Is social media becoming a mean place?

So we were having a discussion in the office this morning about how sometimes it’s frightening to just make a passing comment on social media about something that’s happening, without someone jumping down your throat.

And I don’t even mean anything controversial.

For instance, during the last tube strike I tweeted something like “Just the thought of tomorrow’s commute is giving me a headache.” Someone then decided to very helpfully tweet back “Use your legs, lazy Londoner” or words to that effect…

Anyone who knows me personally knows I’m sarcastic and even if you don’t, if you look back on previous tweets etc, knows I’m partial to a satirical quip.

Taylor Swift

Picture courtesy of YouTube

Now I know that in this day and age, people couldn’t care less about doing a bit of stalking research or even engaging in a thing called ‘having a sense of humour.’ Equally I know sarcasm isn’t easily conveyed online but it feels like Facebook and especially Twitter have become a breeding ground for spiteful, judgemental trolls.

People seem to think it’s fair game to have a pop at journalists in particular. At the end of the day, there is a real person behind the words and it’s about time, people started transferring some manners to the online world.

You wouldn’t tell someone on the tube that you hated their outfit.

You wouldn’t tell someone in the supermarket not to buy a microwave meal.

And you certainly wouldn’t just go up to someone and call them all the names under the sun.

So why do it elsewhere?

I’m not saying that people aren’t entitled to their opinions, a bit of healthy debate is good for the soul apparently but to be outright mean or respond with “YOUR WRONG !!!” isn’t constructive nor grammatically correct…

Instagram appears to be one of the only platforms where people are actually nice to each other, to people they don’t even know, purely because they’ve stumbled across something through searching a tag.

Why fuel so much energy into being hateful? What do people actually get out of it? And why not actually explore the context around something first before commenting?

And if you can’t be bothered with that – if you’ve got no kind words to say, you should say nothing at all.

Are your mid-twenties your make or break point?

It’s the time for finding yourself while trying to figure out what you want to do for the rest of your life.

It’s the time for making mistakes but making sure they never happen again.

It’s the time when you essentially have ‘no responsibilities’ but feel like you have the weight of your decisions on your shoulders.

It’s the time for having fun but at the same time, to stop playing games.

No wonder, we’re all friggin’ confused!

Santa Monica beach

Living life carefree in LA on our trip

Your mid-twenties is a bit of quarter-life crisis for most people, I think. Most people are in their first/second job since uni but are still trying to figure out whether it’s the right thing for them while trying to scrabble up the career ladder that is missing a few rungs.

Most people are renting somewhere or living at home still, trying to decide whether renting is throwing money away for the sake of independence or whether to stick it out at the family nest to save up for a never-ending deposit while house prices are still rising.

Most people are in a relationship or heart-broken from a long-term one, where one person (in the middle of their own quarter-life crisis) has decided to call it quits because they don’t know what they want. Meanwhile, there’s always one half in a good relationship that’s trying not to fret over the future while still enjoying the freedom of how things are now, without a mortgage, wedding plans or babies.

Before anyone tells me how doom and gloom I’m being, I’m saying how it is. I love everything about my life as it is now, I feel like it’s an extension of my uni days, with a decent wage and more expensive taste in wine but with the same sense of ‘WHAT NEXT?’

There’s nothing wrong to looking to the future, there’s nothing wrong with having those days where you’re just like ‘Please can I just doze in my hoodie all day and watch my Big Bang Theory boxset’ because urghhhhh, too many thoughts and responsibilities. I guess it’s trying to figure out that life balance of having ‘THE PLAN’ and enjoying every moment of how things are now.

So, if anybody knows how to do that, leave your nuggets of wisdom in the comments…

The pros and cons of setbacks

Just when you think everything is running along too smoothly (literally in my case) suddenly BAM! Something will come along to throw you off-course.

I felt my shoulder blade pop at the weekend when out running and like the stubborn moron that I am, I carried on and thought it’d be okay. I’ve now spent the last couple of days/nights in absolute agony, taking alllllll the ibuprofen and heat patches I can find.

With only six weeks to go until the half marathon, this setback is making me panic even more that I’ll get behind on my training and won’t be able to complete the route. I’ve started doing that thing where I’ve been reading far too many articles on training schedules and do’s & don’ts and have begun to panic whether I’m doing far too little or far too much.

