Things to read this January (and why scrolling social media sucks)

I don’t actually mind using the internet. I know, it’s a revelation to me too. Don’t get me wrong, our relationship hasn’t been simple – often tumultuous (deleting my Instagram profile once before, removing the Twitter app from my phone once a week, and no storage-sapping Facebook app, thank you) – but all in all, there are so many opportunities to learn, and laugh at great Vines and, well, post your writing to a technically infinite audience (a dozen or so readers per post still technically falls between 0 and infinity, so hey). The good times on the internet have included:

  1. An article of mine being published on the CBBC Newsround website in 2006. I wrote about my experience as an extra on an Eastenders episode and I remember feeling like the next step was obviously Jacqueline Wilson-level fame (how the BBC didn’t snap me up in primary school for brand loyalty alone I’ll never know)!
  2. Streaming every single episode of Mad Men during a tricky break-up. Thank you, thank you, internet.
  3. As an actual child, firing up the only programme we had on our PC besides Word and Minesweeper: Microsoft Encarta. For those of you not acquainted with the software, it was an encyclopedia you could download off a CD-ROM, like a simplified Wikipedia; a way to actually learn useful things without having to sift through a clickable hot take angle first.
  4. Having my first semi-viral moment on Twitter with a photo of a moon emoji perfectly placed over a Potato Smiley on a plate of more Potato Smileys which was retweeted by the Moon Emoji account.

(Btw, I just tried finding it for about five seconds before I realised that this is exactly what I’m writing against – wasting sweet and precious time on the internet – but you have to trust the fact that I got around 500 RETWEETS AND I LIVED OFF THAT KINDA-FAME FOR MONTHS.)

You know what doesn’t show up on this list? Scrolling. I hate scrolling. Scrolling is not only harsh on the eyes, but you don’t retain any of the information seen during scrolling – nothing good has ever come from it. We should totally just stab scrolling! I’m going to write this because I know I’m not alone in this: a way I have been waking up for the past year at least has been by turning off an alarm (on my phone, or on my radio, but the following action is almost always the same) and scrolling through the news/Twitter/Instagram on my phone. At first it started as a way to get ‘up to date with the nuyooz!’ as I tried to figure out how to be a journalist, but it turns out scan-reading depressing tweets about #MeToo, even more depressing tweets about Donald Trump’s apparent good health and (pretty funny) tweets showing people slipping over on ice or whatever is not the way to a) be a good journalist or b) greet the new day.

Therefore, here are some things I have read this week that I reckon are actually worth your time to read all the way through to the end. In the meantime, I’m going to group all of my social media apps in a folder on my phone called Scrolling Sucks to encourage me to only log in when I’ve got something to say, a picture to post or have something actively active to do on there. Scrolling is so passive, and I have an ever growing Google Docs list of books I’d really like to read (this is a different post entirely). Here are some non-paper things for you, though:

1) Money Diary: A Freelance Writer Living In London On 14k

OK, OK, this has been doing the rounds on social media a bit this week because it’s the most lolz Money Diary yet and Ms Anonymous is an absolute dude for buying £12.50 eggs and £70 coke on NYE solely for the reason that it only comes but once a year. I read it all the way through to the end because, while not freelance at the moment, the self-deprecating quips mirror the tone of my money anxiety annoyingly derived from the time I *was* freelance, silently totting up each and every bus fare and foodstuffs in my head ’til it’s all I could ever think about. Everyone tells me I’m “so great with money!”, which I think is true, but some days I walk four miles across London to get home when I *can* actually afford a £1.50 bus fare home. I have not ever once suggested getting in an Uber – unless someone else can assure me they’re paying – so while I am *good* with money, I am absolutely terrified of it, too.

2) Editor’s Letter, Utopia by Tavi Gevinson

I’m a die-hard Rookie fan and direct every single person who speaks to me towards it because there is so much accessible, smart, funny content on there that is Definitely Not For Clicks. It shaped so much of my teenage years as it launched when I was 14, and I read it religiously three times a day until I was 18 or so. Tavi Gevinson has never disappointed me in that she is only three weeks older than me yet is so incredibly smart and perceptive. Imagine my joy, then, as I read her January editor’s letter for Rookie that discusses several ideas, beginning with the idea that the role of the internet has changed so massively, and is now so much about money-making click-y stuff, that it’s OK to want to find alternative ways to have thoughts/learn stuff/document life if being online is becoming more and more uncomfortable for you (holla!)

TG: ‘Whatever you need to do to create that space for yourself, do it this year. Do it now. Fight the new pace of thinking designed to keep us in Facebook fights and make Facebook more money. Resist getting so wound up by every story that you accelerate off a cliff into apathy. Lengthen the circuit between a candid thought and your anticipation of how it will be received, a circuit constantly shrinking in fear. Try your ideas out with people you are not desperate to impress, so there’s less ego clouding your discussion.’

It’s not all bad for the internet in this piece though, as Tavi writes about how the internet, as it was in 2011, was a wonderful place for the origins of Rookie: ‘I find it endlessly amazing that teens—particularly those whose IRL communities don’t offer such a space—can now talk openly about what it’s like to be living out what you’re told should be the best years of your life, while your brain is still developing and you’re more insecure than ever and sex is a new thing but you feel incredibly unsexy, and “just be yourself” is something adults say, not teens, and it’s never actually brought any reassurance.’

She also brings forth so many other ideas that I’m not going to plagiarise here (as I’ll do so badly) but I’ll instead direct you once more to the damn thing.

3) Perfectionism is destroying the mental health of my millennial generation

And this by the great writer Daisy Buchanan on why perfectionism isn’t cool whatsoever and is actually making us ill. Scrolling (look, scrolling!) Instagram is something that ‘intellectually, we know is all a lovely lie, but emotionally it’s a struggle. Feelings seem like facts.’

(And here’s ONE paper thing – I’m currently reading Mark Greif’s collection of essays Against Everything ((which Tavi coincidentally references in her January Rookie piece too)). Would highly recommend if you like interesting reading on subjects such as the sexualisation of youth, the rise and rise of YouTube and learning how to rap as a white person. Oh, and hipsters.)

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