‘Exposure Asks’ about change

February 15, 2024

L-R Back: Olivia, Diego, Gidion, Katie, Sofia, Miri, Elen and Sapphire. Middle: Lillia, Olive, Sophia, Shannon Ffion. Front: Ehsen and Aishiek

Young people talk to us about change in their lives

In these pieces, we take time to delve into the intricacies of change, recognising its inevitable presence in our lives. As we start to navigate the realm of adulthood, we unite to overcome challenges, while developing gratitude for the growth and strength that come with it.

We encourage mindful and open conversations about mental health, providing a space to discuss our struggles, offer support, and share achievements.

Our group finds solace in music as a source of inspiration and comfort during times of change. Simultaneously, we examine how technological advancements have transformed pop culture, shaping our influences.

We explore the challenges and benefits of sports, including running and football. Despite the physical demands and competition, we highlight the good connections, personal growth, and resilience gained through active participation.

While the journey isn’t always smooth, we face the demanding aspects of life, whether it’s confronting racism or struggling with the harsh realities of womanhood.

We engage with creativity, through poetry, photography, fashion, and other expressive mediums to reflect on our evolving identities, environment, and to help negotiate difficult emotions.

Highlighting the benefits of positive friendships, we collectively address challenges with strength and unity. Recognising the bigger picture, we understand that facing adversity allows us to grow stronger together.

Scroll down and use the slider tool to see what we think of these topics, and to view relevant thoughts and facts we want to share. The images to the left show what we feel, or invite you to think about, while the images on the right provide information on each issue.

It’s so fulfilling to try something new and invigorating — by Sapphire Thorbourne, 17

‘Creativity is intelligence having fun.’ – Albert Einstein. You can read more about this here.

Creativity is a fundamental part of our human essence. Originating and developing in our minds, it follows us on our life journey, shaping our experiences and contributing to our individuality.

Today’s society is too often caught up and overshadowed by conformity and social expectations. We’ve lost touch with the importance of our creative sides. So, it’s important that we reach deep down into our inner child and rediscover the power of our imagination.

Many of us feel compelled to ‘work to live’, particularly under the constraints of consumerism and the current high cost of living. However, happiness and well-being require more than just meeting the demands of our jobs and duties. To truly live our lives to the fullest, we need to actively engage in both the little and big things that bring us pleasure.

We tend to blindly follow an ideology of societal control. We need to break away from this cycle. We need to broaden our perspectives and overcome the toxicity of consumerism, loneliness and boredom.

I struggled to learn the saxophone at first but I’m so grateful I persevered

Starting something new is an essential part of living well, boosting your sense of aliveness. Change opens a whole new door to opportunities, inspiration and excitement.

Three years ago, I started playing the saxophone. It placed me into a whole new field, filled with music and new people. I wanted to learn the saxophone after seeing a wonderful performance by a talented saxophonist on a music trip with my school. I was immediately inspired by him. His sound transported me to another world. I thought “Wow! Imagine having such power to affect a mood and atmosphere.” And then I realised I didn’t have to imagine, I just needed to try. So, I embarked on a new challenge. I started saxophone lessons.

Yes, I struggled to begin with but over time, with discipline and good practice, I can play almost fluently. It brings me such joy and gives me a great connection to the people I play with and to. I think what holds us back in trying new stuff, is the fear of failure, the embarrassment and shame of making mistakes.

Everybody fears being judged to some degree or another. Even the most confident and outgoing people are worried deep down. I know I was initially scared I’d be judged and made fun of for posting about my passion. In fact I was only encouraged. I’m so grateful I persevered.

In a world as advanced and intricate as ours, it’s absurd that we still fret and worry about others’ perceptions. Embracing our passions and overcoming the fear of judgment can lead to profound personal growth, connection and joy!