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As annoying and as painful as it is, sometimes we need set-backs to give us a bit of a shake-up, even if we don’t necessarily appreciate it at the time. Things can’t always be smooth-sailing afterall, life would be too easy (and boring) if it was.

I think sometimes your body also has its own way of telling you “Enough is enough,” and as rubbish as aches/pains/colds are, it’s a warning sign to tell you to slooooooooow down.

So from now on, I’m going to stop panicking (ha, easier said than done) and carry on doing what I was doing, after some rest and my umpteenth salt bath…

How do you conquer set-backs? 

Why I love running

This time last year I was preparing for my first ‘running event’- the Canary Wharf jog, a 5k route which seems comparatively laughable to me now.

I never set out to go and do a half marathon ever really. I’ve always watched or gone to see the London Marathon and thought “I’d love to do that,” but didn’t think I’d have the time or stamina. I got into it off the back of swimming because I could no longer make the training after work, once I started working in London again.

We’re lucky enough to have free spit ‘n’ sawdust gym in my building and although it’s not the biggest of places, has all the basics. I’m not into weights (yeah I know I should mix it up but #cardioforever) so a treadmill, a bike and a cross-trainer is good enough for me.

I started running outside just over a year ago when I realised that 1) it’s much more simulating than running stationery, in what feels like a green-house at times and 2) my sense of direction isn’t as rubbish as I thought it was- I’ve only had to climb over a fence once when getting lost!

So yeah…however cliche it is, I have caught the running bug.

Nike Downshifters

My faithful Nike Downshifters

Reasons why I love lacing up my trainers to pound the pavement:

  1. Exercise is therapy for your mind and exercising outside is even better for you- waiting on the heatwave so I can get me some tan!
  2. It makes you feel productive for the rest of the day, especially if you manage to do it first-thing in the morning.
  3. It’s freeeeeee…you just need a half decent pair of trainers (if you’re a beginner) and the road.
  4. It’s precious ‘me’ time, where I can get lost in my own thoughts.
  5. I feel less guilty about having ‘treats.’
  6. I feel a lot more toned and healthier, running won’t give you drastic weight loss but it helps you to maintain a certain weight level.
  7. It helps you to appreciate the outdoors more.
  8. Even when you’re completely KO’d after a run, it gives you this addictive buzz.
  9. I love the achievement I feel after I run a little bit further.
  10. Losing yourself in an awesome playlist (see my latest below) helps make everything a little easier.

 

You can sponsor me for my half marathon challenge here, to help me raise money for Prostate Cancer UK.

Keen runner like me? Leave me your tips/thoughts in the comments below.

California, California, here we come…

Well, not quite yet…in 7 weeks time! There’s a small matter of doing a half marathon the day before I fly. Eek. I hope to god that I’ll sleep like a baby on that 10 hour flight.

It’s my first time to the good ol’ US of A and I’m ridiculously excited, especially because it’s always been on my list of places to go to, the west coast in particular. One of my school friends moved to LA when we were around 13 and we pledged to meet up when we were 21 after I’d graduated and she was in her final year of school at Berkeley- hi Emma!

Alas, when I graduated from uni, I didn’t have the pennies to go anywhere beyond Spain really (not that I’m saying ‘woe is me’ or anything) but I’ve always been determined to go visit one day. Especially before life gets a little bit more serious than it already is.

This blog post is a little bit of a ‘call-to-arms’ to my fellow bloggers and friends who have visited LA before- which things are an absolute must-see?

We’ll be staying in Santa Monica with a car and of course we’ve got Hollywood, Beverley Hills, Venice Beach, Huntington Beach etc all on our list (so sad to discover that half of the stuff e.g. The Bait Shop, from The OC no longer exists- wah) but if you have any hidden gems, clubs, restaurants, places to chill out, please send them my way!

Santa Monica Beach

Santa Monica Beach. Credit: Alberto Cabello via Flickr

 

Turning a Quarter of a Century

I turned the grand ol’ age of 25 at the end of January and previous followers of this blog might remember my little to-do list before I blew the candles out on my cake.

