As we slide sun-burned and ice-creamed into August, I think it’s safe to assume we all just want to switch off from life for a while. But is it really possible to switch off when we carry our phones with us like some kind of external pace-maker? As though we might cease to exist if we do not maintain an online presence. But do we really need to share so much of our lives and what does it mean if external validation is all that keeps us ticking?

Every interaction has an exchange and we have to gauge the value of what we are receiving in return for the cost to us. This is where I am right now with social media and I know I’m not alone. I keep coming across more and more people wondering if social media is actually the benign distraction we once thought it was, or perhaps something a little more insidious.

Facebook never held any allure for me – I failed to see the benefits of curating my life for an audience who really couldn’t give a shit. Twitter, however, slowly became an intrinsic part of my daily life. I have learned so much on Twitter about feminism, gender bias, publishing, writing and (no surprises here) that dogs are the true comedians of the world. I’ve had some right laughs and connected with brilliant people.


I find my mood is increasingly affected by what I see on there – whether it be political propaganda, bad news stories, argumentative and angry people who just want to pick a fight or on the other end of the scale, people being really successful and happy. There doesn’t seem to be much middle ground – ordinary people having ordinary ups and downs. It’s all somebody who fears their own irrelevance says something controversial and you find yourself drawn into a pointless discussion from which you gain nothing. In fact you’re losing something really important; your time.

This is my real issue with social media. It has taken away our golden opportunities to be bored. Scrolling is the new navel gazing, except that navel gazing might lead to some kind of interesting insight into the psyche, or make you so bored that you decide to paint the bedroom. But at least you’d be connecting with yourself and your feelings. There’s nothing wrong with a little distraction, but it’s starting to feel like social media is stealing our down time and we’re complicit in the crime. I’m just not sure I’m willing to pay the cost anymore.

It’s the ‘always on’ aspect that seems to be causing this collective burn out. And why wouldn’t it? We were all hooked under the guise of connecting with people, but is it meaningful connection? We are all providing free content for a platform which uses our shared pics to attract more users. We are all essentially working for Instagram, for free!  Like, how many times have you stopped in the middle of a nice walk, meal or holiday trip to take a photo for Insta? If you think it through, you are interrupting your personal, private experience to do something for your social media accounts that will gain likes or follows. You are promoting your page. That is work and you’re not getting paid for it.

And even regardless of remuneration, you are thinking about your free time differently when viewing it through the lens of social media. You wonder, will this look good? Will people be impressed? Because I saw X and Y put up pictures of that place they went to and it looked great. And I want people to think I do interesting things too. So we are all being ensnared by each other with representations of our lives that only offer the merest of glimpses into reality. We all know this on a rational level, but we don’t often stop to think about the thought processes this sparks off and how it affects our everyday lives. I see a photo of someone on a beach on their holidays looking serene and free and I just assume their entire holiday was like that. I don’t see the mundane bits, the bits where everything went wrong or God forbid, the boring bits. The arguments. The seething resentment. So this creates an impossible fantasy of what our lives should be like, but will never be, because it’s not real.

And that’s the crux of it. It’s not real and I don’t think I can be a part of that. Maybe I should become a crusader for authenticity, like the wonderfully hilarious Celeste Barber, who gives a real-life makeover to some truly ridiculous IG posts. But fucking hell, that’s more work, more of my precious time and what do I get out of it? It’s one thing if you are actually promoting something, then social media is a fantastic marketing tool. But if not, then you are simply promoting yourself and your life becomes a commodity. Yep, sounds dystopian to me too.

celeste barber

Image result for celeste barber doing gigi
This is my fav!

So I’ve returned to the good old blog – a place where I can really take my time to talk about how I feel about things without having to upload some filtered selfie of me not being me. When I blog, I sit down to write, it’s a choice I make. But scrolling on Twitter and trying to find interesting pics for Instagram is just a mindless addiction and feels, at best, shallow and superficial. At worst, I’m handing my free time over to large corporations who profit from our need to feel seen, to matter. Well, I see you, all of you out there who are just doing your best and trying to find meaning and purpose in this unpredictable world. And my God you matter – more than a silly photo or a witty tweet. You already matter – you don’t need likes to prove that. x



Why The ‘Hygge’ Are We So Stressed?!


I’ve noticed a growing trend in advertising over the last few years (you know advertising; those people who tell us what sort of lifestyle we should have in order to be happy? Yep, them.)  Last night I watched a new car ad, whose marketing department decided they needed to target women.  So they told the story of a young, successful woman who began her day by deep-sea diving (as you do), then drove to work where she spent a ‘hectic’ day at the office making extremely important decisions and telling mostly men what to do, followed by a night out at some pretentious venue where she picks up a total randomer (shags him, we assume) and arrives home at sleepy o’clock in her shiny new car.  After a jam-packed day that left me feeling exhausted just watching her, she assures us in a breathy voice that she wouldn’t have it any other way – ominously implying that she will do the same thing again tomorrow.

