Image is everything.

Image is everything. Or is it? Today’s world and social media says so. Especially for women. Airbrush this, stick a filter on that, photoshop the fuck out of everything. So many apps that allow you to change your photos to make them look ace.

Which, let’s be honest, they do look ace. You can make something look pretty damn sweet with enough filters and editing. This is nothing new, photographers have been doing it for years. But now everyone can do it with their day to day photos, and then use that to present their life to the world. Which is OK, apart from that makes it intrinsically false and fake.

There’s been loads of talk of this in the media over the last few months, lots of people writing similar posts and sad stories of people who presented the perfect life when reality was actually far from it, some ending in tragic circumstances. I kind of posted about this back in May when the #lifeunfiltered hashtag was doing the rounds.

Today I read a story about a teenager who was making money from social media – mainly the pictures she was posting and the clothes she was wearing – when she decided to remove most of the pictures and edit the captions of certain pictures to reveal the truth behind the pictures.  How she didn’t eat, would take over 100 shots to get the ‘perfect’ picture and so on. What a great thing to do to try to raise awareness of the reality behind these ‘perfect’ lives.

I hate the world today in terms of the media and what we as women get told we should be, what we should look like, what kind of life we should be living. Who is anyone to tell us what we should or shouldn’t do? The life the media and advertising gives us is totally unattainable for most people, and can cause so much unhappiness and low self esteem. It’s like chasing a unicorn across a rainbow; unrealistic.

We should be teaching our daughters, nieces, friends etc. to love themselves. To be happy from within. That looks are not the be all and end all. That how much you weigh doe not dictate your happiness. That being healthy and loving yourself is much more important. That you do not need validation from others to feel worthy. That confidence is much more attractive than make up or clothes. That following your dreams and listening to yourself is a pretty good Thing To Do.

The older I get the more I see younger women unhappy and uncomfortable. I’ve found the older I get the more happy I become (and having chatted to a lot of my friends of similar age or older it’s common). Because the older I get the more I realise what is important (and what’s not). That worrying about what you look like in your 20’s is such a waste. Get to your 30’s and more and you’ll realise that looks wise, your 20’s is a prime time. That you weren’t fat. That you didn’t have wrinkles. That old saying of youth is wasted on the young. And I’m sure it will be the same in my 40’s. And 50’s. And so on.

Back in 2012 I did a photo-a-day blog to document my first year of single life – a year I knew would be spent rediscovering myself. One post was some advice I would give to my 15 year old self. It’s a fairly short post but still stands true today. I’ve recently seen a post about what older women would also say to their younger selves too. And similar articles on the internet. It’s all fairly similar. Tricky though, as I also know that had someone told me this back when I was 15 I totally wouldn’t have listened. Because of course I knew everything, I was a teenager. I was lucky enough to have parents who made me believe I could do anything, and even though events in my 20’s could have quashed that belief, they didn’t, luckily. It just took me a few more years to start putting it into practice.

People need make and learn from their own mistakes, but if we could foster a world where some basic principles become the norm, I’d like to think that the lessons would come from where people had reached for the stars rather than cried over what stares back at them from a mirror. If someone is only interested in you for what you look like, then do you really want to know them? Does their opinion really matter? Why do you feel the need to be validated by them, and especially why do you feel the need to be validated on what you look like?

I don’t know what the answer is, but I do know there are a number of things out there trying to break down the notions of a ‘perfect life’. To encourage and inspire women (and men, this isn’t a gender-specific problem) to believe in themselves, ultimately boosting self confidence and self esteem. And I’m going to try to do that at any opportunity. I don’t have kids, but I have a niece, a god-daughter and many friends with children. If I can be some kind of role model to them and try and pass this message on, then that’s the least I can do.

In the words of Nelson Mandela:

“Our greatest fear is not that we are inadequate, but that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, handsome, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?”

Twitchy babbling blah.

I’m feeling twitchy this week. Like I have lots to do and I don’t know where to start. Like I have a million ideas and don’t know what to think about first. Which is kind of true and kind of not. I have a few things to do, yep, but nothing major. All of it can wait (what for, I don’t know). I have ideas but they’re all little ones that I’m not sure how to start developing. And I want to write. But I don’t know what about. I have about 5 blog posts in draft but none of them feel right yet. The words just don’t come. I have to be in the right mood for these words to get written down (which probably explains why a lot of my posts are perhaps rambly and babbly as it’s just what comes out of my brain with little filter). So I end up doing nothing. This is probably familar to a lot of people. Bloody procrastination.

