Janet Devlin’s life was made hell by on-line trolls when she came fifth, but now she’s made social media work for her
Like anyone who experiences some level of success, Janet Devlin has been subject to some form of abuse from jealous onlookers, writes Adam Shaw.
In the 21st century, these people are often referred to as ‘haters’ or ‘trolls’, the later usually reserved for ill-treatment online. After building up a decent following on YouTube, gaining fame on The X Factor (on which she finished fifth), and returning to the video sharing platform, Janet was bound to have captured some attention.
Unfortunately, while the majority of responses to her postings were positive, it was rare for her to upload a video and not be met with some form of online scorn. “I was a little insecure and if I was feeling down, these sorts of comments would get to me, which wasn’t nice,” she said. “I’d actually scroll through the comments and try to find the ones that were about the thing I was feeling insecure about and I used to think ‘if they’re saying it, it must be true’.”
Still only 21, Janet has shown admirable strength and maturity, beating back the bullies and emerging stronger than ever.
“Nowadays, if people say anything mean, it doesn’t get through to me,” she explained. “I just laugh it off having learnt not to take anything seriously. And I actually think I had to go through what I did to come out the other side.”
Part of her response came as a result of undergoing a ‘digital detox’. The phrase is appearing more and more in the media, and, in its simplest terms, essentially means taking a break from the internet. Janet took a lengthy break from YouTube when she was 15, going to live with her grandmother in an unconnected area.
“I had no signal, no television and no wifi – it was exactly what I needed; it was magical and totally worked for me,” she said. She admitted that this is something which is harder to achieve in an ever-developing world and that intense, monthsat- a-time breaks are far from sustainable.
“What I try to do now is a nightly ‘digital detox’, which means, for an hour in the evenings, I take the time to be present in a room and not look at my phone,” she explained. “I try to avoid ‘triple mediaing’ where I have my phone, my laptop and my TV on at the same time – even though this is completely normal!” The singer, from Gortin, Co. Tyrone, tries to read during this hour or, failing that, engages in some meditation.
Despite her decision, and success, in following the ‘digital detox’ method, Janet is keen to stress that she isn’t trying to be a “preachy person”, that she still loves, and needs, her internet and that everyone is different. And while a ‘digital detox’ can be liberating, any form of detox was needed after her stint on The X Factor. Capturing the hearts of millions with her poignant rendition of Elton John’s Your Song in her audition, she reached the live shows under the stewardship of Kelly Rowland. She topped the public vote for the first four weeks before ultimately being eliminated with three shows remaining as girl group Little Mix took the crown. Going from mid-August to late-November, Janet admitted she was drained by the end of it.
“It was intense and you don’t see the whole picture and how much goes on behind the scenes,” she said. “It really has a gruelling schedule, as do a lot of TV shows. And you have to remember that I was only a baby, I was only 16 at the time.”
While it might have taken it out of her, the show gave her so much back and, for that, she is very grateful. “I had a great time and it gave the chance to meet so many influential people in the industry and get my name out there,” she explained. “It also gave me a sense of independence but also made me realise all the fantastic support I have around me.”
She’s grabbed this opportunity with both hands, and decided the best way to utilise it was to go back to where it all began.
“I started out on YouTube when I was just 15 and, even before the show, I had quite a decent following,” she said. “Now I put a video out every Saturday; it’s mostly music but it’s not always feasible to do a song each week because I have such a manic schedule. So sometimes I’ll do poetry or things that the fans have suggested.”
She believes that YouTube is an ideal space for musicians to get noticed, citing the discovery of Justin Bieber as a prime example. She also argued that people who want to break into the industry should forget any apprehensions they have about posting.
“You have to bite the bullet if you want to get your name out there and see people engage with your music,” she said.
“And if you start receiving abuse, I think it’s actually a good thing – it means you’ve reached the next tier. “When you start out, you’ve probably just got people you know following it but if people are commenting mean things, that signifies that you’ve gone beyond that.” Janet herself went beyond that, and she’s never looked back.
She laughed at those who said she was over the hill having just turned 20; she ignored those who accused her of lacking talent.
She has a new single coming out which covers what she’s experienced and she is gearing up for a tour of the UK. When she finished speaking to the Irish World, she was getting ready to jet off to New York for promotion work. Janet 1, Trolls 0.
Outernet Song is released on 7 October 7 and her My Opium tour runs from 23 November to 16 December.
• More information at www.janetdevlin.com