This Week I Have Been Mostly….

this week i have been mostly

Another catch-up post? I know – this is a good thing. It means things have slowed down to the point, where I have some time to reflect on what I’ve been up to, rather than just go with it!

I have been LOVING this warmer weather. I really do feel like we’ve gone straight from Winter to Summer, leaving Spring behind. I also love thunder storms, and we’ve had a few corkers! I’m enjoying seeing all the plants coming up in my garden – so many different colours and shapes popping up out of nowhere – I have no idea what any of it is!

I’ve been busy planning things for my upcoming holiday to Florida, in September. We’ve booked in some really fun things, lots of places to eat, and my shopping list is well under way. We’re there for two weeks this year, and I’m pretty sure we’ve already filled each day!

I’ve also got my Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween party costume sorted, for this year. Even though this isn’t a Disney World holiday (same as last year) we’re still going into the Magic Kingdom park for one evening, for the Halloween party.

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Can you guess who I’m going as? Hmm….

Aside from this, I’m still really enjoying my calligraphy course, and have started doing a few mini projects. I’m not pressurising myself to get them done in a certain time frame or in a certain way. I’m letting them happen organically, which works well for me.

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They mainly happen to be Disney themed, but that shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone really….

I’ve also been adding art to my office walls. Again, I want this to happen organically, and we visited Homesense recently, and their selection of framed art was really great. We ended up getting three pictures for my office, and two for around the house. I happen to have chosen all illustrated pieces for my office, and these two look great on my wall.

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Lastly, I’ll just mention that the jewellery making masterclass I attended with the MK Bloggers group earlier in the year, was featured in the events supplement of Blogosphere Magazine this quarter. It was fun to see my face in print!

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So that’s it for now. I have a week off coming up, and some fun things planned for that, and stay tuned for more recipes too. Are you enjoying seeing my 2018 food challenge recipes each week? Let me know what your favourite recipes have been so far – I’d love to know!

Until next time….

Where Do You Want to Go Today? An Ode to a Podcast.

As a person born in the 80s, I remember it well when Microsoft launched Windows ’95 and asked ‘Where Do You Want to Go Today?’. I remember along with the internet appearing in homes, and being able to ‘go’ where seemed like literally ANYWHERE via your computer and I remember that feeling still. I hadn’t had that kind of feeling since then, until I started listening to the Beautiful/Anonymous podcast.

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I started listening to podcasts as a means of keeping me interested in running on a gym treadmill for a full hour without losing my interest. I started with Serial (didn’t we all?) since that was what everyone was talking about at the time. I then added This American Life to my subs list, and it was during one of these episodes that I was introduced to Beautiful Stories from Anonymous People (or Beautiful/Anonymous).

Living in the UK, I’ll admit I’d never heard of New Jersey born Comedian Chris Gethard. But I immediately liked his conversational style, his use of friendly banter and (of course) his accent. The premise of the podcast is that the producers of the show will periodically put out a telephone number, people will call and if they get through they can talk to Chris, totally anonymously, about anything of their choosing. The caller can choose to end the call whenever they want, but Chris can’t. Then at 60 minutes the call is disconnected.

It’s a great idea. But how does this remind me of Windows 95? It all goes back to ‘that feeling’. I adored being able to instantly find out about people’s cultures and lives in other countries. I could watch a webcam of Times Square or a beach in Hawaii. I could see photos of someone’s quinceañera and feel like I was there. I could live chat to people in other countries in chat-rooms, and learn all about their lives! So when I started listening to Beautiful/Anonymous I started to get similar insights into people’s worlds. Where else could I listen to the story of an Australian Bushman? How else would I get to hear fun, disgusting, heartbreaking and sometimes very dark stories?

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And it’s not just American people featured. Chris recently put out a number for UK residents to call, and that call was just as insightful as the others. And obviously there’s not just Americans who can make a call from America.

But it’s not just the content of the caller’s stories that make Beautiful/Anonymous so engaging. Chris, the host, is fantastically natural and just as engaging on the calls. As a huge advocate of therapy and taking care of your mental health, he relates to a lot of the callers. He’s in a position where, even though he’s loathed to give the kind of advice you might consider counselling, he is a fantastic listener. He knows how to keep a balance between entertaining and prying – a skill I feel he has honed during the period of the 100+ episodes that have been put out.

