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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Scrapbooking: Why I’m always buying Pritt Sticks every six months – 12/02/17

I began to rip up magazines and stick them into blank notebooks when my mum made me chuck out two years’ worth of ELLE magazines when I was 16. All 24 issues were stacked downstairs in my conservatory and remained virtually untouched after they’d been read once, save for the occasional rainy Sunday afternoon. They were so pristine, so thick, so full of fucking adverts that I couldn’t bear to give them up. Fast forward a few arguments, and I eventually gave in to The One Who Gave Me Life – but not before ripping out all of my favourite pages. I then discovered one of the small joys in life: Turning something really high-quality into something really funny and a bit shit by ripping things up and rearranging them. 

I enjoy scrapbooking so much because it works better the less you think about it. I’ve kept up the practice of it for years because it helps me de-stress, with the added bonus of having created something at the end.

Writing doesn’t quite have the same effect. Writing is lots of thinking about things that exist inside your head; editing your writing is all about shaping your work until it’s as perfect as it can possibly be. Scrapbooking gives me a chance to work with images from old magazines and use my hands, to create something to no brief, that’s allowed to be a bit terrible. It doesn’t work if I overthink it – the end result always looks like I tried too hard.

I’m usually happiest with the final page when I have a vague-ish plan to glue things down a certain way, and then accidentally rip the paper in the wrong place, or flip the paper over at the last second to reveal a completely different image. This always seems to work better, as it mirrors what the process of scrapbooking is like for me: messy, fast, thoughtless and unpredictable. How fitting that the techniques behind my favourite hobby share the same traits as my decision-making process! 

It’s also something that takes place off the internet, giving my brain some space from cyberspace (forgive me, I’m writing this past midnight). I know this seems pretty hypocritical as I’ve digitalised the pages below, but I’m talking about the process of it. It’s satisfying to press down hard on paper with a dried-out glue stick, hear the sound of stuff ripping, rearrange things without having to drag and drop. And I’m usually quite pleased with the final results, so I’m sharing them with you here. Here’s to us, you scrappy lot!

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This isn’t my best one, but I like the photo of the rose I found in a ‘how to do photography’ book from the ’70s.  Just now, I took a photo of some daffodils in my bedroom by pointing my iPhone towards them and holding my finger down on it, enabling the AF Lock thing. But luckily for me, things were way more complicated 40 years ago, leaving me with books they give away for free at charity shops filled with scrapbook-worthy material. 

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These are some courgettes on top of an old iron bridge. The courgettes are from a Good Housekeeping spin-off book from 1981 called ‘Microwave Cooking Made Easy’.

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Sliced Battenberg; scented cutting from an old Nat Geo feature about the origin of ingredients for best-selling fragrances in 1979; delicious-looking orange juice.

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Again, clearly another quick-fire job, probably when I was desperate to rationalise my thoughts when deciding if I should go and meet that weird guy from Tinder again, feat. the Quiet Beatle, Movieland feature about Audrey Hepburn (circa 1950s), Le Moulin de la Galette postcard by Renoir (although the postcard is a replica). 

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I love this one, but it’s nothing to do with me – just what a photo. I felt compelled to paste something ugly over this, but my gut stopped me. Everything about the above photo’s composition is to die for. My, GOD. Feel free to pinch for your lock screens, people. 

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Butt.

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Something about the ’40s/’90s mash-up in that 1991 ad for Intel processors that is peak-perfect nostalgia levels. img_2786

‘Spezial Transporte’. 

 

‘Tis the season, no, not that season (quite yet), but another season: An ode to autumn

This is from my 2011 scrapbook! I know right! Original images. Don't get used to it.
This is from my 2011 scrapbook! I know right! An original image. Don’t get used to it.

Happy Fireworks night. I don’t feel so firework-y tonight (long, heartfelt sigh), I’m just gonna have a huge bowl of spaghetti and read a book. I wrote this at the start of October but it’s been laying dormant until now – so sorry if it’s already a little outdated. Like, if this post was a fresh leaf when it was written in late-September, early-October, it’ll now be a mushed-up, rained-on mixture of pulp and chewing gum mashed into some pavement somewhere. Such is life. 

Look – I don’t know if it’s anything to do with the fact that both my parents were born within a week of each other at the crossover of September into October, so it’s ingrained into my DNA make-up or whatever; perhaps I’m overly sentimental for things like transitions and change and every other darned thing a writer can get sentimental about (SPOILER: everything)

Maybe it’s the familiarisation of routine that sets back in after a long summer: early nights, hearty meals, people bonding miserably over the miserable and changeable weather; maybe I’m a witch, whatever, who even cares – but autumn is my lady.

