Woo’d Through Myspace

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It was 2006. He had put me in his “Top 8”, and my eyes bulged at the computer screen with excitement. Being specifically selected to feature in one’s Top 8 was of course, a pretty big deal. To anyone unfamiliar with Myspace, this was a rotating conveyor belt functionality displaying your favourite friendships at the top of your profile. Also known as: a manipulative way of picking and choosing your current favourite friends within your social circle. It was also a powerful way to catalyse either the promotion or death of a friendship. If you wanted to make a subtle yet rather brutal statement that one of your friends had been a bit shit lately, you would swiftly swap them out of your Top 8, and replace their birds-eye-puppy-dog-eyes-camera profile picture with someone else’s. The more unexpected the swap, the more painful the experience for your soon-to-be-ex-friend, and the louder you could hear their heart breaking in half like a kid snapping the head of their Barbie. Once I replaced a friend with MySpace Tom (the used-to-pretty-famous founder of MySpace who is now retired and probably living somewhere exotic) to prove to my friend that she had aggravated me. Because Tom was the default friend you got handed with when you first signed up to MySpace putting him in your Top 8 was the ultimate dig. I mean, it was juvenile, but effective.

This was the first time I’d been interested in a guy through what seemed like his social media “influence” even though social media influence was definitely not even a phrase or thing at the time. I guess looking back he was a bit of an “Internet celeb” in our little Devon town. Zac had 17,001 friends on his MySpace profile; not bad for a boy who went to a boarding school in the neighbouring rural town. Especially because it was 2007 and everyone was just messing around with social networks. I had 15 friends on there; a tiny fraction of my classmates whose parents let him hop on the family computer from time to time. In reality I only spoke to about 5 people and we used the platform to write long essay messages to each other with a LOT of exclamation marks.

He knew everyone. Girls would post to his “Myspace Wall” constantly. Every day there would be a new girl sending flirting messages, or leaving comments with double entendres, begging him to meet up with them, or just posting their mobile numbers all over his page. Some would even post pictures of their toned tanned bikini bodies with the caption “wish you were here xoxo”. Zac would change his profile pictures weekly and each time wouldn’t just look straight-up good-looking, but popular, too. Every photo was him standing in front of loads of his mates, or sitting on a beach with a group of people, or an action shot of head-thrown-back laughter, or manning the barbecue on a big family holiday, or at a wedding hugging the groom. This guy was a social animal and his MySpace page reflected how big his social life was. I think this was the first time I was attracted to someone just because his life looked really fun on the screen, and I wanted to be part of it. He had way more friends than me, and was the life and soul of any sort of social situation. I just found his popularity very attractive. His online presence was huge, and his life looked fun and it looked like to be included in all his fun experiences would be the ultimate win. I wanted to be behind the camera with him.

***

I’d see Zac every Thursday night in the Imperial Pub in Exeter and sheepishly saying ‘hello’ and then run away and check my make-up in the bathroom mirror. This was a place where you would run to the toilet to check if you had lipstick on your teeth because everyone and his dog would be there to judge your outfit and tell you immediately if they could see a glimpse of your chicken fillet bra, or a Size 12 SALE ITEM label coming out from your body con skirt. This was before Lena Dunham had made chipped finger nails cool, and before Kim Kardashian had admitted she wears two sets of Spanx. We were all on edge because the boys from the boy’s school noticed everything and for some reason, we cared more what they thought of us than anything else. Once a guy I’ve never spoken to before had asked me why my socks didn’t match and why I was wearing a white bra with a black top. I felt like saying: OMG! Are you Gok Wan?

I was scared of two things at that age: boys (especially talking on the phone to them and don’t even TALK to me about leaving voicemails); and transitioning from sanitary towels to tampons, because I hate the squeaky “halloumi” noise it makes when I would pull the string out. (And actually my third fear was exactly living one in there and having two tampons in at the same time – THE WORST!) My mum and auntie locked me in the bathroom on a family trip to Cornwall and said I wasn’t to come out until I’d tried to put the tampon in. I’m glad they made me do it, because no one wants to waddle around with a sanitary towel which makes you walk like a famous rapper wearing a nappy.

I’d check Zac’s MySpace profile most days and my friends became slightly weirded out with my obsession. I never had that “fangirl” teen moment over anyone specifically when I was younger (maybe Noel from Hear’Say, that’s embarrassing). Across generations, it’s been the Beatles, then Boyzone slash Backstreet Boys, now it’s One Direction with crazed #Directioners in charge of the world’s daily trending hashtags. The only proper fangirl moment I had was with the Spice Girls and for one month in 2001 I was considerably into Zack Morris from Saved By The Bell. But my proper obsessional moments I had were with real people on social media, who I could track closely on the Internet. No one else seemed to understand my pain at the time, building up an idea of who someone is via their social channels and well-positioned photos. Now, it’s a thing. “YouTuber” and “celebrity” are now a synonymous unmovable beast. I enjoyed following Zac’s life on MySpace because I feel closer to him, more in control of my feelings (so I thought) and I guess it was sort of addictive just seeing what he was up to all the time. There’s one thing than teenage girls have the rawest talent for, and that is: to vividly daydream on demand. Now teenage girls swoon over All American YouTube stars with white teeth and their Moms who are their best friends.

***

I went into my common room the next day looking sweaty under the armpits. I also felt sick from glaring down at my phone during the entire bumpy car journey.

“Holly!!!! Urgent urgent urgent.” I yanked my friend’s arm into the matchbox-sized communal kitchen where the cool girls would make their hot lemon detox drinks.

My friend Holly looked terrified and leant her neck forward. “Calm down! Wtf is wrong?”

I was as white as a sheet. “I just saw an article about how there’s an online tool to allow you to find out who’s been looking at your MySpace profile. And how many times someone has looked at your profile.”

Holly looked confused. “So….. what are you worried about?”

“I’ve been looking at Zac’s profile about thirteen times a day.” Saying those words out loud made me freak out even more. Maybe I was a psychopath.

Holly clasped her hand over her mouth, in a mocking way. Then smirked.

“HOL. THIS IS SERIOUS. THIS IS BAD.”

“How do you know he’ll look at that? You’re being paranoid.”

“No. I know he knows about it. He posted the link to it on his best friend Fred’s wall. That’s how I found it. So he’s definitely been on it. So he’ll have seen that I’m probably his top stalker! Oh god I’m so embarrassed. He’ll know that I’m a loser who sits in my bedroom and stares at his MySpace every day.”

Holly knew how to handle my anxious stomach, and that was, with carbohydrates. She handed me a packet of crisps.

***

Rewind to the first time I actually met Zac. Before we were a thing, before I was in his Top 8. I was sat with friends on one of the long outdoor benches nestling next to a large jug of a blue radioactive cocktail that was probably 89% responsible for my slightly unhealthy BMI and love handles.

Zac was there, surrounding by girls laughing at his jokes, touching his leg, buying him more beers. As he got up (and high-fived someone as he did) he clocked me as he walked in. His brow was furrowed, and it was obviously that he recognised me from somewhere. He looked back twice and squinted slightly and then smiled.

As he came back outside, wiping his hands on his jeans like most boys doing after exiting the toilet. He sidled into the seat next to me. Quite close.

“Do I know you? You look….familiar.”

My internal monologue, or if I was to morph into E.L.James for a moment “my inner goddness” was screaming “you recognise me because you’ve seen I look at your MySpace profile 7 times a day!!” Obviously I wasn’t going to out myself there and then and kill the moment.

He saved us both from an awkward pause. “Oh! I know. You’re Charlotte’s friend.”

I nodded. Even though I didn’t know if that was accurate. Or which Charlotte he was referring to. Charlotte was a popular name in Exeter.

“Anyway, catch you later.” He looked me up and down.

He wandered off. And did a weird secret handshake with row of boys wearing backward caps.

When I got home, I had a new friend request and as I clicked open the request, Zac’s piercing blue eyes were staring back at me. Then came the excruciating pain of waiting for some sort of social interaction. The amount of drafted and deleted messages was ridiculous, when out of nowhere I received one:

“Hi Emma,

It’s Zac. We met at the Imperial the other night.  Do you want to get a coffee on Saturday?”

The thing about Zac was that since we were unofficially dating, everyone was way nicer to me. People who I’d never met before, or who used to bully me would gallop up to me as I wondered along Exeter High St when out shopping with my sister. “Are you……..going out with Zac now?” I was a Myspace WAG.

*1 month later*

But sadly, Zac turned out to be a C-word.

Moral of the story: who gives a shit how many followers someone has?