This was swiftly followed by an ad for mascara, where an angry-looking young woman is out-running some male secret agents while looking FLAWLESS.  The voice over artist tells us that her mascara is UNSTOPPABLE, while the pristine model runs away in impossibly high heels.  This is followed by an ad for make-up that is INFALLIBLE!!  And I’m sitting on my couch thinking, what?  What’s the message here?  Expect more, don’t relax, be busy, seek perfection, ACHIEVE, keep moving, life is a battle and we need to fight it head on, whilst remaining impeccably groomed and loving every f&*king minute of it!!!

And these were the ads for women without kids.  I can only imagine that the car ad for mothers would involve her literally juggling three kids in the air whilst steering the car with her foot and preparing an eco-friendly meal in the glove compartment.  Because as well all know ladies, you can have it all.  But do you really want it?

Conversely, we are all lurching from one ‘get relaxed quick’ scheme to another.  The publishing industry enjoyed an unexpected boom last year from sales of adult colouring books – the hangover from the previous year’s attempt to introduce us all to mindfulness (which nobody really understood).  ‘Just be in the moment!’  it proclaimed.  Something that easy shouldn’t require any effort, and we all sat there in the lotus position wondering how long it would take to be mindful.  Is it happening yet?  Am I relaxed??  This year it’s Hygge.  As if we need the Danes to tell us how to light a few candles and chill the f@%k out (sorry for all the expletives!)  Don’t we know how to do this without having to buy a bloody book about it?  Clearly not.  We have lost our ability to just BE.  And every marketing department the world over is taking advantage of it.  They’re selling us the cause and the cure.

I recently had a chat with my sister about something I saw on Twitter (which she hadn’t read) and she went on to explain that there just wasn’t time for all of the information that kept coming at her.  By the time you’ve followed the link and flicked through 800 different opinions about the thing and eventually tried to form your own, the world has moved on to the next thing, with more information and it’s just never ending!!  Social media has us worked up into a frenzy over issues that we really have no control over, so our rage and sense of injustice has nowhere to go.  There is no practical outlet for us to affect change on the world around us, so we just tweet our frustrations away.  I don’t really know when all of this change happened.  I suppose every generation bemoans the next, but wasn’t it better when we had more time to just flop about and naval gaze for a while, without feeling guilty about it?  Is reaching for our phones every two seconds a way of distracting ourselves or deluding ourselves into believing that we’re doing something.. anything?  I was starting to wonder if this was just the general malaise of being a grown up, but then I read a great post by Misha Kahn’s  called ‘When are you going to be enough for yourself?’  I think she really hits the nail on the head of our ‘be busy’ culture with this thought:

I started to believe that if I wasn’t being productive, I was failing.

Is this how ‘they’ want us to feel?  Are we somehow being programmed to work harder, better, faster, stronger, with the only watchman being our own guilty conscience?  I’m no conspiracy theorist (am I?) yet I can’t help but wonder if this ideal of being an over-achiever is eroding our natural state of being?  After all, we are human beings, not human doings.  Yet the first thing people ask when they meet you is ‘What do you do?’  An author friend of mind just published a book and I was alarmed to see how many people barked the words, ‘Have you written the next one  yet?’  I mean, back off people, just enjoy the moment.  Like the annoying kid at school who scribbled furiously on their test paper while you sat there doodling, some people can’t wait to make you feel unproductive (the horror!), or worse, rub their productivity in your face.  Ewwww!

It’s a long time since I first read Tom Hodgkinson’s book How To Be Free  and while he may not have all the answers, his suggestion of painting murals on the ceiling so we can spend more time looking at it, isn’t the worst I’ve heard!  His mission is to bring back the days of merriment and self-sufficiency and really, who can argue with that?

‘Tom shows that consumer society has led not to a widening of freedoms but to the opposite and that the key to a free life is to stop consuming and start producing.’

It’s true, modern life has turned us into willing slaves of our screens so we are constantly switched on.  Even during our recreation time, we are still consuming because that’s what we’re told to do through these types of aspirational lifestyle marketing campaigns.  Check out Tom’s website ‘The Idler’ where you can connect with people who aren’t shackled by this notion of ‘performance guilt’ for want of a better term.  Life isn’t all about working hard and partying hard, which again, sounds like more work!  I’ve always felt that statement implies that you don’t deserve to have fun unless you’ve slogged your guts out working.  We could all use a little anarchy, especially when we are being brainwashed into finding happiness at the shopping mall or salvation in over-achievement.  Maybe, just maybe, our achievements do not define us and happiness is really about finding pleasure in the simple, everyday things that cannot be measured, bought or sold.