There is just something about darkness setting in earlier, leaves browning and yellowing and dark purpling, lying dead on the ground; that smell when they get rained on, get dried, and then turn into autumn sludge again. 

This season has more memories for me than any other. In the way that childhood/adolescence is often portrayed in films – hanging out with your friends all summer long, in sepia – I don’t feel as nostalgic about the summer as I do the autumn. (I spent a good few of my summer holidays as a child counting down the days until I could get back to school)

Autumn feels a lot more familiar than other seasons. Autumn and I are friendly to each other. Well, I say friendly. Ms. A.T gives me the gift of big, woollen jumpers, increased portion sizes with every meal (it’s getting colder – I need to be insulated) and this. I mean, I don’t listen to that all the time, although I wish I could say I did – but all I’m saying is autumn provides us with all the tools we need to stay in, get our heads down, and begin to create things. We don’t give it anything, we just sort of walk around in it. But thanks anyway, autumn!

Applying to online courses, looking up university degrees, pitching ideas to magazines. Maybe I link this time of year to being at school, slightly perspiring from the dusty heaters cranked up to 11.  Autumn feels pretty studious – until the clocks go back and you’re all ‘I’ll stay in Dreamland for another six or seven hours, thank you” – but there is a brief changeover period where I feel like getting my head down and getting to it.

I hope this feeling of wanting to begin new things prevails throughout the rest of my life. It’s convenient getting stuck into new projects at the start of the season when there’s stationary deals going on in every store across the world as everyone’s getting geared up for another academic year. 

Once we get into winter, every evening is a prime Netflix and chill time. And I don’t even mean Netflix and chill, I just mean Netflix and chill. Unfortunately.

Autumn, on the other hand, is pretty expectant. Suddenly, I have to face the fact that there is LESS than two months left in the year. The year! Like, Christmas, guys! Again!

And as I have to pretty much dismiss the potential of doing anything at all in the winter (hibernation, impending eternal darkness, Netflix), I always feel so inspired to spend time on my own, reading books I’ve been saving up all summer, scrapbooking everything I’ve been collecting over the last few months, taking time out to check in with myself and make sure I’m set for the long and cold winter (kind of like a squirrel collecting nuts).

As the nights get colder, it becomes way too easy to indulge nightly in mass social media-ing. I’ve recently deleted my Instagram, because although it’s great fun, it was stopping me from getting all my shit done by the time it needed to be.

[EDIT] That other girl that deleted her Instagram this week got loads of attention online, possibly because she was ‘goals’. Although she cried about being ‘goals’, so everyone was all “This girl was goals for her hot bod, now she’s goals for taking a stand on what is becoming a boring and negative daily ritual for many. The girl is just GENERALLY goals.” I deleted my Instagram and NOBODY even noticed. So I’m not goals, but I’ll do.

I thought it was about time to get rid of all those distractions as I work full-time and have so much I want to do in the evenings. The small solo projects I’m working on now may not amount to anything, but it’s not a waste of time. Use these precious autumnal opportunities to their full potential. It may be the compost that’ll turn into that good idea. Stay in for the night, turn your phone off, throw a huge jumper on, and work all the way through to the witching hour. (‘Tis the season, non?) Pritt-sticking, writing, painting, practising cartwheels: Use your time wisely, and get to it.

(Just for the archive, my first play is on in a couple of weeks (16-17 November)! I’ll probably write more about it and the process of writing it soon, when I have a few spare hours. I’m soooo proud of it. Now I just want to get started on something else! A feature film! A fashion line! A symphony!)

*drum roll*

 

WP_20130601_011Hey everyone! I’ve been too busy spending time staring at my nails pleading for them to grow and drinking regrettable concoctions of vodka and other substances (that sounds like the name of a debut album or something) to write anything long and boring, but I did make something scrappy/ziney yesterday!

It was gorgeous really, it was SO hot, and I was sprawled out all day on the grass like a cat (albeit a very focused productive self-publishing cat)

It was really easy to make, so I could cut and stick pretty much as soon as I’d begun, which is great as I suck at remaining interested in things for more than one second. I’ve always liked to be scrappy, I wrote about it once I think. I decided to theme it around it, ‘Lists’, as the pages were really tiny to be able to write anything ‘proper’ but it was still super fun. I’m going to post it seperately- enjoy!

