A Fakebook of Friends

Facebook – whether we love it or loathe it, is still very much what we think of when discussion is about social media. We add our ‘friends’, at times with the most tedious of connections – you both play ‘candy crush soda’, that lead vocalist in a band you once bought a single of as fancied the vocalist for all of five minutes, the best friend from of thirty years ago at primary school, and our uncle’s dog Henry; giving a whole new definition to the word ‘friend’. However, isn’t the most tedious and fake friend on the entire network Facebook itself? Although Myspace gave us all one friend to begin with – Tom, we are not all automatically friends with or following Mark (Zuckerberg), but the sheer vastness and power of Facebook, has it now become the ultimate fake friend?!

It only takes a few days away from the site to realise quite what a stranglehold it can have on our lives. Although, some cannot go for more than thirty minutes without checking, a few days away may sound like a lifetime! The ‘so called’ friends we have no longer require nurturing or effort, their lives are presented for us to see at the touch of a screen or click of a mouse. If someone ‘defriends’ us it can “oh well their loss” to “why have they defriended me…what did I say/do?”

We end up comparing our lives with ‘our friends’, rightly or wrongly’, and nearly always find ourselves dwelling on the negative aspects. I’m sure some also glee when they read of misfortunes of people they secretly never really liked at high school, as perhaps karma is calling their name. This however can also has a negative impact on our mental health, as see others soar and fly, while we feel confined to a cage (without bars). As we feel we are not good enough, leading to self-isolation and self criticism of our every move and move, as see them through the eyes of this new friend that has taken away our ability to just be ourselves. We crave likes and hearts just to be accepted by others, and some create fantasy lives just to hide the misery, or to seek attention from these 100s of friends we are meant to have, with only one answering us back when we message for help.

So what can we do? The ‘easy’ answer would be delete the app, remove our account, but that is not an answer for everyone. There maybe people we have connected through Facebook that are worth having in our lives, enjoy talking to and seeing what they are up to. Instead, take back our profiles as our own. Posting things we love and hate, if not much is happening in our lives don’t feel we have to update every week or respond to every post that fires us up or makes us cry happy tears. Keep our eyes, and not those of the fake friend that is telling tales behind our back, open – not everything is real just as real life. Be yourself always, your real friends will accept that and be there for you as you would them.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Hair Loss and Body Dysmorphic Disorder

My first blog for Mental Health Awareness Week 2019 is on my experiences of Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) and hair loss.

In 2013 researchers found hair loss could even lead to exaggerated feelings of ugliness and, in the worst cases, trigger BDD, where sufferers experience acute anxiety about their looks. Doctors found that the ‘enormous emotional burden’ of going bald could lead in some cases to low self-confidence, mental disorders and even impaired quality of life. In fact some have said those with BDD, hair loss second most common issue, with further suggestion that it affects men more than women, but I am uncertain how true this is as I felt devoid of any femininity for many years due to my own hair loss. Much of the media reporting has been on men too, but to me this just adds to the taboo of female hair loss.

With all the twisted images and lies that the media (printed and social), it is no wonder we all feel bad about our appearances , and judge them against them. Many think of eating disorders with regard to BDD, but in my case it was loosing my hair completely over twenty five years ago. Hair loss is not just a cosmetic issue, hair transplants are neither cheap or for everyone, and can have far reaching consequences – and an underlying impact on well-being.

As well as hair loss, I struggled with self identity, bullying and abuse adding to the deadly cocktail that left me feeling like a freak and ogre. I was offered no psychological help at any stage with the trauma of dealing with being 13 (I am almost 41 now) and having no hair left on my body made me wish I actually had cancer as perhaps people might understand more, or I would have had offers of such help. My hair will probably never fully grow back, it did once but fell out again a year later, and almost twice but stress kicked in. I will always remember one little boy pointing at me, and asking if I had holes in my head when he saw patches, all I could do was run away and cry.

Being laughed at by my peers at school made me petrified to spend a few days away on a school trip with them…would they try to steal my wig in the night as some would find it funny? I would not have put it past them, but I kept it on all the time and cried myself to sleep each day. I did not want to be there; I even claimed home sickness to my teachers, when in reality home wasn’t where I wanted to be either. I was suicidal and rather be dead. By the time I did escape to university, I was so scared to be social as thought it might come off, and be laughed at anew by those I lived or studied with.

