Tag Archives: Facebook

Public ambiguity over “no makeup selfie”…

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Image via Independent

Why was the public so angered or allured by the “no makeup selfie” trend recently? For those of you who missed it, this was legions of girls snapping photos of themselves on their smartphone cameras without any makeup, posted with the hashtag #nomakeupselfie on preferred social media channel and making a donation to a selected cancer charity by text. Participants also publicly nominated other women to do the same. The movement wasn’t started by Cancer Research, the main cancer charity involved, but they received £8 million in six days – and ultimately enough to fund 10 new cancer trials.

Apparently, the “no makeup selfie” people were making the mistake of suggesting that something which requires only as much effort as prodding the screen of your phone and uploading to Instagram was akin to running a marathon or a hosting a bake sale. This apparently insulted cancer sufferers, because not wearing makeup is nothing like losing all of your hair and feeling terrible as a result of chemotherapy (and potentially dying, of course).

While this is serious indeed, many celebrities frequently do idiotic things that are woefully contradictory, and no one has actually said that not wearing makeup is analogous to the physical changes caused by cancer treatments. When all the men grow moustaches, no one accuses them of comparing it to the experience of prostate cancer or losing a testicle, and letting hair grow is at least as little effort as going bare-face.

At first, I wanted to understand what had led some people to lampoon this sensational trend, cast aspersions, or others to embrace it wholeheartedly. It’s undeniable that the whole thing can teach charities a lot about the fundraising potential of social media.

I toyed with the idea of suggesting that the reason so many people posted a no makeup selfie (with or without donating to a cancer charity) is because it appeals to our sense of vanity. It engaged our obsession with constant sharing and comparing: the glut of digital stimulation that has so distinctly pervaded our lives in the last twenty years. I was going to make some kind of comment about modern life, but I lost interest in that idea.

So much of what we absorb, especially if we inhabit the thinking sphere – with its higher education, broadsheet newspapers and political engagement – is judging the wider collective for a perceived slide into nihilistic retardation. We wring our hands and insist that people are so apathetic and easily entertained that they will mindlessly gorge on whatever is slopped in front of them – whether that’s a smart phone, a widescreen television, juicily exposed flesh or extra-large french fries.

When making these judgments, to be found in the columns of newspapers, magazines and personal blogs, this collective never includes ourselves.

We frequently say, “Everyone is obsessed with fiddling with their smartphones, even whilst in company… Isn’t it sad to see those couples sitting together not talking to each other? I hope we never get like that-” even while our own partner’s eyes glaze over as we launch into full rant.

It’s never us struggling with our weight and consuming too much fried chicken. We’re the ones smugly scoffing sushi and looking down our noses at people who might actually just be doing something because they enjoy it, and thinking rapturously, “Fuck my health!” Maybe.

The complaint most grating on me right now is: “digitisation is spreading like a noxious weed and ruining our lives! If we don’t curtail the rampant dissemination of technology into the very womb, then childhood itself will crumble. Children won’t be able to tell the difference between a cat and a pokémon!”

We argue that people don’t talk to each other anymore because it’s much easier to be entertained by the electronic device constantly attached to our persons. I wonder how much more accurate it would be to suggest that those people never really liked each other that much in the first place.

Perhaps the public isn’t as easily swayed by the behemoth forces of modern life as we might suggest when we’re feeling a sense of moral superiority over others. Maybe people, just like they always have, sometimes want to talk to each other and other times, they’re frankly bored with the conversation.

Maybe the no makeup selfie is not a sign that superficial vacuous celebrities (and their homunculi, the popular girls at school who can now digitally lord their superiority over you directly to your own home) are taking over the once-sacred charity world, with its “innate” moral purity. It could actually be that vain girls and celebrities are doing what they often do: glorifying themselves in mildly inappropriate settings.

Criticising human weakness is a way for many of us to shore up our own egos. Whether it’s snootily mocking someone for spending too much time on their phone, being selfishly materialistic or posting self-obsessed Facebook status updates, we love to look down on the superficiality of others.