I’m away with work so I’ve just been for a walk to look for a supermarket to buy Maltesers. Procrastination. Something to do. I didn’t even really want the Maltesters (although they’re tasting pretty damn good, and I’m sure they help me to write). What I should have done is just gone for a walk and got some fresh air. As when I was walking I realised I just needed to write something, and I have done for a while now. And so this is it. I just haven’t known what to write about. Nothing seemed right, or too negative, or not that interesting. But then that’s life though, isn’t it? The ups and downs, the good and the not-so-good. Not everyone can have the perfect life, all the time.

——–The Maltesers are all gone now. Writing will get shit.

Have you heard of #lifeunfiltered? It’s a hashtag that’s doing the rounds on social media to highlight the difference between what people post on social media and how life actually is. Because most people don’t want to post what a shitty time they’re having. They create this amazing life to portray to people. What they want people to see. So you see a smiling picture on Facebook and assume that everything’s OK, when actually it’s anything but.

OK, so no one wants to post the crappy mundane stuff. And in all likelihood no one probably wants to read about it either. But unless you ask, you’re unlikely to know if someone’s having a tough time. Or unless they tell you. Because that’s the other thing. People (and I’m aware I’m talking in general, but I’m kind of basing this on anecdotal evidence from conversations I’ve had with people and media articles – as always, please take with a pinch of salt and feel free to enter in a discussion with me) aren’t necessarily interacting as much anymore, because social media does it for you, right? You can see someone’s OK because they’ve posted a picture and liked your status. You don’t need to actually speak to them do you? Or even message them? I posted about this once when I was travelling. Because I found that because I was away, posting all my pictures and blogging about it, people stopped getting in touch. You know, saying hello or asking me how I was. Or telling me what they were up to. It’s just not the same, trust me.

“But I’m so busy.”

I’m sure everyone has heard or said that. Hell, I have said it. And only recently. And kind of why I’m writing this post. The last six weeks or so for me has been pretty tough and relentless. Some of it is my own doing, and some of it unfortunate circumstance or bad timing. Training for London to Paris as well as trying to foster a new social life in a place I’d just moved to, work a job that involves me being away from home most weeks and all the travel logistics that go with it, keep all the usual domestic stuff going with only the weekend to do it all, try and keep fit and healthy, a bereavement and being away from family, a birthday spent alone without any cards or phone calls and trying to not neglect existing friendships/social life. And frankly, I struggled. I’m still struggling.

But did I post about this on social media? No. (Well, unless you count this post, but I think this is different, I’m a bit back on track by now, although sorry to anyone I saw last weekend as I know I wasn’t quite myself.) Because the other thing is that it’s hard when people know you as a positive, sociable person who just gets on with things. They sometimes don’t know how to handle it. And as that person, it’s hard to tell people or ask for support. And sometimes when you do, and you don’t get it, that makes it twice as hard.

I’m normally busy, and I know so many people are but it’s about prioritising the things you enjoy rather than things that stress you out. For me, I like being busy with all the things I love doing (e.g. I don’t have any time to watch TV but I prefer to go running) but I don’t like having all my free time planned in. I need to be spontaneous to either do something or do nothing. I like to have the choice. And for me it’s important that I keep in touch with people outside of social media. Or, directly, rather than just liking a status etc. Because of the above. People are having crappy times but you’d never know. So maybe it’s time to ask them actually how they are, rather than taking their life as it is perceived through a collection of status, pictures and 140 character statements. Get involved.

I haven’t really looked at social media much recently, so if I haven’t liked your status or pictures it’s not because I’m being rude, it’s just had to take a back seat. Let’s try and talk about it instead eh? Talk about real life. #lifeunfiltered.

So here’s my #lifeunfiltered photo tonight. Think working away from home is exciting, glamorous and fun? Not always. The reality tonight – the unfiltered – is a box of Maltesers, a single bed, cups of tea made with UHT milk and writing this. I’m missing my flat, my own bed and my Kindle, which I forgot to bring with me. I miss cooking my own tea and having something healthy. I’m annoyed at myself for eating Maltesers, because I wouldn’t have done that at home tonight. Of course I could have gone and explored London and gone for a walk or a run by the river and it would have been amazing. But I’m shattered and my mojo’s on holiday for a bit.