Getting diagnosed with anxiety changed my life — by Miri Tilden, 16

I’ve always experienced feelings of anxiety in my day-to-day life. I didn’t understand that some people don’t feel like this all the time. Not everyone experiences a constriction in their chest when they have to do something simple like getting on public transport. Not everyone has tears prickling at the edges of their eyes when they have to talk in front of a group of people.

When I became a teenager, it got worse, as things like this often do. And then we went into lockdown and despite being stuck in my house all day every day, my anxiety became absolutely crippling.

My two cats, who had always been therapy animals for me, both died and my mental health deteriorated. Lockdown ended, and I could hardly bear to go outside. I began skipping school, isolating myself from my friends. I hardly felt able to get out of bed.

Anxiety consumed my entire life. It dictated everything I did or, more often, what I didn’t do. In the summer, after lockdown ended, my parents came to talk to me, united, which was unusual, since they aren’t often in the same room together. They told me that they wanted to take me to a GP.

I’d been living in a hole and with the right support I could finally emerge into the world

I resented everyone involved at the time, but looking back, it’s one of the best things I’ve ever had to do. After a conversation with me and then with my parents, I was diagnosed a few weeks later with generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) and was put on medication.

Getting diagnoses of course does not necessarily work for everyone but, honestly ,my life was transformed. I felt as if I’d been living in a hole and I could finally emerge into the world. I went back to school full time. I started my GCSEs and struggled with them but managed to get through.

As I gradually felt better, I found myself capable of doing more. I went to the airport and got on a plane without too much stress. I opened up about everything to the people around me, who were all incredibly understanding. When I have bad moments, now, I know my friends are right there to help.

Naturally, this has not been some kind of miracle instantaneous cure. I still get anxious. I’m still trying to work on myself, but when I look back at how I felt this time three years ago, the change has been astonishing.

You can check out these helplines for support:

From the safety of childhood to becoming a teenager — by Eshen Hanif, 17

Growing up in the leafy London suburb of Barnet has given me access to a wealth of benefits, particularly through my beautiful multicultural community. This inclusive environment has played a pivotal role in shaping my identity and nurturing my growth.

This is my bubble; this is my home. However, evolving and engaging in a more adult world has come with many culture shocks and challenges. Until last year, I spent most weekends carefree, playing grassroots football. It wasn’t just entering a bubble of excitement, it also helped me overcome many obstacles.

I felt free yet connected, and I would always feel in a more positive mood, after a game with my friends.

However, as I got older, my relationship with football felt like it was on a countdown; the positives of playing gradually diminished until the pleasure eventually wore off completely.

While this change captures how I feel about a football match now, I think it also reflects the typical teenage experience, where your time and the decisions you make gradually take on greater seriousness and importance.

Additionally, the years during which I transitioned into being a teenager were plagued by the presence of the Vote Leave campaign and its ensuing consequences.

Despite the challenges of Brexit, I’ve learnt how to engage and deal with opposing opinions

Brexit marked a massive change in the lives of every British person. However, for me with South Asian heritage, it wasn’t Brexit itself but the consequences of the campaign that brought about the most profound change.

The rise in anti-immigration sentiments, particularly targeted at Muslims, I found both disheartening and disillusioning, causing a significant shift in my perception of people and the world around me. This unsettling surge of prejudice made me question the values of the community I had always considered home.

Though the rhetoric often appeared xenophobic or racist on the surface, I believe it stemmed from an overload of misinformation and extremely inadequate journalism.

Despite the challenges, this change wasn’t entirely negative. It was a transformative time, teaching me not only resilience but also providing a deeper understanding of how to engage and deal with opposing opinions and diverse views.

Leaving the bubble of my childhood during this experience showed me the importance of facing difficult agendas and turning them into opportunities for valuable life lessons.

How do I make the most of my free time? — by Aishiek Mitra Nandy, 16

For me, my bubble, my safe space is centred around creativity. After getting home from school, rather than going for the tempting monotony of scrolling through TikTok, I opt for my favourite pastime. I lie in bed, queue up my best tracks, until I’m transported into a serene space which inspires me to start editing my photos.