But coming away from the podcast itself, we should also talk about the BA Facebook community. A community which is currently at 26k members and growing at quite a rate. I’ve never been part of a large community that’s so understanding, welcoming and diplomatic. That’s not to say that everyone agrees all the time, but with the help of some awesome moderators, conversation is just that – a conversation. A meeting of minds. It’s a respectful community where people celebrate differences of culture and opinion, bred from an environment of just that on the podcast.

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I have often recommended this podcast to people I know. People who I feel are interested in other lives and cultures and ways of doing things. But I have had a 100% decline rate on it. And here’s why I think that is – the people I’ve suggested it to, I’ve chosen being that they are all of the above – interested in other people’s lives etc. However, I have a theory – everyone who loves BA, loves it because they’re on a journey themselves. They’ve accepted their Self, and even if they’re still a work in progress, they’re willing to listen to other people who are also works in progress. They might be listening to stories that could challenge their own wellbeing and make them ask questions about themselves. And this is too much of a challenge for some, understandably. Because who can judge others when they’re not without judgement themselves?

It’s a theory, but it seems to fit for now. These stories aren’t gossip, they’re not going to make you feel better about yourself. But you will come away from each of them with something – a sore stomach from laughing, a heavy heart, maybe tears in your eyes, inspiration, admiration. Awe.

If you, like me, are genuinely interested in people, you might just like it. I’m subscribed via Apple Podcasts and I’m so glad I was there from the very start, to hear the journeys of these 100+ people. I hope to be able to attend a live show eventually, as they tape them from time to time.

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If you decide to listen, or if you listen already, please let me know. I’d love to know there was a fellow BA fan in my midst!

 

This Week I Have Been Mostly….

this week i have been mostly

Hi guys, I thought I’d take the opportunity to check in, as it’s been a little while since I posted one of these. I didn’t expect to be sat here writing this post, whilst outside the place where I live is covered in snow AGAIN. It’s mid-March! I need some Spring now. I hope you’ve been enjoying the food and beauty posts that have been coming up. I even posted a book review!

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These past few weeks I’ve been a bit quiet on social media. Well, specifically on Twitter, I’ve been loving instagram. I just haven’t had anything to say on Twitter to be honest. I like to follow the rule of ‘if you’ve got nothing nice to say then don’t say anything at all’. I feel like I’ve had to hold my tongue a lot in the past but for a few reasons the past couple of weeks have been particularly tough. I don’t want to start becoming part of the problem. And then twitter drama in the blogging community this past weekend, cause a LOT of angst amongst people I follow and it’s meant some people have shown their true colours, even though I pretty much always know where to look when it comes to the drama. I fear the twitter community, for bloggers anyhow, creates a fake level of self-importance. I mean, the whole industry is based on the assumption that people want (and need) to hear what you think, so when it’s done in 280 characters, it can cause confusion and conflict. Anyway, I stayed out of it, but managed to put my two cents in with a tweet which covers both sides of the argument;

“Don’t be a dick. The end”

I didn’t need 280 characters to make my point.

Speaking of social media – does anyone remember Vero…..? That lasted all of 20 minutes didn’t it? I suppose if they’d made it so that you could actually use the app when the big rush happened, people might have bedded in, but I forget it’s on my phone. After 3 days of not being able to login, it didn’t really make an impression and so to me it’s another dead platform….. I might be wrong in the future, but for now buh bye Vero.

The past few weeks have been tiring! Work has been busy, I haven’t been getting good quality sleep and I’ve been feeling run-down and not entirely well. I need Spring to happen now. I long for the sunshine, and the warmth, and not having to wear all my clothes in one go. Unfortunately, I think my hayfever season has started, so even though there’s currently snow on the ground, I’m taking antihistamines, and they’re making a difference…. I swear I should have been put down a while back.

I’ve got an exciting event to attend at the end of this week, and that involves meeting some new people. Something I’m always nervous about, but feeling (at time of writing) fairly okay with. It’s local, and it’s doing something I’ve never done before, so I’m excited. All part of trying new things this year!

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I’m still plodding away with learning calligraphy (which you can follow here on instagram) and I’ve been reading a lot more than I usually do. The first book from the Slow Sunday Book Club has been read, reviewed and discussed (see start of post for my review link) and the second book has been announced: Surprise Me by Sophie Kinsella. It’s not my usual choice of reading material so I’ve yet to decide whether I’ll be joining in this month, but I did pick up another book on recommendation from Amyleigh at Northern Blood. It’s called A Monster Calls, by Patrick Ness. She’s got great taste in reading material so I’m looking forward to diving into it.

