I'm a twenty seven year old teacher who, for the past two years, has been dealing with anxiety and depression. So far, so predictable. This blog serves as a download for my brain. I hope it helps me and perhaps others too.
In October, I went swimming at my local leisure centre. Before swimming, I religiously take my ring off and put it inside my coin purse as it is slightly loose. Then after the swim, I get changed and pop it back on.
It may be that you’re expecting this ring to be my engagement ring or a family heirloom. It is neither. Instead it is a 18ct gold, second-hand ring I was bought for my 18th birthday. The ring cost about £100, so not very expensive, and the stone is a slightly opaque, dark amethyst that has a slight chip on one side from knocking it. The ring is not the prettiest, not the most expensive but I love it nonetheless. I have worn it everyday since I got it regardless of whether it matches my outfit or other jewellery; I treasure it.
So, in October, I went swimming. I placed the ring in my purse and went swimming. Or so I thought. When I went to replace it, it wasn’t there. I looked on the changing room floor, in the locker, round the drain; I even contemplated getting back in the pool to hunt there. It was no where to be found. I convinced myself that when I got home, it would be next to my bed or in my jewellery box because I’d forgotten to put it on. But it wasn’t. It was lost.
I cried and emailed the leisure centre and cried and rang my mum and cried some more. I knew it was only an object, one that wasn’t worth much and had a bit of an opaque, cloudy stone but it was my ring. My ring bought by my parents when I became an adult. My ring that had been worn through university and teacher training and meeting my boyfriend and getting a job and moving out and it was gone. My finger felt naked and strange.
For three months I longed for it and hoped someone would email me and say they’d found it. Eventually, I realised I’d lost it for good and being so emotionally invested in an object wasn’t reasonable. When talking to my friends about it, they said all the right sympathtic words but it hadn’t meant anything to them. Instead they questioned whether it would mean my boyfriend would buy me an engagement ring to make up for it (no pressure Michael!).
On 18th February, four days after he had bought me a beautiful little silver and diamond necklace, wedged between the drawers of my jewellery box, was my slightly old and battered, amethyst ring. I cried with joy for finding it. The ring, that had occupied my hand for so many years, was reunited with me. And whilst it meant that dream of having the ring replaced with an engagement ring wouldn’t happen, I wasn’t very bothered. The ring that had symbolised my adulthood and maturity was back with me and that was enough for me.
And although essentially it is a still a small, opaque and slightly scratched object, it is my little treasure that I wear everyday.
My parents, upon returning from a week long holiday in Rome, were asked how beautiful the Vatican and the Sistene Chapel. Whilst they said it was beautiful, they said they found the delights of the paintings and sculptures difficult to view. Not because there were so many people, not because they were ushered around the tourist spot in groups but because they were having to look past, or worse, through, the phones, Ipads and other screened devices in order to see the famous works.
Unfortunately, this is not an experience exclusive to my parents when visiting a very famous tourist attraction. Instead, it is a universal experience. We live our entire lives bearing witness and recording experiences rather than living them. Take a night out with my friends, for example. We have gone to a friend’s house to drink wine and pretty ourselves for the forthcoming night out. Following this, we have caught the train and had a drink whilst travelling into the city. Once there, we have visited a couple of different bars before finding ourselves in a club. We have then ended the night with a trip to fill our bellies with fast food and a taxi ride home. This is not an unusual night out. We have been out with this exact group of friends before. We have been to our friend’s house before. We have visited the same bars and club before. We have worn these clothes before (although perhaps not in the exact same combination). We have travelled on trains and in taxis before. We have drunk all of these different cocktails and colours of wine before. And yet, we spend the whole night capturing every moment. Every journey. Every drink. Every dance move. Selfie with a cocktail. Selfie with a friend. Selfie sitting down. Selfie in the toilets. Selfie. Selfie. Selfie.
Even in the most ordinary of circumstances (six twenty-somethings on a night out), we constantly have to record these moments. And why? For fear that in twenty years time, when we are at home on a Saturday night with our kids, we won’t remember that cold February night out on the town? No, it isn’t that. Because we must show others what we are doing at all times in order to prove to them, and ourselves, that we are having the best time.
