Tag Archives: Twitter

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.

Cliché Corrections

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Hello, lovely reader!  How are you?  Gosh, it’s been ages, hasn’t it?

I would like to apologise on behalf of myself and my erstwhile laptop for the radio silence this week.  On Friday, Calcifer unceremoniously died on me, and had to be taken to a computer repair place.  And yes, I did name my computer after a character from Howl’s Moving Castle.  He is back in action once more, thank goodness, so I can carry on talking to you lovely people.

Today’s blog is about clichés.  We use them all the time, perhaps without even noticing how frequently we drop them into conversation, and we rely upon them to make our meanings clear.  Clichés can be annoying, trite or even offensive, but they are also a tried-and-tested method of expressing ideas in a way that everybody understands.

Having said that, some clichés now seem to be a bit outdated or irrelevant to modern life.  We still understand their meanings, but honestly, how often do any of us have any birds at all, let alone ones in bushes?  With this in mind, I have decided to tweak a few famous phrases to better suit our needs.

Hell hath no fury like a woman whose best friend has been scorned

It’s true that scorned women tend to be pretty angry, but their friends’ wrath is usually much scarier.  The last time I found myself in a somewhat scorned state, my beloved flat mate Ash was livid, and she doesn’t really “do” anger very often.  Potential scorners, beware: women are of the (absolutely correct) opinion that their best friends are beautiful, fascinating and lovable human beings – hence the friendship – and if you mess things up, they will come down on you like a furious ton of bricks.

A watched phone never beeps

I admit that I sometimes stand and watch a pot of water, getting cross because it just won’t boil.  However, that invariably turns out to be because I forgot to switch the hob on, rather than my feverish anticipation affecting the laws of physics.  In this day and age, communication technology has become the pot, and texts, Tweets and Facebook notifications are the bubbles we wait for.  Particularly when we are interested in someone or we are waiting to hear about a job interview, we just can’t tear our eyes away from our screens.  Well, it sucks but it’s true: waiting for something won’t make it happen.  Put your phone down and make yourself a cup of tea.

Plenty more fish on the dating website

Those of you have read this blog about Tinder will recall that I’m not a huge fan of internet dating, but I completely understand why so many people are.  I find the original cliché about there being an abundance of fish in the sea silly for two reasons: firstly, talking about fish either makes me want to watching Finding Nemo or eat smoked salmon, so I tend to get distracted from the task of finding said fish.  Secondly, the unanimous response to “plenty more fish in the sea” is “I don’t WANT another fish, I want THAT fish!” Or boy, or girl, I guess.  If you’re actually attracted to fish then we’re probably focussing on the wrong issue, here.
Anyway, the point is that finding new potential partners is daunting after a heartbreak.  Even though I’d never use it myself, I think it’s kind of nice that people can browse internet dating sites to ease themselves back into romance and all that jazz.

When life gives you lemons, go and find the tequila

Who among us actually knows how to make lemonade out of lemons?  Not me, that’s for sure.  I do know how to do a tequila shot, though.  I’m being flippant about some fairly sound advice, here: when bad things happen, find a way to make them work to your advantage.  I totally agree with this idea, but I also think that sometimes all you can do is switch off.  I’m not condoning binge drinking as a solution to life’s woes, but I do think that we should relax and enjoy ourselves when we can.  Sometimes there just isn’t a way to get a positive outcome from a negative situation, and at those times all we can do is try to have some fun.

Well, it’s lovely to be back with you, dear reader.  Have a fantastic day, and I’ll see you tomorrow.

Unsplit Personalities

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Good morning!  It’s Noel Fielding’s birthday today, did you know?  On the very small off-chance that he reads this: Happy Birthday, Noel!

Over the past few days I’ve been thinking about personalities, and how very complicated they are.  We have a tendency to separate out different sections of our personalities, because we think that certain bits are anomalous to who we are, and some parts are just plain embarrassing.  It is too difficult and confusing to admit that our bad habits and secret sins are linked to our genes, our upbringings or our life styles.  Much easier to have a persona that can be summed up in three words by the people who know us best, and leave it at that.

We are encouraged to keep up this pretence of simplicity by constantly summarising and censoring ourselves: job applications, CVs, online dating profiles, Twitter biographies and more ask us to reduce ourselves into a few short sentences, and we willingly oblige.  We know that we’re complicated, but we don’t everyone else to know that.