The world of charity is a bastion for people who want to feel superior about themselves. I work in this sector and I love it, but I do sometimes feel a creeping sense that I could justify thinking of myself as morally superior because I’m working towards the greater good of humanity – even if I may only anticipate a disappointingly-average maximum salary.

We were angry because the no makeup selfie was narcissism masquerading as philanthropy, and it had infiltrated the charity community. Ostensibly, the charity world is earnest, other-focused and lacking in coiffed glamour, but the no makeup selfie smacked of contrived artificiality. Some people tried to say they were angry because the phenomenon indicated that people have become especially egotistical and superficial as a result of the spread of social media.

I think there is probably the same number of vain people now as before the birth of Twitter and Facebook – it’s simply that they now have a much more public outlet for self-expression.

We’ll always find something to panic us and complain about, all the while feeling smug that we’re not a part of it. In reality, sometimes people choose to do nice, good things and, lots of the time, they don’t. I choose to believe that, most of the time, people aren’t corrupted by social decay but are making a conscious, sometimes shallow choice – whether that’s taking a photo of themselves and posting it on the internet or growing a moustache for Movember. Image

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Online Dating: An Uplifting Post

Stockimages - freedigitalphotos.net
Stockimages – freedigitalphotos.net

I’m going to try and write an uplifting post this time. This delightful blog, Musings and Amusings, documenting and celebrating cutting-edge developments in science and technology, is a good example of posts that are not just a series of internet rants.

I shall admit that my blogging is mainly ranting, perhaps because it’s all too easy to do. It’s much harder to think of happier things than bad things, see what’s wrong rather than what’s right, partly because our brains are predisposed to look at the negatives.

Also, we are strongly conditioned to do so.

I don’t know why, maybe it’s to protect us from danger or keep us striving for improvement. If people were too contented, they wouldn’t be driven to make more and more money.

Either way, this was originally intended to be a post lamenting the childishness that online dating can drive us to, and the depths of human stupidity: the selfishness of human interaction.

It was inspired by this story I read in the London Metro about an IT specialist called Kishore Nimmala who was arrested after snatching his date’s Blackberry. He claims he did it because she tried to leave without paying for any of their drinks and he was trying to “get her attention.”

I shall leave out tongue-in-cheek discussion of the social skills of IT workers and gender roles.

I was going to say that online dating is too prescriptive, and too desperate. Focusing too hard on certain things means you will never get them. The ephemeral nature of romance means the harder you try, the less it appears.

Dating online fosters the illusion that a relationship with a complete stranger – who has nonetheless provided a detailed personality specification – is more likely to work than one with someone randomly attracted.

It encourages the commodification of love and the futile perfectionism of relationships, and instils a fear that you cannot make it alone.

Instead, I will examine this phenomenon in a more positive light. The world has changed immensely since the days of “courting” when your grandparents met as teenagers and were married for sixty years. The digital generation have adapted to its hydra-like incarnations and online dating is one of the results.

London often inspires feelings of anger and foolish actions (they were in Leicester Square), so Mr Nimmala’s behaviour may not have wholly arisen due to the nature of online dating. Though it affords an element of anonymity knowing you never have to encounter that person again, perhaps he considers abusive behaviour appropriate towards anyone.

Partly due to this rapidly growing industry, we no longer have to rely on blind luck or the charity of friends – or, indeed, drinking alcohol in clubs and bars – in order to meet someone new. It’s a lot easier and cheaper than going to a bar, sometimes. The social media dating app ‘Tinder’ allows for click-and-scroll – if two people like each other on the basis of viewing five profile pictures of the other, they can meet up for a date.

Without online dating, you’ve got to hope you meet someone before you leave school or university, or the volume of people you meet on a daily basis will be drastically reduced and so will your chances of meeting “the one”.

Interestingly enough, bespoke matchmaking services are on the rise. They are comprised of experts who use various criteria to match up their members with a “perfect” partner, including DNA matching and, of course, birth charts.

