Tag Archives: social media

Modern Moscow Rules

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Hello there, lovely reader!  How has your week been?

As we all know (and occasionally grumble about), life is governed by rules.  Laws are in place to protect us, moral guidelines exist to shape our behaviour appropriately, and social etiquette is there to make awkward dinner parties more bearable.
During the Cold War, a (probably fictional) list of instructions called the Moscow Rules were developed, supposedly to be used as rules of thumb for spies and other shady characters.  There are various versions of the Moscow Rules in fiction and online, and although they are mainly for the use of espionage enthusiasts, I have decided to appropriate some of them for the benefit of the rest of us.  Here goes:

1) Assume nothing
Never assume that someone will definitely see your Facebook status, read your blog (ahem) or monitor your Twitter stream.  Then again, whatever you put on the internet is public, so never assume that you can get away with saying things like “omg I hate it when people are two-faced bitches, you know who you are!!!”  That kind of thing is just embarrassing for everyone.

2) Murphy is right
Murphy’s law states that anything that can go wrong will go wrong, and is more commonly known these days as sod’s law.  I don’t think I even need to elaborate on this one, do I?

3) Never go against your gut
This can be explained for spying purposes as “if the circumstances of an operation feel wrong, they probably are.  Abort the mission.”  Despite the nebulous and unquantifiable nature of our gut feelings, we always feel a bit off when we go against them, don’t we?  Don’t be afraid to trust your instincts.

4) Don’t look back; you are never completely alone
Again, in terms of espionage this means something a bit paranoid: essentially, the enemy and/or your superiors are never far away.  For those of us who are not trying to covertly execute a dead letter drop, what I think we can take away from this rule is comfort.  Don’t look back at your past because it has…er…passed, as it were, and there’s nothing we can do about that.  You are never completely alone because the best people from your past are still with you now.  Old friends, long-term partners, family members etc. have stuck around and are therefore worth paying attention to in the present.

5) Go with the flow, blend in
For the love of all that is good, pure, righteous and holy, stand on the right-hand side of tube escalators.

6) Don’t harass the opposition
Bitching, aggression, violence and snide remarks on social media are just not necessary.  Why waste your time digging at people you don’t like when you could be getting on with your life?

7) Everyone is potentially under opposition control
Good HEAVENS, Cold War spies were paranoid!  I suppose in some cases they were right to be, but really.  We are not living in an episode of The Demon Headmaster here.  The closest thing we have to ‘opposition control’ these days is the board of executives behind The X Factor.  What I think we could take from this rule is similar to the gist of rule 3: only you know exactly what is right for you in life.  Your friends and loved ones may mean well, but when it comes to drugs, fashion choices, watching reality television and the like, “everyone else is doing it” is not a good enough reason to fall into line.

8) Pick the time and place for action
Take control of your life.  Organise meetings, ask people out and get in touch with that friend who’s dropped off the radar.  Orchestrate your day so that everything works to your advantage as much as possible.  Don’t be afraid to say what you want.  Be prepared.  Tuck your shirt in, all that stuff.

9) Vary your pattern and stay within your cover
You can wear spots and stripes in the same outfit.  Always remember to take an umbrella.  (Yes, I know that that’s not at all what the original rule meant, but you’ve got to admit that the umbrella thing is very sound advice.)

10) Keep your options open
We are all under a lot of pressure to settle down into long-term careers, marriages and mortgages.  If you’re ready for any or indeed all of those things, then good for you.  If not, don’t worry.  We have no way of knowing what kind of opportunities, people and prospects we are going to come across from one day to the next, and it is no bad thing to keep your options open.

Have a spectacular weekend.

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The Three Ages of Timehop

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Hello there!  How are you doing?  Did you remember your sunglasses this morning?

I recently installed Timehop on my phone.  I kept seeing lots of photos from the past cropping up on Facebook news feeds (and had been tagged in a couple – the horror), so I thought I’d find out what the whole thing was all about.

For those of you who aren’t familiar, Timehop essentially digs through your posts on social media sites from today’s date x number of years ago, and then invites you to share them on social media again today.  New content is obviously generated at the beginning of each day, ’cause the date keeps changing.  Anyway.  These posts can be photos, links, videos, life-changing status updates or even just a common/garden Tweet.  Being no stranger to nostalgia I completely understand why people love this app, and sometimes it is very heart-warming to review specific events of our misspent youths, but I think we could all do with having a look at the pros and cons of hopping through time before we commit to it on a daily basis.