I have never had sexual attraction or a sex drive, I identify as asexual, which in turn was maybe a blessing in disguise. Nobody was attracted to me, or so I felt, so perhaps it was a good thing as how would I explain my hair loss. I struggled with every day life in terms of knowing who I was, self love, and identity as to me I was always in my narcissistic mother’s shadow and hair loss robbed me of any chance to fight back with individuality. I was so sure everyone knew I was wearing a wig, pointing and laughing at me in the street, or gossiping behind my back.

It took my love of photography to start the fight back, and win the war against my BDD. Photographs as I said at the start can be manipulated, but start off by someone taking them, and as someone who hated others taking my image I think taking them myself was equally about having that control of the image. Every time a family member took one of me my eyes are shut, I am blind in one eye and highly sensitive to light, so my eyes shut with sunshine to flashes, but he would routinely humiliate me having my eyes shut to laughing at me refusing to have him take any pictures of me. When your mind already says you’re a freakish ogre, you do not need this added to the cocktail. So turning the camera on me allowed me to see me, the raw bare faced image that the camera took. Over years, and selfies became a thing, I saw myself develop like an old film photograph. Now images of me by me are like the others I take, they are snapshots in time, which I do not manipulate as would not be truly me. Recently a student at work, who was working of self esteem, had to write something positive about everyone – her’s to me was ‘different and talented’ (I had to resist giving her a big hug).

I have learnt that my body is a shell; people see an outer layer but only as we let them closer do they see the different layers that make us who we are, with very few seeing our skeleton being. I may have very judgemental people in my family, but I have never been one except of my own self. BDD can still try crawl back, but like the black dog that is my depression, this dog’s begging will not result in treats! Ignoring those, or removing them completely, that bring us harm is just as important to do with ourselves – cutting out the toxicity we have for ourselves.

© Fi S. J. Brown

 

 

Jealous

Jealous comes to the English language from Middle English jelous, gelous, gelus, Old French jalous, Late Latin zelosus, and Ancient Greek ζῆλος (zêlos, “zeal, jealousy”), from ζηλόω (zēlóō, “to emulate, to be jealous”). It is often used when someone is envious; feeling resentful or angered toward someone for a perceived advantage or success, material or otherwise. I see it every day from comments of colleagues to family, and on social media from the replies and silence, but yet I have more frustration with life than jealous of another.

Only this evening have I heard one person complain about how another’s face is craggy, as a way to hide their jealousy over this person being slim when they have put on weight. Another has not replied to a message about the 26 mile Kiltwalk I did last weekend because she cannot pretend to be happy for me even by a text message. Meanwhile I read about people posting horrible things on social media to a celebrity after she won a talent show, targeting her weight and looks, as jealous of her success. This woman made a documentary that made many in the UK talk about her, with a few even criticising how she is now, without understanding or knowing the secret pressures of being in the music industry. So called ‘keyboard warriors‘ that think free speech on social media allows them to do so, but should we let them? Perhaps something for another blog.

My life has never been a straight line, picking up experiences that bewilder and baffle with equal measure. Is it my fault for having multiple interests, and actually try to experience them…life is short so why not? I have been told when I write a full resume/CV it is impressive but intimidating, yet when you know me in person can see I am far from latter. People have tried to put my experiences and me into their neat little boxes, but even when they see I won’t fit they try to as to them one size must fit all or leave me out as I am the exception to the so called rules. The frustration I feel experiencing life would make for jealousy in another, but do not understand how another actually living that experience feels or my history that has led to the position I find myself at that moment.

I do not understand the point of jealousy – would I like a cottage near a river or sea, a partner, and children/dog? Yes, but no, as realised some things in life just are not meant for me. For example having children, intuition in my late teens said this was never going to happen for me, despite being told by adults how I was a natural with them. I would love to have a partner or companion to experience the world with, but not ever been something I have actively tried to find, as understanding what I want to actually searching is just not me. I am happy for others that found satisfaction with this way of life, but try to remember it is not for or meant to be for everyone.