Polly Vernon Talks Twitter Backlash AND How Sleep Is Important For Writing

I really like Polly Vernon’s attitude. To have a job writing your opinions in print and online you have to also stand by them and stick up for yourself, and that’s exactly what Polly does. She writes a weekly column for Grazia, and she writes for the Times and publications like House, Soho House group’s magazine. She recently wrote a book and had to deal with “love and loathe” reviews of her book Hot Feminist in what she describes as “this intensely Twittery point in time” and I was super interested to speak with her about this. She brings up an interesting point around social media spats, that “disagreeing with someone might not actually be the same as completely hating them”. I absolutely love Polly’s responses, and hope you enjoy reading her answers as much as I did.

 

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Emma: When I have writer’s block I just pick a book of the shelf and read and it calms me and prompts new ideas. What do you do when you feel stuck?

Polly Vernon: I don’t really get writer’s block. Some days are much, much easier and more productive than others, but whatever else, I’ll always sit down for two or three hours, and plough on. A few halting pages of crap on one day might well change into something decent when you work on them the following day; in fact, they almost always do. I do however walk for as many hours as I write. So I’ll write for three hours in the morning, walk for three hours in the afternoon. Walking always frees up my head and makes the words come more easily the next time I open my Mac.
 
E: How did it feel the first time you saw your book on the shelf?
 
P: The first time I saw my book as proof, and physically held it, was amazing. You’re like; WOAH! IT’S A BOOK! But as for seeing it on shelves… that was a weird experience, partly because my face was plastered all over it which felt odd, exposing actually, and partly because my book proved incredibly divisive when it was first published. People either loved it or loathed it, and no one wasted any time in telling me on Twitter and so on… That was very complicated and it kicked off from just before my book hit the shelves; so when seeing it at first I was wrapped up in all that drama. Now, a few months in, when it’s all settled down, it does feel really good to see it there. Although being confronted by your face is kinda peculiar. You keep wondering if anyone’s clocked you, effectively looking at yourself.

E. Do you ever read your books when they are published?
 
P: Yes, because I’ve done a few literary festivals and they often start with a reading. I wrote Hot Feminist very quickly, in under six months, and so inevitably there are flaws in it, and that’s annoying. I repeat the word ‘actually’ MUCH TOO MUCH. At the same time, in terms of tone and fundamental message, it is everything I wanted it to be, so it’s quite cool to revisit it. It’s also lovely to read it to an audience and have them respond, laugh at the funny bits etc.
 
E. Do you read Amazon or have Google Alerts, or do you tend to not read too many of your book reviews?
 
P: No, I avoid like the plague. Writers are a bloody hyper sensitive bunch, you’ve got to be sensitive – to your own feelings, and to other people’s feelings – to write at all, otherwise it doesn’t work. But that does mean reviews and comments feel super-intense, it’s impossible not to be impacted by them. On top of which, like most women, I am infinitely more inclined to believe the shitty ones than I am the good ones, and as I got a wide selection of both with Hot Feminist, I realised pretty quickly it was best not to seek them out.
 
E:  Your book cover! How involved were you in choosing the way it looked? 
 
P: Nothing! It came as a big fat surprise. Hodder, my publishers, asked me for an authors portrait, I sent them a recent shot which had been taken when I was interviewing Lena Dunham for Grazia, a few weeks later, I got the proofs back and bam! I was all over them! It was a shock initially, and it took me a bit of time to get my head round it, but I do think it’s a good cover. Love the colouring on it. It’s hard to say OH MY GOD I LOVE THAT PIC OF MY OWN HEAD ISN’T IT FAB?, obviously, BUT I do think it’s appropriate and the book is ultimately about me, so…
 
E: Do you ever write in your phone notes, or in any strange places other than your computer?
 
P: Constantly! So when I’m on my long long walks, I note and note on my phone. With that book particularly, which was so much about ideas and the structuring of them, noting on the go is crucial. I resist doing it in the middle of the night though, I love sleep, I need sleep to operate, and middle-of-the-night ideas generally aren’t all that.
 
E: Do you let any of your family/friends read your material before it’s sent off?
 
P: I select a very few friends whose opinion I trust, but who I know will also be gentle and encouraging, and let them see it, but only if I believe they really want to. Can’t imagine anything worse than inflicting it on people for whom reading it would be a chore.
 
E: Do you identify as a fangirl, and if so, who do you fangirl over?
 
P: I don’t like the expression ‘fangirl’ especially, but I totally identify as a fan. I’m a massive, raging fan, I adore the experience of being a fan; I have been a blissful fan of so many things, for the whole of my life. Starting, I think, with the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Cats. I get regularly completely lost and obsessed in and by things. The extent to which I love Game Of Thrones is faintly weird, for example. I think it’s hugely important to be able to give yourself up to celebrating and admiring and mindlessly adoring like that. It’s such a gorgeous aspect of life. Anyone who considers themselves slightly above it, slightly too arch, smart and cynical to give themselves up to being a fan, is either a weirdo or lying.
 
E: Whats the best thing and worst thing about writing a book?
 
P: It’s an amazing thing to do. You’re voicing all this stuff you think and believe, you’re getting it out there, you’re just maybe impacting the debate and the conversation, and that’s incredible. I’ve loved doing the literary festivals – especially Hay – but the best thing that happened to me by far was watching a girl on the tube, sitting just across from me and reading the book, and she was SO into it. It was incredible and moving.
The worst thing is that putting new ideas out there, at this intensely Twittery point in time, can be a little like locking yourself in medieval stocks, and then inviting the world to throw rotten fruit at you. We seem to be increasingly polarised and increasingly extreme, and to believe that if something or someone isn’t saying stuff we already think or have already heard, stuff we know we’re comfortable with, then they are completely wrong, and have to be eviscerated, on the spot. We don’t seem cool with the idea that different perspectives can coexist with ours, that disagreeing with someone might not actually be the same as completely hating them, everything they are, and everything they represent. It’s a shame: it’s uncreative, and it’ll lead to a stagnating debate and an awful lot of fear if it carries on. I address all of this in the book; even so, I wasn’t prepared for how it’d feel when it rained down upon me. And it was tough. No question. Having said which, I’ve started a second book, so…

You can order Polly’s book Hot Feminist here

Why Timehop gives me anxiety

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At first I loved Timehop. Hurrah, I thought, a way of checking back on my social media history and seeing what I was up to last year, or many moons ago. A way of calculating just how far I’d come, since my dodgy internship, or bad ex-boyfriends, or awful haircuts.

I could compare my “career movements” and think to myself: “wow a lot has happened in two years!” It was a way of remembering birthdays, too; any picture from a big family party would be mean, eek, it’s nearly [insert person]’s birthday, if not today! Quick, get them on the phone!

But then, over time, it wasn’t so fun looking back. It wasn’t as funny. Things were going well and continuing to go well in my every day life, but looking back into the past would catch me off guard on an emotional day and quickly change my mood. It was starting to get me down. That exact ranty Facebook status I would re-read from 2008 would catapult me right back to that moment, remembering exactly how awful I felt, trying to cover it up with a sarcastic joke. It was like seeing a old friend who still had the same problems, and flinching slightly when they say they’d changed, but they hadn’t. Not really.

My present tense was nicer. Timehop was just full of mistakes – some I really would have preferred to forget, or at least delete.

I would check my Timehop and I’d see a message to a friend I no longer talk to, because we fell out. Or I’d see a tweet I’d sent to someone who I admired three years ago who ignored me, or a selfie of me snogging a past flame. Or quite simply I’d see a photo of a fantastic holiday that I wish I was still on. In short: my own social media history (good and bad) was starting to haunt me and I didn’t see the point is bringing up old memories that weren’t constructive or helpful to my future.

Put simply, A-Few-Years-Ago-Me would make me cringe.

I wondered why I found it difficult to reflect back each day, and then I realised: I didn’t always like A-Few-Years-Ago-Me. Looking back my posts are full of naivety and too much people-pleasing, and I can’t bear to be reminded of it. A-Few-Years-Ago-Me was confused, she was embarrassing, she was too-much, she was relentless. I should probably not slag her off too much though. She was trying. My god she was trying.

Maybe I still am still relentless to a certain degree, maybe I still do put “too much” out there. My friends tell me that I “don’t stop”.

But now, it’s a different kind of busy. I’m in really happy middle ground of being in control, doing what I love, knowing my boundaries, and having achievable goals that keep me on my toes. I don’t need to look back. Looking back can distract you from the magic of what’s to come.