G-Man and I have just completed watching the 3rd and final season of the Netflix show Love. It’s a Judd Apatow show, and I love all his stuff, so if you do too and you haven’t watched it, I highly recommend it. It’s really really good. I’ve also been watching Crashing, after being told by Gary I had to. And he’s right, it’s a good show (which also Judd Apatow’s involvement) based on the true story of the main actor, who is trying to make it in stand-up. I’ve been really enjoying TV and films about stand up recently!

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So for now, I’m still stuck in my state of hibernation, which really isn’t helping my mental state of ‘let’s stay in bed and sleep until summer’, because really I’m eager to actually get up, go out and do stuff. But the weather and the coldness is making me feel slow and lethargic. I just want some sunshine! Maybe, if we all wish for it hard enough, it might just happen? Ready…….. GO!

 

 

I’ve Been Thinking…

It’s been 20 years since I started blogging, and the last 2 or 3 have been a whirlwind. I discovered the blogging community, put my heart and soul into it, and learned a lot about how to play the blogging game.

I found out that 15 year olds are evolving into marketers, pushing their brands, and understanding engagement better than me. I also saw the darker side – successful bloggers and vloggers prepared to lie to gain follows and likes at the cost of people who they would have previously called friends. Greed, jealousy and bitterness prevailing.

It taught me to support people who show courage and confidence, no matter what my taste. To support the endeavours of people who follow their dreams and display integrity. But most recently, I’ve learned that it’s okay to step back.

I’ve learned all of these things, but in the last few months the blogging community has become bitter and disillusioned. I rarely see support or originality any more. The people who I used to talk to have stepped back from twitter (I noticed that they probably moved away at the same time as I did) and I kind of miss them. Twitter chats are now all about the ‘business’ side of blogging and influencing, whereas they used to dabble in this but also involve chats about favourite travel destinations and music. I miss that too.

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In the last couple of years I dabbled in YouTube. Then a few weeks ago I was watching some videos and realised that I actually cringed at the start of one random one that came up in a playlist. It was less professional, badly shot and really just pretty bad. And I thought to myself, I wonder if people feel that way when they see my videos? And from that moment, I decided YouTube isn’t for me. That doesn’t mean I won’t make another video if it seems relevant, but I’m not going to make an effort to try to make videos. It was fun whilst I did it, but I’m not going to force something that doesn’t feel natural.

I also decided that since I don’t want to become an influencer, I really need to just stick to my roots. I don’t want this to be a profession. I don’t want to be pitching to brands, stalking my stats or worrying about likes and follows. I won’t completely ignore the numbers because it’s nice to see progression, it’s nice to get likes and it’s lovely to feel wanted by the people who read my blog BUT I’m not going to chase it. I haven’t updated my media kit in ages, I don’t know what my DA is and I haven’t poured over my twitter analytics in ages. I’m focussing on my content rather than my following. And surely that’s the correct way around, right?

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I read so many blogs that aren’t original, have basically no content, and just ‘fit’ the profile of what a blog should be – they have a decent following, but they don’t stand out. Naturally that makes me question my content, how I promote myself, whether I’m less than them. But I’m not, I’m just not in the same game as them.

Blogging is a creative outlet for me. I enjoy writing, sharing my story and receiving any contact back from my readers. So here is where I get back to it. I’ll post what I want, when I want, as I always have. But when I post I’m particularly proud of gets less engagement than one I consider less interesting, I’ll not fret. I wrote it, I posted it and I’m proud of it.

The end.

Has Instagram Stopped Us from Living in The Moment?….. NO!

I’ve been taking photographs regularly since I discovered Flickr in 2007. Unfortunately by then it was too late for me to have gleaned enough knowledge from it to pick a decent wedding photographer (I was married in 2006 and the professional photos were not very good. Thankfully my Brother-in-Law had his camera and took a bunch of great album worthy photos, phew!)

My love affair with phone photography started with the app Hipstamatic (which I really need to start using again) and then when instagram appeared, I was all about “the ‘gram”.

In my time taking photos I have completed 3 separate 365 projects (2 documented on my Flickr and 1 solely on instagram) For those who don’t know what this is, it’s simply taking one photo a day for a whole year. It’s kind of hard, and sometimes you don’t know what to take a picture of or just forget. But it’s taught me to really consider what makes a photo ‘interesting’ and whether a picture really is interesting before I load it to the internet. It really helped me to look at things in a different way to enable me to take a decent photo 365 times over a year.

