I’ve come to realise something that’s really thrown me. And if you know me well, you’ll know that I live for this kind of stuff. I’m game for anything that turns my thinking on its head and forces me to reassess my perspective and where I stand. Because after all, what is life if not one big, long, lesson? Some parts more comfortable than others.

Let’s backtrack for a minute to last September when this all started. I took a month off social media and boy, was that a good call. You can read about it here, if you like. It allowed me to gain some all important perspective on why it was causing me so much stress; why I was oscillating between trying to convince myself I could handle it one minute and then wanting to run in the other direction the next. The lesson learned was simple, really. I was struggling because I’m a human. An imperfect, emotional human. And last I checked, everyone else using social media is human too (alien conspiracy theories aside), which must mean that the things I was feeling were being felt by everyone else too. More on that later.

The entire point of life is to experience joy and make connections. No, not the superficial kind consisting of follows and likes, but the kind where communication takes the form of body language and expression. The kind where ideas are encouraged and something beautiful churned out because two heads are better than one. Meaningful relationships where we see the bad alongside the good in a person and accept it; supporting them and understanding why they are who they are by really seeing them through walking a mile in his or her shoes.

But we’ve walked a dangerously sharp knife edge as we’ve let social media rule our lives in recent years, without really understanding that it cannot ever be a substitute for genuine, human interaction. It isn’t a supplement; It’s just another way that we can spend our time.

As soon as I realised this, I was freed. It was really that simple. I had wriggled free of its tight grip that had suffocated me for so long. That, and realising that it was a tool that I could use to start conversations and implement social change; a way of sharing my lifestyle and beliefs in the hope that I could encourage others to make different choices; choices that I believed were kinder to our environment. But don’t get me wrong; I don’t know all the answers and I openly welcome a discussion around anything that I post about. It’s how I learn. I’m self-assured, but at the same time I understand that I don’t know all the solutions and sometimes I am wrong.

When I came back from my month off social media last year, I also made a pretty huge life choice; I came off hormonal birth control that I had been taking for near on a decade. That’s a whole other topic (that you can read about here), but one that also fits into the puzzle. It allowed me to get to know my true self for the first time in years. Kind of a big deal. And in the process of transitioning from numb human to sprightly self, I realised that something else had been bumming me out as I’d been trying to “do” social media; I wasn’t really following those who inspired me. So, I switched my focus from brands and individuals who didn’t seem to have values that aligned with my own and I tell ya, it made all the difference.

These days, I relish the fact that I’ve been able to cultivate some really special connections with actual humans who are passionate about the same things that I am interested in. We encourage each other, educate each other and shine as bright little beacons in a world that often feels very dark and cold. It’s a world that feels like it can break you and beat you down and, well, win. And that’s why social media isn’t the problem. It’s the scapegoat.

The various avenues of social media have never been the cause of our anxiety, misery and loneliness as I’ve seen them portrayed to be and as I, too, believed. They’ve never been deleterious to our health. What we have been and continue to struggle with is our own shadows; the work that we need to put in for ourselves to be better, to heal and to succeed. We are a broken people raised by parents who never knew any better and brought up in an education system that does us no good. We are square pegs meticulously forced into round holes and we’re deeply unhappy because we have this yearning to be more creative than society is set up for us to live and thrive in.

We’re expected to be happy and have our shit together at all times. Because God forbid we openly admit that we’re not doing so great. God forbid that we ask for the world to cut us some slack and give us some breathing room. There’s money to be made and mouths to stay locked and emotions never allowed to see the light of day.

Only, time’s up, isn’t it?

Ah, yes. We’re at tipping point. In all aspects, from all angles, a paradigm long overdue a shift in a different direction. Because the world will keep on turning and technology keep on churning and there’s only one way to keep up: to wake up.

I look at social media now and I see it for what it is: a marvelous, beautiful, expansive tool that can be used to change the world for better. And I’m already seeing it: exponential growth in encouragement and cultivation of ideas and momentum continues to build each day. If you’re struggling, know that you too can learn to see things from a more positive place, but only if you put the work in first. We need to stop blaming social media for all of our problems and instead look in the mirror. All that social media does is highlight our shadows; those parts within us that need care and attention. It’s hard work and perfectly natural to want to turn the other way rather than put the effort in, but use those uncomfortable truths as focal points for where change needs to be made within yourself. I cannot encourage you enough. Only when you’re all right shining a light on yourself because you’re proud of who you are and truly want to encourage others to be their best selves and the world a better place will you feel comfortable using social media. 

Take the time off, do the work and come back stronger. You can change the world, but first you have to change yourself.

Yesterday, along with thousands of other exhausted campers, I left Glastonbury Festival. For those of you who don’t know, Glastonbury is the world’s greatest 5-day party. It’s a place to forget the outside world and all your woes. You can let yourself go. It’s a place to be free and explore who you are and what you enjoy. But after 5 days of utopia, the outside world hits you like a bus.

