Category Archives: lifestyle

“Don’t Tell me what to do!!”

For a long time now I have found myself getting very frustrated by some people’s massive overuse of the term ‘political correctness’.

Now this is not because I feel that a situation in which my kids could grow up not being allowed to keep long-lived British traditions such as having Christmas parties and plays at school, is fair and just. It isn’t because I don’t recognise that there are still many taboos in our society which need to be broken down, and that getting around entrenched stiff-upper-lip-syndrome is an essential part of making cultural progress with issues around, for example drug use, mental illness, abortion, homelessness, alcoholism, teenage pregnancy… the list goes on and on. It isn’t because I am a wily politician who is terrified of voters thinking about and discussing real issues which may lead them to question my carefully cratfed election strategy, and consider voting for a ‘revolutionary’, ‘new,’ party such as Ukip. (The fact that a vote for Ukip is in my view the exact opposite of a vote for change or a protest against the establishment, is a topic for another day).

The point is, I don’t like being told how it is ‘correct’ for me to think, feel or behave, any more than the next person.

But what I also hate is to see people rolling out the old cliche that something is “just political correctness gone mad”, along with a big sneer, as a barrier to conversation and debate. What I hate is when that cliche is thrown into the mix as an excuse to refuse to discuss the way in which we do things, our attitudes, or really anything that means anything.

Today I was reading a post on Facebook where a guy was asking parents to consider signing their childrens’ more extravagant Christmas presents from Mum and Dad, and signing a more modest collection of them as being from Santa Clause. The idea behind this was that the children of parents who are less wealthy (or less willing to amass huge amounts of debt) can be left wondering why Santa thinks they’ve been naughtier than Jack down the street who got 2 new consoles, 26 games, an iPad and a whole new wardrobe for Christmas.

The idea is that splitting the credit between Santa and the parents shows children that their Christmas presents are determined by the wealth of the family rather than by who Santa likes the most or by how well each child has behaved (which, lets face it, tends to have very little effect these days, on how much stuff they get).

Now of course, there are many arguments before and against this. I can totally see the point that many parents work very hard to provide chair-fulls of gifts for their kids at Christmas, and don’t see why they should have to spoil the magic by admitting they’re not all from Santa. I can also see the argument that the only important thing is to teach your children to appreciate whatever it is that they get, and not compare it to what other’s have received. I know that’s how my brothers and sisters and I were brought up and we continue to be very none-materialistic people and appreciate anything that is given to us or done for us.

Another comment that had me nodding as I read, was from a parent who wholeheartedly agreed with the post and elaborated that she thought it was extremely important that children grow up from day one knowing the value of money and that nice things don’t just appear out of nowhere because they are owed to you, because its Christmas.

I could see the points of people who pointed out that we all have a responsibility to society and its other families, and the happiness and welfare of their children as well as just our own.

The post and its comments made a really interesting read and there were so many varied opinions that I can’t honestly pretend I know how I will approach this when the time comes that I have my own family. But I really enjoyed reading the discussion and thinking about the points that were made.

I also saw a blog about much the same subject but discussing the impact of posting photos of mountains of gifts on social media, if you have time give it a read and check out the comments, people obviousy feel very strongly about this issue.

The only comment that angered me to read was on the first post and it basically ranted about how this is just another example of ridiculous political correctness, and “them” trying to tell us what to do.

No. No it isn’t. It is simply a heartfelt post written (from my perception) with the intention of encouraging parents to think about something a little differently. It was intended to start a discussion and it did just that.

So why is it that some people are so terrified of that? Why are they so quick to become intensely defensive of themselves and the way they live their lives? Why are some people so closed to debate?

As I said above, I don’t like being told by our government how to think, feel and behave, just like everyone else. But I also hate being told just that, by people on the internet. I hate reading memes and posts on Facebook which agressively proclaim to rally against ‘political correctness’ and encourage individual opinion, yet include words along the lines of “re-post this if you have the guts”.

Is this not also trying to tell me how I should think, and shaming me for having an opinion which does not comply?

I guess the point I’m trying to make is that there is nothing wrong with questioning the way that we do things as individuals and as a society, and that crying “political correctness” every time someone tries to do that, probably says more about you, than the person you’re yelling it at.