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I’m not sure what the conclusion of this post is. Think this is one of those posts that’s probably been more helpful to me to write than for anyone to read. But maybe the moral is to not take everything at social media face value. Don’t use it like a spy hole into people’s lives, as it’s probably not real; interact with people as well. Don’t assume that everyone is doing OK. Some people might need a bit of support. And that support might be something as simple as asking how they are.

 

Tinder trouble.

So I was persuaded to do a Tinder experiment this week by some mates and to report back in a blog post. Because when you’re single, people tend to start saying stuff like “why don’t you try internet dating, ooh try Tinder” blah blah blah. Some because they think I should be in a relationship, some because they think it would be fun for me and some because it would be fun for them to live vicariously through me. So I’ll start with the caveat that I’m not looking for a relationship, or even to date really. I’m quite perfectly happy being single and already know internet dating wouldn’t be for me anyway, even if I was looking. I just want to make new friends.

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So this will be a pretty heavily biased review as I’m not really the target audience for it, but I thought I’d be open minded and give it a go and see what happened. If anything, I like chatting to people and might end up making a new friend or two out of it. IT COULD BE FUN. If anything, hopefully it will provide you a laugh reading this.

For anyone who doesn’t know, Tinder is a phone app where you upload a few photos and a bit of blurb about yourself then either swipe left (no) or swipe right (yes) if you like the look of someone. Then they do the same. And if both people swipe right, you’re a match can message each other. Really simple, if not totally superficial. I suspect it’s predominately used for no strings fun and doubt it’s designed to meet your soulmate if you subscribe to that kind of thing.

So, I stuck a profile with some blurb about how I was new to Cheltenham, liked the outdoors, travel and anything sporty and wasn’t looking for just a hook up. Thought that might ward away any weirdos at the offset just wanting to get in my pants. But here was the first hurdle. What photos to put on? A lot of mine are instagrammed to shit. So they look alright but probably give a false impression. What if I actually meet these people? Will they be hugely disappointed when they meet me and realise I don’t actually look like that? No one wants THAT, even if I don’t actually give a shit. I want to put nice pictures, of course. No one wants no matches. THE PRESSURE. In the end I figured that I probably wouldn’t meet any of these people, it was just an experiment so it didn’t really matter anyway. (Ha! Rookie mistake.) Decided on a mix of decent pictures and a couple where I’m in the middle of a run or hike which obviously show my ‘sporty’ side. That would do. Helpful tip: the app defaults to your last 3 or 4 facebook photos but you can change them. Handy if one of your last couple of profile pictures is you in your underwear, that’s not going to help the no hookup message. Even if it is sportswear.

Verdict: Felt like I was putting myself up for sale in a catalogue or a competition prize “ooh, look what you could win”. Hmmm.

So, personal advert to the men of Cheltenham done, I set my search criteria (you can choose to view people by age, proximity etc.). Ruled out any real youngsters and oldies. Let’s keep it real people.

Now the fun could begin. And it was fun. For about half an hour. Then I got a bit bored. If you are someone who judges people on their looks then you’ll be alright I think. Lots of people to scrutinise. There’s a lot of people that hadn’t put much thought into what photos they were going to post. Or maybe they had, and they were being ironic. So I DID had a real giggle at what I was having to work with to make my swiping dilemmas. They kind of fell into a few camps, I saw the same kind of patterns. Here’s the kind of things that made me swipe left (no way Jose):