I have since been on the same night out again having removed myself from social media and I now find myself on the periphery of many moments. All those picture perfect moments are now boring to me – I now judge each circumstance and decide whether or not to photograph it. My decision is based on whether, in twenty years time, I will want to remember this moment. And if the answer is no, then the phone goes away. Of course, this does sometimes means that I fail to photograph something that in years to come could make me smile or remind me of a certain time, but it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make these days. And, I have a better time than I did when I was concerned with selfies and capturing the moments. Instead, I live them.
I wonder, however, how many people feel the emancipation of being able to see with their own eyes and not through a screen. Recently, I went to a gig with my sister to see one of her favourite bands. Looking around, there were so many people standing still, zombie-like, staring through their mobile phone screens at the stage rather than really being there. I spent £40 per ticket and the atmosphere, music and staging made it an enjoyable night but for the phone-faced people, they spent £40 to watch a fuzzy, out-of-focus version of the concert through their phones – something they could do from the comfort of their own homes on youtube for free. How many of these people filmed the concert because they will want to re-watch these poor quality videos again and how many filmed it to upload it to Facebook for others to watch and envy?
I admit to sometimes finding myself in the same situation. Last year, when walking along the beach which is a five minute walk from my home (I’m very lucky to live on the coast), I was overwhelmed by the beauty of the sunset. The glorious fire of the red and orange sunset as it streaked across the sky, giving the sea and dark, silky, mysterious quality was entrancing. I stood on the edge of the promenade, admired the wonder of nature and took seventeen photographs. Seventeen photographs that, whilst pretty, didn’t capture the colours I could see nor the transient nature of the light nor the smell and feel of the sea. Whilst I look back at the photographs and remember the evening and how awe-inspiring it was, one photograph would have sufficed and would have meant I enjoyed the moment more.
Whilst I do not wish to preach (as much as it may seem otherwise!), it makes me sad that so many people are so preoccupied with their phones that they cannot appreciate the world around them. They are glued to them and feel the need to record and display their every moment however mundane or unnecessary only experiencing life through a lens.
Whilst I enjoy some music that is considered less than cool (I will not call them guilty pleasures as I’m not ashamed in my musical choices), I have never been particularly moved to listen to Miley Cyrus. Probably three and half years working at Claire’s Accessories in my late teenage years is partly to blame for this as Hannah Montana music and merchandise featured during every shift (and I did not find this the best of both worlds!) and yet, given the daily prompt today, I felt my memory tugging me back to that little jewellery shop and one song that used to irk me – The Climb by Miley Cyrus.
Having had a listen with fresh, twenty seven-year-old ears I feel more of an affinity with the lyrics. Here’s why:
I can almost see it That dream I am dreaming But there’s a voice inside my head saying You’ll never reach it
I often feel this way. To be promoted. To be successful. To be loved. It always seems like a dream, either that I’ve dreamt or I feel has been dreamt for me, and there is always that anxious voice in my brain telling me I won’t get there. I have been promoted at work, starting in September, and I constantly question whether or not I will get there or be vaguely successful at the role. I can envisage the future I want but the little pain in my chest questions my ability at every turn and whispers you’ll never reach it because you’re not normal, you can’t handle the pressure, you’re not good enough.
Every step I’m taking Every move I make feels Lost with no direction My faith is shaking
And I often feel this way. Despite feeling very fortunate to have found someone who loves and supports me, despite having a successful career that I enjoy, despite having a wonderful family who listens and helps in every way they can, despite having friends who enjoy my company and want to spend time time with me…I often do feel lost. Unlike Miley, I don’t feel lost with no direction. I know the direction my life is moving in, it just move so quickly in that direction that I can’t catch my breath and this shakes the faith in myself. Can I cope with everything?
But I gotta keep trying Gotta keep my head held high
There’s always gonna be another mountain I’m always gonna wanna make it move Always gonna be a uphill battle Sometimes I’m gonna have to lose
Ain’t about how fast I get there Ain’t about what’s waiting on the other side It’s the climb
However, just as Miley’s song changes to a more positive note, my mind always resolves to focus on the good and feel thankful for the journey. Despite issues with depression and anxiety, I keep trying. I visit the doctor and discuss my mental health, I try new endeavours to help myself (this blog being one of those things), I busy myself to quiet my mind, I exercise to fill myself with happy hormones, I talk to friends and family…I push on.
