Real Life vs. Internet Life: Is the rivalry coming to an end?

The cardinal rule of the internet is that you will never understand it. The moment you think you have it understood, the second you feel comfortable, something will happen that will make you do a double take. Take this blog for instance. Now I am the first to admit that I have been a bit… negligent. That’s the only word that can sum up my act of leaving it desolate and abandoned for nearly, what, three months? Four? I feel like I’ve treated it like I do my house plants, and my house plants have never fared well.

But unlike my house plants, this blog hasn’t withered, which is what I mean when I say the internet is a strange place. This month, on Oct 11th my blog received nearly 6000 hits in one day – ONE DAY! Why did this happen? Where did you people appear from? Why do you all love that one post I did about Ewan Mcgregor’s penis? Jesus, get your act together internet.

Of course, stranger things have happened on the internet than just my blog getting a self-esteem boost (yes, the reason I am writing on here again is down to flattery, I’m weak like that). Take for instance http://fortydaysofdating.com/ – I know you’ve all heard about this viral sensation.

Meet Jessica and Tim from FortyDaysofDating

If you haven’t (jesus, have you lived under a rock?) then let me sum up the project for you. Two attractive friends spent fourty days forcing themselves to be in a relationship to see if real emotions, or as tumblr likes to call them, ‘feelz’, could develop. If you want to know the results of this social experiment, I highly recommend that you give their blog a read through as it is a fantastic read, but this particular blog post isn’t about the love affair between two hipsters but the idea of our lives and the internet. Or rather, our emotional lives and the internet.

I can’t help but wonder, as I look at two people write openly and honestly about love, sex and friendship, whether or not the boundary between our online lives and our virtual lives is slowly disappearing.

I will be the first to admit that my virtual persona is very much a calculated construct. When I update my Facebook, I careful present to the world a version of myself that I would consider cool – whatever that means. I post pictures of myself in bars, I show myself smiling and I only ever reveal the things I’ve succeed in. I never show myself as a failure. I don’t want people to see my emotional break downs.

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My need to present myself in a certain light is another part of my blogging absence. Around the time of my departure from ladybitsandbobs, I suffered a pretty nasty break-up. Not nasty in the sense that there was yelling, but nasty in the sense that it hit me pretty hard. For a long time it was all that I could think about, so naturally it was all I wanted to write about. But how do you write about your feelings regarding another person, when said other person can just go a quick google search and have it before their very eyes?

When I look at the fourty days of dating blog, I wonder if what those two people revealed was true to themselves. Are they telling the whole truth? Because when it comes to relationships and the fall-out of a relationship, people can discover sides to themselves that can be pretty ugly.

We all leap at the chance to show people that we’re eating in fancy places, but would need the threat of death to reveal to the world how we get ourselves through our emotional hiccups. But maybe this is changing.

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Maybe in the future facebook will be replaced by something that isn’t reliant of taking people’s lives on face-value. Could you see yourself using the new social media called FEELZbook?

‘Today Heather has watched two seasons of Sex and the City in one sitting because she is trying to convince herself that singlehood is amazing and not an indication of her failed love life.’

‘This evening Heather joined an online dating site because she is lonely.’

‘This morning Heather deleted her online dating profile because all the men scared her and made cats a very viable option.’

While these statuses would by no means gather me cool point, and are nowhere near as transferable to the likes of instagram, I wonder if this is where our internet lives are heading. And if this is what the internet of the future is made up of, what would your future profile say about you?

Let’s Talk About #TwitterSilence

In a way this post is long overdue. In the time it’s taken me to get settled into my new house, online feminism has been having a relative shit storm.  You probably know this storm by its brand name – Twitter.

Oh Twitter…. In the realm of social media, twitter has always held a special place in my heart. I love twitter. Unlike Facebook, it’s not considered a social insult to abstain from following people you know in real life. In fact, it’s almost weird to solely follow those people you went to high school with but no longer talk to. You don’t have to listen to the inane statuses that tell you about their latest new born, or how their latest gym session went. You can follow proper people, people you want to listen to like journalists, writers and certain celebrities (you know, the non-crazy ones).

Of course, you can follow the crazy ones. You can follow Stacy from down the road and read tweets from Britney Spears’ press team that tell you she’s having a ‘great time’ in whatever part of the world her tour takes her. You can do all of that, or you cannot. Twitter can be what you want it to be.

Twitter can also offer a great sense of community. You build up a small group of people that you enjoy engaging with online. You reply to each other’s tweets, you share links you think they will like and you can even engage in thought provoking discussions. It can be like a little online family.

But having discussions is very problematic online. You see the internet isn’t really made for calm, intellectual discussions. The whole anonymity of the internet brings out the worst in people. Suddenly the calm turns to rage. Suddenly people don’t think they have to listen to another person, it becomes all about their thoughts, their opinions and their feelings. Face to face you have to listen, you have to at least try to understand, otherwise you risk getting a fist put in your face or you might actually see the tears in the other persons face as you tell them to ‘shut up you dumb cunt’.