In Ancient Times
First of all, Timehop digs stuff out from the dawn of your social media time, which for a lot of us was around 2006/7.  As far as nostalgia value goes, it’s a slice of fried gold: seeing the very first words and pictures you tentatively shared on this new-fangled internet thing; the excitement of being able to talk to friends by writing on a virtual wall; your first ever Facebook status!  What joy!

On the downside, the start of our social media careers tend not to be our golden eras, do they? When I was eighteen I had BRIGHT YELLOW HAIR, for crying out loud.  Not blonde, not ginger, not anything remotely resembling a natural hair colour.  YELLOW.  I accept that those heady days of unwise bleaching are part of my past, but I would really, really prefer them to STAY in the past.  

The Middle Ages
The middle section of our online lives can be very interesting.  Let’s say between two and five years ago, our Timehop posts tend to be photos of us in places where we no longer live/work/study, wearing clothes that make us cringe and with friends whom we no longer speak to.  Sometimes this can be an excellent thing, prompting us to get back in touch with people whom we’ve long since lost track of.  Sometimes, however, it reminds you of difficult times or people who you are eternally glad to see the back of.

For a lot of my age group, it’s also an unwelcome reminder that we are “grown ups” now.  (Quotation marks are definitely applicable here.)  The Middle Ages of our social media careers mark time spent travelling or at university – or both – and therefore give us a chance to relive a time when life was more about adventure and potential than responsibilities and bills and stuff.  I don’t think any of us could hack going back to university now, but sometimes it’s hard to realise that we are a lot older than we think we are.  

Recent History
The Timehops from one year ago are the weirdest, in my opinion.  I realise that my memory is about as reliable as a promise from Nick Clegg, but even I can remember what I was doing this time last year.  I think. 

Having said that, this is a nice time frame to use for looking back and realising how much we’ve achieved.  The ancient times and middle ages are too massive to contemplate exactly how much we’ve done since then – we can name the milestones, but mainly we concentrate on how much better our fashion sense is these days – but if we look back over a single, solitary year, we can really pick out the specific moments that acted as turning points or triumphs.

I hope that you have an amazing day.  And that you had amazing day on this date several years ago, obviously.

You Are More Than A Page

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Hello, and welcome to Wednesday!  Are you having a nice week so far?

In theory, social media is a wonderful thing.  Facebook, Twitter and more allow us to stay in touch with people all over the planet, and to record the highlights of our lives through photographs and videos.  We can share our favourite music with our friends, read up about current affairs and amuse ourselves with any number of personality quizzes.

The bizarre thing about social media is that it has sort of overtaken our real lives.  If we post a great photo we are offended when people don’t “like” it, and when we get a response from a celebrity on Twitter it makes our day.  This is true to lesser or greater extents for each of us, but there is no denying that writing a funny status has become a kind of status symbol.

Why do we feel so validated by computer clicks?  What is it about our virtual presence that we prize as much as (or in some cases, more than) our physical presence?  I think that there are a couple of potential reasons: firstly, social media is quantifiable.  I check the statistics of how many people read my blog each day – thank you for reading this by the way, you lovely thing – and it literally measures how many people choose to read my ridiculous words.  When it comes to our online effectiveness, there are always facts and figures to tell us where we stand.

Secondly, having a Facebook page or an Instagram account is like having an encyclopaedia of yourself.  Over the months and years we build up a lot of information about our lives and our friendships, including our moments of triumphs and the photos we actually like of ourselves.  The information is complete and adjustable.  If I want to know the name of that comedian my brother and I discovered in 2008, all I have to do is look back through our friendship.  If we want to sound as sophisticated and intelligent as possible, we can edit our posts.  If we are up for an important job we can get rid of the digital evidence of our unemployable silliness.

We’ve all heard (and probably made) arguments for real human contact over use of social media, and in general I tend to agree with them.  It is better to see someone you love in real life, and no amount of filtering can make a beautiful image more moving.  I do believe that social media is useful and a miracle of the technological age we live in, but I think that it’s a mistake to assume that what we say and do online is as important as who we are in reality.

Put very simply, a nice picture of you on Facebook is a marvellous thing, but it will never be as good as seeing your actual face.  Have a glorious day.  Remember to use plenty of sun cream.

4 Things We Shouldn’t Photograph

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Good morning, lovely reader!  How was your weekend?

One of my favourite things about my generation is that in twenty (ish) years, we will be able to tell our children anything they want to know about what our lives were like when we were their age.  Social media has become a sort of personal encyclopaedia of each user’s life: all of our memories, friendships, photographs and Buzzfeed quiz results are mere clicks away.