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Social Media Cold Turkey – Feeling Left Out (Day 14 – 02/11/2014)

There have been a couple of things recently that have made me realise how much of our lives we live on Facebook.

Two of my good friends from Uni have recently gotten engaged (YAY Emily and Nathen!), and last night was their engagement party. Most of my housemates from my second year at Uni travelled to Sheffield to celebrate with them and it was amazing to all get together again. 5 of us drove down from Sunderland and the time flew by as we caught up about everyone’s goings on post-Uni. Everyone has exciting things going on – starting careers, buying cars and what-not. Basically doing a lot of scary grown-up things! Let’s just say the car journey down to Sheffield, free of any hangovers, was a lot more lively than the return journey today.

Anyway, the point is that we had a fantastic night with plenty of catching up, ill-advised shots, food, and general idiocy! The only sticking point is that a huge part of all of our nights out throughout Uni was the photos – looking at them the next day and mercilessly reminding each other, despite how much they begged, about the stupid things (and ridiculous dancing) that had happened the night before.

So I’m feeling a little left out as I know we took LOADS of photos (including who knows what when we took over Becca’s camera for 10 minutes while she was at the bar) and I’m betting they will all go up on Facebook over the next couple of days. Seeing as we don’t live in the same house (or even the same city) any more, I won’t get to see anyone else’s photos until I’m back on social media. I think this is the first time I’ve REALLY wanted to log on! I’m not going to, of course, but I do really want to!

The other thing that’s getting to me a bit is that I caught up with one of my best friends recently and we caught up on loads of stuff, one being the impending Motherhood of one of our mutual friends. Before I came off Facebook we had a group message where we talked about all sorts, which is still ongoing, and I think the topic has recently turned very much to the late stages of Danielle’s pregnancy. Not everyone’s idea of a great conversation topic but to me it definitely is! So I’m finding myself feeling a little left out (not intentionally of course) from the group conversation. I feel a bit guilty as well for choosing now to come off, as I’m not allowed back on until a while after she’s due to be born. Of course that’s silly because Danielle can still reach me on the phone or by text but our Facebook message has become pretty central to us keeping in touch so it’s definitely a miss, especially with such big and exciting things going on!

I wouldn’t necessarily say I’ve missed social media or thought about wanting to log on until now, but I do feel like I’m missing out on some things. I can do without scrolling down my newsfeed when I’m sat on the bus or sitting hitting refresh because I can’t be bothered to do whatever it is I’m supposed to be doing on my laptop at the time – but the last few days have definitely highlighted how much easier and convenient social media can make it to keep in touch with people (especially in groups); as well as how much we rely on it to do so.

Social Media Cold Turkey – are we all ‘keyboard warriors’ these days?

I was sitting talking to my Stepdad in front of the telly (the Blyth Spartans v Hartlepool football match) tonight and we got onto the topic of social media.

Gary (my Stepdad) has a Facebook profile but he very rarely uses it and he doesn’t entertain the idea of other social media. But he does livein a house with 4 other adults who do use social media regularly, including my Mam. I think this gives him an interesting persepective on the whole phenomenon and some of the things he had to say got me thinking.

Of course living in a house with his wife, son and two daughters who all use social media, Gary’s heard his fair share of “eeeh look at that, I wonder who she/he’s talking about?” In response to the classic “some people” ranting statuses that crop up all too often, particularly on Facebook. This in particular is something that he can’t understand about the whole culture and I have to say I really can’t either. What satisfaction do we get from describing what we dislike or what has annoyed us about someone to all of our Facebook friends, with no intention of telling anyone what has actually happened or who is involved? Is it simply enjoyment from knowing how the person concerned will feel when they read it and know that it is about them? After all, it can’t help to resolve the problem or get to the bottom of why the person has acted the way that they appear to have, because it doesn’t initiate a conversation, only more tension.

When I hear people saying that Facebook causes more problems than it’s worth or that it makes friendships and relationships more difficult, I find it hard to agree. Mainly because there are real people behind everything that goes on there – and we can treat each other with respect online, if we really want to. What I think it does do though, is allow us to broadcast very widely our frustrations and bad feeling towards people instantly and (importantly) before we have had time to think things through, to calm down or to try to see things from someone else’s perspective. After unpleasant events happen it can keep people in a weird, distant contact who, without social media, would probably have just gotten on with their lives and not thought about what each other were doing. It also gives us the confidence to say things that we sometimes wouldn’t dream of saying in a face-to-face situation.