Sometimes, I feel like I’ve conquered the mountain. I feel as if I am in charge and have reached the top – no more climbing. That little pain in my chest hasn’t bothered me for weeks on end and I can feel outside of myself again. I feel like me again, not constantly clutching my chest or randomly falling silent during conversation, or bursting into tears at the drop of a hat. I can breathe freely; I feel triumphant and happy.
But, there is always another mountain as I’m walking, like everyone, through the mountain range of life. Seeing the next mountain makes that little pain in my chest reappear. All those tips and techniques I’ve learnt to cope have to become a regular part of my day again. Like climbing a mountain, I must ensure my pack is filled with everything I need and life becomes about survival again. I force myself up the steep incline, every muscle hurting and my brain moaning to just stop, sit on the sofa under a blanket and call in sick. But I don’t. Sometimes the mountain is easier than others I’ve climbed or will climb. Sometimes the incline of the mountain levels out quickly and I’m relieved to have moved so quickly to safety. And sometimes the mountain takes much longer to climb. It is a sheer cliff covered in slick rocks that I can’t grip and make me fall back. Sometimes there are new obstacles on the mountain that I haven’t faced before that cause me to experience my anxiety in a new physical symptom.
Eventually, I make it. The climb is always worth it as the sense of accomplishment and knowledge gained helps during the next climb. But, what makes the uphill battle manageable is not just my resolve that I will be okay, but the knowledge that despite everything, my loved ones will be there to encourage me to keep climbing upwards.
It took me a while to think of something to write for today’s post, hence why it is being written technically on 13th rather than 14th. Sometimes it is difficult to find something that makes you feel pleased when everything is difficult and testy. But wordpress has given me a reason to be pleased with myself. I have only been blog writing for four days and yet I have 14 followers and people have genuinely connected with what I’ve written. This has made me feel very pleased that my messed up thoughts and honesty connect as originally I decided a blog would be a good place to vent my confused thoughts and creative angst. Now I realise that having someone read and connect with your writing is a very pleasing feeling indeed. Thank you.
It should be romantic and restful. Eschewing the unnecessary possessions and comfort indoors to surround yourself with glorious, rejuvenating nature. The smell of the trees, the quiet of the woods, the joy of being unplugged and offline. This was the image of adult camping I had when I booked a long weekend in the New Forest, Dorset.
Having not been camping since the music festivals of my teenage years and early twenties, I was under the impression that it would be peaceful and fun, a way to relax at the end of August before the school year began. I ensured I was prepared. I packed alcohol, paper cups and plates, tongs for the barbecue, three types of wipe (baby, face and Femfresh) and even a picnic blanket. This would be the perfect Insta-camp.
I. Was. Wrong.
The weekend began with a bridge collapse on the motorway. It was 25 degrees, we were making good progress along the M2 when we found ourselves in stand still, wall-to-wall traffic. And there we sat…for 2 hours. A footbridge had collapsed a quarter of a mile in front of us. Thankfully, nobody was seriously hurt but I should have known this was a bad omen, a warning to turn around and go home.
We arrived at the campsite hours later than we had planned and therefore most of the best pitches had been claimed. In my idealised view camping, we would have been on the very edge of the campside, our backs to woods, listening to crickets and the breeze through the tress. Instead, we found ourselves dead centre surrounded by yummy middle-class families with their trucks of designer camping equipment. They had reclining chairs, chrome cast barbecues, Cath Kidston bunting and bicycles. So many gleaming, top of the range bicycles!
Amongst this, myself and Michael began unpacking our tent. As we argued about the best way to face the entrance (I did not want to look out onto anyone!) and where was the smoothest ground (we were camped atop the bumpy roots of an oak tree), a new revelation materialised – we only had six tent pegs. We had a four man tent with only six tent pegs to secure it. Naturally, Michael said it was my fault (which actually it was because I’d picked the tent up from my parents and hadn’t checked the tent peg situation because I had assumed they were there), and so I began the hunt of the local area to find any old, discarded pegs on the ground. Why didn’t I just ask one these middle-class wannabe alpha men surrounding our tent? Why indeed. Embarrassment mostly. We were clearly too poor and unprepared to have camped at this camp site and I couldn’t give other people the satisfaction of their superiority. Having found four rogue, bent-out-of-shape tent pegs, Michael fashioned four more…out of sticks. Although I laughed jokingly, I was mortified. Already I could tell that those smells, sounds and joys of camping were a Pinterest fabrication. Instead, I could smell too many barbecues, hear the constant noise of wild children and their calling mothers and missed the internet.