Memories are a good thing. A lovely thing. But there’s a reason we collate a book of photographic memories that we choose to save. The ones we want to print out and keep. Being reminded of what you were like on social media each day, for me, isn’t the same as keeping warm and fuzzy memories. It’s being reminded of a boring shit day at work, or a joke that flopped, or an argument, or an angry tweet to TFL or a weird news story that means nothing to us now.

So I’ve deleted Timehop. I don’t want to look at an old photo of me next to a sick bucket at a teenage party, or a period of time at University that I hated, or an awful tweet from 2008. Why would I want to dig up the past, when there is so much to look forward to in front of me? In all honesty, I love my life now too much to constantly look back on the mundane of my past and all those in-between days that didn’t make me happy. I have different ways of keeping my best memories close to me.

 

BOOKS, BOOKS, BOOKS! August 2015 picks

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Books I’ve Read This Month:

  • Magic Lessons – Elizabeth Gilbert (Riverhead Books): Unfortunately I can’t say anything about this book as I am under strict embargo until SEPTEMBER 22ND when this book is out! Will report back then, and tell you ALL ABOUT THIS WONDERFUL BOOK.
  • I Remember Nothing – Nora Ephron (Black Swan): I find the ageing process really interesting, and I love reading from writers who are older and wiser in which I take any pieces of advice from. I adore Nora Ephron’s writing and I highlighted so many pages that I want to re-read again and again. I forget how funny she is in her writing – this book is endearing but also really really funny in places.
  • Love Sick – Jessie Cave (Ebury): I adore Jessie Cave’s Instagram full of all her funny doodles that totally sum up the complications of 2015 life. They are so simple yet so TRUE and I find myself sharing them with all my friends. So having a book of all her best doodles that I can keep is a lovely thing to have. Follow her here: @pindippy.
  • Landline – Rainbow Rowell (Orion Books): This is one of my absolute faves from Rainbow (one of my favourite fiction authors). I like how the chapters are quite short and it’s heavy with peppy dialogue. I found it really easy to read and got through it VERY quickly (in a good way).
  • Higher Ed – Tess McWatt (Scribe): I loved this book! The chapters alternate between the main five characters and you get to know them really well. A up close and personal look at the ups and downs of finding love, in London. It’s been described as a “great novel of contemporary London for readers of Zadie Smith”.
  • Lucky – Alice Sebold (Picador) – As use HUGE fan of Lovely Bones, I picked this up in a second hand shop and had no idea she had written a memoir. This is book has a brutal opening, leaving you totally gripped, shocked and angry, and you feel every single word. I was crying through most of it with a huge lump in my throat – but I also just read this book in totally awe because of the bravery and the beautiful art of her writing.
  • Bad Girls Go Everywhere – Jennifer Scanlon (Penguin): This is a biography of the life of Helen Gurley Brown and I’ve been dipping into it for the last few weeks, finally getting round to finishing it. I loved learning more about the editor in chief of Cosmopolitan magazine, finding it fascinating learning about her life, relationship, career – and also her feminist ethos which people branded “lipstick feminism” calling her “problematic”. I reflected on so many different areas of this book. Super interesting read.
  •  What To Do When It’s Your Turn – Seth Godin (Self-published): I’m a huge huge fan of Seth Godin so when I saw this book being advertising through a video I bought it asap. It’s a big colourful printed magazine-style book with lots of inspirational quotes and life lessons. Anyone that is interested in furthering themselves and their career/life should read this book. Very, very insightful.
  • Too Much Information – Dave Gorman (Ebury): This is a really hilarious book about how the Internet gives us ~way too much info~ and how to muddle through. Chapter titles include If Everyone Checks The Internet For Everything Then What Happens When the Internet Gets it Wrong? I love these funny long chapter titles.
  • The People’s Platform, Taking back Power & Culture in The Digital Age – Astra Taylor (Macmillan) – Yes I’m a MASSIVE GEEK so I really really enjoyed this book. It’s quite serious and informational, so it took me a while to get through, have been dipping in and out for a few months. For anyone who is interested in the Internet, politics, movements and technology, this is a must-read.

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Books On Next Month’s Reading List

  • Killing Monica – Candace Bushnell (Little, Brown) – I’m going to see a talk with Candace Bushnell next month so this is on my list to finish before I go along to that! Here’s a bit from the blurb: “Bushnell spoofs and skewers her way through pop culture, celebrity worship, fame and even the meaning of life itself, when a famous writer must resort to faking her own death in order to get her life back from her most infamous creation – Monica.”
  • Fear of Dying by Erica Jong (Canongate) – This is on it’s way to me, and I’m looking forward to reading it. Fear of Flying sold 27 million copies in forty languages, so this is the exciting follow up. Here’s some words from the press release: “she mixes her trademark sharp, clever prose with poetic poignancy to bring us her new novel, Fear of Dying,  the story of a woman who never wants to give in to fear.  Out 29thOctober, Fear of Dying follows the life of Vanessa Wonderman as she watches her parents age, attends doctor appointments with her pregnant daughter, and sits by the hospital bed of her most recent husband, Asher, fifteen years her senior.”
  • The Marriages Of Opposites – Alice Hoffman (Simon & Schuster): I cannot wait to dig into this badboy! A little bit from the blurb: Rachel’s life is not her own. She is married off to a widower with three children to save her father’s business. When her husband dies suddenly and his handsome, much younger nephew, Frédérick, arrives from France to settle the estate, Rachel seizes her own life story, beginning a defiant, passionate love affair that sparks a scandal that affects all of her family. (I love a scandal).
  • Sophia Khan is Not Obliged – Ayisha Malik (Twenty7 Books): I love love love the sound of this book. Described as “the Muslim Bridget Jones”, the book stars Sofia Khan, a cynical yet firmly religious book publicist. Between battles to pray in the medical room at work and relatives imploring her to get married, Sofia somehow finds herself tasked with writing a book about the Muslim dating world, despite vowing to remain celibate and single. But might she find true love in the process?
  • The Self-Esteem Team’s Guide to Sex, Drugs and WTFS (John Blake): With a foreword by Zoella this book aims to guide teens around areas of self-esteem and mental health. Looking forward to reading this, and interviewing the authors for a review.
  • We Don’t Know What We’re Doing – Thomas Morris (Faber): I bought this at the Edinburgh Book Festival because I liked the cover. ‘Nuff said.
  • Also a selection of BEAUTIFUL new collection of Penguin books that are made by hand, which are honestly the most gorgeous books I own. Six of Penguin’s most popular recent fiction books have been redesigned using embroidery, crochet and quilting – so lovely to the touch.

 

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This week…..on the Internet

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Photography: Liv Purvis

Some random things I’ve been involved in, because why not. Ooooooh I’M CURATING.

  • I went on a podcast with Dave Booda and we talked writing & creativity, was really fun.
  • I wrote a thing for FEMSPLAIN (only the coolest bloody online mag for women in NYC, IN MY OPINION!). It’s about jealously and how to ~actually~ be happy for other people.
  • I was interviewed by with the one and only Liv Purvis on her blog What Olivia Did. It was so fun. We chatted in a café in London Fields. What a lovely woman she is.
  • I also did a little interview with Mia Holt over on her blog about writing, books, working at Glamour.
  • Another interview (soz) – cool online shop called Brand Attic also interviewed me and I tried some of there lovely clothes out.

Threatened on the train

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I don’t think I’ve ever written about this experience before. But I was suddenly reminded of it when reading a brilliant piece by Daisy Buchanan on the Guardian called I’m tired of being nice to creepy men to stay safe. This piece couldn’t have resonated more with me, because I too, have been polite and quiet to men who have accosted me on the street, on public transport, in corner shops, walking home; because we’ve been told so many times to “lay low” and “stay quiet” and essentially just “play nice” until we wait for the aggressive person to get bored and hopefully sidle off.

“Make them feel like you want to be friends” someone once said to me when I asked what to do if you feel like you’re being followed. I thought this was strange advice: why do you have to pretend to be nice to someone you don’t want near you? For me it’s always been a fingers-crossed-moment of “please just go away”. But you are suddenly, scarily totally out of control. You can’t make them go away.

A few months ago, I was sitting on a train that waiting in Liverpool Street station to depart on it’s way to Hackney. I was sat in a nearly empty carriage, around 7pm, playing with my iPhone, reading tweets and just burying myself into my phone in the way I always do on trains. It’s a way of just shutting out the world and I’m never totally aware of my surroundings when I’m engrossed in reading someone’s blog post on my phone. Maybe that’s not the cleverest thing to do. But if you look busy on your phone I was always think it’s a universal sign of “don’t talk to me”.