In a similar veign but on the other side of the coin, social media means that we can see tiny snippets of people’s lives, events and conversations, often taken out of context. And we react to these (as people naturally do). What’s missing is face-to-face, two-sided conversation in which two or more people are able to discuss and try to understand each other’s perspectives.

So whilst I don’t believe that Facebook can cause problems between people, it has definitely changed dramatically the way we interact and it throws up lots of new considerations in the ways that we treat each other.

Social Media Cold Turkey – being a bad aunty! (Day 10 – 10/10/2014)

If we think our generation is used to being constantly connected, the next generation is definitely worse! I’m having a hard time explaining to my 7 year old niece why I can’t see or reply to her SnapChats at the minute.

She keeps asking if I’ve seen photos or messages that she’s sent and each time I feel awful that I haven’t. She seems quite disappointed and I hope she hasn’t been wondering why I haven’t replied! It’s silly because with living at my Mam’s at the minute I see her a lot, and she can still ring or text me. But she doesn’t seem to understand why I would stop using social media! I suppose it’s existed for longer than she has and it’s so widely used that she doesn’t really see it as a product that you can choose to subscribe to or not – but as something that everyone just has.

My niece won’t be allowed Facebook for a long time but she feels so left out that she’s been allowed to have an Instagram account and Snapchat, on the strict condition that my sister controls who she can follow and who can see her posts. She has lots of family and a few friends on there and the result is seriously cute. I’m certainly missing her posts! I think she feels ‘on the same level’ as her aunties and uncles when she’s using social media and she really enjoys sharing things with us.

All of this has kind of got me thinking about how social media companies, particularly the ultra-massive ones like Facebook and Twitter, have managed to make their services so indispensable. In most demographics now its seen as a deliberate life-choice to avoid using social media. It’s seen as a statement against modern society, rather than just a case of someone not feeling the need to have it.

Of course social media isn’t the first example of this (think about TV, mobile phones, cars, the internet in general) – all of these things define our modern lives and there are good and bad points of all of them.

But I do think it highlights that we may need to think more about how we use social media, considering that it’s becoming such a massive part of our culture, we’re so exposed to it, and its capable of getting us to expose so much of ourselves?

Social Media Cold Turkey – It’s Everywhere! (Day 6 – 25/10/2014)

One week without social media so far and I think I’m going to survive!

To be honest it’s nice to have an excuse not to update it (or try to keep up with everything that’s on it).

But it’s so hard to avoid!

Current count of times I’ve heard “HAHA/OH MY GOD/BLOODY HELL/AS IF SHE’S GOT THAT ON FACEBOOK/WHAT THE HELL/THIS IS AMAZING – look at this!” and automatically looked round before realising I’m not allowed to = approx. 376! Interestingly, most of the time the person trying to show me something is more disappointed than I am when I realise I can’t look! Not being able to look has really brought home how often this happens!

People have told me things a few times before I’ve had a chance to remind them I’m not supposed to be seeing anything on social media, and at times I haven’t reminded them at all because it actually feels really rude! It feels a bit like telling pepople to shut up!

Another thing I’ve noticed is how many various social networks I actually had access to on my phone, and I don’t think I use as many as most people! I didn’t use Twitter very often; rarely update LinkedIn and I’m not on Pinterest, Tumblr or Flickr. Really I’m a bit of a social recluse to begin with! But it still took me four days to disable or log out of all traces of social media on my phone. Notifications from the likes of Snapchat and Timehop kept rearing their ugly heads from hidden corners, causing me to press the little cross hastily with my eyes closed, before going to the offending app and logging out! I’m now 99% sure everything is gone! You’ll be pleased to know I’ve resisted looking at any of them, with the exception of reading the first line of the Timehop update when it popped up!

But overall its not bothering me as much as I thought it would, not being allowed to use it.

Thoughts today can be summed up by this question – is completely logging out of social media officially impossible, even with the best intentions?