  • Anyone with pictures that weren’t them (cartoon characters, animals, landscapes). So do you actually look like Bart Simpson? Obviously not. And I don’t actually care enough to find out otherwise.
  • Bed selfies/half naked selfies. Now, I’m aware how hypocritical this is, I’m partial to both of these. But not on Tinder.
  • Shower selfies. Nah.
  • People without much/any blurb. I need some info people. You might look hot but if you’re into dog fighting or something. No.
  • Pictures where you’re holding up knives and guns. (Yes, really). OK they might be toys but still.
  • People with more than one photo where they look different in each one. Do you have a non-identical twin? Or just hardly any photos?
  • People who just post group pictures. WHICH ONE ARE YOU?
  • Pictures of penis’s (penii?). When is that EVER attractive?
  • Pictures of muscles. There’s a LOT of these in Cheltenham. Just like fancy cars, these don’t do it for me. Being fit, healthy and lean, yep. Triangle muscle men? Nah, not for me thanks.
  • Pictures of your achievements in the newspaper. Tell me about it instead.
  • Onesie pictures. Pretty sure a picture of me in my pyjamas wouldn’t be that interesting to you either.
  • Pictures not of your face. Specifically, the back of your head. Am sure no one ever met up with someone because the back of their head is nice. Although, if you’ve got a shaved head the shape of your head is important, so…. anyway. I digress.
  • Photos in fancy dress. I can’t see what you look like with half the face paint counter on. Although, clearly this shows you are up for a laugh and fun. Apart from the fact that you’re dressed as a serial killer.
  • Marine’s or Marine wannabees. Been there, done that. You won’t match up.
  • One picture, no blurb, the picture being you in a suit of armour. You’re probably going for ‘hey I’m funny, swipe to see and find out more’. But frankly, I can’t be fucking arsed.
  • Just one picture. I need to see more to see whether that was just a good picture. Or a shit picture. Because, well, it’s amazing how different people can be in photos at a different angle….
  • Pictures of you doing lots of activities like bungy jumping and sky diving. It’s good because I’d probably like you but I also can’t see what you look like.
  • People with catalogue photos and blurb saying you’re not single but after a good time. Err, no thanks buddy. Try imboredinmymarriage.com
  • Clearly photoshopped images. That 6 pack isn’t yours, is it love?
  • No picture at all – not sure you’ve grasped the concept of this…
  • Really pixelated photos. You know you can preview no?
  • People not smiling. Come on!
  • ALL your pictures are of your six pack. One OK, more than 1? Obsessive.
  • Pictures of cars. ARE YOU A CAR?
  • Picture of a beach. ARE YOU THE OCEAN?
  • A picture of a sandwich. White bread? No, no, no.
  • Blurb that includes gems such as “ I don’t bite….unless you want me to” and “willing to lie about how we met” and “good luck” (WTF!) or “not on here much” (what’s the point then?)
  • People that look like they’re from TOWIE or Made in Chelsea. Just not my cup of tea.
  • People that look like they spend more time the bathroom than I do. To be fair though, this is not actually that difficult, I’m not a preener.
  • Posts like they’re written by someone’s pet. Cooky or just weird?
  • Anyone that looks or sounds like my ex husband. Sorry, can’t do it.
  • Pictures of your feet. With shoes or not, I don’t have a foot fetish.
  • Photos of you naked sat on the toilet. REALLY?
  • Anyone with the name Dopeboy. No.
  • Staring intently into the camera lens. Like a serial killer.
  • Putting your mobile number in your blurb.
  • Photos all from one side of your face. What’s wrong with the other side?
  • Pictures of you in womens clothing. Hmm, not sure.
  • Putting your snapchat name in your blurb. You just want to send pictures of your dick and see pictures of my tits, don’t you?
  • A selfie clearly taken in bed with a girlfriend (now chopped out). You couldn’t take another one? Surely you own a phone?
  • A picture of you with 1D when they were about 12. Is that a good claim to fame for a 30 year old man? Swiped right for this one though.
  • Excessive use of exclamation marks. Every! Word! Should! Not! End! In! An! Exclamation! Mark!
  • When I fancied their mates in their pictures more than the person. Made me wonder if their mates were on Tinder too….

So that kind of ruled out A LOT of people. I didn’t swipe right that much. Mainly just for people that looked happy, smiley and that seemed to do similar stuff to me. Running pictures generally got a thumbs up, as did cycling or bungee jumping, or anything sporty. I figured if I’m going to make any friends, it might as well be with people I’ve got stuff in common with.

I still didn’t like it though. I felt like I was being hugely judgemental. Does that mean I should swipe right for everyone? No, I don’t think so. It means for me that I shouldn’t use shit like this. I’m not a judgemental person at all, and will talk to anyone and everyone. Prefer to do that in person though and not have to make a decision by swiping left or right.

And this was before any bloody messaging was going on.