At the halfway point, I’d managed to tick off quite a few of them and I’m glad to say that I’ve done a lot more since, and probably outside of what I set out to do when I first created this list. Yeah I still haven’t been to Paris (wah) but the 365 days leading up to another mile stone birthday were pretty darn good…

  1. Visit Paris – TO DO!!! THIS YEAR!!!
  2. Take on another sporting challenge- Last year’s 5k has now turned into a Half Marathon… eek.
  3. Camp at a music festival- Festival season is long gone.
  4. Get more work published  I’ve been writing my gig panel for a year now, still getting in reviews and writing online. 
  5. Visit somewhere in the UK I’ve never been– Had a nice little jolly around the South-West in October, so much so that it’s my retirement destination.
  6. Try different foods (Big step for a fussy-eater!) Hmm…yeah, sort of. I likes what I like.
  7. Cook dinner for my family- Erm…I’ve bought a 30 Minute Meals cookbook, that’s a start right?
  8. Finish a TV boxset- On the last few episodes of Breaking Bad. I know I suck at life.
  9. Start saving for the future  On my way!
  10. Have two mad nights out in a row or go out on a school-night (Deal with the aftermath without complaint) Done on a couple of occasions (*cough* Christmas *cough*). I’ve only just started to drink white wine again.
  11. Experiment more with my personal style (Note to self: You can’t live in floral dresses forever)  Yup but I can’t pull off culottes.
  12. Host a charity event- We’re a charitable bunch in my office.
  13. Create a collage/photo album of “My Life 18-25″-  Needs an update.
  14. Move forward in my career BIG SMILEY FACE.
  15. Learn a new skill or take up a short course- You never stop learning.
  16. Stop worrying incessantly about EVERYTHING! Just STOP.- Well…I wouldn’t be me, if I didn’t.
  17. Develop and be consistent with my blog  I promiiiiiiiiise.
  18. Face my fear of public speaking- I don’t think I ever will, if I can help it.
  19. Buy a newer car- I still have Bella, my precious.
  20. Visit more of London’s landmarks   Of course. 
  21. Learn when to say “NO.” You can’t always be Super Girl Getting better at this.
  22. Be a bit more impulsive  I’ve learned to take a back seat with plans too (go me)
  23. Start writing short stories again – One day…
  24. Tick more bands off my Live Gig list Forever the music lover. 
  25. Be happy with where I am in life and enjoy living in the moment- Overall, yes, I’ve tried to stop getting too far ahead of myself, stop worrying about where other people are in their lives and concentrate on the here and now. Deep.

18/25

Y’know what? This list wasn’t ever really in the back of my mind throughout 2014 and I never sat there and thought to myself ‘Quick, I must do this before I’m 25 otherwise I fail at life.’ It was a fun thing to do and to look back on I guess.

Life isn’t a to-do list, it isn’t a series of tick boxes with JOB, HOUSE, MARRIAGE, KIDS on it. It’s about doing what you set out to achieve individually, whether that be working towards a promotion, taking up a post-grad course and even things like having some more ‘me’ time or visiting a place you’ve always wanted to go to.

I think with even more so with social media now, we’re into the concept of ‘Keeping up with the Joneses,’ in the sense we get FOMO and life-envy. For most people, social media is like an Instagram filter of their lives, we’re only seeing what we want everybody else to see. And that’s fine, why wouldn’t you want everyone to think your life is amaaaaazing?

Just take everything with a pinch of salt and think about everything you have that makes YOU happy the next time you see something that makes you go ‘Oh, why can’t that be me?’ Why would you want a regram of somebody else’s life when you have the option of your own, no matter how tough it can be at times.

Where have I been?

You might have noticed the blog has a new look…

You might have noticed that I’ve been M.I.A since October…

2015 diary and blog ideas journal

People change all the time and I guess life changed even more so once I knew I had a permanent job in an environment I love and with more responsibility.

There are a few of reasons why I stopped blogging for a while:

  1. When you live in front of a screen for around 10 hours a day and glued to your phone, the last thing I wanted to do was to drag my laptop out and come up with engaging content.
  2. Admittedly I’ve felt tired, stressed and I’m still trying to get the right kind of work-life balance but I didn’t want to come across as an ungrateful so-and-so in my blog posts, or a complete misery-guts for one!
  3. My blog started off as a uni project and then grew into a diary I guess, documenting my life to where I am today and everything I went through to get to this point.

I kind of want to start afresh with the blog without creating a new one completely, it’s still very much Essex & The City.

While I’d love the time to be able to incorporate video etc into my blog (the world and I are soooo not ready for my incoherent ramblings) monetising has never been something I’ve wanted to do with it.

I know it’s important to move forward with the times but for me, blogging is something I enjoy, something that’s almost therapeutic and if people enjoy reading what I write, that’s even better. I’m not going to try and plunge into the rat-race that is the blogosphere.