I’d get this train most days, so it was just another day. Just another train journey. A man, rough around the edges with dirty fleece sat in front of me. But I made no judgements, smiled quickly, and carrying on tapping away on my phone. However I suddenly noticed crumpled cans in his fleece pocket.

“I like your shoes”. He said.

I looked up, and said thank you, politely. Even from that random “compliment” I was just hoping that’s all Fleece Man would say to me for the rest of the journey. Mainly because I longed for the peace and quiet. I had podcasts waiting to be listened to.

“So what job do you do?”

I noticed two other passengers enter the train door and take their seats just behind me, a bit further down into the carriage. I started growing hot in my cheeks, embarrassed that this man was asking me a personal question about my life, and for everyone else to overhear. I know people like to make conversation but I just wanted to go home. I just felt awkward and I didn’t want to talk. I carried on being polite.

I took a breath to answer but I got interrupted –

“I said, what job do you do?”

“I’m…a journalist,” I reluctantly replied, still polite, still agreeable.

“Why are you trying to ignore me on that stupid phone?”

His voice got louder.

He’d switched his tone.

“I said why are you fucking ignoring me?”

He went to snatch my phone, and before I knew it, a tall man with a bald head and over-sized shirt came over. He picked up Fleece Man by the scruff of his fleece and literally, like a cartoon, threw him off the train. The train was still stationary in the station, with the underneath cogs beginning to whirr and purr beneath us. Fleece Man was in a crumpled heap by the station wall, looking totally confused, like an episode of Tom and Jerry when Jerry has been hit in the head with a pair of cymbals. Bald Man marched back on the train, rubbing his hands together, like he’d just won something at a fairground game. His heavy work shoes stomped down the carriage. He didn’t even look at me, he just sat down in his seat again, and picked up the newspaper and carried on reading from where he’d put it down.

I felt ridiculous. I’d just been verbally abused by a man in front of me, but I’d heavily relied on the man behind me to “protect” me. That’s exactly what he did. He totally saved the situation because it was *just* on the brink of getting nasty and he swooped in like some Bald Superhero. He’d marched on over, like an angry teacher, or partner or Dad, and got rid of the nuisance, like a spider I didn’t want near me. I couldn’t have got rid of this nuisance in such a way, I wouldn’t have known the best way to get rid of it, or avoid the situation. I couldn’t have picked up Fleece Man and threw him away from me. I had to do the “polite thing”. The fact of the matter was: Bald Man was bigger than him. The “solution” that he’d come up with could not have been a solution if I was on my own.

I’m not saying that Bald Man did the right thing, after all Fleece Man probably had a hard time getting up after slamming into the wall, and I’m not going to sit here and condone physical violence. But, a part of me was totally relieved that I didn’t have to deal with it for the rest of the train journey especially as I could tell this guy was on a time-ticker, about to either steal by phone or start physically attacking me. And when a train is moving there’s no where to really go. I could see it in his eyes he was about to lose it. Maybe my “politeness” wound him up even more.

I didn’t thank Bald Man, although I tried to attract his eye on exiting the platform just to give a nod of “thanks, I think”. I don’t know what to make of this story. Of course the solution isn’t relying on someone to “step in”. Maybe all I’m trying to say is that women being harassed on public transport is still a problem and there’s no clear cut guide-book on “how to act in [insert uncomfortable situation]”. I often wonder how it would have panned out if Bald Man didn’t step in. Would I have continued being polite? Would I have stood up to him? Would I have run away?

How would you have reacted, without getting into further trouble?

How to think up new ideas when you’re stuck

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buy a new notepad that you’re sexually attracted to

go for a walk, alone, with no phone

you might feel awkward, but no distractions is good

go for dinner with someone you love

really talk. listen. talk. listen.

look up someone you used to know

are they different now?

sit on the top deck of the bus

go for a drink with an old, old friend

ask: what irritates you?

watch a random documentary

go to a second-hand bookstore, pick up the dustiest-looking one

google the author

talk to the book shop owner, they will know everything

ask book shop owner their favourite book

ask book shop owner their favourite character in a book

meet up with a random person of Twitter

(check they’re not a murderer first)

download a podcast, ps. I made a list here.

pick up a book of your bookshelf you’ve never read

do you like it? or hate it? why?

drink some wine

or beer

only a bit, though

have a nap and write down the first things you think of

same with longer sleeps, and dreams

sit on a train with a piece of paper up your sleeve

no pressure

people watch at your favourite café

see anything weird?

discover new blogs

look at old photos

feels horrible

download Timehop again

do something mind-numbing, like hoovering or tidying your wardrobe

let your mind wander while doing the mind-numbing thing

ask a friend their funniest memory

shower. good ideas happen in the shower

watch an interview on YouTube with a celebrity/public figure you love

watch an interview on YouTube with a celebrity/public figure you hate

write down a quote they say

go to the cinema on your own

go somewhere with no WIFI

DOODLE

write a hand-written letter to someone

don’t plan what you’re going to say

read the ending of your favourite book again

think up a different ending

write an open letter to anything, anyone

be angry about something in the news

imagine your dreamiest scenario

read a trashy magazine

listen to random conversations on the bus

email someone who lives in another country, ask them questions about it

go a new place anywhere new

read your favourite blogs

find a clever new writer

go to a vintage shop and dig around

just write anything

delete everything

write some more

I accidentally sabotage my friend’s diets

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This article first appeared on thedebrief.co.uk.

Here’s a fun little question for you: what’s the one thing worse than being on diet? Hanging out with a friend or even worse, a group of friends that are on a diet.

I feel the same amount of disappointment every time a friend turns down a hearty meal in favour of “just a starter-size salad for me, thanks” as I would were she to tell me she wasn’t going to drink any booze at my (hypothetical) wedding. Just JOIN IN, PLEASE, my inner child tantrums silently every time. Maybe it is slightly selfish, but I don’t like being made to feel guilty for wanting to unwind. And by unwind I mean eat lots of things that Dr Christian would tut at. I just my friends to be my partner in foody crime. Continue Reading

Scroll Models: Is It Unfair To Ask Popular Bloggers To Be Role Models?

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A collaborative post written and edited by Katie Oldham and Emma Gannon
Photos: Katie Oldham @scarpheliablog

Last week, I had an interesting conversation with my friend Katie, who currently lives in New York. As so often these daily chats do, it quickly turned from a passionate rant and into mini essays upon a theme of something that bothered us equally – the consideration of bloggers, YouTubers and online content creators as ‘role models’. And so this was the spark that began to form the basis of a joint endeavour. A collab post? A round table? A gin and tonic think piece? Whatever you could call it, we present to you:

Scroll models: is the culture of internet fandom stripping online content creators of their humanity?
“Something I’ve noticed recently, is that a lot of very highly-followed bloggers are getting cosmetic surgery and blogging about it.” Katie began, in one of the many emails we exchanged. Funnily enough, I’d just seen a big YouTuber announce on Twitter she was getting dental veneers.

Continue Reading

Digging Deep: I’m Bringing Out The Blog Archives

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1. Even Lady Gaga Needs A Night In (2012)

About how Lady Gaga admitting she has nights in watching Will & Grace made me feel so much better about life.

2. A Happy Environment Makes People Work Harder (2012)

About how (for me) nice people make me work harder for them. I’m not a fan of tough love at work.

3. The Future Of Journalism (2014)

I went to talk and it got me thinking about the industry. Skip if you’re not in the mood for “industry chat”.

4. Miley Cut Off All Her Hair and So Did I (2012)

Yep, Miley cut her hair, so did I. And I felt free.

Continue Reading

Meeting Amy Schumer

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Yes, my face looks like a startled rabbit.

We sat in a beautiful hotel room in central London wiping our laptop screens because we didn’t want our computers to have a speck of dirt on them for our Big Moment meeting Queen Amy Schumer. Amy walked into the room with tousled blowdried hair and a cup of coffee, and said: “look at you all – you look heavenly” and BAM: she made us feel really welcome and comfortable within 30 seconds of meeting her. We were doing a Twitter takeover for GLAMOUR, and she said to her sister (who is also her road manager) that she wanted do a tweet: “errrr does anyone know my password?”

We were already chuckling. She is, as you’d expect, just naturally funny. You know what I mean: it’s often not what is said, but how it is said. Amy could read a shopping list and I think I would still honk. Yes she is controversial. Yes her publicist was shaking her head a little bit at her responses. But hey: Amy is Amy.