Creativity gives me an outlet to express emotions, bringing a sense of calm. In turn, connecting with a song or image supports me to process my thoughts. It can help me understand why I might feel blue and then, by allowing the feeling to come up, I start to feel different, better.

Creativity is something I think all people would benefit from and can implement in their lives somehow.

Almost any hobby can act as a sort of journal where you can document your experience. You can play different songs that express your current feelings and thoughts. I find this really helps me feel validated and less on my own with difficult feelings. Composing your own music and playing an instrument can also bring acceptance and peaceful thoughts.

You can draw, or paint, or take photographs… well, anything that you feel comfortable with and that resonates with you, uniquely you. You can just simply scrawl out words. Write out your heart, your mind and your soul.

We had a few years where the pitch was our safe haven

Through creativity, you can become yourself.

Sport is a big part of my life, same for Ehsen, although I know that’s changed for him recently. We had a few years where the pitch was our haven. Kicking a ball with our teammates, friends or even just doing kick ups in our street was a way of focusing and switching off our busy minds.

In other words, when we stepped onto that pitch (usually the grassy part of the garden) and scored a winning goal, in the Champions League Final (smashing my mum’s flowers, leading to us laughing and scuttling back inside to hide in my room for a bit), all our troubles disappeared.

A big boot of the ball, dribbling past the defenders (dad’s tomato plants) and burying the ball in the back of the net (sorry plants!) brought such freedom.

Whatever the game is, just being outside in the fresh air as kids was intoxicating. It just so happened football was the drug we both got addicted to.

And my, what a rush we got!

Running isn’t just exercise; it gives your mind a boost — by Olive Harvey Dew, 17

I’ve always participated in different sports; both competitively and for fun. I love being active and getting involved in something that pushes me to my limits.

I like the social aspect that comes with being part of a team, having people around you that look out for you and enjoy your company. Also it doesn’t need to be central to your life – as a semi-introvert, that always makes the friendships special in their own way, while not too overwhelming.

I also, on the opposite side of my personality, like to show off a bit.

In school, I loved getting a podium position at the annual sports day. Normally, this would be for competing in the 100m or 200m sprint which I seemed to have a half-inherited and half-learnt knack for. This is probably where my love for running began.

And when I saw the Rio Olympics on the TV in 2016, it sparked a drive in me that’s never really left. Seeing athletes like Jessica Ennis Hill, Mo Farah and Dina Asher-Smith inspired me to see how far I could go.

I’ve been part of an athletics group for seven years now. Although the Olympic aspiration (which so many young people dream of) is not something I want anymore, I feel that running has been one of the main consistencies in my life.

One of my favourite aspects of running is the sense of peace it gives me that I don’t find anywhere else.

Running is not all peace and quiet, it’s a lot of grit and determination

I find peace through the simplicity of running; it’s the act of breathing, knowing your body, and trusting that you can do something that may, at first, feel physically impossible. And then comes the calm of actually stopping; having two or three minutes, just being rewarded with slower breaths, and achy legs. This brings me a lot of joy.

Of course, however, running is not all peace and quiet. It’s a lot of grit, determination, pain and resilience, especially when a session involves ten 200m sprints with a two-minute break in between runs. It can seem relentless.

In fact, most of the time, running involves asking ourselves, why the hell am I doing this? And counting down laps till I can get back into a warm car and out of the rain. But I like that too.

As a 17-year-old girl, I’m already associated with weakness. Even as a young child I felt inferior in comparison to the boys. Half of the fight with running is about proving yourself and beating that stereotype: proving girls and women are more than looks and can have a hobby which does, in fact, make them sweaty, cold, tired and above all, strong.

So running can be both simplistic, basic, human, and at the same time complicated, socially aware and assertive. It’s about showing off emotion, and what makes us alive, as well as giving us a nice pair of legs along the way. And that’s what makes it life changing.