Whilst we continue to let jealousy live, we will never understand empathy and compassion, as cannot see through those green eyes that blind us to the opposite of rose tinted glasses. As a child I was told ‘I want does not get‘ and ‘all this world, apart from you, wants is money‘ as I tried to make sense of life. As an adult I know life is hard and short, yet others through their jealousy want to add to it, but as a pacifistic I won’t fight back with abuse but will speak up if hurting someone I love or something that hits a nerve. Perhaps instead when jealousy hits ask them about it, is there a way you can experience it in a way that fits your life, and sometimes we just have to live through the frustration to find something meant for us only.

© Fi S. J. Brown

 

 

 

 

 

Autocorrected Reality

Why have we become to be accepting of fake
Seeing and hearing a world of edited masks
What reasons do we have for hiding the truth
And become in need of validation to be alive

We have never been so close together
But have never been to be so far apart
In this virtual world anything is possible
And we can reinvent the wheel each day

Just a click of the mouse or tap of the phone
Add a filtered mask to our lives to hide flaws
Sharing a picture is easy but editing is a must
Then wondering how many likes will we get

We have never been so close together
But have never been to be so far apart
In a virtual world anything is possible
And fake news can be spun into truths

Like the Egyptians written messages in symbols
Do we need a Rosetta stone to translate again
Are we evolving or taking a step backwards
For once again we are writing upon tablets

We have never been so close together
But have never been to be so far apart
In a virtual world anything is possible
And the real world grows shades of grey

Then there are the celebrities that seem like us
And the influencers wanting to be the next thing
But they really are yet more filters to distractions
To hide a truth that has more layers than an onion

We have never been so close together
But have never been to be so far apart
In a virtual world anything is possible
And trolls to millennials ready to jump

Through the autotuned mists of disguises and lies
Chasing shadows as sleepwalk through the dreams
How can life be so unreal but be reality simultaneously
If we smash the screens will we waken or dream on

We have never been so close together
But have never been to be so far apart
In a virtual world anything is possible
And nobody knows you are really a dog

© Fi S. J. Brown

Technology – 20.18.11

This is not a rant against technology but more thoughts after watching an old clip on YouTube and considering what was said then to what is true of today’s technology. Equally, is today’s technology an escapism and/or all bad news?

Everywhere we go today almost everyone has a mobile/cell phone. Some have them stuck to their hands and stare back at the black mirror to this world where a version of them exists. It is like almost like old computer game The Sims but with better graphics and have more control of the worlds we create. Others hold them aloft to an invisible god as take selfies and hope this god will ensure they get many likes on the assorted social media as they apply filters to portray themselves in the worlds just mentioned.

Mindfulness has become a big thing but yet many do not just stop and look to enjoy the moment as feel the need to have proof they were there at all. Our memories are like movie with only edited bits we remember but yet by taking videos or pictures are we trying to hold on to them for that bit longer? Do we have to document our lives and share them to these worlds…is anyone really that interested in our fiftieth meeting of a so called celebrity or posing drunkenly with our mates when we are over twice the legal age?

Are our lives so vacant or boring we need the justification, reassurance, acceptance or love that come with these worlds? Acts of random kindness feel cheapened too – how can they be so random when it is recorded then shown to others to showcase the deed in action? Do we need these black mirrors of vanity and worlds to justify our being in the 21st century? Looking back at these records of memories are they not more painful or do they cheapen the so called good times, making them seem like they lasted longer than they did?

The word technology comes from two Greek words, transliterated techne and logos. Techne means art, skill, craft, or the way, manner, or means by which a thing is gained. Logos means word, the utterance by which inward thought is expressed, a saying, or an expression. So perhaps technology in this case is a means to present our art and inward expressions of the way we see the world after all. As no two people see or experience life the same way perhaps we can use it to help humanity grow after all and not a step backwards.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Olympic body shaming

Social media can be used for many positive things particularly during the Olympics, for example congratulating people representing our nation in sports, not always people that we knew of before they began, or inspire us to take a look at trying a sport as looks fun or interesting. However, it also has its ugly head that rears too as people mock those that fail to win medals, the achievements of getting there alone are not enough.