“You won’t believe what happened this morning” she said, and I suddenly forgot we were in a posh hotel room doing an important interview but as if we were just catching up over a hot drink as she told us the details of how she’d just been on Lorraine (the TV show) and they’d set her up with an interview with Gaby Roslin, who she accidentally called Lorraine, because she thought that it was Lorraine. I mean, how was she to know? She’d never been on Lorraine before. “The producers didn’t f*cking tell me!” We all tutted, felt annoyed for Amy and very much on her side. Reading a ridiculous tabloid headline (Amy Schumer calls Gaby Roslin ‘Lorraine’ during Lorraine and it’s really awkward) about the celebrity when the celebrity is sat right next to you makes it all very real and a tad unpleasant. Celebrities aren’t made of other materials. Amy was fine about it, but you could tell it still wasn’t totally ideal when she was just trying to promote her film. And how unfair; we agreed that if anyone of us ever went on an American talk show we wouldn’t have a clue what any of the hosts look like. Such an easy mistake to make.

Before we got started we had an unexpected guest walk into the room and Amy introduced him like a random friend she had: “You guys this is Judd.” We know exactly who you are, we thought to ourselves. You’re Judd Apatow.

We then rolled right into the interview which consisted of reading out tweets that had been sent in from Glamour readers and die-hard Schumer fans and every single answer was effortlessly witty. No answer was generic or dull. We loved it. My favourite quote of hers: “love yourself like your own mother”. She gave Ella (my lovely GLAMOUR colleague) advice for her Tinder bio, and she told us about her BFF J-Law.

Go and see Trainwreck, out September 14th. Like Amy, it’s very very good fun.

You can read the round up of tweets here on GLAMOUR.com.

 

Interviewing author Holly Bourne: “Writing a book is like carving out a piece of your soul”

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Emma: I’m interested in the different ways writer’s overcome writer’s block. What do you do when you feel stuck?

Holly: I go for very, very long walks. And sometimes cry. Sometimes I cry and walk at the same time. Eventually it does the trick.

E: How did it feel the first time you saw your book on the shelf?

H: Totally surreal, but in a very good way. That said, once you get a book published, it drastically alters your experience of bookshops. You can no longer just browse and enjoy. You’re always like, “Is my book in? Where is it? WHY ISN’T IT THERE? I HATE EVERYTHING AND EVERYONE, WHY DID I EVEN BOTHER…hang on…there it is. I LOVE this bookshop!”

E. Do you ever read your books after they are published?

H: No, never. I’m sick to death of them by then. By the time a book is actually out, I must’ve read it a minimum of eight or nine times. I also find it strangely cringe… but I’m glad other people read them once they’re published.

E: Do you read Amazon or have Google Alerts, or do you tend to not read too many of your book reviews?

H: I try not to. Writing a book is like carving a piece of your soul out, cradling it in your hands, and then thrusting it into people’s faces, crying, “Do you like my soul? Do you? Do you?” You really don’t want to be around for the moment they say, “You know what? I think your soul is a bit naff.”

E: Any advice for people looking for literary agents? What do you think is the most important thing about that relationship?

H: You need to have the same taste in books. Yes, I know that sounds obvious. But if you don’t like the books on your targeted agent’s list, they’re not going to like your manuscript. My top advice is to spend a LOT of time on your synopsis and covering letter. You only get one shot to pitch your book, make it count. Also, the Writer’s & Artist’s Yearbook has excellent advice and is well worth reading when you’re starting to submit.

E: Your book cover is really great. How involved were you in choosing it?

H: Isn’t it amazing?! I’m afraid I can take zero credit for it, and leave it all to the amazing talented Will Steele and Neil Francis at Usborne publishing. Publishers never mentally prepare you for seeing a front cover. You just tend to get a random email out of nowhere going, “Here it is!” Luckily, with all of my books, it’s always been a good surprise.

E: Do you ever write in your phone notes, or in any strange places other than your computer?

H: The whole plot of The Manifesto On How To Be Interesting arrived in my brain when I was at the National Gallery one weekend. I had to spend an absurd amount of money on a posh notebook and pen from the gift shop and then scribbled as much of it down as I could on the steps out front.

E: Do you let any of your family/friends read your material before it’s sent off?

H: I don’t let anyone NEAR my drafts until I’ve given it at least one big edit. Then – ahh man, I’m going to sound like such a saddo – but my beta readers are my parents! They always read my books first. They’re pretty brutal actually, there’s no mollycoddling. If they don’t like something, they’ll say.

E: Do you identify as a fangirl, and if so, who do you fangirl over?

I AM A FANGIRL AND I AM PROUD! Honestly, what the freaking f*ck is wrong with people who have an issue with humans being positive about other humans? Positivity is infectious, and it breeds energy, rather than sucking it out of places.

I had a near religious experience at the Taylor Swift Hyde Park gig. I fangirl her HARD. And, umm…well…I’ve been known to get a bit…enthusiastic (e.g. NUTSO) about Harry Potter. I also think Elizabeth Gilbert is personally responsible for any positive decision I’ve made in my life and cried like a child when I met her.

I could go on…

10. What’s the best thing about writing YA?
Teenagers can be tough to write for – but if they like your books, they like your books harder than diamonds/cement/other hard stuff. Honestly, the emails I get from teen readers. About 90% of them make me cry with joy.

You can buy/order Holly’s book Am I Normal Yet, here.

AmINormalYetcover

A Letter To Laura

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Dear Laura,

WHAT is going on!!!!!! This is all so insane!!!!!

You have an e-book that is being downloaded by people all around the world! You’re doing the thing that the Internet was made for. I’m so into this book you wrote that I have it on multiple devices, you know, for emergencies.

You said “no” to the things you hate, and you were fierce with yourself and you saved and you scrimped and you moved away and you wrote an amazing powerful e-book.

Yes you’re my friend but no this isn’t biased because I know this book would have found me anyway. I move in tribes on the Internet, with the people who like and share the things I’m into. So I know I would have found it, because if would have weaved its way through a spider’s web of tweets and filtered down to my newsfeed from a random retweet somehow, I just know it.

Can we talk about this indirect pep-talking from a different country thing? At the moment, I miss seeing you IRL but you’re in my pocket or the front zip off my bag at all times via my phone. The fact that things are happening at the moment and feels weirdly spookily dare I say “magical”? Sometimes you are pep-talking me directly and for that I thank you, but for the most part just following your life is turning into a pep-talk.

We’ve been watching each other do our thing for a while now, not from the beginning, but for enough time to watch things change, grow, sprout? Not sure what the word is. I’m watching you absolutely cement your outlook on life and it’s made me do the same. Things, ideas and opinions do change, I mean we’re still in our twenties so god knows what epiphanies are yet to come, but I feel like you are have been writing in stone your manifesto, who you are and what you’re trying to achieve. The idea of cementing “this is me” down is surely quite a freeing thing to do, even though it is commitment. But we can commit to that at least: knowing who we are. The foundations at least. And any extra discoveries made along the way is a bonus, because we learn something about ourselves every day. Your blog is a destination not to just read, but to get back in touch with the Real World and Real Feelings. The Monday newsletter you send out really DOES make a difference, and I’m sure a lot of people agree with me on that one. It’s like you’re saying: “yes it’s Monday, but here’s a little something to lift you up. Thank me later.”

Download Laura’s e-book called The Book Of Brave here.

If you’re ready to dive into the discovery of asking yourself what you really want, then you won’t regret reading this. It’s not self-help or advice, it’s simply Laura’s honest narrative and I know it’s already helped me get braver. Because: bring it on, world.

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Love you, Laura.

A note to myself: on creativity

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Sometimes, it feels as though I am pushing up against a brick wall.

Sometimes, being “creative” is a constant uphill struggle, constantly fighting for your right to create something with your bare hands in a world of gridded paper, calculators, grey suits and traditional ways of doing things.

The work itself doesn’t always have to be difficult, but how I feel when I explain what my life goal is, often is. The world, sometimes, doesn’t want you to create stuff because that would mean unpredictability(How will you make money? It’s not good for you to spend so much time alone writing. You should work in a Proper Job and have a Proper Life.)

It’s outside of your norm. Well, it’s outside of their norm. It’s shocking too, sometimes. Not so much for you, but for them: What? You did that? When? How? Why? When did you have time to do that? It’s easier for you to just sit at a 9-5, at the same desk, for the same of time, every day. And just do that. On repeat. Your job and life could just be a song on iTunes, going around and around and…..