Why is puberty so different for women — by Elen Cunningham, 17

Margaret Atwood said, “you are a woman with a man inside watching a woman”. It’s quite a statement, isn’t it? This idea that throughout our lives we are always being watched; that all our actions are influenced by what we think is the ‘correct’ way to do things.

I guess one big change I went through was biological. I was the first to get my period in my friendship group, the first to get a bra, the first to start buying adult sizes in clothes shop, the first to shave. But this is natural right? This is what’s supposed to happen.

I was experiencing the same changes and emotions that all my peers were feeling, anxiety about our bodies changing and our hormones intensifying. So why did I start to feel isolated and conscious of a divide between me and my friends? Why is a common, natural period of our lives such a different experience for men and women?

I think that puberty for us, as young women, is such a big turning point in our lives because before this we were simply children, and now we have this burden of what society deems to be womanhood, thrust upon us.

I wish it were just a simple, biological evolution. But beyond the biological changes, societal expectations kick in.

Society expects us to hide our sanitary products in the bathroom; nobody wants to hear about periods. We’re expected to maintain a certain weight; nobody should be above a size 10. We’re told to shave; body hair is disgusting on women!

As teenagers hit puberty, girls are forced to confront concerns about body image and sexual harassment

Before puberty, all we worried about was who to hang out with at break, what dinner would be and what game to play next. Now we’re worrying about weight, body image and sexual harassment. We suddenly find ourselves navigating predefined roles and behaviours, feeling the pressure to align with societal norms regarding how we look, behave, and communicate.

Everyone’s growth is complicated and varies from one person to another and we end up losing our childhood to society in an enforced effort to be ‘right’. What does this even mean? How is it anything other than being ourselves?

I guess another big change that I went through was realising that, systemically, I faced disadvantage. That, through no fault of my own, I understood that I was going to be discriminated against and objectified in every aspect of my life. The realisation of sexism, the patriarchy, and feminism is debilitating. They are such nuanced and complex concepts for a child to grasp and they pose a heavy burden.

People have created these constructs, fabricating ideas about ‘right and wrong’ as well as gender stereotypes and societal roles. It’s time to make a clear distinction between man-made expectations and our inherent selves. It’s time to teach the lesson that bodily changes are natural and different for everyone, that difference does not mean divide, that puberty is just puberty. We must work together so that when the next generation experiences this change it does not carry the same weight.

Change can be sudden like a rug pulled from under your feet — by Diego Iavarone, 17

My father frugal in words
says that “all world is theatre”
crowd’s cacophony crows loud
and I dare not move nearer

step off of metal cocoon
and feel the air grow colder
out of searing frostbite snares
I age yet am no older;

thrown out of my body,
ripped by divine hand,
stage ripped from under my feet,
unwelcome foreign land,

and as I learn to walk again
the earth recoils back
like lime on cold frostbitten lips
preparing for attack;

with silver sabre that severs
my arteries in two
and cauterises hypothermic
maggot-riddled wounds

for out of me resurges life
though fearing resurrection,
the new sight breaks the icy glares
scattered in all directions

while critics cast their judgments
unto he who doth perform
and theatre-roof breaks off at once
here, hailing icy storm

I love making and repurposing old clothes — by Shannon Keeshan-Surridge, 17

From the bold, psychedelic fashion of the 60s to the casual, grungy style of the 90s, I feel each era’s style tells a story of people’s aspirations, challenges, and cultural changes.

I love hunting for unique outfits at car boot sales and charity shops, creating my own style while supporting sustainability.

I often encourage my friends to come along, influencing them to find great clothes at low prices and to advocate for a change towards more mindful clothes shopping.

My and some of my friend’s interest in second-hand styles is not only about ethical concerns and financial considerations. It’s a genuine appreciation for vintage, coupled with the convenience of online thrifting platforms.

Up-cycling is also something I like to do; I will never throw away any clothing (unless its irreparably ruined or suffering from dry rot and there’s absolutely no way of salvaging it). I tend to reuse pieces of the fabric, or take certain elements such as zips, buttons, or pockets, to create clothing pieces that I want to wear, or I feel might capture the vibe I envision for my friends.