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But after the first 2 (I did those back to back, since the first one was rather boring) I decided to put my camera away for the most part. I didn’t keep it in my bag (mobile phones didn’t have decent – or sometimes any – camera back then) I felt like I was too swept up with taking a photo at every good opportunity that I was missing out on the actual experience.

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Since then, and with vast technological advances, we all have awesome cameras in our pockets. My iPhone camera has a higher pixel quality than my Canon dSLR. But there’s always the chance to get swept up in a photo moment rather than fully living the experience. I remember going to an exclusive Hosier gig. The tickets were REALLY hard to get and he was just about topping his game. Everyone was talking about him. Two women in front of me took a few photos at the start of the gig, and then about an hour later I saw one of them uploading them to her instagram (whilst the gig was happening) and then within 15 minutes she was back on instagram, not only checking her likes, but sharing the photos with her friend sitting next to her – of the gig she was at that was STILL HAPPENING. She was busy reminiscing about something that was still happening in front of her and that she was missing….. FACE PALM

It’s certainly a fine line between sharing an experience and completely missing it. Years back, just after Michael Jackson had died, I went to a local town to see a Thriller Flashmob (remember when flashmobs were a thing?) The actual flashmob might have been good, I don’t know because this is what happened:

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You can play ‘spot the MJ impersonator’ with this one. I was totally struck by the amount of hands, phones and cameras there were in my way (this was 2009 so it wasn’t hugely the norm). But then, remember mine was in the crowd too!

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My first fulltime job was in retail back in 2001 and me and the girls used to find it odd seeing holiday makers with their cameras in a shopping centre taking photos of themselves in front of stores….. little did we know it would be the norm just a few year later.

Anyway, this is all bringing me to why I’m here talking about this today. A few days back Sara Tasker shared a link on Twitter (which you can find here) This article is about a Vimeo video (that you can watch in the article) created by a fella named Oliver, showing how ‘everyone takes the same pictures on instagram’. In itself it’s a really enjoyable video to watch, and well put together, so I’d encourage you to see it. But this site decided to interview the creator and here’s what he said:

“During my trip, I felt that many people didn’t really enjoy the moment and were hooked to their smartphones,” he says. “As if the ultimate goal of travel was to brag about it online and run after the likes and followers.”

I was with him up until then. I feel like this guy has really missed the point of instagram. He’s actively searched on instagram for places, tags and similarities and then put them together in a video. You could make a video of old paintings of fruit and tell people about how everyone back then was so obsessed with sharing their fruit bowls that their apples went bad before they could eat them…..

What he saw when he watched the video (he’d carefully curated) “Everyone spends the whole time behind their screen, everyone spends their whole holiday trying to get the perfect shot, that shot has been done already, this is all for likes, oh look at you bragging about your pretty beach holiday”

What I saw when I watched his video: “These people are living their best lives, look how happy they are, what an awesome view, what a crazy experience, these people belong in this world, I wish I could visit this place one day”

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What Oliver has failed to remember is

  • instagram promotes creativity, and it’s awesome to be creative and share that with like-minded people
  • taking photos is FUN
  • Not everyone is sharing everything from their holidays. That shot you’re seeing is the work of potentially 1 minute of their life
  • So what if they do spend their whole holiday with their face in their phone – it’s THEIR holiday and THEIR face!
  • Everyone is chasing experience to fill their one chance at life – so what if they’re having and then sharing the same experience as someone else has. It’s their experience – there are A LOT of them to have.
  • Sharing on instagram provides a little ‘experience’ to everyone who sees that picture. And it’s amazing for those who can’t (or haven’t yet) visit these places. Isn’t that the point, really?
  • If you feel it’s a ‘brag’ or you don’t like it – don’t look at it. Instagram isn’t mandatory. And if you can’t come off it, because you’re enjoying sharing your own pictures, remember why you’re using it. Your feed is there for you; curate it. Someone might just be sitting there looking at your photos thinking ‘what a bloody bragger’. They’re not for you, just like you, Oliver, are not for them.