So, if both people swipe right, then that’s a match. A match. Which brings with it fear and dread. And anticipation. Who should message first? Is it gentlemanly for them to start? What should you say? Is there tindering etiquette? How long should you wait? I don’t bloody know. Is there game playing and rules? Meh, bollocks to that if there is. I settled for a cheery hello, if I’d not already been messaged first. That’d do eh?

So, next there is chit chat over messages. Now there are even more important things to think about. Like how many smileys are too many? Will I sound like an alcoholic if I share drinking stories? Are typos acceptable? How do I say I’m only really looking to make friends? How long do you message before you meet up? Should you meet up? How do you know if you want to meet up? How many times can I type lol without sounding like a teenager? Should messages be flirty? How can messages be flirty? I’m shit at flirting. Or knowing when people are flirting.

After at least 30 seconds pondering all that, I decided to just be myself. No point in being anything else. If people don’t like my excessive use of smileys or lols, then I don’t want to be their friend. Lol. 😛

I’ve been told it’s pretty normal for people on tinder/internet dating etc. to be ‘chatting’ to many people at once. So it’s also normal for people to know when you are active, leading to cries of “but they haven’t replied to my message but they were active 10 minutes ago”. ‘Last seen’ and ‘Read’ are inventions of evil, according to my online dating friends. But this also means that it’s quite easy to drop people. Just stop messaging them. Apparently, after discussing this with people, it’s a harsh world out there. When people are behind your computer screen it seems some manners go out the window, under the pretence of efficiency and getting on with it. “Why waste time?” seems to be a general thought. Seems a bit harsh to me but I guess a lot of people are on a relationship-gaining mission and Nothing Will Come In Their Way. Especially as you get older, because society tells us that we must be odd and weird if we are Still Single in our 30’s and so some people start panicking.

One of them asked me what I did for a living and I told him. Haven’t heard from him since. Nada, Maybe he’s had a bad experience with a HR consultant at some point. Should I be offended? No idea. I’m not.

A couple of them I will meet, whether I actually wanted to or not, as they’re members of the running club I will join (when I actually have time). Obviously potential for awkward turtle there. Don’t think it will be though. They seem quite nice and chatty and friendly, and I’m out to meet new friends, so all is good.

I’m not on it any more; I lasted an evening of swiping and then a day or so of messaging. Then I’ve kept in touch with a couple of people I’ve been messaging with, will be meeting up with them I think, but not for dates, just to make a new friend really and go from there.

I suspect most people are on it to get a bit of sex, and then maybe something more. Some might be after a relationship but as the app’s very nature is based on physical attraction it’s possibly the minority.

Tinder’s not for me, I knew that before I started but gave it a go, and nope, it’s still not. Subconsciously I know that I’m unlikely to find the kind of person I’d be after through something like Tinder. But, it was fun to give it a go. And after my little experiment I might at least make some new friends.

I find it really off putting that people are looking at my photos and judging me. Looking and rating me on basically whether they would want to sleep with me. Do people do that in real life? Well, yeah, course they do. I don’t. Not really. OK I guess I notice whether I find someone attractive or not, but that’s probably as far as I go. I don’t start thinking about what they’d look like naked. Oh, OK, maybe sometimes I do actually. I definitely DON’T think about whether they would be a good husband or father to any potential children. I know some people do that. And I find it really odd. But then I don’t even look at people (even after I’ve met them) and start thinking about potential relationships. To me, I meet people, become friends and if I like their company then I see them again. Romantic stuff doesn’t usually enter my head unless the other person has made a reference to it or I find them particularly attractive. And even if I am seeing them “romantically”, relationships don’t always enter my head as an option unless someone spells it out (cases in point: The Marine or the other one, and we all know how they ended).

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Personality makes people attractive. At least in my world. 

After all that, I definitely wouldn’t tell people not to go on Tinder. It CAN be quite fun. It just depends what you’re after. If you don’t expect anything serious, and fancy a bit of fun, then give it a go. And it also probably helps if you’re looking to meet/date people. But it does require a bit of effort and time. All that swiping and messaging and stuff. Jesus. Or I might just be a lazy bastard. Either way, perhaps you should give it a go yourself.

Oh, and if you’re the person telling someone they should try Tinder, all this is what you’d be letting loose on them. Do it at your peril.