And so we settled in the for the first evening. Incongruous with this tale of camping calamity, we had a lovely evening. We barbecued on a throw away, laughed at the yummys surrounding us, walked to the local pub and drank pints of local brewed cider whilst sitting on hay bales and listening to a folk band. It was the image I’d had in my mind of camping. Of course, as yet I hadn’t tried to sleep outside. That was to come…
After sleeping on a rocking boat of a blow up bed and hearing bucket after bucket of rain water being dumped on top of the tent by the camping God’s, we were woken by the smell and sound of the yummys having poached eggs and bacon. ‘Giles, do you want avocado with your eggs?…’ Rolling my eyes, I felt unashamed as I’d packed croissants and orange juice for our breakfast – very middle-class. Following breakfast, I ventured towards the shower in the communal block – it was enough to make me tearful (the thirty minute queue, grassy, muddy flooring and getting changed in a toilet cubicle was enough to upset delicate, anxious me) but I dressed and put on my new, pastel pink trainers.
Seeing as it rained through the night, Michael thought it would be best to walk to the next village for lunch following the pavement which ran along the main road. It was about a three mile walk and the road was loud and busy. I was not happy with this plan. I’d come to the woods to walk in the woods – not walk along a main road! I could do that walking at home. So, instead, we walked through the New Forest. While the ground was wet, it was green and luscious. Then came a large patch of brown mud. It looked dry and solid and so, foolishly, I tiptoed through as quickly as possible thinking that I would move so light and quickly that I’d basically float over it. It was only when the mud overlapped my foot and entered the inside of my shoe that I yelped out in horror. And so for the second time that day, I cried. I sat on a log and blubbed about my one ruined shoe. How could I go to a fancy tea room with one pink and one brown shoe? Being the absolute darling that he is, Michael helped take off the mud filled trainer and rummaged through my rucksack to find a tissue or wipe to clean it. Of course, what could he find? The one set of wipes I had kept in my rucksack: Femfresh – wipes I’d packed to keep my lady parts clean while camping. And, because he is such a darling, undeterred, he wiped as much mud as he could off my shoe with wipes for vaginas.
Suffice to say we walked the rest of the way on the pavement alongside the road. After lunch in small cafe, a very short mooch around the very small, drizzle-soaked village (which was filled with very posh car show rooms!), we decided to walk back through the woods, stopping every now and again to take it all in and have some Pepsi and Smarties. The second evening passed with far less enjoyment. We barbecued (with me audibly worrying about the state of the unrefridgerated meat) and then sat outside reading our books in the half light. So far, so romantic. However, as it sun dipped, it got very cold. I did not want to enter the tent as I couldn’t deal with the claustrophobia of the tarpaulin for any longer than necessary and so sat, shivering and whinging, outside in the cold, trying to read my book in torchlight.
In the night, I had what felt like, the beginnings of a panic attack. The tent felt as if it was closing in on my face; the space was too small and I couldn’t breathe. There was rustling outside and in the dark I was sure that the tent was falling on my face or some strange robber was trying to get in to take our things. I pushed aside the opening only to discover a wild, New Forest pony rummaging through the rubbish bag I’d left outside, and licking the top of the disposable barbecue we’d forgotten to dispose of. Relieved, Michael, kindly escorted me to the toilets and I calmed myself. Back in the tent, he said that he was struggling to sleep with his face pressed up the the edge of the tent (of course, I had insisted on sleeping on the side of the door) and therefore he suggested top and tailing. This was enough to cause the third set of tears to flow – we were supposed to be a young couple, desperately in love, curled up together under the stars. In reality, we were two irritable adults who were now going to sleep like 7 year-olds at a sleepover.
At 6am the next day, I was up and ready to leave. Whilst the surrounding yummys ate their perfect, poached breakfast, Michael and I ate brownies and Pepsi having run out of the acceptable middle-class food I’d packed three days ago. We packed away the tent, laughing as we chucked the homemade tent pegs on the ground and loaded the car back up. I had envisaged that on this final day, we might travel to some beautiful location in the New Forest and exlore. Or stop in Southampton on the way home in order to show Micheal where I had lived during University and before we had met. Instead, we decided to drive straight home (of course I got a puncture on the way and we had to try and change a tyre for the first time on the side of the motorway – just to round things off nicely).