Even at school. People would roll their eyes at our drama class. (Apart from us and our drama teacher. We got it.) These classes were the opportunity for me to genuinely create, collaborate, brainstorm, think up ideas, communicate in new ways, and take risks. Auditioning for a part, for example. This taught me how to be scared, to be confident, to sell myself, to believe that something was for me to take. We talked. And talked. And talked. I would get out extra books on Bertolt Brecht and Stanislavski and read them all. There was so much silence at school. Be quietBe quietBe quiet. But in these lessons I got to know my friends even better, which I didn’t think was possible. What happened in that studio gave us private jokes to last a lifetime. You remember more vividly the things you love, don’t you? When I close my eyes is one of the one memories of school I really truly have. We were free to create.

Then.

We are cutting the arts funds. 

We are cutting it. 

That’s what society tells you. Stop messing around with art. Kids ask: why? Because it’s just what people do. I would feel guilty from breaking away from that. From realising that the time spent in my own free time was time spent selling in the ideas that would eventually make me money. The stuff I did (which meant pushing against what I thought I should be doing) was the best work of my life. So far.

But then I wrote a note to myself: There’s so much more where that comes from. It wasn’t a choice though, because this little bubble inside me was about to burst if I didn’t keep on creating. I realised, so sharply, that if I stopped writing on this blog, if I stopped writing book proposals and books or ideas for publications that I would dry up. I’m not trying to take over the world here, just please let me do it. Just let me do it at 3am if I have to. Sometimes, it’s not for anyone else, it’s just for you, you know, your own mental health? I could imagine it: watching the sad little tale unfold before my eyes. The soul of a girl who used to fall asleep with a pen in her hand staining the duvet with ink, with half an idea written down and half the idea still on the pillow; the soul that used to burn would be shrivelled up to the size of a raisin because of boring expectations of boring lives. Don’t kill it off, it would be a shame. Keep alight that flickering little furnace that lights up in my stomach to tell me something is brewing. It is boiling up, forming itself, and then out it comes, from my fingers, from my body, out of the top of head. Sometimes you get knock-backs; a bad response to something you were proud of, or having to re-do something that got lost, or you get interrupted and your idea gets swept away with the wind.

Don’t peer over my shoulder please. I can’t tell you how much I need to be alone right now.

But recently, I’ve had a strength in me that feels different. The days I create are the days I fill full, happy, satisfied, a similar feeling after your favourite meal but it’s something you get to keep forever. I don’t buy into “not having time”, I don’t buy into “but it doesn’t pay my bills”. I buy into: finding the time to do thing you enjoy doing whenever you possibly can, even if everyone and everything is pointing towards “no”. Ignoring your gut is so dangerous.

Call creativity what you want. Call it hobby, call it job, call it a calling but to me it’s a lifestyle that is crucial to who I am as a human-being, and what makes me feel like I’m actually living as opposed to just dragging myself around. Creativity and the art of writing, photography, making, communicating isn’t something anyone can ever take away from you. It’s a life that you have to go and get. The more you put out there, the more that will come back to you.

I only ask for one thing in response, and that’s for no one to ever expect me to stop. You don’t have to read it. But I am never stopping. Being a creative person is a part of who you are, like an organ. Exactly like an organ. I refuse to do boring things, and I refuse to do something because it’s what everyone seems to be doing. I will always do it. I will always be right here writing and creating and publishing and sharing.

Now, where was I? Oh yes, planning my next thing.

 

Image source: @girllostincity, taken in Lisbon

Interviewing Rainbow Rowell about books, fangirls and WRITING

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Some days are better than others. That’s just how it works. And today, my interview with Rainbow Rowell has been published on GLAMOUR and I am sat here just thinking how much I adore her and her books and how happy I am to have had some PERSONAL CONTACT with such a brilliant and talented author such as Rainbow.

The interview is published on the Glamour Magazine website here, do have a read.

I also asked Rainbow some extra more informal and nosy questions for my blog. So lucky readers, here is my another exclusive interview with the one and only Rainbow Rowell:

Emma: When I have writer’s block I just pick a book up of the shelf and read and it calms me and often prompts new ideas. What do you do when you feel stuck?

Rainbow: At first I just make myself keep going. I choose a scene and go, giving myself permission to write badly. But if I keep hitting a wall, I take a break. Sometimes you’re just exhausted, and it’s pointless to try.

E: How did it feel the first time you saw your book on the shelf?

R: It didn’t seem real. As someone who loves books, it just didn’t seem possible that I could make that leap and be that person.

E: Do you ever read your books again after they are published?

R: Hmm. No. I don’t go back, usually. I did reread Eleanor & Park when I was working on the screenplay. And I listened to some of the audiobook because I love the narrator so much.

E: Do you read Amazon or have Google Alerts, or do you tend to not read too many of your book reviews?

R: Oh, no. I don’t think that’s helpful. It’s nice to hear the compliments, but the criticisms are so much louder — and the meaner they are, the more they stay with you.

E: Any advice for people looking for literary agents? What do you think is the most important thing about that relationship?

R: Trust, probably. I’d say to just keep trying. And don’t let any one person’s opinion of your book get you down.
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E: I LOVE YOUR BOOK COVERS. They are my favourite of any author and so unique to your overall brand. How involved were you in choosing them? 

R: Thank you! My level of involvement really varies. I’m very active in my U.S. covers — lots and lots of talking about what I’m trying to accomplish with the book, the vibe and personality. I have less input (and rely more on luck) with my other covers. But I still weigh in.

E: Do you ever write in your phone notes, or in any strange places other than your computer?

R: I send myself texts sometimes. Or I’ll jot something down on paper. Usually I talk through my ideas with a friend, in depth, then makes lot of notes.

E: Do you let any of your family/friends read your material before it’s sent off?

R: It depends. My brother has already read my next book, Carry On, twice. I wanted his input as someone who reads a lot of fantasy. And my sister was the first person to read my book, Attachments,  long before it was done.

E: I love the title of Fangirl (and the book, obvs). Who do you fangirl over?

R: Oh, lots of things! For the last couple of years it’s been the TV show Sherlock. 

E: Oh and your name is amazing. Is there a story behind why you were named Rainbow?

R: Thank you — my mother thought it was a good idea. She doesn’t care much for convention. I never liked it as a child, but I’ve learned to appreciate it. Good luck with your book!

Hashtag, No Filter.

Spoiler: neither of these photos look like I did that day. And trust me, I could have made one MUCH more aesthetically pleasing, and the other one, oh I could have made it MUCH much worse. 

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Both of these filtered photos took no more than two minutes to tamper with on my phone. The first one I ran through a Photoshop app which automatically smooths out the lines on my face and adds a more “glowing complex” and the other one, the oompa loompa, is the result of the weird “structure” tool Instagram (which does nothing but add wrinkles you didn’t know existed) and I pumped up that saturation.

It’s so easy to not look like yourself these days. With a flick of a button I no longer look like the person in front of the camera. I have nothing against photo-editing tools, but I am against the idea of people these days spending more time staring at their phones editing pieces of own their face than actually LOOKING at their face in the mirror and taking care of it. It worries me; the idea that it doesn’t matter what our actual skin looks like because we can just edit it out. We can cover up so many things. It’s so easy. Editing tools are like having the best most expensive LA facialists on call 24/7. Like botox (so I’ve heard) I’m sure editing is just as addictive.

Could we get to the point where we are so addicted to editing the tiniest like strand of our hair for an Instagram photo that we don’t worry about nightly moisturiser or taking off all our make-up because, hey, we can just filter out those dark circles in 5-4-3-2-1…..

Because of course IRL still matters, but our validation comes through our phones.

Ping! You have a new “like”.

Someone “likes” your face.

People write about the curse of “Instagram Jealousy” but I can honestly say I just zone out to this now. I don’t get jealous of these Inspirational Instagrammers because I can tell the amount of effort that goes into doctoring the photo, like a game of Operation, carefully moving things around. I’m sure some photos are genuinely capturing a perfect lovely moment, but I’d rather go and capture my own lovely moment than give puppy-dog-eyes to a stranger’s life. I’m not being smug: I’m just saying I’d prefer to have the full story before I start to fantasise about someone else’s perfect life. I’m not going to dream up a reality from a tiny little snippety photo.  I don’t buy into a lifestyle, unless I know the person. I don’t expect anyone to buy into mine. Maybe because I feel there’s nothing to buy into. But that’s because I’ve always found imperfection 100 times more interesting. 

As a teen, I used to find those Abercrombie & Fitch models so creepy – those ones that used to hang around outside the stores trying welcoming you in. WHY ARE YOU A ROBOT MAN TRYING TO HUG ME.

“Buy into our lifestyle”, they’d say, without moving their faces.

