Monday, 25 January 2010

The more elaborate our means of communication, the less we do so

A month ago today I deleted my Facebook account. I originally joined in 2006. Final year of University. In the computer room queue, people discussed how many friends they had in this strange online community and were eager to update their statuses. I joined more out of intrigue than desire to accumulate my friends into a concrete number. I'd always thought it weird when someone could reel off how many friends they had. The fact that they bothered to count alerted my senses to a loser from loserville.

Soon enough, the bug had bitten. I jumped on the bandwagon- it felt dirty, wrong- and so right all at once. I latched onto the novelty of being social without seeing anyone. Housemates would message me from their bedrooms instead of calling up the stairs because it was more fun that way. I could sit at my desk and still chat with my friends. 'Hey, I'm in the library trying to study!' 'Really? I'm at home writing my essay. Cool.' Yes, it was.

I became the Facebook master. I can hold my own in a conversation but give me a blank page and I am witty perfection in cyber form. It became an addictive tool of procrastination when I really should have been writing my dissertation about Gray's Model of Impulsivity. (Don't ask. I may harm you).

When I left University, however, things changed. Stepping away from my social network- where conversations started online and were resumed in the real world- suddenly I had no real world. My only way of communicating with University friends was through this non-social channel, and it grew tiresome.

All the non-verbal tools of communication- recognition of facial expressions, body language, eye contact, gestures- had no forum on Facebook. Then there's the auditory means of communicating, such as voice tonality. Can we really glean true meaning of speech if it hasn't been spoken?

The accumulation of these points made the decision to quit Facebook an easy one. Friends pleaded with me not to leave and I admit, sometimes, a part of me didn't want to. A small part. When I finally deactivated that account, I felt surprisingly liberated, a feeling which continued. It was no longer necessary to constantly check my page or think of something witty to say. The pressure was off.

So reader, it has been a month. I am in contact with those I wish- not the false set of friends acquired. Gone are those people whose friend requests I accepted because I walked past them in school or smiled at them at work. I have no care except for those I really care about. Now I write letters and pick up that thing called a telephone. How very old fashioned of me...

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Top Ten: Pet Peeves of the 21st Century

Everyone has a pet peeve. People, situations, habits that grate, like nails down a blackboard. Things that get on nerves and put backs up, whatever that means. Wait, what does it mean? Answers on a postcard.

1) The iPhone:
So called smartphone. Do we really need one product to make calls, send emails and take photographs? What if you wanted to make a call whilst taking a picture? Not possible with an iPhone. Massive fail. I also stand by my earlier comment: it looks like it's been made by aliens. Who knows where they've hidden the probes. Beware.

Hailed as the social networking place to be, Facebook has lured 350million people to waste time staring at their computers. Whether updating your status (yeah, I really wanted to know what you ate for breakfast) or uploading photographs (oh look, she's vomiting over that guy in the club-good times) you're not exactly being sociable. It's also a place rife with stalking and spreading lies. Nobody has 1000 friends. Unless you're Heidi Fleiss.

Advertised as 'the best way to share and discover what's happening right now' by microblogging in 160 characters or less. If what you've got to say is that small, it's not worth sharing. Witty or not.

Climate-change bandwagon jumping:
Environmental issues have existed for hundreds, if not millions, of years. Buying bags for life, recycling and less car usage do not change the fact. If you've only just started giving a damn about the environment for your great-great-great grandchildren, well, you're a big fat bandwagon jumper. Not cool, people.

5) X-Factor/Britain's Got Talent/America's Got Talent/Pop Idol/American Idol/Popstars the Rivals:
For years I've endured people who can't sing/dance/sing & dance and, listened to people discussing those who can't sing/dance/sing & dance. I don't care if Jedward make you laugh. They don't have talent, or the xyz factor, they don't pop and they're not idols. I may end up in rehab- the first breakdown caused by Simon Cowell's money-making machine. Susan Boyle got there first? Oh well.

Botox fever:
Popularity of Botox has increased considerably in the last decade. No longer a seedy little beauty secret, women (and men) are sticking needles of fat into minuscule lines that even magnifying glasses can't see. The result? Fish faces. Permanently stunned/scared expressions. Grow old gracefully, fish face.

Not the time of day. I like that. I'm talking about those books about the vampire, the werewolf and the pale girl. However poorly written, they killed a few hours. But they're certainly not worth all the screaming hype. Four words for you, Stephenie Meyer: Bram Stoker, Ann Rice. Let them show you how it's done.