The thing is that every aspect of your personality is linked to something else about you, and that is a really good thing.  Take the anomalies, for instance: I like watching football, which seems a bit random in terms of my other interests, but actually it does make sense.  I like watching events with a large group of people (like when I go to the theatre), I like lots of noise (because I grew up in a big family) and I like having a pint with my friends (that’s just a given).  So even though I’m not a stereotypical football fan, it makes sense for me to like football once you break it down.

When we think of certain personality aspects as anomalous we don’t embrace them for what they are: an important part of what makes us a complete person.  This comes up a lot with mental health issues.  People call depression “the black dog”, which I think is really stupid for two reasons: firstly, making the illness a separate, animalistic entity encourages people to be afraid of it and distance themselves from the issue, and secondly it kind of ruins the third Harry Potter book if you have that association in mind.

I’m not suggesting that mental health problems are a good thing (obviously), but if you have to live with them you shouldn’t have to be afraid of them, as well.  They are part of who you are, but they don’t define you.  There’s plenty of awesomeness in your personality, too, and they’re not necessarily separate qualities.  For example, living with something like depression can give you strength you never knew you had.

Everyone has aspects of their personalities that they wish they could change or get rid of, but you are who you are.  If we refuse to accept the bad things about our psyches as well as the good, we are rejecting a massive proportion of what makes us a real human being.  Think about it: if we didn’t all have bad and good things about us, we would be completely angelic and therefore entirely incapable of empathy.  We’d also be kind of boring.  And you, my friend, are definitely not boring.

Have a stupendous Wednesday.

Phone Off for Friday

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Good morning!  It’s finally Friday!  And it’s sunny!  What did we do to deserve such good fortune?  I don’t know.  Let’s just enjoy it.

I have decided to turn my phone off for 24 hours, as of 9am today.  On the one hand, this is a pretty big decision that will have an impact on my ability to contact people, check the time and look up travel plans, but on the other hand, it’s just a phone and it’s not going to kill me.  Let me walk you through this seemingly random decision, and then see whether you might want to do the same thing:

Distraction
My friend Andy told me recently that I seem to be really, really busy for someone who doesn’t go to work.  And he’s right.  (Let’s brush over the fact that I tend to work in my pyjamas, ok?)  The point is that I genuinely do have stuff to get on with, and having my phone on my desk is just a distraction.  You’re a  busy person with a lot of stuff to do too, aren’t you?  Exactly.  Imagine how much more efficiently you could work without your phone in the corner of your eye.

Responsibilities
Speaking of work, lots of my friends have several email, Twitter and Facebook accounts synced on their phones (because of all the theatre company stuff we get up to, you see), so whenever anything happens on one of those, we feel the need to respond immediately. However, I have made a life-changing discovery: we don’t have to do that.
If your work comes down to email messaging (i.e. you’re not a doctor, fire fighter, etc.), then it’s really not that urgent.  Don’t be fooled into thinking that you have to work at the same speed as technology all of the time.  You don’t have to stop walking in the middle of the street to reply to a message, or halt a pleasant conversation to check your emails.

Social Skills
Which leads me neatly on to the next problem I have with phones: what the crap have they done to our social skills?  It has now become acceptable to get out your phone and tinker with it if you are in a large group conversation, feeling a bit shy or just bored while your friend is talking to you.  (I have a friend who does that quite a lot, and I won’t name and shame, but you know who you are.  Stop doing that.)

Rejection
There’s a bit in the first Bridget Jones book where she complains about the passive-aggressive role of the telephone in dating, i.e. that getting home to find messages on your machine means that you are loved, beautiful and popular, whereas having no messages means that you will die alone and be eaten by Alsations.
Sometimes we have the same problem with mobiles, don’t we?  The immediate response thing is an emotional issue as well as a work one: when our friends and beloveds don’t reply to texts straight away we feel wounded and wronged.  Let’s take a day off from that.

Rebellion
I’ve just started reading the His Dark Materials trilogy, and it strikes me that we tend to see our mobile phones the same way the characters in the novels see their daemons: embodiments of our souls which we cannot emotionally or physically bear to be parted from.  They’re not.  They’re just phones.
I know that mobile technology makes life a lot easier, but I also know that I was perfectly fine for fourteen years before I even heard of mobile phones.  Our phones do not rule our lives or define who we are.  We exist without our phones, and we are actually far more interesting without our faces glued to them.

Have a record-breakingly good Friday.

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.