough, have the physical dexterity or understanding of how things go together in order to look or sound nice. But I know that sometimes teaching myself a new song is the only way to calm me down before I go to bed, or that writing is the only way to combat the invisible lump in my throat that stops me breathing.

My Mum is always saying she can tell when I am happy because I sing (all the time, as untunefully as possible. Soz Mum.) The first obvious dip in my mental health coincidentally coincided with me giving up alot of my favourite activities, such as writing songs and playing sports and if I’m honest, I’m not sure what came first. Likewise, this year I stopped having music lessons and playing in ensambles because finding motivaiton to do anything was hard, let alone things which required commitment, skill and concentration.

When I’m down, which if I’m honest is a lot these days, I can’t bring myself to do anything creative because I don’t have the energy,  because my existence is pointless and everything I make is crap. But these are the times when I need my outlets most because when you have something that makes you – maybe not happy – but as close to that as I can feel, you have to find time for it. Savour it. Protect it.

I’m never going to be a famous writer, actor or musician but you know what, I don’t care. If being creative, in whatever form that takes, makes my brain an easier place to inhabit, then I could not give two monkeys what anyone thinks. I’ll write low quality fanfiction to my hearts content and upload sub-par vlogs if I want. Likewise, I’ll put time and effort in if I want and if I am able.

I’m the only person who really understands the true value in what I create. I’m the only one who knows what my end-product was a manifestation of. Once you realise this you kind of forget about the popularity thing. You just sort of do what makes you happy where you can. Maybe you should give it a go – just find a thing you enjoy and make time for it. See where it takes you.



Messy: Why I Refuse To Have My Life Together


A few years a ago, I came across this quote by the musician Fiona Apple:

So I’m going to help some little girl out there. I’m going to let her know that I have stretch marks on my ass, and bunions, that I don’t have my shit together at all. Please say that I don’t have my shit together. I want to give that girl some hope. I want her to know that she doesn’t have to have her shit together. She doesn’t. It’s okay if she doesn’t. I’m going to prove that, and then I’m going to die.”

Well, I think she proved her point, because since then, I’ve tried to adopt similar principles. Although there are times it is advisable perhaps to look like ones’ affairs are in order, I know that during 99% of these periods I have been a mess. Why? I mean besides the obvious reasons- clumsiness and poor time management – it’s because I do not care. I simply couldn’t care about looking like my life is together if that is not the case.

Shocking, I know.

I’d love to be the sort of teenager effortlessly maintaining straight As, an active social life, social media profile, exercise regime, pre-planned outfits and a singular aesthetic. Unfortunately, my life is sort of aimlessly galumphing along, ranting furiously about the government and drinking far too much hot chocolate (no seriously, it’s a bit ridiculous).

I’m not sure when it became necessary for people to look like they have their lives together, but I am fairly certain this need to constantly look like your affairs are in order are exacerbated by the internet.

The one thing which unites many of the popular bloggers/vloggers is their singular aesthetic. Though we can debate the authenticity of the popular content creators till the cows come home, a quick flick through Instagram will no doubt demonstrate the way online spaces are created with the goal of suggesting that life is rosy, aesthetically pleasing and generally that you have your shit together.

No-one, I repeat, no-one has their affairs in this much order. We’re humans – we’re messy and all prone to bouts of laziness, tiredness, uncontrollable emotions. You will have ups and downs and sometimes you might not know how to cope with what life throws at you. That’s fine, but I think in a digital age it’s easy to forget that this is all absolutely normal.

Moreover, I reckon this is something of a feminist issue. Though stoicism is often seen as a masculine trait, it is the women who are expected to seamlessly navigate domestic, social and workplace spheres, balancing a baby in one arm whilst single-handedly solving the world’s problems in another (probably not the best examples, but you get the gist).  I don’t deny the expectations placed on men as a gender are equally as damaging, I don’t know if men really face the pressure in the same way .

I feel like the rise of feminism – or  at least, the ideas of popular feminism (which I don’t doubt are as flawed as they are numerous) – has made a lot of young women feel as though they’ve got to be doing all the things all of the time, since we’ve been afforded these opportunities. In the same way your parents would get you to eat your greens by telling about the starving children in the world, girls are feeling pressured to make the most of all of the opportunities. What we missed as ‘you can do anything’ was not synonymous with ‘you must do everything’.

So this is just to say that it’s okay. It’s okay not to have your life together. It’s okay if you never have it together. It’s okay if you are just figuring this whole being a human thing out. It’s okay if you settle down and it’s okay if you never do. It’s okay to get with whoever you like as long as it’s safe and consensual. It’s okay if you don’t look attractive. It’s okay if your eyeliner is wonky. It’s okay if your blog gets no views (I mean, mine doesn’t and I’m still fine). It’s okay if you’re on the verge of a breakdown. It’s okay not to conform.  It’s okay if the only thing you do today is exist.

A few of these things aren’t great, but they’re not a reflection of your value as a human.

And this is as much a reminder to me as it is to you.

You don’t ever have to have you life together.





a sweaty, not exactly attractive, swotty, nerdy, sweary, sarcastic, opinionated kid who cannot put an outfit together for the live of her.




When In Doubt, Buy A Bass Guitar.