Instagram, Pinterest, my friends portray camping to be a fun, joyous, romantic time where you are at one with the person you’re with and nature. The reality is: I hate camping. It is horrible. Friends have judged me for this admission. They judge me for being too high maintenance, for clinging too much to homely comforts, for not being flexible enough. But I cannot pretend to like it (which I’m sure is what they must be doing deep down!). Camping is madness. Why would you want to spend £250 (yes, this was an expensive campsite – I tried hard to pick one with at least some amenities, in a prime location. And it was August bank holiday weekend! Good choices Annie) on deprivation. Not having a televison, a mattress, an oven, running water, a toilet, electricity…a roof? I cannot understand it. Unless I find myself lost and isolated with no alternative but to sleep outside, I will not be camping again. You might call me a selfish princess (hell, I do too) but sleeping on the floor, outside when I have a perfectly comfortable home is not a choice I will make again.
To help both my physical and mental health, I have been exercising regularly for the past 4 months. This haa meant I’ve dropped a dress size and the endorphins and distraction created by the exercise are a part of managing my anxiety.
However, when I am particularly stressed with work or feeling anxious generally, the last thing I want to do is exercise. Instead, I want to snuggle on the sofa, under a blanket, gorging on chocolate, drinking wine to numb the thoughts and watching Netflix. This does not make things better and therfore I must overcome the desire to hide and hibernate, put my hair in a high pony and move. In order to do so I have a motivational list on my phone that I force myself to read in order to avoid unraveling the hard work I’ve put in to my health.
I have time to think about the day…or not
I feel proud of myself afterwards
I feel physically tired afterwards
I like pushing myself
I know my heart is getting healthier
I know I’m getting fitter
It makes me feel a bit better if I’ve eaten/I’m planning to eat rubbish
I love the water – I feel like a mermaid
I love listening to my Spotify playlists
I feel stronger
It helps me sleep
I never regret going
I find this helps me push myself to exercise and feel those happy hormones afterwards.
It’s an interesting world, the doctor’s waiting room. Men, women and children of all ages and classes are squashed together in the pursuit of the same goal: ten golden minutes with their doctor. Ladies spot an old friend or acquaintance and laugh about ailments and old times; people talk loudly on mobile phones, complaining about the wait time today; children squabble and squawk, fed up with being trapped indoors and forced to sit quietly on the wipe clean waiting room chairs. There are some who look poorly and sit quietly, desperate for their symptoms to be alleviated, but most people seem to view this as a day out, jovial and ridiculous. Amongst the hubbub, I sit, anxiously awaiting the announcement of my name and the room number for my doctor.
For an anxious hypochondriac like me, the building tension felt during the waiting stage is unbearable. I do not see anyone I know; in fact I actively avoid eye contact with anyone. Instead, I force myself to scroll through the news websites, telling my brain to thoughtfully consider the current crisis in Syria, how thankful I am to be safe in England, whether or not I agree with Boris Johnson calling off his trip to Russia. While my brain is distracted, his more clever counterpart, my heart, knows this is a diversion tactic and beats harder and louder, knocking against my chest, reminding me of the nerve-wracking moment awaiting me. Inside I ask myself incessant questions: what if they take my blood pressure? What if it’s high? What will they do? Will they weight me? If so, will they tell me off? What if they tell me something terrible? What if the doctor doesn’t care? What if…? What if…? What if…? This endless barrage of self-deprecating, hypothetical questions increase my heart rate further until I can feel it in the back of my throat, loud and unyielding.
Time ticks on and I wait and wait. Eventually, my name appears on the screen accompanied by the squealing beep of the machine. Oddly, rather than panicked, I feel relieved. The knotted words that have tangled in my brain from all thw questions and rehearsed answers, loosen. It’s time for them to be used.
I leave the anxious world of the waiting room and feel the jealousy eminating from all those who have waited longer and are desperate to spill their ailments. Walking towards the doctor’s door, I am an actor preparing myself for the role. The question is, what part am I going to play today – do I cover up with a sane, funny, calm front? Or, do I let the true neurotic, needy, troubled self out? I go for the latter and gently knock on the doctor’s door. Time to find out if I’m mad or doomed…or both.