I’m definitely an advocate of not missing an experience. But I’m also very concerned about forgetting experiences I’ve had. I have a huge fear that my memory will go and it’s a very lonely feeling. I want to be able to relive past experiences, and reminisce. The world of online albums and having a camera ‘right there’ when I need it is wonderful to me. I understand you shouldn’t have your face in your screen all the way throughout your life. If I’m filming or photographing something, I’m very careful to not view it through a viewfinder. But so what if people do – it’s their life, and if it makes them happy then ‘whatever’. And who knows, they might have experienced that thing a hundred times before, so filming whilst you’re there shouldn’t anger you – you concentrate on you. They might just be taking pictures or filming something on behalf of someone who just couldn’t get there. Their sharing this experience could bring enormous joy to someone across the globe, or even just to them in years to come.

It boils down to – why do you care so much? Concentrate on yourself, Oliver, and don’t spend so much time on Vimeo making videos about other people’s life experiences….. say what? It’s what you enjoy…..? oh! well…. my point has been made.

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All images are my own, are copyrighted to me and cannot be used under any circumstance.

OMG! 20 Years of Blogging!

Yes, you read that right. 2018 marks my 20th year of doing this blogging thing.

Over the years I’ve used different platforms and blogged in different ways. This blog you’re reading now, Musings of a So-Called Shutterbug, has been alive for 8.5 years so will be celebrating its 9th birthday this year. Obviously I like this iteration of blogging, however I’ve been going since I have had LiveJournal, Tumblr, Windows Live, MySpace, AcmeCity…. I can’t even remember all of the blogging platforms I’ve used.

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When I started blogging, back when I was 15, the internet was a smaller place. There were fewer people using it – it was only for nerds and geeks. Not every home had a computer, let alone the internet.

Depending on the platform I was using, I wrote about my life, tv shows, films and made graphics for fansites (mainly Buffy and The X-Files). I helped with a film review site and took photos, lots of photos. These are mainly showcased on Flickr, still. I can’t bring myself to delete the older photos whether they’re good or bad. (Btw, this post is smattered with some of these old photos, and I’ve enjoyed looking through them – the one above was taken 10 years ago when I was 25.)

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And then when I started Musings, here on WordPress, everything seemed to click. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I became immersed in the blogosphere and the world that is ‘influencing’.

When I started blogging, it was all about the words. What your story was and how you could put it across. And I still clutch onto that like a security blanket. But now it’s so much harder to get people to read what you write. There are so many younger, prettier, more wealthy people out there. They’re taking amazing photos, seem to have an endless supply of props for their shoots, apparently all have been born with marketing degrees and buckets of confidence to get that elusive candid but obviously set-up shot of them looking at their shoes.

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And more power to those people – but it can get a little frustrating when you read their posts and there’s actually no content, just 50 large photos of the same thing and lots of words that don’t tell you anything about anything. I will say, this isn’t everyone. I read blogs by some amazingly talented writers and photographers, and if you’d like to know who these people are, just follow my twitter because I like to retweet their amazing posts.

Anyhow, I digress. That’s not why I started blogging. I don’t often talk about myself in the ‘real world’ Unless someone asks me directly about something (at which point I can talk for hours until you stop me) but usually people don’t ask me, so I don’t volunteer. I’ve learned that usually people are just being polite, and don’t actually want to know the answer. But I like to share what I want to share (it’s part of being a control freak). And so I blog.

Blogging and photo blogging has taken me through sickness, health, job changes, happy times, events, holidays, style changes, and many many hair cuts.

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It’s made me happy with looking at myself through taking selfies, it’s shown me how to look at the world in a different way – I see the beauty in everyday situations. It’s taught me to see many sides of different situations and think before I speak. It’s allowed me to see different worlds and cultures in places far from me and close to home.

Through reading other people’s blogs I get to live their lives a little, see their worlds and perspectives. Learn what’s important to them and how they feel and see things. I get to watch people change, have children and watch them grow. I see marriages end, relationships start and read about them going through hurt and happiness. It’s like reading an amazing novel, thousands of them in fact, but this is all real life.

For me blogging is not for money, or free things. It’s partly because it’s nice to feel needed, so when I see comments, likes or shares, it’s helps me to carry on. But it’s mostly because I love to do it. My little diary, my little square of the internet. I REALLY enjoy writing, I LOVE to take photos, I enjoy making a connection.

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So even though the blogging world has changed dramatically since I started to diarise my life in this virtual world, I feel like my ‘blogging ethic’ has stayed the same even if it has evolved slightly to allow me to keep my head above water.

I may not have the readership of some, or the engagement of others, but it’s mine. My little space here. So thank you for reading it and here’s to the next 20 years!