I’m hoping the site looks a little cleaner and I’ve been lucky enough to learn so much in the past six months in terms of social media, picture editing and stats.

Remember how I always speak about life is made up of little chapters? Well, I think I’m on to a new book…

Taking chances

So…it’s been a while, just when I got into a routine with this blogging malarky, life has been a bit upside down for the past couple of months. In a sort of good way with a lot of stress in between but as they say, ride the storm and you’ll get a rainbow.

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Yeah I know it’s a cliche but I don’t like to be negative on my blog and some people might wonder if I’m showing a true representation of my life but to be honest, I don’t want everyone knowing EVERYTHING. You could probably accuse me of only posting positive tweets/statuses and that makes it seem like life is golden all the time but it’s not. No one’s life is.

As much as it’s interesting to see raw emotion on someone’s blog, I’m not comfortable with it because it’s there forever on your little corner of the internet. People write things in the heat of the moment and that’s good from a personal diary perspective but some may regret this later down the line.

Before I go off on a tangent, the things I basically haven’t written about in a heartfelt way on here is the stress of not knowing if I’d have a job by Christmas, having been on a maternity/temporary contracts for the past year. I’ve cried lots, I’ve drove my family, boyfriend and friends mad (and myself), my sleeping pattern is all over the place at the moment and my appetite has waned.

But I didn’t particularly want to whinge and moan ‘Woe is me’ all over social media and my blog; I’d rather treat it as a life experience and then write about it all afterwards. It’s been frustrating to put it all in a word but would I change any of it? Some parts maybe but on the whole, it’s something that I’ve had to do to get to where I am today.

I could have gave up a couple of years and just accepted that getting into journalism wasn’t going to be easy, I could just work my way up in retail or get a secretarial job (not that there’s anything wrong with that) but would I have been happy? Having had experience in both sectors, I knew that I couldn’t give up on what I wanted to do and one of the worst things that anyone can ever tell me is ‘you’ll never be able to do that.’ Yeah…well, watch me.

I’m absolutely over the moon to finally have a permanent contract at The Mirror now as an Online & Digital Assistant. Having graduated nearly three and a half years ago, I’m so glad that I didn’t give on doing what I wanted to do, when at times, it seemed like the easiest option to do.

It is worth taking a risk and a chance sometimes and if it doesn’t work out alright in the end, it’s still something you can learn from. If things hadn’t have gone as I planned, I have gained so much experience from it all and have met some awesome people along the way.

Typically I’m one of those people that always wants to run before they can walk- what’s next, kind of thing. I know where I want my career to go and I know with anything, it’s not simply a case of going from A to B. Sometimes you gotta throw in your plan C, D or even E at times. But for the time-being, I’m looking forward to seeing where it takes me.

Dagenham Days: The story continues…

As promised on Twitter this week, I caught up with Scott Redmond, a freelancer writer, who is working on a book about growing up in Dagenham. While researching his family history, he’s discovered quite a few twists and turns along the way, which has been picked up by local newspapers and organisations.

Heathway

Scott, last time we caught up with you, you were reminiscing about how our local high street used to be, where has your story taken you now?

My early parts were very much trotting down memory lane, reminiscing and reminding myself of things I should have long since forgotten. Those nostalgic hugs got me thinking about the things from my childhood that never really stacked up, since then it’s been like playing detective in a search for facts.


You’ve been discovering a few twists along the way, without giving too much away, what’s been one of the best?

Discovering several uncles I knew nothing about was pivotal to the story. Delving in to why they’d been erased was never going to give me any Disney answers. One of them was closely linked to the Kray’s I quickly discovered. I also discovered my mum had been on trial at The Old Bailey when she was 17….

Questions

Where are you looking to take your story next?
It’s more a case of where it’s taking me. Being 100 per cent factual each discovery gives me my words.

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You’ve received a lot of local interest, who has got involved so far?
I’ve embraced social media, it’s something I’ve had a love hate relationship over the years. For Dagenham Days it’s been nothing but positive. Via Facebook and Twitter I’ve found various people who shaped my childhood. Only this week I hooked up with the girl next door at 49, I’ve not seen or heard from her for almost 30 years. The Dagenham Post have been supportive, they’ve run two articles so far, each one resulted in residents of Dagenham getting intouch with facts about my mum’s family.