When I’m sewing, I’m focused and present which is calming and good for my well-being

One good thing that came out of lockdown for which I’m so grateful, is that it provided the time for experimenting. I taught myself to sew, which I’m now obsessed with! It gives me a sense of purpose as well as a creative outlet to work with ease, altering, mending and repurposing clothes for myself, family and friends.

I love having the creative power and freedom to sew and make clothes to fit my body perfectly. Making stuff for friends gives me great pleasure too. Learning to sew during lockdown wasn’t just about gaining a new skill; it has become a powerful outlet for my creative expression.

When I’m sewing, I become focused and present, in the moment, which is calming and good for my well-being. It also gives me a deeper connection to my identity.

As my generation live through an era defined by environmental consciousness and individual expression, our fashion choices become a statement. Much like the generations before us, we use clothing to tell stories; stories of sustainability, creativity, and a collective desire to shape a fashion narrative that transcends trends and stands the test of time. In doing so, we honour the legacy of those who came before us while leaving our own unique mark on the evolving canvas of fashion history.

Music has the power to change our state of mind — by Gidion Pereira, 17

Music, a universal and timeless language.

But what is music? It is defined as the art of sound in time that expresses ideas and emotions through rhythm, melody, harmony, and colour.

While the dictionary captures its technical essence, it overlooks music’s profound impact on our lives. Beyond its formal elements, music holds the power to profoundly influence and shape our experiences.

I began my journey into music in 2016, at the age of ten, with Ed Sheeran. His music awakened emotions within me, creating a sense of belonging.

However, as time passed, I went through changes, and these transformations were reflected in my music taste. I went on to embrace and relate to music from The Weekend.

His songs about loneliness and isolation, provided a profound sense of connection. I found solace, especially during lockdown, in his song Afterhours, which explores thoughts about painful longing and introspection. It had a big impact on my life. His soulful vocals and relatable lyrics captured the essence of how I was feeling.

In those quiet moments of contemplation, the emotive tunes from The Weekend create a musical connection that transcends the everyday, making his music an integral part of the soundtrack I grew up to.

Frank Ocean then became a significant influence on my taste in music. Challenging stereotypes in the music industry, he openly came out as bisexual on Tumblr.

Music therapy can effectively reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety

His use of music as a medium to express his emotions and struggles resonated with me. For instance, the song Be Yourself from his Blonde album features a voicemail from Rosie Watson, a friend’s mother, offering advice on substance abuse;

“Be yourself and know that that’s good enough…Not to drink alcohol, not to use drugs. Don’t use that cocaine or marijuana. Because that stuff is highly addictive.”

Ocean’s experiences with his father’s addiction undoubtedly shaped his perspective on relationships and substance abuse.

Exploring the cognitive benefits of music, studies, in The Arts in Psychotherapy, suggest that music therapy can effectively reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Music can also bring about physical benefits. According to the Journal of Advanced Nursing , listening to music and playing musical instruments in various medical settings, has been associated with a significant reduction in pain intensity and improved pain management.

However, the enjoyment of music can be influenced by social pressures, such as expectations from social media to conform to liking a particular music genre or artist, to ‘fit in’ and avoid judgment. Although, in my experience, the reality is that people generally don’t care about other people’s music preferences.

Music has the power to change our state of mind. During moments of anxiety, I turn to music as a source of solace. It makes me feel calmer and less alone. It becomes a comforting companion during times of isolation as well as a source of joy during social events.

We are grateful for Taylor Swift’s captivating music — by Katie Clark, 16 and Olivia Wells, 17

With ten record-breaking albums and four re-recordings, Taylor Swift stands as a trailblazer in the 21st century music industry.

Her skilful song writing, and captivating lyricism has resonated with generations of self-proclaimed ‘swifties’. From the genre-defining pop hit, 1989, to the powerful storytelling of Folklore, and the purehearted country classics of her debut album Taylor Swift, there’s a favourite song for everyone.

