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Harry Styles is all smiles but Twitter takes teen girls another direction

By Jane Graham

Published 02/10/2015

Online inspiration: singer Tayor Swift
Online inspiration: singer Tayor Swift

I was fascinated this week to read the research on "online emotion" by leading data scientists at Belfast's Queen's University, whose pioneering analysis revealed that Harry Styles is Twitter's "happiest celebrity".

I felt shame and confusion at this news. I'm embarrassed to admit I was ignorant about this important, cutting-edge work being done in Belfast. Even worse, I wasn't aware Twitter emotion was a thing. I mean, a thing that could be studied, categorised and measured.

Most painful to me personally, though, is the revelation that Harry Styles seems entirely nonplussed about the imminent break up of One Direction. He has been a sunny-natured optimist since the band began and stubbornly continues to emanate positivity, in spite of the pending 1D demise.

I had a look at Harry's Twitter feed. It's a combination of goodwill salutations, grateful thank yous and breathless, brow-mopping, just-off-stage whoops. He also takes the odd foray into personal politics (his current focus is on welcoming refugees).

I have to agree with the guys at Queen's; his feed is one big, warm beanbag of exclamation mark-ridden happiness.

I imagine it's quite nice to wake up to a timeline dotted with reasons to be cheerful, rather than the long list of cynical mud-slinging I seem to have opted for.

I checked others on the list and found a similar effect could be achieved from the tweets of Emma Watson (10th happiest), Ellen deGeneres (16th) and Cristiano Ronaldo (7th.) Though Cristiano is mainly happy about his new products and endorsements, which he poses alongside with a smile that could split the atom. Oddly, this didn't make me feel any happier.

It might look like I'm scoffing at this research, but honestly, that's just the way my face sits in repose. I do find it interesting that while so many of their heroes adopt a public position of deep satisfaction (Taylor Swift, Katy Perry and YouTube teen queen Zoella are also relentlessly upbeat online), life on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram - ie most of their life outside of school - seems to have the opposite effect on teenage girls.

Research shows that, since the boom of social media, the self-esteem of young women has plummeted dramatically. A recent Glasgow University survey of 30,000 school pupils showed that, after consistent increases in wellbeing since the early 1990s, there has been a dramatic drop since the mid-noughties, particularly among 14 and 15-year-old girls.

The pressures are varied - fear of cyberbullying, the competitive nature of lifestyle comparisons, the constant burden of being judged by hundreds of "friends" (which has led to around nine out of 10 girls doctoring their photos to look thinner, according to studies conducted by psychiatrists at The Priory).

It seems logical that the further your online persona strays from the real person behind it, the more secretly unhappy you will be.

If you look pretty, slim and consistently high-achieving on Instagram, you'll probably avoid confiding your darker thoughts, your fear of inadequacy, rejection, or failure, to anyone on the "outside". And that disconnection, between the facade and the lonely truth, is dangerous.

That's not to criticise the happy online brigade. I wholly believe Taylor Swift and her gang when they say they understand this problem, and aim for their statements of self-belief to inspire, rather than intimidate, their often troubled young followers.

But wouldn't it be great if the powers-that-be cared as much as pop stars and gave a little thought on how they could practically help, rather than cutting funding on mental health.

It's nice to see Harry Styles smiling, but I fear that might not be enough to spark the emotional revolution required.

Morrissey blind to his literary limits

Like many who enjoyed Morrissey's Autobiography, mainly due to the feverish bitterness which made it such a juicy romp, I looked forward to his novel.

I hoped the early naysayers who declared The List of the Lost "unpolished" were just grumpy literary snobs. Sadly, no.

Steven Patrick, what were you thinking? Why didn't you let someone edit this? It doesn't read like James Joyce, it reads like it was written by autocorrect.

Yet this longwinded, linguistically knot-tied word pie, which communicates nothing beyond Morrissey's blindness to the limits of his genius, is also full of typos.

Less "back to the drawing board" than "step away from the drawing board".

Geldof and family look to the future

Lovely pictures of the Geldof clan celebrating Bob's wedding in France this week.

Seeing the family altogether was a stark reminder of what a topsy turvy life Bob Geldof has had; there was new wife Jeanne Marine, who he's finally married after almost 20 years together. And 19-year-old Tiger Lily, the adopted daughter of his ex-wife Paula Yates and rock star Michael Hutchence, both of whom died so prematurely.

And Thomas Cohen, his young son-in-law, who is bringing up Bob's two grandchildren alone since their mother, Peaches, died of a heroin overdose last year.

The emphasis, we're told, was on "celebrating the future". Good luck, Bob.

Belfast Telegraph

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