The Blogosphere Christmas Festival

Last weekend I hot-footed it to the big-smoke to my very first blogger event, the Blogosphere Christmas Festival.

For those of you unfamiliar with the blogging community, Blogosphere magazine is a quarterly independent publication, featuring bloggers and influencers of all sizes. It also covers advice and tips for bloggers, as well as interviewing inspirational influencers.

The event, held in Shoreditch, promised panels from your favourite bloggers as well as a brand presence and the opportunity to pick up some additional Christmas shopping!

As soon as I arrived I was welcomed by Alice, the editor of Blogosphere magazine, who made sure I had a drink in my hand and after a little chat I had look around.

The first talk was due to start within the next 10 minutes so I took the opportunity to grab a seat and settle in.

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The first panel ‘Sharing Your Personal Style with the World’ featured 4 fabulous bloggers, including Siobhan (@justauniform) who I’ve chatted to over the past year or so and I was excited to finally meet. Also speaking, Steph Yeboah, Jamie Windust and Paige Calvert, a very inspiring bunch to listen to. The confidence these people have is wonderful!

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After this panel, and a cheeky picture with Siobhan and Steph, I had a look around the stands and spoke with some of the brands.

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Deliciously Ella’s brand provided the food

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Then there was a table of lovely Kusmi teas – I tried a Christmas blend which was lovely and refreshing.

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So..? were there promoting their latest fragrance range, including some new Eau de Parfum – gorgeous and inexpensive gift sets too!

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OGX were also there giving out free samples of their shampoo and conditioners.

I’m not the most comfortable in social situations but I met a few lovely bloggers who were kind enough to chat to me, though no doubt I was super-awkward!

And then it was time for the next panel!

This time ‘Finding your Authentic Voice Online’ featuring Vix Meldrew, Brogan Tate, Jess Ayton and Tom Cox.

I was most interested in seeing Brogan speak as I follow her YouTube channel, but it was great to hear Vix and Tom speak about their experiences with staying authentic in what can be a cut-throat environment when you’re a full-time influencer.

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At this point in the day I needed to leave to get to my next appointment, so I grabbed Alice and thanked her for a lovely event.

It wasn’t nearly as scary as I’d thought it could have been. Everyone was so friendly, and I didn’t feel out of place.

Back home I was able to have a look through the goodie bag.

Here’s what So…?’s bag contained.

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I’m looking forward to giving these a go.

The Blogosphere bag contained this lovely lot:

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And, I am most excited about trying these Booja Booja truffles which were also in the goodie bag. For the longest time I’ve loved their chocolates, and didn’t even know they were dairy free until recently, when it became relevant to me!

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Thanks to Blogosphere Magazine for throwing a fabulous and inspiring shindig. I’ll definitely be at the next one!

The Kryptonite to Creative Evolution

Flicking through my Facebook feed recently a video came up. It was the commencement address made by the actress Octavia Spencer at Ohio’s Kent State University earlier this year, and whilst I’m not too familiar with her work, her words spoke to me.

One point she made, as a young female person of colour , was that if when she’d been an up and coming actress she’d taken notice of the ‘lists’ – you know 25 actresses who made it by 25, or 30 richest lists – she would have stayed in bed, and not become as successful as she is. She referred to the ‘trap of comparison’ and told the graduates not to get caught in it, because they would continue to evolve in ways people had never thought of yet.

And this is what really struck me: comparison is the Kryptonite to creative evolution. And I’m not just talking blogging because it hits home to me, or in this situation acting, I’m talking all creative walks of life.

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Imagine the world if we’d had no David Bowie, for example. He came from the same places we did, but the creativity he brought to his field were totally unique – if he’d compared himself to his peers, and allowed that to bog him down, we would have never ended up with the Bowie we loved.

Think of any outstanding creative in any creative field and you can say the same. The ones who are most revered are usually the most unique. And let’s talk diversity – you don’t have to think back that long ago, and in some cases it’s still the same today, where these lists I mentioned earlier wouldn’t mention a single person of colour, or certain race or even feature a woman.

And I’m not trying to make this about diversity – I’m trying to make this about you. Just you sitting there. We all sit and compare ourselves. We flick through social media, and read gossip magazines online. We look at the success of those around us in our field and think “Well, if they’ve been successful and I haven’t, I need to be more like them” But then we end up with a world of clones. How boring.