In recent years, Taylor Swift has embarked on the exciting journey of re-recording her first six albums. With each release, across those 11 years of Taylor’s life, we find ourselves reliving these changes in snapshots of time alongside her.

Her career has spanned both our lifetimes. Growing up as children of the 2000s, her music supplied the soundtrack to our youth, guiding us through difficult emotions, relationships, while raising our self-awareness.

The 2008 song Fifteen encapsulates for us what it’s like being a teenage girl in a small town, with lyrics such as “say hi to your friends you haven’t seen in a while, try and stay out of everybody’s way” and “you’re 15, feelin’ like there’s nothing to figure out”.

On her next album, Speak Now, the song Never Grow Up beautifully captures the universal rite of passage inherent in the process of growing older. The lyrics express emotions like, “Oh darling, don’t you ever grow up … just stay this little … it could stay this simple”.

On her 2012 pop-country fusion album Red, her number one single 22 expresses the freedom and fun of being a young adult, in comedic yet relatable lyrics, such as “We’re happy, free, confused and lonely in the best way: it’s miserable and magical”.

Now, as we listen to Taylor’s re-recordings, it feels almost as though we’ve grown up beside her. Her lyrics resonate as closely as if they were taken straight from the pages of our diaries.

Taylor Swift uses her music to address prevalent issues like deep-rooted misogyny

Taylor Swift’s music is a potent emotional catalyst, and its impact goes beyond mere enjoyment. A recent report by The Children’s Society highlights the significant positive impact of listening to our favourite tunes on our mental health. Scientifically, it has been proven that engaging with music triggers the release of hormones, including serotonin and adrenaline. This not only boosts mood but also provides an increase in energy and motivation.

Taylor also uses her music platform to address prevalent issues like deep-rooted misogyny in our society with clarity and accessibility.

Her song, The Man universally strikes a chord with women, capturing the frustration of societal double standards. It resonates with young girls who are sick of hearing the phrase from their teachers, “I need a strong boy to help me move these chairs”, through to successful businesswomen, consistently underestimated simply because they aren’t men.

Some of her more introspective songs, such as This Is Me Trying and You’re On Your Own, Kid, have helped us adapt through changing periods in our lives, including moving to a different college, and adjusting to the change from GCSE to A-Level. With over 108 million Spotify monthly listeners, we are clearly not alone in these beliefs.

In 2023, Taylor Swift’s music achieved over 26.1 billion streams globally, significantly impacting our lives. We’re so grateful having strong positive female role model who writes relatable and comforting songs.

The power of change — by Sophia Gloerfeld, 16

Life is full of changes, there’s no escaping that fact. You might wish things could stay the same, hope desperately, but guess what, change will sooner or later catch up with you.

This is most obviously demonstrated in the natural world. In our human bodies, every seven years, our cells undergo complete regeneration. Consequently, we become an entirely different person to who we were seven years previously. This process is gradual but persistent, bringing about changes in every aspect of our being; biological, physical, mental and emotional.

Just like our cells go through renewal, change is this unshakeable presence in our lives. It is of course a bit uncomfortable, but essential for personal growth and understanding. But the dilemma is, if change is this huge constant in our lives that everything follows, why do so many of us fear it and go to great lengths to avoid it?

In my opinion, this fear stems from a reluctance to accept change, being uncertain about what might happen, and often feeling a loss of control. The desire to keep everything the same arises from a need for stability and the comfort of what’s familiar. We often gravitate towards habits and routines, steering clear of the difficulties that change can bring.

Change shapes our everyday and rather than avoiding it, we must embrace it!

On the whole, people typically avoid challenging paths and choose the easier route in line with the principle of Occam’s razor. This principle suggests that the simplest explanation is preferable to a more complex one. Despite the inherent difficulty, accepting change is crucial for development, both at the societal level and for individual growth, so I believe that following the principle of Occam’s razor isn’t necessarily the best way to go.