 Your doodles are definitely a talking point on your Facebook page, where do you get your day to day inspiration from for them?

The doodles came about by accident. I needed a map of Dagenham, to highlight areas I have refered to. I tried to find one but in the just doodled one, since then I’ve done over a 100. They help to engage people and compliment chapters that I’ve written. I’ve also done a few doodles for The Made in Dagenham musical gang, they’ve used them on their own social media with surprisingly positive results!

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What’s next for you and the book? Do you have a target date for finishing?

If this was a work of fiction I could tie up the loose ends and write that last line, being factual that’s not a luxury I have, nor want. It was suggested by someone who’s read it all that I split it in to two books, one being the early nostalgic and social history sections, the other being the playing Miss Marple part and looking for facts. It’s an idea but I think it’ll work better in one lot.

What inspired you to write DD in the first place and what has been your most favourite part of the process so far?
There was no eureka moment, I just started writing sections after reading Kath Hardy’s book Secrets My Mother Kept, which is also set in Dagenham albeit in an early era. I love writing, the last seven years I’ve freelanced on motorcycle magazines, having stepped away from that this filled my passion for writing. Researching if, buts and maybes and discovering the truth is the most rewarding part of this process, it helps me understand not just who I am, but who my parents really were!

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To keep up with Scott’s story, you can follow him on Twitter at @DagenhamDays or check out his Facebook page.

 

Ten Awesome Scottish Bands

On topic of today’s news with the Scottish Independence Referendum and being the music obsessive that I am, here are some of my favourite Scottish bands. New and old of course.

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In no particular order;

1. Biffy Clyro

Mon the biff! Of course they’re probably one Scottish band that spring to mind first above all. Still haven’t seen them perform, massively jealous of everyone that has! From the growling vocals of That Golden Rule to the somewhat sweet Many of Horror (X Factor’s Matt Cardle- GTFO) they’re rock royalty.

2. Twin Atlantic

Having seen these guys twice now, I think they’re bloody amazing and well deserve to be going on their own arena tour in November. Creators of anthems such as Heart & Soul and Free, they’ve got a fiercely loyal fan base.

Oh and did I mention that front man Sam McTrusty is a bit fit? Just saying…

3. Chvrches

Little bit obsessed with these guys at the moment and they’ve become massive over the past year or so. Their synth drenched beats make for perfect indie dance floor tracks. Check out Recover and We Sink if you’re not familiar.

4. Franz Ferdinand

The opening bars to Take Me Out are unmistakable and if you’ve ever been in an indie club, when one of their songs are played, something very strange happens to the crowd. Everyone ends up doing some sort of march and air-guitar! Infectious music and one band I still haven’t seen live.

5. Primal Scream

Probably one of the key bands which started the indie pop movement in the late 80s. Movin’ On Up, Loaded, Come Together to name but a few. They’ve had few line up changes too, including The Stone Roses’ Mani.

6. Simple Minds

They’re responsible for the soundtrack to one of my favourite 80s movies ever! That iconic last scene where Bender walks across the football field, puts his fist in the air and says ‘Sincerely yours, The Breakfast Club,’ before the drums kick into the chorus of Don’t You Forget About Me.

7. The Fratellis

Sadly they’ve gone off the radar now but the “lad” band were part of the soundtrack to my uni years. Many a good time was had to Chelsea Dagger, including falling over on my face in Propaganda…

And who can forget karaoke favourite, later covered by the late Amy Whitehouse – Valeeeeerieeeeee?

8. Glasvegas

“My name’s Geraldine, I’m your sociaaaaal wooorker.” You probably couldn’t get any more Glaswegian than these guys! With gritty lyrics about growing up in one of Scotland’s most notorious cities, you too will probably want to don the accent.

9. Texas

Bit of a 90s throwback but my parents had a couple of their albums and I remember my bro and I used to try and sing along in Spiteri’s accent ha! For all you Britpop fans, they’re touring again next April!

10. Prides

A fairly new band which I discovered via XFM a couple of weeks ago but I can’t stop listening to I Should Know You Better By Now. They’re playing in London next month so I might have to go along to see them! Also check out their other single Messiah, they have a proper retro vibe to them.

Those who didn’t make the cut- The Proclaimers…I’m Gonna Be (500 miles) was annoying the first time round, let alone the 2007 charity release. Soz.

What other Scottish bands/artists do you think are awesome?