In the April sunshine that streams through the large, rusted framed windows, people jostle for space. The water is a mixture of bodies, all writhing and moving against each other, fighting for room to use the pool for their rightful reason. To doggedly swim lengths, to chat about the trouble with the boiler, to entertain the kids for an hour, to de-stress, to practise diving (or belly flopping), to do those physio stretches after the hip op, to play.
A woman swims alone in a lane. Her body is older and less taut than it once was and yet she is proud of the movements it can make. In the water she is serene. She slices through the water, moving her legs and arms in precise, seamless strokes, effortless in her pursuit of the perfect 100 lengths. In the water, her face is down, focused on the task. Arm, two, breathe…arm, two, breathe… If only she could train herself to bring her head up to take a breath every three strokes like her daughter did during swimming lessons – she is certain this might speed her up. With every turn of her head, the sun shines through her goggles, blinding her to the commotion in the pool to her right. She doesn’t mind though as, like a shark, she is focused on one goal. Attack.
Amongst the muddle of limbs and spraying water, three teenagers swim, taking advantage of the lack of Monday morning school work and lessons. They swim together, laughing and chatting, daring each other to dive deeper under the water to collect the key to the locker or splashing the water to see who can make it jump further. Whilst this rough play does raise some judgemental glaces from the regular ladies, most welcome the thought that come next Monday, the pool will be theirs again as the children’s feet will be tucked back safely under their desks and not kicking them in the face as they hurry past.
The teenagers’ game dips below the surface. Using their goggles, they watch passers by as they swim. They begin to mimic the swimmers movements, closely following those they admire and laughing at those they don’t. They spot the woman in the lane. She is pushing hard through the water and her baggy body jiggles deliciously she goes. With every kick, her thighs wobble from side to side and her skins ripples. As she swims, they notice the underside of her arms flap like she has wings and her belly moves up and down as if it were disconnected from her body. They see all of this and laugh. Beneath the water, the two girls grab at the skin on their belly and move it up and down. The boy puffs out his cheeks and waddles with his legs apart, slapping his arms on top of the water as his goes.
The grace, the enjoyment, the determination: they don’t see it at all. Instead, they see a big, fat lady sadly slogging up and down the pool, looking gross and ugly, and they laugh. Soon, bored of their game, they decide to race each other, splashing wildly and uncontrollably.
The woman swims on, blind to the unkindness. She is focused on herself.
The four of us are sat in a seaside café. Feeling proud of ourselves because we eschewed the warmth of home and comfort of technology for instead a brisk walk on the beach with a dog. Sitting chatting, we look to our left – a mother and daughter are sat sharing a pot of warm, English tea, sipping it slowly savouring comfort and laughing about their family – what Carol said on Christmas day, who Pete is dating, what the cat did this morning. No wait, they’re not. Instead they are both staring at their phones, occasionally asking the other to look at something on their screen. The four of us sit there incredulous. Now wait, we don’t. This is a typical scene and therefore doesn’t even get our attention.
Now I am not innocent of any of this, and neither are my friends. As a recent social media shunner, I both love and loathe Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Some days I feel like a junkie who constantly must remind themselves that I am doing well and am 8 months sober. After a summer spent missing my partner who worked the whole time, and having far too much time on my hands (I’m a secondary school teacher), social media became my hobby. I would scroll (or ghost, as it is often dubbed) through Facebook and Instagram (my two main vices – Twitter is too fast-paced and ecstasy-like for me), and I would observe life rather than live it.My envy was overwhelming. Everyone was having a better time, travelling to better places, owning better stuff and looking skinny whilst doing it. And I was at home; fat and poor.
Undoubtedly this contributed to my feelings of depression and anxiety and therefore I decided something had to be done about this. I quit. Cold turkey. At first I felt buoyed – I was suddenly the saintly, holier version of my previous self, purged from sins. Of course, after the initial euphoria, I expected the longing to set in. And it did at times. A friend would say, ‘Oh God, did you see what so-and-so was wearing the other day?’ or ‘did you see so-and-so is pregnant?’ or ‘How cute is so-and-so’s…’ etc. Of course, I could never say yes, I hadn’t seen it and have to have people show me the pictures and patronise me like I’m some sort of great Aunt who doesn’t understand modern life. Undoubtedly, scenarios like this mean I feel the withdrawal. And then you start to wonder what else you’ve missed. Asking inane questions like: what has Lena Dunham uploaded on Instagram lately? I wonder new trainers that girl from my teacher training course has bought recently? What does Zoella’s desk set up look like again? But then you catch yourself and remember the obsessive and self-destructive nature of your social media addiction and move on from the thought.