In complete contrast with the idea that we should choose the simplest path and avoid change and difficulty, Buddhists emphasise that all that exists is impermanent, and that everything changes. Failure to accept this reality, according to their teachings, leads to suffering. They believe that acknowledging the impermanence of everything and embracing change can enhance your quality of life, enabling you to escape the suffering experienced by those less open to the concept of change. Check out more here about the impermanence of life.

According to Heraclitus, an ancient Greek, pre-Socratic philosopher, “no man ever steps in the same river twice”. The concept behind this statement is that everything is in a state of flux. The water in the river is constantly changing and flowing, even though it looks the same. This idea can therefore be applied to life. Although some elements may appear to remain unchanged on the surface, they have still undoubtedly changed. Check out more about Heraclitus, the philosopher of change here.

So, I perceive change as this force in life that is inescapable. It shapes our everyday and rather than avoiding it, we must embrace it. The benefits of doing so are integral to our personal development and growth. Let’s welcome change for the opportunities it brings.

Is pop culture losing its identity? — by Lillia O’Brien, 17

Pop culture seems to have lost its identity.

A social media obsession is now embedded within everyone. Fashion knows no boundaries. Art is a term that can encapsulate anything. New forms of media are churned out every minute. Everyone has access to a platform. Celebrity has lost all meaning.

We are currently facing the deterioration of pop culture.

In the past, a celebrity was a figure seen as perfect, untouchable and mysterious. The rapid rise of technology and social media has given birth to ‘cancel culture’. This development has killed the allure of celebrities.

There is endless media surrounding them to consume: social media profiles, news articles, paparazzi footage, fan pages, unearthed details of their past.

This abundance of information has led to the phenomenon of ‘cancelling’. If anyone in the public eye puts a toe out of line, their career and everything they’ve worked for is jeopardised. Controversial things said in their past remain a permanent fixture in their digital footprint; all it takes is a political opinion, a false rumour or one badly worded sentence. By placing celebrities under the microscope, their enigmatic appeal is destroyed, and the very notion of fame becomes meaningless.

On the flip side, social media can act as a positive force, holding celebrities accountable and creating a more ethical environment. The history of celebrity culture is tainted with moral scandal. This can be seen in the film industry where the likes of Harvey Weinstein and Dan Schneider demonstrated the dark side of Hollywood. Weinstein infamously sexually harassed and exploited actresses and promised to advance their careers in return for non-consensual sexual favours.

#MeToo has changed societal awareness and increased accountability for abusers

Social movements like #metoo have held more abusers accountable as society has grown less tolerant, refusing to turn a blind eye to the exploitation of women.

The music industry has also suffered losses as time has gone by. Nowadays, going viral on TikTok is the best way for a song to be successful. This diminishes music as an art form by condensing it into a 15 second sound bites for teenagers to lip sync to.

Recently, within the fashion and art world, all boundaries seem to be disintegrating. They’ve transformed from focussing on creativity to just being about the spectacle. An example can be seen in the annual Met Gala where the fashion showcased consists of items designed only for their shock factor. Fashion has evolved to become ridiculous and almost dystopian.

The same idea can be applied to art where technique starts to get lost and the work becomes more about trying to think outside the box as far as possible, resulting in the box being lost altogether.

However, acknowledging all its imperfections, popular culture has been a significant part of my life. It’s a source of inspiration, that encourages meaningful contemplation, providing routes for self-expression, connection, and a broader understanding of the world. Despite the changes in pop culture, there remains specific aspects I identify with, enjoy, and relate to.

How does music inspire, shape and transform our life — by Ffion Rogers, 17

I often find myself looking back in disbelief to the time when I said, “I could live without music”. When I was younger, about 13, before the pandemic hit, I didn’t pay much attention to music.

So much has changed since then. Now, music has this incredible influence on my life, intimately connecting me to the big shifts. Music affects my mood, resonates with my relationships, and paints the background to my day-to-day life.