Inspirational Instagrammers remind me of these sculpted creepy Abercrombie Models. I scroll through, liking my mate’s photos, and liking things that look pretty. Normally food. But really I just think: Look, I’m REALLY glad your burger looks so JUICY but I cannot eat it myself through my phone, so I don’t actually care! Sozzles! Enjoy though! I like Instagram, the layout, the way you can endlessly scroll, I love selfies of people I know because it’s like they’re saying a little “hello” with their face. But, I love looking at my own Instagram feed the most. And who doesn’t? This is mainly because it’s my own memories with the pictures prompting bigger reflections of all the stuff that went on behind the photo, all the stuff that cannot be captured in a still image. Our personal social feeds feed us. They are for are own emotions and viewing pleasure. I like looking back on my holiday photos, but honestly, fair play if you’re not that fussed about my European city break. Just like with your own family sunset photos, it’s a kind of “you had to be there thing.” Really, deep down, it’s just for us and anyone who wants to stumble across it.

We are free to share whatever the hell they want to, and what a joy it is. But I’m just saying, it’s OK to take these “aspirational” or “thinspirational” (or whatever they are called) Instagram accounts with a pinch of salt.

Because: who actually knows. You had to be there.

And ironically I bet the imperfect stuff behind the scenes was actually much more interesting than the photo.

Diary of a Fangirl

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“Fangirls” often get a bad name, don’t they? They scream a lot. They’re “dramatic”. They’re obsessive. They like YouTubers and One Direction. They love posters and blu tac. The actual dictionary definition is “a female fan, especially one who is obsessive about comics, film, music, or science fiction.”

But all boiled down, what does this really mean? a female human who is often really madly into something (usually cultural or artistic) and isn’t afraid to show it.

I am fan girl.

If I like something, or someone, I will tell them a million times how much I love it. I will go up to them at a party and say I like it, I will Instagram a copy of their book with lots of heart emojis. I will tell all my friends to buy their thing. I will tweet them compliments. I fangirl at my friends and I fangirl at random strangers.

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but this piece on the Telegraph entitled “fangirling your heroes in cheap and childish” rubbed me up the wrong way. I really really like the author of the piece’s work, so it’s nothing personal. It just made me reflect on the term “fangirl” and gave me some fodder for a blog post, and that’s always a good thing!

On reflection and after reading this article, I realised I don’t care about the stereotypes associated with being a so-called fangirl. I get really obsessed with things I like. I play songs on repeat for months. I still rip out articles and stick them in a diary. I order five books by the same author all at once. I stalk people on social media who I admire. I write long emails to people to tell them how their movie had an effect on me. I get really into people, things, culture, art, writing, books, paintings, places.

A few months ago I found a book from the seventies in an old library and wrote a very “fangirl” blog post about how much I liked it. The author, who is now in her 80s found my blog and email address and sent me an email. She said that her book was printed by a really obscure press and only a very few copies were ever made. She said we must be kindred spirits. I cried, which I know is weird but I felt like this was the magic of the Internet. This is what I’ve always loved about it. That the enjoyment of someone’s work can mean so much to someone. We carried on emailing, and she usually emailed me quickly while explaining she’d had to go, because she needed to take her sick husband to hospital for check-ups and couldn’t be on the computer for too long. It would really lift my mood hearing from her, my new friend, someone on the other side of the world, whose brilliant book taught me so many new things. The “fangirling” turned into having a new penpal. It was simple a way to connect. Back to basics.

I don’t care how fangirling at people LOOKS to the outside world. I do it because I want someone to know I like it. Sometimes it’ll be a public shout-out, sometimes private, usually both. In a nutshell: I want just want that person to know they have a new fan.

It’s probably worth mentioning that I am quite picky with what I fangirl at. I don’t go around absolutely loving everything and everyone – quite the opposite. I don’t think the term should be palmed off as being just a “teenage trait” of being really “into” stuff. To me it’s just part of having the type of personality that gets really inspired by their surroundings. I don’t ever want to change that for the fear of seeming childish. I don’t want to hold back any excitement over the things that make me happy.

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The article argues that “before Twitter, regular people would usually only offer such praise if they really meant it – mainly because finding someone’s email address or writing them a letter took a lot more effort.” There’s definitely a truth in that – instead of a quick “OMG I LOVE YOUR BLOG POST” you could instead email that person and say “dear xx, your blog post was truly inspiring because etc….” But, social networking has made it easier to drop someone a little note to say: I like what you’re doing. It’s important to tell people when you like their stuff. It builds confidence. Everyone likes a little boost. Everyone appreciates a compliment. We all know that someone saying: “you look great today” automatically means you WILL have a better day. Sending a tweet is easier than an email. I don’t think it’s “laziness” I think it’s the fact that we are able to do it in between odd jobs at work or on the commute home, it’s making it less of a task to sit down and write people lots of emails full of praise. We shouldn’t feel ashamed or silly for sending a nice message, especially as the Internet has very dark corners to it. I think sending the odd tweet to tell someone you’re a fan is one of the most redeeming qualities of social networking these days.

 

Over and out,

FROM A BIG INTERNET FAN GIRL.

XOOX

 

My most recent Instagram fangirl behaviour:

THE PROOF HAS JUST ARRIVED IN MY HANDS OF ELIZABETH GILBERT’S NEW BOOK:

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The Diary Of A Teenage Girl: Film review

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Tonight the lovely Liv Purvis of the blog What Olivia Did invited some fellow bloggers along to Soho Screening Rooms to watch a film I’ve been dying to see: The Diary Of A Teenage Girl. As someone who a) used to be a teenage girl b) reads her teenage diary out loud in pubs as part of Cringe UK and c) is writing a young adult book, I was super dooper excited to see this, especially as the rating (18) has had some controversy in the media this week.

You see, the film is based on the graphic novel (of the same name) by Phoebe Gloeckner, which tells the story of a 15 year old girl called Minnie Goetze who has a sexual relationship with someone she probably shouldn’t. (I’m paranoid of giving away spoilers!). The reason there was some questioning over the 18 rating is because of that sheer irony; the fact the young teenage girls who this film is for, can’t even go and see it. This makes me feel like there is some shame around young females having sex still. That is not a great message. The main protagonist is fifteen, and yet fifteen year old girls cannot legally see the film. The same target audience who enjoyed the novel are “not allowed” to see the film version.

Riiiiight.

I read a brilliant piece on Indy Voices by June Eric-Udorie who explained the situation:

“this film – written, produced and directed by women – was refused a 15 certificate by an all-male panel at the British Board of Film Classification last week. The BBFC stated the 18 certificate was given due to “strong sex scenes including mechanical thrusting.”

All-male panel. Cool.

Quite simply, this film is for teenage girls and anyone who used to be a teenager (so: anyone). I felt tears welling up in the corner of my eyes because I felt sad for Minnie, like I felt sad for my 15 year old self. I suddenly had those teenage feeling come flooding back: being 15 was totally completely UTTERLY exhausting. I too stood in front of the mirror naked prodding at my lumpy bits. I too remember squabbling with my sister but then also running into her room crying and wanting a hug. I too thought that most things didn’t have consequences.

I really do remember the awkwardness of that age: like a time I was at a party with one of my older sisters when I was 15 and vividly remember saying: “I hate being 15. I feel like a no-one. I’m not young enough to be care-free, and I’m not old enough to be able to join in with grown-up stuff.” I felt old enough to wear crop tops and try my first cigarette, yet I wasn’t allowed to stay up partying with the adults, and was still treated like a child.  It was just a bit “meh”. I spelt a lot of time in my bedroom making things, a lot like the character in this film.

I love that this film has a strong central character; a girl who is in control of her life, even though she is full of teenage hormones and insecurities. She is more of an adult that a lot of the actual “adults” in the film. She is totally honest about the power and weakness of being a girl-not-yet-a-woman (ALRIGHT BRITNEY!) I like her progression throughout the film, she really does grow and by the end, you feel like she will be totally OK. She is creative, brave, dramatic, mature, baby-like, sad, scared, sexual, angry, hopeful: she is all the things that teenage girls are.

AND YOU DON’T WANT TO MESS WITH HER. :)

In a nutshell: definitely go see this film, especially as you get to see Queen Kristin Wiig in a more serious role.

The Friendship Massacre

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You are in your twenties. Each day you’re finding out more about how you are. You have more people to please than before. You accumulated friends like you accumulated expensive vintage dresses. A dream career to follow. You have a bit more growing up to do.

Basically, reaching this crazily busy age is a “like a friendship massacre. There is blood all over the walls” described by my writing hero Ryan O’Connell. He’s right you know. You cannot do everything you are doing and keep all of those friends you’ve accumulated from the last twenty years. It’s physically and literally impossible. Sometimes you don’t actually “throw them out” you just “forget to wear them”. Or they forget you. 

