Advice, Happiness, Uncategorized

High On Likes

Ten years ago, if a guy were to approach you in a club, knowing your name and other details about your life, you would run away and scream, “Stalker!”

Now, if a guy does the same, it’s cool; he follows you on Instagram.

It happened to me a few months ago and the guy quickly became aggressive when I apologised for not knowing who he was. It wasn’t cool, it freaked me out.

This angry stranger “followed” my life is pictures. Scrolling through my posts attempting an outside point of view made me feel sick: there were photos of me and my friends in bikinis on holiday, selfies, modelling photos half naked… All which seemed innocent, fun and worst of all normal at the time now seemed seedy and boastful in this weird collection of exhibitionism and narcissism called My Profile.

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It was the last straw on something I’d considered for a while. I disabled my account.

Alarmingly, I’d never thought about Instagram in terms of my privacy. Instead, I’d been building up to disable it after realising that it affected my mental health in a negative way.

Within an hour, no less than four people had sent me texts, ranging from concerned to hurt, asking why I had ‘deleted’ them. I later learned that they had been told this through an app which alerts you when you’re followed or unfollowed by an account. People really are invested in this thing. Relationship dynamics are affected and ego’s are hurt.

Social media is weird. The terms “follow”, “like”, and “share” mean completely different things now than they did years ago, with those phrases and others like “retweet, unfriend, block” becoming everyday conversational dialogue. Social media has become as normal as brushing your teeth.

So many relationships begin, grow, or solely exist in cyberspace. Whole persons and careers are created and maintained on smart phone applications. On a whole, social media is undeniably dumbing us down and running our lives, but I believe Instagram to be the worst; Twitter is a platform for words, a space to be intelligent, funny, witty, charming in 140 characters or less. Facebook, however you use it, is designed to share and keep in contact with friends and family – but Instagram? Instagram puts importance on the physical image. You can write a funny caption, but it’s the photo above it that’s going to get ‘liked’.

Yes, it can be used to share beautiful photographs. But it is photos of people  – particularly attractive women’s faces and bodies – that receive the most likes. Just look at the 11 most liked photo’s on Instagram ever – the physical is of sole-importance.

 

 

It allows us to construct our own fairy-tale image; psychologists use the term ‘self-presentation’, “positioning yourself the way you want to be seen.” A study found that self-presentation is so powerful, that viewing your own social media profiles increases self-esteem.

Compilation of boastful, ‘fun’ posts featuring me as an apparent party girl who holidays more than she’s at home

But Instagram never made me feel good. I’d subconsciously compare myself to everyone else seemingly having a better time, looking their posed, filtered best, usually from the comfort of my own bed while I looked like a frog. We never scroll through Instagram when we’re having fun, do we? I would only scroll when I had nothing better to do, making me receptive to negative feelings of boredom or loneliness before photos had even loaded. I would often close the app feeling undeniably depressed. So why did I continue to use something that was bad for my mental health?

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I’d never thought much about why and what I post until I disabled my account. When I was modelling I used Instagram to network with photographers and promote freebies like skincare and haircuts. I never felt that I was sharing too much of myself. But amongst those arguably useful posts are a few that, after my reflective time out, I now see as nauseatingly narcissistic.

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I actually thought I had made it acceptable because I was being philosophical in my caption, lol

 

Why at 23 years old did I feel that it was necessary to post a photo of myself in a bikini, alone, while on holiday with my boyfriend? The honest answers are:

  1. I wanted my followers to know I was on holiday.
  2. I obviously didn’t think I looked bad, or else I wouldn’t have posted it – I wanted my followers to see that I looked alright.
  3. I knew that a photo of a girl in a bikini will get the likes that, at the time, I unknowingly craved.

It all sounds arrogant, but are you honestly going to tell me that you can’t relate? Chances are you, your friends, your girlfriend, have posted photos for the same reasons. Why else would you take time out of your day to share a photo of yourself to the internet?

We are an insecure generation, constantly feeding off likes and follows for some sense of empty validation from strangers. Although I may look confident in that pink bikini, and at the time I thought I was – if I hadn’t needed validation then I wouldn’t have posted it. My ‘racy’ photos littering my feed now make me feel uncomfortable, especially now realising that strangers have studied them.