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It’s the harder route, to be yourself and graft until you’re successful. And not everyone will make it to the ‘big time’ in their field. But if you readjust what success means to you – it’s not all about being top of the pile, the most famous or having the most money – then you might just find, with that mindset, you might rise higher than you’d thought.

Towards the end of Octavia’s speech, the underlined message she conveyed was

“The journey you take now, will be lead by you alone.” 

It’s a scary and powerful concept, but it’s true. Only you can carve out your path for the future, and only you are going to take it. So why would you want to carve out a path someone else has taken or is meant for a different person. Your path will have failures and disappointments, but that’s all part of learning. Because of this, you don’t backtrack on this path, you simply learn and move on.

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Life isn’t simple or easy – it’s hard graft, but if you really do work hard at it, you can earn your best life possible.

When Fear of Missing Out, Turns to Burn Out

It’s safe to say I’m on the older end of the age spectrum compared with most of the bloggers I come across. I’m still shocked when I hear bloggers I follow talk about taking their GCSEs.

I guess it’s only a shock because way back when I was doing my exams, it was really really geeky to own a computer, let alone admit that you used the internet.

These days everyone appears to have a background in marketing. Kids know how to brand themselves from 16, so as soon as they’re allowed an instagram account, they’ve got their ‘thang’ going and they’re hitting all the likes, follows and they just *know* how to maximise hashtags.

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But one of the things I’m noticing on twitter more and more, is young bloggers asking how people manage to blog, maintain their social accounts AND work either full-time or complete a degree, without burning out or one of these aspects suffering.

I work full-time, I run a blog full-time, instagram and YouTube, as well as managing two twitter accounts. And it’s not easy. But I realise where things need to give in order for me to maintain a balance.

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And I put that insight into knowing how to manage these things, down the different kind of world I grew up. When I was growing up FOMO (or Fear of Missing Out) didn’t really exist for me. The world wasn’t so accessible. You couldn’t find out anything and everything just by picking up a device. As a result you missed out on things. Most of the time I didn’t find out about the thing I’d missed out on until after the fact – I just didn’t know they were happening.

And so now, with knowledge at our finger tips, it’s easy to be tempted into things. Notifications on Facebook telling us that people we know are off to events nearby. Twitter telling us about fun Blogging meet-ups and events. Twitter chats every night – sometimes so many, I’ve been known to participate in multiple chats at once.

But it’s knowing where and when to step back.

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My full-time job is more important that my hobby. It’s how I pay for a lifestyle that allows me to blog, buy fun things and attend awesome events. For a while I was trying to do it all; twitter chats 4 times a week after a full day looking at screens at my job, blogging every weekend (including photos), posting a YouTube video weekly. It all got too much and too tiring, and the schedule that I’d set for myself became a chore. I could feel the first inklings of resentment creeping in.

So I took a step back. I decided to schedule multiple blog posts ahead of time, so I would be able to have weekends off. I decided it was time to reduce time spent on my older twitter account and just focus on one. I stopped YouTube altogether, and decided to take a break until things at home settled a bit. I stopped taking part in ALL the Twitter chats, and only did the ones with subjects that really interested me, or when I was at a loose end.

The result was a more relaxed, less tired Erin. I was also able to spend more time with my husband, who is TOTALLY supportive of my blogging hobby btw. But I realised on nights I was taking part in twitter chats, I was totally ignoring him. I missed him, and we’d been sat right next to each other.

Taking this step back meant that when I was writing articles, I was enjoying it more. I was able to take more time in what I was writing, and I wasn’t just doing it for the sake of hitting a schedule.

It’s so important to remember you don’t have to do it all, in order to feel part of something. If you’re at University and you’re not able to post according to a schedule you’ve set, then change your schedule. If your IRL social life interferes with taking part in a twitter chat, so what? We’ll still be there next week – go live your life. No one worth following you is going to mind if you miss a normal posting day. Plus you’ll have fun stuff to write about next time!

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So, if you’re one of those people who sits down at their laptop and wonders how you’re going to stay awake or motivated enough to write AND live your life – go live it. You’re not going to be missing out if you’re taking YOU-time. Sit and smell the roses, and then come back when you’re ready.

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You’ll feel amazing for it, and you’ll realise that life carries on without you – in the best possible way!

Social Media and your Mental Health: Can they ever be good for each other?

When my family first got the internet back in 1997/96, it was a unknown place. Online predators weren’t something to think about and I was often in chat rooms. They were never inundated with pop-ups back then, and my friends and I had a lot of fun chatting to people all over the world.