Social Media Cold Turkey – how ‘fake’ are we on social media? (day 4 – 23/10/14)

So I read this story about a student who fooled her family and all of her Facebook friends into thinking that she was travelling in Asia for 5 weeks, while actually spending the time hiding out in her apartment in Amsterdam.

What Zilla Van Den Born did was really pretty simple – she photo-shopped travel photos and posted them to social media, Skyped with her parents in front of a backdrop that made her apartment look like a hotel, and sent texts in the middle of the night to make out that she was in a different time zone.

The interesting part though (I thought), is why she did it.

The point she was making was about “how common and easy it is to distort reality” over the internet. She has commented that “everybody knows that pictures of models are manipulated. But we often overlook the fact that we manipulate reality also in our own lives” (Zilla Van Den Born quoted in an article on the Huffington Post online).

It could of course be argued that this same deception could have been achieved with more traditional postcards and telephone calls, and that social media wasn’t what allowed this experiment to work. BUT I do think it highlights the way that people use social media day-to-day.

There are a lot of great uses for things like Facebook and Twitter – they allow people to stay in touch easily and regularly across long distances; allow consumers to quickly and effectively share feedback which, especially if it’s negative (and if the company concerned has any sense) will be responded to; more generally allows large groups of like-minded people to communicate far more easily.

BUT the main day-to-day use particularly for Facebook is (usually) to showcase the great things that you have achieved, cool things that you’ve done, particularly attractive selfies that you’ve taken. And I’m not saying that this is necessarily a bad thing, just that it in most cases it’s very highly controlled to show ourselves in the best (most attractive, most interesting, most fun) light.

Of course people do post about negative things too (in fact some people don’t seem to post about much else) but for the most part, our newsfeeds are full of all sorts of great things for us to compare our days to. Friendships and relationships are made to look idyllic; our faces are filtered to the point where they sometimes bare little resemblance to how we actually look; sometimes people seem to care more about how their night out/holiday/trip is portrayed in the obligatory Facebook album, rather than actually enjoying it at the time!

So are we finding ourselves in a situation where we’re seeing only the best parts of others’ lives all over social media, and comparing them to our own lives, which are never that perfect? I know I’ve felt like this before. Of course this depends on self-esteem and insecurity but I believe we all have insecurities to some extent, and when I’m not having a particularly good day or am feeling a bit rubbish about myself, I definitely don’t often find that scrolling down my newsfeed cheers me up!

Social Media Cold Turkey – out of sight, out of mind?

I’ve wanted to start a blog for a while now, mainly because my poor family and friends don’t have enough hours in their days to listen to the amount of things that I have to say! Hopefully I can channel some of my gobbiness into this blog and people can pick and choose what they want to read!

So why now? Well the reason I’m finally doing this now is maybe a bit ironic. I did a bit of an experiment recently where I banned myself from social media for a month, and people were so interested in why I was doing this and whether I would last, that I figured I’d share the experience in my first ever series of blog posts! So here goes…

Last Day before Social Media Cold Turkey (19th October 2014) – out of sight, out of mind?

So I’m preparing for my month logged out of social media and I’m quite looking forward to it! I’ve decided to try this after thinking lately about just how much we rely on social media and how many times a day we use it; I’ve been reading some really interesting (and sort of disturbing) articles about internet and social media addiction.

I don’t think I’m one of the most active people on social media but still, I am a little scared everyone’s going to forget I exist! I know it sounds ridiculous but I’m a bit manic tonight, making sure everyone has my number and knows that I won’t be on social media for the next month and I’m not just ignoring them if they message me!

To be honest I put this back a week because I refused to stop using social media while planning my best friend’s baby shower. The thought of having to contact everyone separately without the use of group messages on Facebook was more than I could bear! Yes I know this is the definition of a first world problem!

But I’m not making any more excuses, so tonight I’m logging out of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and anything else I find on my phone that constitutes a social network. When I’ve told people what I’m doing there’ve been mixed responses. Some people have said “enjoy” and sounded almost jealous. As if they wish they could do it! Others have said there’s no way I’ll do it, usually by betting how long I’ll last (the guesses are invariably under a month).

Either way everyone seems to see it as a pretty big deal! Maybe I’m going to miss it more than I’m expecting!!