Compilation of meaningless, strictly narcissistic, vainglorious, egomaniacal posts posted by yours truly

After my much needed detox, the image of a girl alone in a bathroom seems like the epitome of vanity and shameless narcissism. I want to scream at her, “No one cares! Go jump in the pool! Go live your life! No one needs to see that!”. Yet, 99% of sexualised female celebrities and models do exactly the same thing and are praised for it.

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I recommend every one –even those who think I’m dramatic for thinking an app could affect my mental health – carry out a social media detox for a week and see if you notice a difference in how you think or live your life. I personally have so much more time for productivity; all the time you spend taking photos, or thinking about what photos to post and simply looking into other people’s lives, really does add up.

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The main thing that was putting me off disabling or deleting was FOMO and keeping up appearances; almost as if not posting was in inkling to the outside world that all was not well. But trust me, you are missing out way more on actual real life than what other people are up to. And those ‘likes’ lose importance strangely quickly. After six weeks, I reactivated my account, but now peeking into others’ lives feels really invasive. I have also completely lost that need to post; once or twice I have almost posted something and then asked myself, why?

Close the apps, put down the phone and enjoy the moment. If you’re going to take photos, print them, and give thought to the ones you do post. Don’t try to create an image of the perfect life – live your version of your perfect life.

The only person you should let validate your life is yourself.

PS. Follow @_theluckyleo on Instagram (no selfies, I promise)

ALL IMAGES TAKEN FROM GOOGLE IMAGES & MY OWN INSTAGRAM 

 

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Happiness

Just Friends

My first best friend was called Luke. We met at nursery when we were three or four. Our favourite games were Cops and Robbers, Zoo Animals and Keepers and Barbie and Action Man. It wasn’t weird to me AT ALL that he had a willy and I had a mini. And he was never scared that I had cooties, or at least that he would catch them.

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Luke and I were best friends during infant school but must have grown apart once we began junior school. Maybe because that’s around the age that little girls are encouraged to form close relationships with other girls, thus creating a separation between the young sexes. Or perhaps my cooties developed.

Looking back, it’s a relationship that would probably mark my appreciation of being friends with the opposite sex as an adult. I absolutely adore girls and have lots of girlfriends that I admire and have a lot of fun with, but I’ve also had way stronger, way longer lasting, way more meaningful relationships with men.

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Even in my romantic relationships, there has always been a level of friendship amongst the companionship and romantic or sexual element. Perhaps I simply enjoy the company of men. I feel secure in the brother-sister-like dynamic and in some cases, the more uncle-niece-like dynamic. Even with male acquaintances or those I’ve just met, I feel a lot more comfortable in social situations than I do amongst the same level of females.

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And please, I promise this is not the awful “I hate girls”, “girls just don’t like me”, “I find boys so much easier”, “I’m not like other girls” bullshit cliche. To me, those demeaning comments translate as going against your own womanhood, insecurity, or simply surrendering to the sickening ‘cool girl theory’ (Google it). Deep down, what those comments scream to me is, “I want boys to give me attention”. Sorry.

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Criticism on this part of my life has been rife for as long as I can remember, and 99% of the time, the criticism comes from other men. The only friendships that didn’t garner any criticism was those with openly gay guys. I honestly didn’t understand the criticism until recent years. Up until the age of 20, I was dumbfounded when outer voices would tell me, “(insert boys name) has a secret agenda”, “(insert boys name) must be gay”, “(insert boys name) wants to fuck you.” Mainly because the statements are ignorant, and also because I’m not that stupid. I’d reply with noooooo, honestly, we don’t fancy each other, we’re just friends! The critics in question would give me a sarcastic thumbs up with their eyes.

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I can see why. In films and television it’s cliche for male and female friends to fall in love and get together and live happily ever after. My favourite is He’s Just Not That Into You’s “You are my exception” scene.  There are also countless songs written in the voice of a guy that is secretly in love with a friend or his friends girlfriend. It’s almost like friendship should be rewarded with romantic love. No fictional man is happy ending up as “Just Friends”.