Yes, that is me, sat in a Waitrose car park with a bass guitar and amp in tow. Thankfully there isn’t a photo of me trying to carry said bass guitar, amp and handbag across the aforementioned car park whilst wearing five inch heels and trying to establish any form of centre of gravity.

Do I play bass guitar? No. Or at least not yet.


Then again, a month ago I’d never played a keyboard before and I’ve also managed to obtain one of them and learn a few tunes (from the same charity shop from whence the bass guitar came, no less, and at an even more bargains price).

So why on earth have I decided to play bass?  Mostly because I saw someone on Twitter playing it and fell in love with the way they played and wanted to the same.

Now, I’m not entirely musically incompetent (my former music teachers might disagree).= I’ve taught myself – albeit badly – to play guitar and ukulele, and I had clarinet lessons for many years so technically, I know a thing or two about notes and chord progressions.

In fact, a few years ago, music was my favourite subject. I spent every single day writing songs and then forcing my mother to listen to those songs. Whilst I’d like to think I’m not too bad throwing some lyrics together, I sing like a cat whose larynx was damaged in some terrible accident. Nevertheless, my mother has been patient.

Then the exam years came and this constant anxiety that unless I’m being productive all of the time, I’m going to fail. I guess things just get the point where unless you’re exceedingly good at something, you can’t justify dedicating time and effort towards it.

Maybe this is just what adulthood is.

Anyway, whilst perched on the bench outside the local Waitrose, a woman came up to me. I would have said she was in her mid 30s, with long dark hair and a sense of style that immediately made me assume she was a librarian. Now, the majority of people walking by had been either giving me a raised eyebrow or even tried to joke about how girls couldn’t play bass – to my credit, I didn’t wack them over the head with the bass despite the urge to.

Nevertheless,  the woman continued to approach me.

‘So… do you play bass then?’

‘No, but I’m hoping to learn’

‘Ah that’s really good. We need more girls playing guitars. What made you pick it up?’

‘I saw someone else do it and I thought I would have a go’

‘And yet they say girls don’t need role models, hey?’


And with that, she disappeared into the ether (read: Waitrose).

It sort of dawned on me at this point how often we feel we can’t do something, because it seems improbable that we’ll be successful or popular for it.

Stuff that.

And so, dear readers (especially those of the not men kind), I do implore you to, where possible, take up the things you want to do. Do stuff – even if you don’t know how, or look daft doing it.

You never know who you’re going to be inspiring.





Girlcon AKA the most important thing I’ve done this year.

cw: brief mental health references

I think I was staying alive for Girlcon this year. Seriously, I remember watching from afar (read: the middle of Wales with only sheep for friends) and wishing so desperately that I could be there. And then my brain ‘went’ last August and I’ll be honest I haven’t really felt the same since. Staying alive this year was hard.

I arrived at Girlcon, having spent 40 minutes getting the wrong bus (don’t even go there. Buses and I are not pals). Immediately, Kara and Anna greeted me warmly (these two, by the way, along with the other Girlcon attendees (obvs) are possibly the best humans and they are just brilliant). I’m always surprised when people know me off of the internet, or come up to me and say hi.Twitter shouldn’t be the place you meet close friends and yet I spend more time talking to my Twitter pals than anyone else. So when Girlcon attendees knew who I was, it warmed my cold heart just that little bit more.

The self-care workshop was the first thing I attended, which if I remember correctly involved Anna and Krish lying across tables going ‘this is self-care’. Later, I attended the selfie panel, which was full of interesting perspectives about how women and non-binary people’s bodies have been owned. Even to say panel seems weird to me because every one I attended – although the panelists and moderators did a wonderful job – had ample room for discussion and it was so genuinely brilliant to see people opening up or offering different perspectives.

And you didn’t have to agree either. You could hold a totally different opinion to the person sitting next to you. . Maybe as someone who is stuck in a school where conformity is the equivalent of godliness this is somewhat revolutionary. I think as girls and non-binary folk we’re expected to apologise for our thoughts and opinions if they do not fit the mould. There was none of that there.

You could sit in a room of people so alike to you, or totally different, and have nuanced discussions about complex issues. You could leave if you felt triggered and go to the designated quiet room, or you could just sit and be visibly distressed. You could simply be.

Sunday morning was spent writing poetry with Bridget Minamore and this was lovely. Not only is Bridget warm, supportive and funny, she was so chilled out about what we chose to share. For once, I had a space where I could write a terrible poem about being a self depricating human slug (which I definitely did not totally do).

After consuming more hummus than humanly possible, I went to the Youtube workshop which was run by the fabulous Rowan Ellis. This was so lovely as it gave us younger folks the chance to discuss what we wanted to use our channels for and share are (often similar) apprehensions.

The afternoon, I concede,  is a bit of a blur but I remember the bodies panel and the fangirls panels happening. Both of these were so important to me at the time and, as I recall thinking at the time, probably shouldn’t have worked and yet they did. By this point, I was a bit overwhelmed by it all but I do remember the pizza, basketball (during which we realised I definitely used to be a sports lesbian) and sobbing when I had to leave.

I left Girlcon thinking I could be happy. I could. This year it’s been all to easy to believe that the world is awful, or at the very least it wasn’t designed with me in mind. But for a short while, I had a space where I could just be and people who genuinely cared and listend.

That’s the sort of thing that’s kept me going.