I think social media not only deprives us of being social but also depresses us. How can you not compare your life with the constant best bits of someone else’s? After all, no one really shares the boring, mundane details of their life (and if they do, they are sure to be insufferably irritating and photographing their breakfast) nor do they share those days when they feel truly low (and if they do, these are not the posts that we remember). Instead the constant sharing of edited, beautified selfies; the requirement to check in to the fabulous places you’re visiting with your fabulous friends; and the need to prove you’re having fun by showing other people what you’re doing, leads to insecurities in both the person posting and the person observing. We are all mini-celebrities and mini-voyeurs and that is unhealthy for me.
As a teacher, I see the hazards teenagers must avoid everyday. Friends posting snidey comments, boys snapchatting pictures of themselves with someone other than their girlfriends, observing your mates all checked in to somewhere together – without you. They have to deal with the complexities of teenage emotions and living their life in the public eye. Maintain poise and friendships whilst also being fun and flirty. Social media creates anxiety in my students – they are constantly glued to their phones, seeking validation for their lives and looks and worrying about what they’re missing out on. They will not give it up; they were breast fed by Facebook and sung Instagram lullabies but it runs their lives and this worries me.
As for the twenty-somethings, I am increasingly aware that others in my age bracket are beginning to feel the vicious cycle of social media: boredom leads to scrolling leads to boredom. At a basic level, this is what social media is guilty of: depriving ordinary people of ordinary pleasures and replacing them with a phone face, constantly looking down at a screen not at the world around them. On a deeper level, and in my case, it can be the cause of deep-rooted envy and unhappiness.
Therefore I sit here and blog, hoping that like a recently converted vegetarian I am not preaching nor being judgemental, hoping for a readership (despite what my information might say!) and validation for my views which shows that I am not quite rid of the meaty social media craving. However, I would now much rather share something deeper and more truthful. I don’t want to sell a falsely happy and social version of me because, despite being surrounded by people, I’ll still be alone, staring at my phone.
She sat with her peppery black hair curling over her shoulders and rearranged her wide-brimmed straw hat on top of her head.
‘No…too sunny…turn it around…that’s better….a bit too windy isn’t it, but now you won’t get sun burnt, will you?’ Whilst mumbling this, she’d stood up, carefully moving the plastic garden chair to the other side of the cafe table, choosing to place her back to the exquisite sunshine and face away from the sparkling low tide of the early evening. She had more important things to do.
Her red lipstick was drawn too wide, like a child who has tried hard to stay in the lines but had been too eager and therefore found it too difficult. But it matched her red jumper immaculately. It even adorned her front tooth, giving her a comical look. She sat with with her feet propped up on the chair opposite her and peered through her gold rimmed, perfectly round glasses into her hot chocolate mug below. She began the slow process of spooning the thin, brown liquid into her furtive mouth.
‘Oh no…paper…where is it?’ she muttered, rummaging through her sizable bag. ‘There you are!’ She announced as she located the rustling local paper, ‘good, good to see you, we needed you…sit there please…that’s it,’ and she placed an old ash tray abruptly on top of the misbehaving pages, trapping them.
Next to her, a young woman, no more than twenty five, looked up from her book. She had been vaguely aware of the commotion this bizarre, lone woman had been quietly causing but hadn’t wanted to stare. Now she was interested. The woman was definitely talking to her possessions.
Paper tamed, she turned back to the matter of the hot chocolate and continued to spoon the contents into her mouth, devouring it quickly yet somehow managing to savour every mouthful, enjoying the sun on her back and the heat of the hot drink in her throat. Scraping the bottom of the mug for the final few dregs, she slurped the final sip. ‘That’s better…nice chocolate…mmm, yes…good taste’ she muttered.
Satisfied, she released her paper and began to read the adverts, unaware of the young woman next to her who was silently musing over her quiet madness.