Nowadays we are more aware of the dangers and as an adult the internet feels like a relatively safe place. But in reality, are we just closed off to the silent but deadly negatives of social media.

Since the arrival of instagram, people who are now referred to as ‘Influencers’ show us the epitome of aspiration. But in reality, the term Influencer should give us a nudge towards their true purpose online.

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Whether your chosen platform is YouTube, Instagram or blogs, it’s easy to get sucked into the realm of perfection and beauty these people portray. And in return, it’s easy to begin feeling inferior to these people. Yeah, they’re down to earth, might be living near you, and seem to be of the same social class – BUT – they have a new designer bag every two weeks, are being flown out to amazing countries, and appear to be making big bucks just by showing off brands products. It’s the dream life, isn’t it?

As a blogger and sometimes YouTuber, I know how much hard work blogging and vlogging can be – 2-3 hours per blog post, and countless hours on YouTube videos, not to mention promoting your platforms. Even though it all looks easy, it’s blooming hard work. But some of these influencers have people doing all that for them. Some of them portray a down to earth personality but in real life wouldn’t pee on you if you were on fire. Some of these influencers are taking photos of their meals, but not really eating them, and pretending their healthy lifestyle is to thank for their fit physique. And some of these influencers haven’t come from quite the humble background they’d have you think they did.

And so we get to the effect all this has on our mental health when we see it. I often see a meme floating around the internet, wondering where the awkward ‘I’m figuring out how to apply eyeliner, and ooh let’s try this blue mascara’ phase has gone from our pre-teens. I see these young girls walking around with epic contour and highlight, looking like they’re out of Teen Vogue. Little California Girl clones walking around Milton Keynes, because they’ve seen it on instagram. And I wonder, if they didn’t paint their faces this way, would it effect their social standing. When they get to 20 and have no money (because let’s face it, who had money in their 20s?) are they going to put themselves into debt trying to afford another designer bag AND choose the white marble worktop for their kitchen?

And let’s move on to the subject of obsession. More and more I’m seeing people disenchanted by those they follow on social media. And as soon as this happens, you’d expect them to stop following them, right? Nope. They continue to read their blogs, watch their videos and look them up on twitter, creating a big jealous knot in their stomachs. Tabloids have created this obsession with car-crash tv, celebrity and reading about people more famous, but possibly less fortunate or intelligent than you. The drama is addictive and soon you can’t wait to hear what’s happening with the Kardashians or on Love Island. But as you’re reading or watching, you’re feeling bad about yourself. You’re not as tanned, your lips aren’t as big, your hair isn’t as shiny, you’re not as skinny. No attractive man will ever want you if you don’t look like them. And this can be applied to social media – your bag’s from Primark, you don’t have the latest eyeshadow palette, you don’t own anything white marble……

All these things just make you feel bad about yourself, and my concern is for the young girls and guys who think it’s normal to have all this stuff, look this way and behave as if you’re an It Girl. When I’m 70 is our country going to run by TOWIE extras?

At this point, I think it’s important to point out that this is not all influencers. My choice of reading and watching has been carefully curated to only include those of substance. These people are real, they disclose what they do and how they do it. They post photos of themselves looking bare-faced as well as wearing full makeup. They don’t hide the real parts, and that’s so important.

I wonder if you, reading this, have identified with anything I’ve written today? And if you have, here’s what I’d recommend (and what I’ve done):

  • Curate your feed. No matter what platform you use, it’s YOUR feed.
  • If you scroll and something makes you feel bad about yourself, unfollow that person.
  • Take people’s feeds with a pinch of salt – people choose what they post, just as you choose what you post. Even if someone is posting every day, multiple times, that doesn’t mean what they’re showing is what’s happening right now.
  • It’s okay to want material things – but work hard for them, and they’ll mean so much more to you when you achieve them.
  • Don’t be a clone of everyone else. Being unique and not following the pack might not make you an overnight success on instagram – but you’ll have integrity and you’ll be real. Your followers will appreciate that, and no doubt be the kind of people you’ll want to stick around!

There’s so much talk of keeping on top of your mental health at the moment, but it’s important to remember, that when so much information is being thrown at you, from brands to your peers, that you CAN choose what you see. Delete your facebook if you need to. Unfollow that YouTuber if she’s making you feel jealous or bad about yourself.

Influencers need you, you don’t need them!

Look inwards – learn about you, what you need and what you want for your life and from your surroundings, and go from there.

Be happy!