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The majority of women have at least one or a few male friends, and most would say, “OF COURSE you can be friends with the opposite sex”, probably with similar explanations than the one I gave above. But I have to admit, it does make me wonder. How could so many men be wrong? And surely, being honest men – too honest a lot of the time  – could they know their own sex much better than I ever could? Do they know some enlightened secret that us with vaginas don’t?

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I mean, biologically, (straight) men and (straight) women are inwardly programmed to mate (I add brackets because the of course subconsciously the dynamic changes with gay or lesbian friendships). So is it possible to have non family male/female platonic friendships?

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Giving my word that they will never be outed with their brutal honesty, I asked some best friends, family members and acquaintances – the youngest being 25 and the oldest being 70 – and only men I (maybe naively) am certain would have no reason to lie to me – the old age question: Can men and women ever really be just friends?

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To be honest, I feel that the last entry concludes perfectly and sums up every entry in the most rational, eloquent way. This exercise has given me a new light as to how men truly feel. I think there are a few situations where the equation of men + women = friends could be so simple that it could be successful;

  1. Both parties don’t find any attraction in the other
  2. The attraction is fulfilled with sex or similar sexual experiences, subsequently broken for both parties, but an appreciation remains, allowing friendship
  3. The male feels unrequited attraction to the female but can control it enough to continue enjoying her company (although, I’m not sure how long this would last without the male becoming frustrated or bored, and most probably ending when the male finds another object of his attention or starts his own relationship)

It’s definitely made me sit back and question just how ‘friendly’ some of my male friends are. As long as the female’s intentions are clear and there is no cock-teasing, who says you can’t be friends with a guy that gently, subtly fancies you? I kinda fancy a few of my friends (I do have eyes) without being attracted to them. And I really can’t see a When Harry Met Sally situation arising out of any of my present friendships. I have never really fancied someone I’m friends with, or even casually slept with a friend. But again, I think this is where males and females differ: I think females know straight away whether they want to sleep with someone, and act specifically to that feeling. But men, being from Mars and all that, sometimes don’t separate their ‘friend’ actions from their ‘I want to be deep inside you’ actions.

But, who knows, perhaps there are exceptions to the rule.

Whatever the answer, all we can do is be aware of the differences between the sexes and be aware of their feelings and intentions. That doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy their company, as long as everyone in the equation is a respectable, decent human being.

(All images taken from POPSUGAR and my own phone/family album)

 

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Advice, Happiness, Health, Inspiration, Interview

TUESDAY TALKS: Maddie M

MEET MADDIE: There’s definitely something about Maddie… At 5’11 she is a long legged gazelle of a woman with a face so cute it could have been drawn for a Disney film. And yes, she may look and sound like a Scandinavian sex siren, but don’t be fooled in assuming that all you’d get from the magnificent Miss M is a glistening smile and a few girly giggles. When I’m having a down day, she’s the first person I go to for a confidence cleanse. Maybe there’s something in that Swedish air… Whatever it is, we could all learn a thing or two from this lady.

NOT JUST A PRETTY FACE: Maddie is one of the smartest women I’ve ever met and as driven as a golf ball; she is in her final year at Cass Business School, studying Business Finance with hopes of going onto grad school. How’s that for Girl Power?

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What is ‘beautiful’ to you?
I know everybody says it is what you hold on the inside but I really believe that is true. When it comes to modelling you learn how subjective beauty actually is and how everyone sees you – and your looks – differently. At the end of the day it is what you have on the inside that counts.
But I must confess I have always had an extremely weak spot for guys with nice cheekbones…

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What’s your top beauty secret?
Well except from eating healthy and not smoking it is training. And when I say train, I mean actually train, not walking with an incline on a treadmill. You know what they say – skinny girls look good in clothes but fit girls look good naked 😉
Except from that it is my gradual tan facial moisturiser, it makes me look so much better haha. Some girls can rock the pale look, but unfortunately I am not one of them.

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What do you love the most about yourself? 

My abs and my brain. I really make an effort to work out and maintain my muscle. It’s not easy but the results make it worth it!

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