“I love you, Internet- but I just don’t like you anymore” & “my old friend, the scrapbook”

Hey! In this post I’m writing about the Internet! All users of the Internet definitely will find this interesting. Oh, wait- that’s you, isn’t it?

I wrote here before about the headaches of the Internet, which you can read about  here.  In the post, I started to tap (har har tap, as in tapping on the keyboard) about my agg with this beast, which I said I’d write about soon. Today is soon! Before you get all righteous and suspicious…like, “Hey, this chick SAYS she has itchings with the Web, yet she’s writing a blog!! She’s using the internet! She’s a hypocrite!” I’m not I swear, I love the Internet!

I love the internet as a thing, without the internet I wouldn’t know about half of the books I’ve purchased cheaply for pennies on Amazon, I wouldn’t have been bothered to learn the guitar, only being able to learn old stuffy songs in dusty books on the top of Dad’s wardrobe, (like, I can maybe see why people like Simon & Garfunkel’s Sound of Silence, but please can I learn the chords to this instead? Oh wow, I can?! Gee, thanks Internet!)

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Just to prove it’s all I do

Ugh, I love it so much. But I deleted my Facebook this week. I was sitting on my bed, listening to Horses, (again, all I ever do is listen to Horses) and I remembered what I said once, I must have been about 12. I said, “Oh, yeah I’ll delete Facebook when I’m 18, so I can live without having to document everything on line, and actually start to live.” So I just did. Now, my friends would laugh at this, my best friend once saying that I used to delete my Facebook more than I had a period, but now, we have so many other cool ways to utilise the Internet (hey WordPress! Hey Twitter!) I thought, why should I feel obliged to have it? It’s not creative, it’s no longer for me. Sure, I used to get my thrills from sending potential crushes pictures of baby seals, but this technique didn’t ever work- apart from one who replied with “is this a virus”

Anyway, that’s not what I wanted to write about. There are other ways of documenting your life, on PAPER form. (HEy you’re writing a blog you’re jfsiahfakk…)

I found my old scrapbook earlier! I think I started this around 3 years ago, and I have about 7 free pages left. They’re just scrappings of old magazine pages that I thought too precious to chuck away, but they’ve brought back a hella memories of my different tastes, and how my likes have changed. Lookee here:

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This is from the first page. As with all first pages, one always feels obliged to make A HUGE EFFORT so I even went 3D with it, by terrifyingly taping worry dolls down to the pages. I love the first few pages, because they showed that although I didn’t know what I wanted to do whilst scrapbooking, I was enthusiastic, and now when I look at everything altogether, those first pages seem so different, but still sweet.

Next, is this page about SUBCULTURE, which probably came hand in hand with my discovery of riot grrl and No Doubt. So, I’d fallen for Courtney- and these ‘Pamflet Commandments’ were my life mantra for a while. Pamflet, a former zine and now a website, was my first real education into feminism and how it’s the best lifestyle choice.

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“WWCD?”

And then comes the frantic scrapping, going out buying old poetry books, ripping and sticking. DH Lawrence remains a favourite poet, which I no doubt would have forgotten about if I hadn’t pasted him in my book.

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Also: fashion I liked, once. And still do. Hey, it’s in the book- I’ll always have a thing for everything in the book.

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Documented here is the first time I used COCKTAIL sticks for nail art. I’d badly and neatly scrapped a page full of Jean Seberg, after watching ‘Bonjour Tristesse’ so fucked it up with gross old nail art sticks. Better.

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Sometimes just for newspaper articles I’ve enjoyed:

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And now for the greatest thing of all. By this time, I’d pretty much got the hang of old magazine cut outs, I wanted something else that would feel a bit more personal to me. You know those pictures that you’d never post to the internet because you’re not in the right angle, you have too much sunburn, your smile is a bit too teethy? They’d make it into the book.

Prom photos that didn’t make the cut:

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And when I went to Barcelona with my friends. I have so many great photos, but these ones were too dark, or blurred- but now I prefer them for their imperfections. I think we try so hard to forget that some things aren’t completely perfect, everythings photoshopped, drunk status updates deleted. They still happened, moron.

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On a really drunk shopping spree through a souvenir shop, I tore this “100 euro” note off a toilet paper roll….id won the lottery

 

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And that’s that. I still have my seven or so pages to fill. It’s nice, because most of it is essentially rubbish, but when things are all collated together that you really like, you end up really really liking your scrapbook.

I’d love to hear about your guilty memories stashes.

Keep reading, and thanks for doing so.

Tara X