I first started exploring my music taste during lockdown as an escape from issues at home, which were now magnified due to the extended hours spent inside. Finding comfort in Beabadoobee’s albums, Fake it Flowers and Patched Up, I fell in love with the Indie genre.

By 14, I was going from house to house, while my mum was searching for a new place for us to settle. I only took my headphones off to charge them. Beabadoobee, Mitski, Radiohead, Wolf Alice, Blur, all became the soundtrack to my new, more transient life.

I was lucky enough to get to see Beabadoobee, live in London, which was so amazing. In April I moved to a new flat with just my mum and sister, and I was gradually getting used to being back at school after a year working over Zoom.

At 15, issues with my friendship group kept my playlists pretty depressing with the addition of Deftones and The Smiths. Their melancholic sounds reflected my feelings, providing comfort through the shared expression of struggles.

I got more immersed in the power of music with its capacity to make me feel connected

The build-up to Year 11 and GCSEs added to the pressure as well, but, as time progressed, I did start seeing an end in sight. Things were starting to look up.

At 16 I started to get back into contact with my dad, we bonded over our shared love of music, and he would deliver records to the flat for me to borrow. I started listening to Jeff Buckley, David Bowie, Fleetwood Mac, The Smashing Pumpkins and Loyle Carner (to name a few).

I got more immersed in the power of music, with its capacity to make me feel connected. Last year, in June, the thrill of seeing Blur at Wembley was beyond words. I knew the music so well and the energy of the crowd was amazing. In August, I had the incredible opportunity to go to Reading Festival. I was completely captivated by the outstanding performances of so many great artists and bands, including Loyle Carner, Billie Eilish and Inhaler.

I’m 17 now. My room is basically plastered with band posters and my record collection has grown quite a bit.

Moving to college and starting A-levels has been a big change, but I’ve found a good few people who love the same music as I do. They’ve introduced me to some new bands. As of right now I’m really enjoying the Cranberries, particularly the album Everyone else is doing it, why can’t we? and I’m looking forward to seeing The Smashing Pumpkins and Weezer in July!

My music taste has broadened massively throughout these last four years, and I’ve started to realise and appreciate how it is deeply intertwined with my personal life in a way I could never imagine at the age of 12.

Our good friends inspire the best in us — by Sofia- Lilja Nwosu , 16

In my view, many of us take the platonic love that we experience in our friendships for granted. It‘s quite normal for young people to think of friends as simply a cure for boredom and temporary placeholders until something more captivating comes along in our lives.

However, what we don’t realise or understand is that engaging with our friends helps us grow. We are social beings; we flourish through meaningful connections with others. Healthy friendships teach us about ourselves and challenge us to be better.

Interestingly, our friends contribute more to our lives than just being good to hang out with. They significantly influence our physical and mental well-being. A report about social relationships and mortality reveals, having strong connections with others can cut the risk of premature death in half.

The friendships we choose can change the way we act, think and speak.

My friends provide a place where I can be myself so easily

On my own, I often feel less connected to myself and my interests. However, spending time with my friendship group is always liberating. My friends provide a place where I can be myself so easily. I feel safe to disclose my thoughts and share my energy.

I find myself effortlessly speaking about my passions and I get engaged in theirs. Being able to communicate like this has no doubt had a positive impact on my sense of self and the way I view different paths in life.

Usually, as human beings, we tend to distance ourselves from people with differing interests. I study humanity subjects for A-level while many of my friends are taking STEM subjects, and we find inspiration in our diverse academic pursuits. However, when my friends speak about their future dreams, which often contrast with mine, I realise that it’s actually the differences that bring us together.

It’s evident to me that genuine connections with others nurture personal development and provide a sense of belonging and support. Here’s to friendship, to growth, and to the endless possibilities that lie ahead!

Exposure is a youth communications charity enabling young people to thrive creatively, for the good of others as well as themselves.

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