8) Text Speak without the texting:
A popular peeve gets a 21st century twist. Shorthand in text messages is acceptable. But skipping vowels and consonants in emails, letters, blogs and essays is lazy, taking poor spelling and grammar to another vexing level. Learn to spell you lzy bstrd.

9) Orwellian Prophecies fulfilled:
No newspeak as of yet. But Big Brother has infiltrated every aspect of our world and not just on TV. In every shop, street and car-park, there is a feeling of being followed; a desire to glance over ones shoulder. Being treated like potential criminal whilst trying to reverse park. Annoying.

10) Celebrity Nicknames in real life:
Brangelina. Bennifer. TomKat. Spork. Cringe fest linguistics. Now non-famous people are doing it. Without the holy matrimony. It was cute. Until I vomited in my mouth.

So reader, anything you'd like to add?

Friday, 15 January 2010

Progress is impossible without change

Two months ago I posted about words, darkness and echoes. Yes, reader. I had decided to write a novel. Since then I have practiced the art of hurling words and punctuation at a harsh white page that mocks me, and waited for them to form coherent sentences.

Have I accomplished my mission? Well. At 30,000 words, it's half done. No title as yet. And the story keeps evolving no matter what I do. It has a life of its own. Sometimes this scares me, so much so I should stop and cut all ties. But then it might just hear my negative thoughts and try to kill me. No, reader. My novel isn't trying to kill me. Just the process of writing one.

My expectations were, I believed, realistic. I assumed it would be a difficult challenge. One I thought I was ready for. My story plagued my mind for months and in an effort to exorcise it, I wrote more. Soon six pages begged to be defined and labelled a 'novel.' So I did.

Encouragement was heard from all corners, even those in the blogosphere. So I persisted. Chipped away at the idea, sketched out plot. Wrote and re-wrote. Hit stumbling blocks, writer's block; blocks of all kind determined to outwit my pursuit.

Nothing, however problematic, can get in the way of my determination. (Take that procrastination demon!) Sure, it takes a few knocks. But I shall persist by every means necessary. Except killing. Won't do that.

Monday, 11 January 2010

Snow, salt and frozen peas

This weekend I ventured into hell. Just an average Saturday afternoon doing the weekly shop. It's usually busy. Hyper kids running along aisles, breaking eggs. Babies howling in abandoned trolleys by the milk or frozen peas. Elderly shoppers inconveniently taking up space as they tick off their shopping lists with shaky hands. This time, there was one extra variable that changed everything. It had snowed.

As a result, Tesco morphed into a dystopian horror film where I expected blood and fire at every turn. Women fought over loaves of bread. Men arm wrestled for pints of milk and argued over tubs of salt. Children watched with frightened eyes wondering what in hell happened to all the adults.

Attempting to manoeuvre around the aisles, prams bashing into the backs of my heels, trolleys ploughing into mine, I stopped. Up into the clouds I floated and peered down at the manic ants around me. Row upon row of empty shelves. Nothing left except ice. Pet food. And marmite. Turns out people don't love it after-all.

What is it about the sight of snow that generates mass hysteria? Outside temperatures freeze but inside, our own mercury goes into meltdown. It is highly unlikely that people are going to starve to death without five loaves of bread and eight pints of milk. A little bit of the white stuff (snow, I mean snow) and madness breeds faster than the horniest of hamsters.

Since last Wednesday, we've had five inches of snow in London. People couldn't even make a proper snow angel with that pathetic excuse for a snowfall. But they can make five hundred sandwiches and ten thousand cups of tea, should the need arise.

The mind boggles.

Monday, 4 January 2010

Those days

When I'm ninety,
skin wrinkled, wise eyes,
glasses perched like windows
on a cottage that improves
with age,
weathered and worn,
I'll remember those days.

Days when I was five,
I'd run miles from
the neighbours' dog,
teeth bared and barked
behind shabby gate.
Lungs full, I'd skip
over pavement cracks
and bottomless puddles
from the afternoon rain
that I never saw.
It never rained in those days.

Days when I was six,
happiness played
in the bee-filled garden,
auburn hair merging
with blades of green grass,
dandelions and daisies.
I'd stare into sky blue
spotting faces
and shapes the clouds made,
trying to figure out if the sky
was moving or if it was me.
It was always me in those days.

Days when I was seven,
I'd play music through
headphones bigger than my head,
pretend I was the star;
Ken and Barbie were my fans.
Without care who saw,
I'd dance around the house,
the street and shops,
wearing Wellies, a dress
and a Freddie Krueger face mask.
I'd never do that these days.