And I’m glad he plucked up the courage to say it. Because it’s true. When you start working in a strenuous, emotionally-draining job, especially one you love, time is suddenly way more precious. The weeks are long and busy; with a tiny slither of light that is used as one’s “spare time”. I’ve never been very good at Maths but what I do know is that you can’t fit a square into a triangle. Some things just won’t fit, however hard you may try. We only see the people we really have time for. And ironically the average person has 157 Facebook Friends in the UK.

I have a really vivid memory of being on holiday in Portugal, very young. At a restaurant I remember asking my Mum about one of her friends, who had two daughters the same age as me who I’d “made friends with” years prior (aka cut the hair off some Barbie dolls together, the stuff 6-years-old do to “bond”). I asked her why we didn’t see them anymore. My Mum replied that they lived very very far away and that they weren’t as good friends anymore. I remember being mortified. Being at school at the time, constantly surrounded by hundreds of friends every day I was baffled at how you could just casually not see someone anymore. At school, we never ever thought we’d ever be separated. Ever.

You don’t just lose friends, little-me would think to myself. Friends don’t just “come and go”. 

Except they do.

Now, I get it. You can have friends for a month, a year, two years, three years, because at the time you had lots in common and it was all rosy. When I think of friends I’ve made over the years, from school, university, work, it’s fair to say only a few really stick. It’s like when you throw pasta on the wall to check it’s cooked. Only a few will stay without falling sloppily to the ground. It’s half chance, half deep-rooted connection that your best friends with stay with you until the bitter end. It’s rare that friends also stick with you when you discover your different hobbies and beliefs.

You all get taken down very different paths, and yet expected to enjoy chatting for 3 hours on the phone every night. Lucy Mangan’s piece in this week’s Stylist was interesting; she said “when you first get married, you often find yourself gravitating towards your married friends”. This must happen when babies hit the scene too. How depressing. 

Sometimes you will be disappointed by friends who “you’ve known forever” but cannot see past their own reflection. Some will get boyfriends and go way past the excusable “honeymoon period” into just plain laziness to socialise, and some will have different, random priorities that you just couldn’t have predicted.

We all know that there are different types of friends. There’s the:

a)     Best friends are just there all the time. You never leave each other alone.

b)     Mates that you love and will always be on any party invite list

c)     Coffee once a month friends who you both wish you saw more of

d)  Brand new mates who you are excited about getting to know

e)    People who get in touch when they want something

f)     The-Ghosts-Of-Friendship Past who only say “happy birthday” on your Facebook wall

g)      People who you bump into who say “let’s do coffee” and you know you NEVER will 

Being the social animal that I am. I like having friends and I like meeting new people. I love chatting to people at any time of the day, and going out and doing things. Weirdly, I’ve become more introverted over the years (picking a Sunday afternoon in my pyjamas over going to the pub) but all in all, I adore people. But, since moving to London and getting immersed in my job and having proper grown-up “responsibilities” I couldn’t help feel like my friends were dropping like flies. 

One of my favourite writers Ryan O’Connell wrote about the whole friendship thing in his twenties in Vice: “When I entered my twenties and the post-collegiate workplace, however, I was introduced to a variety of different definitions of what it meant to be someone’s friend. Apparently, being a friend now means meeting someone for drinks from 5:00 PM to 6:15 PM, or only seeing someone at night when you go to a party and get drunk and hold hands all night, acting like the best friends you will never be or maybe being nice to someone who you don’t like but have to keep around for professional reasons, whatever the fuck THAT means.”

What is that about? Friends suddenly being free for “ten minutes after work, sorry babe!”, or “I’ll pencil you for 26th July 2015” when you’ve quite clearly stated you’re having a nervous breakdown.

However, I’ve had an epiphany recently. And epiphanies take time.

I’m actually pleased that a job and a “busy life” filter out the good, bad and the ugly of the friendship world. A friend is NOT someone who shoves their busy diary in your face and “squeezes” you in. A few years ago I wouldn’t have been able to tell you, not really, who were the better friends. Or who would actually be there for me when I needed them. That was when our lives revolved around drinks and parties, of course you were inundated with socialising and group nights out. Everyone was free AT ALL TIMES.

But realising the rubbish ones are is hard. Losing a friend is hard. Ryan also calls this out in his piece: “We expect dating to be hard, we expect getting your dream job to be far-fetched, but what we don’t count on is having our friends no longer make sense to us. They were supposed to be the easy part.”  It’s like a break-up except you can’t appear to be too upset. You both move on. You have so many private jokes you can longer share with them. They get a new best friend and put it all over Facebook. You feel like you’re whole relationship was a lie. When you’re young you give so much more to your friends than a boyfriend, you invite them everywhere,  stay up all night crying with them, succumbing to peer pressure with them. It’s a properly “earnt” friendship. It’s exhausting. 

But, now, post-massacre, I’m glad that at the end of it all, that through the mystical strange world of being a 20-something and “figuring it out”, I’m happy that this natural friendship cull happened. Quality over quantity is genuinely better, for me, anyway.

The people that I meant to stay with you, will stay with you. And I’m so lucky to have them. Even if it’s still a frigging nightmare to book holidays off work all at the same time.

Image source: @girllostincity Instagram

Dear Twitter, I like you the way you are.

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Facebook exasperates its users by deciding which posts they can and can’t see. So why has Twitter announced plans to do the same? Emma Gannon explains why this is a bad move

This article was first printed in the Independent

Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, famously once said: “A squirrel dying in your front yard may be more relevant to your interests right now than people dying in Africa.” Twitter, however, is the opposite to this. It brings the world together.

On 14 February last year, as a Valentine’s gift to myself, I deactivated Facebook (I reactivated it three months later, but that’s beside the point) because I’d had enough of Facebook choosing what I should see in my newsfeed. The “most popular” posts would be at the top of my feed, which usually consisted of someone I met once, drunk at a party, posting her new engagement ring that looked like all the others.

This was shown to me because Facebook thought it was more relevant, because lots of mutual Facebook friends had “liked” it. But I also noticed that the algorithms had stopped me from seeing things which they deemed “irrelevant” – such as hiding my best friend’s status about her feeling upset, because she wasn’t as active on the platform.

Annoyed with Facebook’s algorithms, I hung out on Twitter more, appreciating that I could read updates in real time, with nothing edited out. So you can imagine my disappointment at the recent news that Twitter’s co-founder Jack Dorsey is planning a big “overhaul” of the website. In short: a “reverse-chronological timeline, in order to ‘balance recency with relevance’.” (We’ve already seen some of this implemented with a new feature called “while you were away”, which groups together highlighted tweets from the people with whom you have interacted most.)

Sound familiar? So will my response. Namely: how have robot machines ever truly known what’s relevant to a human being? And on Twitter, the reaction to this news has been outrage. It’s much like when Twitter announced that it was changing the Direct Message functionality so that any Tom, Dick or Harry could send you a message. (Before, you had to follow each other for the privilege of being able to DM, one of Twitter’s iconic functionalities).

“It’s ‘Facebookisation’,” said one tweeter, employing the term used to describe the changes made to any social network that isn’t Facebook. Another said: “Twitter keeps trying to destroy Twitter, by changing the things people like about Twitter.”

Daisy Buchanan, journalist and Twitter addict, added: “I do think the magic of Twitter is its live, rolling, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it-quality, where you can connect with anyone.”

Jess Commons, a culture editor, also makes a good point: “Twitter’s current timeline is what makes it so special. It’s what allows little-known people to make a big impact.” The overall message, then, from core users is: “We like it how it is”. But real hardcore fans, such as blogger Laura Williams, may differ: “Nothing could turn me off Twitter,” she wrote.

Nor, probably, me – so long as they don’t fiddle with it too much. As Eli Pariser says in his viral TED Talk, “The Filter Bubble”, “invisible, algorithmic editing of the web” can have a bad effect on us social humans. If we stay within the confines of a relevancy algorithm, we’ll never discover anything outside of our “interests” or comfort zones. And as a regular Twitter user since 2009, I remember the first reasons why I fell in love with using it as a tool. I’d watch live tweets from a country thousands of miles away, and I could decide what to retweet – which meant that I was organically sharing information.

Twitter educated me about things that I would never have otherwise discovered, and I love it for that. I love that anyone’s tweet can fly and make an impact. I found my job and some of my best friends on Twitter, and I’ll never swap that for the closed walls of Facebook.

Facebook makes me lazy with my real-life friends, who I should be phoning or texting more, but Twitter just makes me more adventurous.

I don’t want to live in a filter bubble.