Online dating can be considered liberating for the modern singleton, especially for women who have traditionally tended to wait for men to make the first advance. The dater is more empowered; with the chance that mixed signals will result on disappointment on one side much more diminished. It represents the democratisation of dating, since attracting someone new no longer solely depends on an individual’s (sometimes dubious) flirting prowess or good looks.

It helps people who are shy or maybe unused to the dating game after the breakup of a long marriage. People with difficult facts to disclose, such as an incurable disease or the fact they are a long-term carer, are afforded a screening process, saving difficult conversations later down the line.

So, there are many benefits to online dating, as well as some dangers. Would I use these services personally?

If I were single, which I haven’t been since university, I’d like to think I’d be brave enough trust to chance.

I am well aware this was still a rant.

I think we are all capable of being happy alone, and the relentless drive towards unification and marriage is a bit unnecessary. In my opinion, it’s really important to learn to live by yourself, and celebrate the greatness of your own life.

The internet has many more possibilities for fulfilment than just dating, such as forums and websites to help you connect with like-minded people, free tutorials to help you learn almost anything, huge repositories of information and, of course, Google Earth. There are countless things I don’t and, most likely, never will understand.

I’d still like to think I use it for so much more than trawling Facebook, though not as much as I should.

Believing you can stay with one partner forever is probably a phantom dream, and a bit of a recipe for unhappiness. Online dating can be great for meeting new people, having more fun, and more helpful for some than others, but I’m tempted to say that’s about it.

So I couldn’t write a happy blog post, though I did try. Maybe next time.

Technological Revolution

Let me add my two pence to the slurry of thoughts on this age of digitisation. Sparked by an article in The Evening Standard about the dangers of drivers wearing Google Glass, I reflect again on the integration of technology into our lives.

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As I am but twenty-three, the year of my birth still managed to scrape into the eighties – the decade of bouffant mullets, the birth of indie rock and truly spectacular children’s television (Saved by the Bell, anyone?).

I still remember my Dad installing our first home computer, fairly late in the day when I was about seven years old in the mid-nineties (my boyfriend insists his household was far advanced by this stage). My sisters and I would spend hours on this Disney art program, creating swathes of 2D scenes containing Mickey and his friends.

There was no internet to speak of for a while, until we discovered my Dad’s work laptop on the kitchen counter, post-divorce. It used to connect via screechy dial-up, taking over a minute to open a portal to the world.

Of course, we had no appreciation of the gravity of such a thing. We just wanted to read Harry Potter fanfiction and generate pretty outfits on virtual dolls. I didn’t get into webchat, though, I was that antisocial as a child.

Nevertheless, technology slowly started to creep into our lives. I resisted the first smartphones for ages, clinging instead to a rather useless Blackberry that was only good for the emails I didn’t actually send. I was fairly quick to grasp Facebook but it took me ages to finally get on to Twitter. Now, I’m glued to my iPhone 4S (retro, I know). I download apps for everything, a concept I could literally not understand before I first bought this phone.

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My sister used to angrily insist (to deaf ears) that I buy an iPhone, especially after I moved to London and got lost every time I forayed out of the front door. Yet, I literally could not understand what a wondrous invention it was.

Now, I am communications officer for a health charity, and social media is completely central to my role. I have learned a lot since assuming this voluntary post, and one of the lessons is that technology must be wholeheartedly embraced.
It’s the way forward; the landscape of the world, if you will. Jobs become technology-based; and when the internet goes down at work, machinations tend to come to a standstill even if we all pretend to keep on working.

Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, WordPress, Blogger… How do you keep up with them all, is the question. The answer is I really don’t know, except you must retain a sense that you are engaging and learning, all the time. Though I’m still young and hardly out of the digital loop, sometimes it’s hard not to get scared of all the new things constantly being hurled at us.

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I know there are uncountable other web platforms that I haven’t mentioned, and will probably never even skim the surface of. But when I’m not at work, or sleeping, or socialising with real people, I will be exploring this phenomenon we call the technological revolution. I will be developing high blood pressure when I inevitably spill drinks on my keyboard, embarrass myself online or lose very important data in one fell swoop. And, one day far away, I will be telling my children off for spending too much time in front of the computer.