But on the internet, these visual consequences that pull on our moral fibres are hidden away. And this can be strangely liberating. I imagine the feeling is similar to that feeling you get when you take a wee in the shower, or walk around naked when your house is empty. Trolls probably reveal a lot about human nature, I bet there’s a whole field of psychological research dedicated to their existence.

However, lately this trolling behaviour has been in the headlines for reasons outside of science. Death threats, threats to rape, to gang rape, to bomb – the women of twitter have been bombarded with abuse. Caroline Criado-Perez has been the face of these twitter abuse stories. You may remember her from her victory over the Bank of England. There have also been other women involved such as Mary Beard, Helen Lewis, Grace Dent and the controversial figure of Suzanne Moore.

Before many of these women left, Caitlin Moran set about trying to tackle this mess with her campaign #TwitterSilence. The premise was simple – a boycott of twitter for one whole day.

Now I have to admit, the idea of a twitter silence had me torn. On the one hand, I like the idea of people being able to easily band together and stick it to the man. It was an easy protest to show support, just loads of people abstaining from twitter for one day. Yet on the other hand, the idea of silence being the weapon of choice against bullies seemed… well, wrong. You don’t tell victims to stay silent.

These sentiments many other people shared and Moran made it very clear that it was okay. In fact, she encouraged it. She didn’t believe hers was the one and only way of fighting the abuse. If people wanted to spend the day shouting back at the abusers – GREAT! In the end, I believe Moran just wanted to get people talking about the issue at hand and to try and inspire some camaraderie. This I liked, so when Sunday rolled around I was torn about what form of protest I should take.

However, twitter quickly made my mind up for me. Logging onto twitter on #twittersilence was like entering a warzone. From my point of view, the people who claimed to be team ‘shouting back’ weren’t actually shouting back to the trolls who had been abusing the likes of Caroline, but were focusing all their energy on attacking Caitlin Moran.

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Some of the tweets that were abusing Moran were understandable, and by that I mean they came from the kind of people who were probably in the troll camp which Moran was fighting against. Yet the ones that really angered me came from the online feminist camp. Apparently Moran wasn’t doing feminism the right way and this therefore justified a day of mocking her for her perceived feminist failures.

At this point, can I just point out that there is no definite ‘right’ way to be a feminist? There are many different camps of the feminist sphere, not all of these camps have the same ideas, but I would think support of one another wouldn’t be too hard a task. Sure, you don’t like twitter silence but it was undertaken with good intentions. Instead of spending your time denouncing it, why not come up with your own way of showing support for the cause?

In the end I tweeted #TwitterSilence and left the site because of fatigue. It was tiring to watch feminism tear itself apart and argue with people who were supposed to be allies. Was that the right reason to join twitter silence? Probably not, but I really wanted to show that sometimes we can pull together and unite under one banner. Of course, twitter silence was a massive failure, with or without my participation it would have been doomed. In the end, rather than get rid of the trolls, twitter silence just made trolls of the feminist movement. It made some people look as bad as the people everyone was against.

And even now, I wonder if my silence was the right thing. Did I join to support or to deny what I was seeing? Should I have shouted back against the trolls or the feminists? Who was in the right and who was in the wrong? Ironically, trying to answer these questions has left me speechless.

I’ve Moved to London & Some Online Feminism

Well I’ve done it internet, I’ve made the plunge and rented an over-priced flat in the most expensive UK city – LONDON! Or should I say LAAAAN-DAAAAN! This move has resulted in many life changes, some good and some bad. The worst has to be that I am now living in a world without internet. People who have moved into new places know all about this dilemma, of that agonizing first few weeks, where you wait, going mildly insane, eating up your mobile phone data, as you wait for the internet man to come and hook you up. I am currently  camped out in a Cafe Nero, huddled in the corner and pilfering their internet to write this message.

Obviously, while Carrie Bradshaw and all those other cafe-shop writers make it seem effortless to write in public, I find spilling my emotions out on a blog a little tricky when a fake Italian barista is staring at me. Meaning you’ll all have to wait until August 7th for this blog to return to its former glory (it did have a glory, right? Remember all those posts about film star’s penises?). To keep you internet dwellers wanting more, here is some interesting internet things to keep you going until my majestic return. Said return will almost definitely be defined by virtual fireworks, scotch and naked go-go dancers. Or maybe just some pictures of my new place and some feminists rants about oogling on the tube. You decide which is more realistic.

Until then, enjoy these internet treats that have been mostly harvested from the mysterious place called Reddit.

