For those of you who don’t know, Melanie Murphy is an Irish YouTuber from Skerries, Co. Dublin. Melanie has over half a million subscribers to her YouTube channel, where she vlogs about lifestyle, mental health, relationships, and beauty. And last week, she was giving a talk on resilience as part of Dundalk IT’s Fit4Life campaign.
The talk was on a Wednesday afternoon and DkIT was buzzing with election campaigners. When I found the lecture theatre was, I sat in the very front row – a first in my college experience. Melanie was already there and so was a singular student, one of the few lads who attended the talk. We chatted for a bit and the hall slowly filled up, with people taking their seats. One fan ran up to chat and got her copy of Melanie’s book signed.
Melanie began the talk by introducing herself. “I live in North Co. Dublin, I wrote a non-fiction book last year and I make YouTube videos for a living,” she says with a smile, while sitting down at the edge of the stage, swinging her legs. A shiny silver Mac laptop rested beside her. There were many fans in the crowd who already knew everything about her life. Melanie’s YouTube channel is characterised by her openness and honesty.
“It’s weird being back here because I actually used to be a student here,” reveals Melanie. “Straight after secondary school, I started a computer programming course in DkIT… but I hated it, it wasn’t for me I was one of the only girls in the class, and I dropped out after two or three months,” she admits. “It is nice to be back here now when I am in better mental space.”
Melanie says that resilience is extremely important when it comes to mental health. “Resilience is the capacity to adapt to negative change,” she says. “We can get through anything, no matter how awful or impossible it seems… resilience is not a trait,” she is quick to add.
The YouTuber says that if she can become resilient, anyone can. “Alcoholism ran in one side of my family, when I was six my parents broke up, I was always moving house, when I was 16 my Gran died, who I was very close to… then the worst four years of my life began,” she says emphatically.
“Even when I talk about it now I feel a sort of panic, but I know it is okay and that I have moved past it,” she says steadily, clasping her hands together. “I was in a toxic relationship, I put on 4 stone weight, I had a miscarriage, I didn’t have a large support network… and everything just seemed negative,” she says candidly.
“However, by building up my resilience, I got out of that bad place. I built up my confidence in public speaking through YouTube, and I know it isn’t really public speaking but it definitely helped me,” the online sensation reveals. “I also went to Dublin City University and got a teaching degree.”
The 28-year-old went on to advise the crowd not to focus on their mistakes, and to choose to make the positive change in their life. “Your beliefs affect your feelings, which affects your responses,” she explains. “You have to believe you can get through tragic events, which other people survive every day, therefore so can you…. we just need the tools to cope with negative change.”
Melanie also warned against the negative impacts of social media. “Everything you see online is a construction… sure I am hardly going to vlog on when I am in my PJs lying on the floor drooling,” she laughs, with the crowd following suit.
“Everything looks nicer on the internet… it is all a construction.”
Melanie concluded her talk with detailing some simple things you can do to build up your resilience. She tells the assembled crowd to stop overanalysing everything, get enough sleep and exercise, and to build up a support network of friends and family. .
After the talk, Melanie gladly took a picture with every fan who wanted one and chatted to them. I also had the pleasure of speaking to her one-on-one.
I started off by commending her on her honesty. “When I started my YouTube channel, I wasn’t really thinking it would go in the direction it did,” she admits. “It just felt that I became a lot more comfortable talking about things, for instance when I talked about my acne… it blew my mind that so many other people experienced the same things as me,” she says, eyes widening.
“So, I realised that by me talking about it, it was helping them, but by them giving me feedback on my video, it was helping me, so it was a really positive loop in my life, and in other people’s lives,” she explains.
I also mention her videos which cover topics like sexuality. “I obviously don’t think it’s internet personalities’ responsibility to talk about those things, but I still think it would be amazing if more people would talk about them… because when you’ve experienced things and learned from it, you have a lot of wisdom to share,” she smiles.
“It’s funny because even a lot of the British YouTubers have actually commented on how prudish they are… I remember my sex videos in particular got a shout out from Zoella and Alfie Deyes, and they recommended my channel for like, yano, open sex discussion, and they were joking about how they don’t feel comfortable with talking about that,” she reveals. “A lot of adults don’t!”
She spoke candidly about her honesty in her videos.
“I also felt the more layers I peeled back off myself the more comfortable I was, and the more impact I was having… and that I was making use of my life,” she emphasises jokingly. “And for me, I think sharing is important and the more people that I can share with, the better because it encourages them to open up as well,” Melanie adds. “Opening up for Irish people is so difficult!” she exclaims.
Melanie then had to run to catch the train back to Dublin, and she gave me a big hug before she left. I came away from the interview feeling like I just had a chill conversation with a friend, not a YouTuber who amasses one million views per month. It is no wonder the 28-year-old Dub has such a large online following, she is like a big sister or friend to her viewers, always ready to advise from a place of compassion and experience.
This piece is published with thanks to Áine Kenny.
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