The first thing that struck me as we came across regular folk in the surrounding areas was their faces. What I mean is, there was no perma-grin like there was on every festival-goers face. People looked tired, bored or worried. Not all of them, but many. They were just going about their days, but I saw something deeper. I saw a collective unhappiness. I saw a society that didn’t spark joy in its people. This was a dramatic contrast to a festival where attendees are made to feel as if anything is not only possible, but accepted without shame.

En route home we decided to stop by a supermarket to pick up some essentials before facing our sad, bare fridge. I didn’t think to change out of what I was wearing to do so. It never even crossed my mind. (It was a crop top and shorts; nothing offensive or overly revealing.) But once I got inside, I was met with disgusted looks. Granted, that might have been primarily due to a lingering stench from having not showered for a week, but something tells me it was the fact that I wasn’t conforming. I had mud on my feet and grass in my hair. See, at Glastonbury the wackier the better. You can even get your boobs out and cover them with glitter and there’s no need to feel like you’re being preyed upon or looked down on. Self-expression is encouraged. Fun is warmly embraced.

Reality didn’t feel like that. Reality made me feel ashamed of looking a little rough around the edges. Reality told me it didn’t want me. And I’m here to shout back and say that that isn’t OK. Why should I have to plan my footwear based on how quickly I can run in it if I’ll be alone on a night out? Why should I shy away from shorts because it’s just easier to try to walk through life trying to be invisible and not attracting any attention to myself? It’s interesting, because at the festival, most of the women were wearing the most revealing of outfits. But there was nothing sexual about it. It was beautiful. So I’m asking what makes it different within the festival grounds? It really comes down to the sheer number of women dressing that way. It becomes the norm at Glastonbury. No single female stands out because we all go there. We all embrace the extravagant. But we come back to reality and back to our regular wardrobes. We fear the extravagant once more because it attracts attention. It stands out.

How do we redefine ‘the norm’? How is it that we can spread the freedom of creative self-expression from Worthy Farm into all of our cities and towns? And it’s not just the clothes we wear and the way we decorate out faces, but the empathy and the sense of community. Political talk was bold and brash this festival, with many artists criticising the powers that be. They preached love and understanding, with Corbyn himself even making an appearance on the Pyramind Stage to urge us to reunite as a people, rather than support the divide. He spoke of music and poetry and creativity at the core of a happy society. He praised the Eavis family for allowing all of the festival attendees the space to express and enjoy themselves. There is something exquisitely magical that comes from that much togetherness and the hope is that it can come with each of us into our everyday lives now that the festival is over.

Yes this is a rant at wanting everyday life to be just as magical, but it’s also an opportunity for discussion. What are your thoughts on this topic? How do we redefine the norm and create a more loving society where all people are treated equally and allowed to express themselves without fear? Lord knows we’re desperate for it.

 

 

 

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As I marched out of the shopping centre this morning and approached the traffic lights, a young man in his twenties waiting next to me turned to me and our eyes met. He greeted me with a simple, ‘Morning! You good? How’s it going?’

This sounds nice enough when you read it, doesn’t it? One would think that the logical response from the other party (myself) would be to engage in simple conversation and reply. But I didn’t.

I feel revolting thinking about the interaction in retrospect, because I didn’t respond how I wish I had done. Looking back, I feel guilty. My immediate thought was, ‘GAH why are you hitting on me at 10am?!?!’ and then ‘Oh God, maybe he’s a nutter.’ That is me being brutally honest and it is embarassing that I thought those things instinctively, rather than, ‘oh, look at this nice guy just saying hello’.

I responded with a disinterested ,’Hi…yeah good…’ and then immediately turned in the other direction and awkwardly prayed that the traffic lights would change colour quickly so that I could walk away disgusted at myself for not being warmer towards a stranger.

It’s rare that I’m outstomped because I walk everywhere at the speed of light, but he raced on by and I watched as he stopped and had a chat with the Big Issue vendor and then a homeless man, before we parted ways and I turned the corner. He certainly wasn’t trying to hit on me and I don’t think he’s a nutter. I think he was just a nice guy with a beautiful, innocent soul and is trying to make the world a nicer place.

This guy won’t know the profound impact he’s had on me, but I carried on my walk home tormented with the knowing that so many of us are conditioned with one set of thoughts, but deep down have different beliefs that we resonate with. What I mean is, I am conditioned to believe that in cities, people just don’t talk to each other and if they do, they’re either insane or trying to assault you. What I ACTUALLY believe is that most people are good and kind and that assuming the worst in people makes you a part of the problem.

That guy put a smile on my face and he got me thinking. The world needs a plethora of people more like him and it is my personal goal to take a leaf out of his book. I also want to be more observant of how my conditioning and beliefs conflict in more aspects of my life and personal interactions. Next time – although it might take a few more practice rounds – I am determined I try to respond bright-eyed and full of hope.

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