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Nada al-Ahdal: A New Face for Early and Forced Marriage

In the above video, Nada al-Ahdal talks about her decision to run away from home after her family attempted to force her into marriage at the age of 11. What becomes apparent in the video is not only Nada’s outrage and eloquent defence of childhood, but also the violence involved in her life. She says straight into the camera that she would kill herself if she were forced into that marriage, that her maternal aunt at the age of 14 poured gasoline over herself and set herself on fire, all in order to escape a marriage to a violent drunk.

If you watch this video and find yourself shocked by its content, then prepare yourself for more bad news – this isn’t a one off case.

14 million girls are forced into early and forced marriage every year. According to Plan UK, this means that every minute 27 girls are put in the same position that Nada found herself in, and worse, most will have no means to escape their fate.

The consequences of forced marriages can be disastrous for the girls involved. Suicide is just one outcome; others include the increased likelihood of abuse and sexual assault, poor sexual health (child brides are at more risk of contracting HIV) and complete abandonment of the girls’ education.

All these statistics come from the Plan UK website, a charity dedicated to getting the UK involved in ending early and forced marriage around the world. If you would like to get involved, you can sign their petition by clicking on this link.

Nada was originally adopted by her Uncle when her parent’s were unable to care for her and her brother. She was later forced away from her Uncle when her parents wanted to marry her to a rich man from Saudi Arabia – there was also a hefty bridal price promised. Luckily, Nada’s uncle stepped in to save her.

“When I heard about the groom, I panicked. Nada was not even 11 years old; she was exactly 10 years and 3 months. I could not allow her to be married off and have her future destroyed, especially since her aunt was forced to marry at 13 and burnt herself. I did all I could to prevent that marriage. I called the groom and told him Nada was no good for him. I told him she did not wear the veil and he asked if things were going to remain like that. I said ‘yes, and I agree because she chose it.’ I also told him that she liked singing and asked if he would remain engaged to her.” - Sourced from NOW

Without her Uncle’s help, Nada could have suffered from the same fate as her Aunt and millions of other girls around the world.

Reunited and safe

Reunited and safe

Has Cleavage Become the New Office Accessory?

Good news Internet, I have found myself a job. Well, a paid internship, which is close enough! As this is my first job outside of university, I want to make a good impression in the office. Obviously, as a woman, the only way to do this is through my work wear. Clothes are the equivalent to a Rorschach test in girl world.

Now I have some office wear saved up in my closet, but clothes have a sell by date. Once they’re out of season it’s like they grow a mould that only women can see and smell. No one wants to be the mouldy new intern.

With this in mind, I have been trying to find some of the best office wear the internet has to offer. And by best I mean the cheapest.

Asos has some very classy and cheap clothing available in their sale section, and if I had money, I might be tempted to shop over at Topshop. Yet Boohoo, who has always been known for cheap clothing, and who also dedicates a section of their website to telling you what is office hot and what is office not, seemed to be the treasure cove of my quest.

That was until I learned that cleavage has become the new office accessory. As a woman with a, erm, chest on the smaller side of things, you can understand why I felt disheartened by this revelation. Don’t believe me about this new fashion trend? Just take a look at some of these outfits.

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Now while I’m for a woman being able to wear whatever outfit she wishes without facing disrespect, I can’t help but feel baffled by these outfits being classed as work wear. I thought offices required black trousers, pencil skirts and cardigans. In fact, I was planning on taking a ‘what would Liz Lemon from 30 Rock wear?’ kind of stance on the whole thing.

You see why I idolize her?

Now of course, my bemusement at these outfits might stem from the fact that if I were to wear such things, the hole with boobs in would just be a window to my gaping boob gap. A gap that is so large I sometimes find Grand Canyon tourists taking pictures down there.

Still I have to ask, is this what men deal with? Have you ever seen a man squeezing himself into a tight shirt that has a cut out for his six pack to be viewed from? Or have they ever wiggled their butts into scuba material trousers?

Or maybe men wish they could wear some boob-a-licious outfits. Maybe they get bored of wearing nothing but shirts, blazers and sensible trousers. Has anyone ever asked David Brent if he would like to do his tax returns in sequined leggings? Or questioned Donald Trump about giving a scallop cut blouse a go for his next meeting?

I remember going to one job interview and one boy sighing because he was jealous that all us women had to do was ‘put on something decent and shove a blazer over the top’ – which isn’t that incorrect.

So what do you think internet? Are women blessed in the work wear area? Or cursed by being asked to grow fun bags big enough to fill a Billie V Neck Cap Sleeve Bodycon Dress?

I think, for the time being, I might give Boohoo a miss this season and stick to the tried and tested blouse and blazer combo that I’ve been wearing to job interviews for the last month. And maybe in the future, when I have some money, I can get my classy act together and dress like the working Goddess that is Tina Fey herself.

You sure are Liz, you sure are…

If you’re stuck for ideas on what to wear to the office, I suggest giving this pinterest board a look. You can also give BooHoo a go yourself, despite what this blog might have led you to believe, most of the stuff on there doesn’t look like outfits for strippers trying out for the apprentice.