I particularly love being able to share photographs on social media, but for some reason I cannot get on with apps like Instagram – I just want a photo.  Why must everything be square and made sepia?  Photography really propels people around social media sites, catching people’s attention and storing their significant moments.  This is a marvellous and brilliant thing (although if I see any more images of flipping meals, which are always captioned with something horrendous like “baked beans for dinner lol I well love this particular type of phaseolus vulgaris innit #bakedbeans #Heinz4lyf #yolo”, I will probably scream).  Having said that, I think that there are some moments in life which are better left unphotographed – amazing, beautiful moments, but moments which should be allowed to go unrecorded.

1) Gigs
Let’s get this one out of the way nice and early: why do people record videos and take photos all the way through concerts?  LISTEN TO THE FLIPPING MUSIC OR GO HOME AND PUT ON THE ALBUM.  Of course it’s nice to have something to remember the gig by, but the photographs never come out how you want them to, and the videos are always rubbish.  Put your smartphone away and just enjoy the experience.  Maybe have a bit of a boogie as well.

2) Pyrotechnics
I was at a friend’s birthday party this weekend, which was a mini camping trip in a beautiful woodland half an hour outside South London.  We had bunting, a barbecue and a flipping great time.  We also had a camp fire, which is one of my favourite things in the world.  Although when you look around a camp fire or a firework display the faces of your companions seem warmly lit, photos of these joyful communal experiences never show as much clarity or illumination as you remember from the moment itself.  Best just to sit back and join in with the “ooh”s and “aah”s, then.

3) Split Seconds
Don’t you just love it when something hilarious or ridiculous happens without any warning?  Moments of sheer joy between friends, loved ones and strangers can be lifelong fond memories.  It would be great if we could relive them over and over again in HD quality, but inevitably we find ourselves saying “Oh, I wish I had recorded that!” and being left with just our memory of the event.  It does seem a shame, but then if we went around recording everything all the time, just in case something funny happened, we wouldn’t be properly engaging with the world around us.  Bizarrely, we would end up looking so hard for these moments that we’d end up missing them completely.

4) Anticipation
You can photograph a moment of happiness, or love, or success.  But we all know that sometimes the anticipation is even better than the event we are waiting for, and you can’t capture anticipation in an image.  You can’t visually explain that second just before you kiss someone for the first time, or the moment just before your team scores a winning goal.  Anticipation is very visceral as an experience: we feel it in strange physiological (as well as cognitive) ways, and it’s something that we should definitely just experience without trying to catch forever.  By its nature, after all, anticipation is fleeting (and hopefully followed by awesomeness).

Have a genuinely stupendous Monday.

Tech: No Logic

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Good morning, you lovely thing.  How’s Tuesday treating you so far?

It’s a sleepy, chilled out kind of morning at Bag End.  (Bag End is what Ash and I named our flat, by the way.  We don’t actually live in a hobbit hole.  Which is kind of sad, actually.)  As I write this, my friend Rob is lounging around on the sofa in our living room.  He stayed over after a group of us went to the pub quiz last night.  Ash is lying in bed with her laptop, probably browsing Pinterest  and Facebook messaging people.  I am sitting at my desk (in pyjamas, but still – at least I’m sort-of vertical) talking to you, dear reader.

Bearing in mind that our flat is roughly the size of a shoe box, it seems bizarre to communicate with one another via social media, and yet a few moments ago I found myself offering Rob a cup of tea via Facebook.  It’s not even a laziness issue, because obviously I then had to stand up and make the cup of tea and take it to him, so why did I bother?

Using social media to talk to people who are in the same room (or teeny tiny flat) is one of the weirdest little bonuses of technology, and was parodied in an excellent episode of The IT Crowd called Friendface.  I have a few ideas as to why we behave in this strange and illogical manner:

  • Novelty value: we are still at a point where using social media unnecessarily makes us feel raffish, kooky and hilarious.  This is because we are all gleeful little children deep down, and that’s ok.
  • Illusion: social media and Skype allow us to talk to people all over the world, which is amazing.  When your friends have bogged off to far-flung countries, the technology makes it seem as though they could be right next to you, so using it when they actually are right next to you puts the whole thing on a level playing field.  Basically, it makes it easier to cope when the person you’re talking to actually is in Italy or what have you.
  • Posterity: we are the first generation who will be able to look back at their youth and see our entire lives documented, photographed, liked and retweeted.  Having real conversations is obviously an excellent thing, but we like to keep birthday cards, notes passed in lectures and other bits of memorabilia, don’t we?  We like having a record.

I’m not sure that mine and Rob’s little messaging interchange about a cup of tea will be my most prized memory aide in forty years, but it’s nice to have just the same.  I might go and have an actual conversation with him now.  Have a spectacular day.