In recent years body shaming has become a thing on social media and the Olympians have not escaped it – First came the body shaming of a female Mexican gymnast Alexa Moreno who’s body was not the stereotypical view of a gymnast and now I am reading about a male Ethiopian swimmer Robel Kiros Habte who has a ‘dad bod’. Why do we feel the need to criticise someone’s physical shape, and is doing something most of us could have only dreamed of, are we that jealous as species now we will find anything we can pick holes in another to belittle their achievements? Why do we like to make heroes of people only to knock them down when find they are less than perfect?

Nobody has a perfect life or body, more like a perfect lie, as each day we have obstacles great and small just to get from dawn to dusk. I admire people for achieving and/or living their dreams, often against the odds and/or do so in ways that inspire me too. Enough of this negativity, jealousy, envy and greed of others, we are all different and not identikit zombies. Let us celebrate what makes the beautiful person others and ourselves are (I do not mean physical beauty either) and not pick holes in until we look like Swiss cheeses. Celebrate the individuality in us all, not just the similarities that bring us together.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Real life

As popular reality TV shows return for their autumn runs in the UK few stop to think of the contestants that in many ways are like actors in a play. Winners already decided to scripted arguments, edited video footage to manipulative judges comments, all make us invest emotionally in the contestants and vote in a certain way. Thus the contestants are presented in neat little packages, which are often far from how the truly are around friends and family.

However, it is not just confined to TV shows, for it is something nearly all of us are guilty of. Take a look at your Facebook profile, if have one, and see the image of yourselves that you promote to the outside world. We share our lives like the diary room on the show “Big Brother“, editing our photos to elicit a certain response, trying to look slimmer and younger than we are, to the portray of how life is and the person we want to be seen as by others.

Learning to be comfortable in who we are can be very difficult. Combined with the media and entertainment telling us we need to do x or y to become rich and successful or this is what true beauty looks like via a heavily edited photograph. Those that differ are seen as abnormal or freaks as their individuality is erased at a click of a mouse. Therefore, nowhere do we see examples of ordinary individuals as almost want to conform to these ideas.

Is it not time we stopped watching and listening? Gave ourselves a break for not being how the world paints what human beings are to be. Not everyone will have a partner and/or children, a fulfilling career does not mean one that brings lots of money and owning houses to cars are extras that should not be forced as must haves; what is wrong with renting a home or use public transport, owning a car may seem convenient but costs so much to run.

However, by all means continue watching television and posting to social media if you wish, but perhaps tuning out from or switching them off them now and again so can appreciate what we have without needing to share it, the little things that are special to each of us. Spending quality time with friends and family as life is precious and short, which is why the present is the only time that actually exists; based on foundations of the past and start of tomorrow.

© Fi S. J. Brown

End the stigma

When we search Google it uses a function called ‘autocomplete’, which means we see search predictions that might be similar to the search terms we are typing. For example, as we start to type new york, we might see other popular New York-related searches,

This function can be useful when searching. However, not all of them are positive. These pictures I found on Pinterest from someone who found what showed up when looking up terms relating to mental health. It is frightening to me how some assume or feel regarding it. How can we hope people seek help when some view mental health like this?

Remember – just because we cannot see someone’s depression, can we not see their tears; just because we cannot feel their pain, it does not mean it will go away like a headache with a tablet; just because someone hears voices, does not mean they’re going to kill others; and just because someone is suicidal, does not make them crazy or selfish.

This is why we need to end the stigma of mental health. It can only be done together. At least 1 in 4 of us will experience mental health issues in our lifetime, reach out to help someone not push them away. Hollywood and the media paint mental health one way, let us paint its true colours not the black and white they use.

© Fi S. J. Brown

   
    
   

Rainbow love

The internet has turned into a rainbow fest with news from the US supreme court yesterday announcing that same-sex marriage is now legal nationwide. I have always felt who we fall in love with is a personal thing and not something we should put rules or laws upon as I respect everyone’s right and freedom to be themselves.

I am not one for labels as many of you know, as feel they’re better suited to food not people, so whether you’re gay or queer, bi or transgender, it does not matter, it’s love that matters with empathy and understanding. Even if you disagree with the judgement, why would you not allow another to experience love?

I can understand some of the emotions those that identify as LGBT because in my teens I wondered if I was gay, I had no interest in boys, and even into my twenties and thirties I was still uncertain as to whether I was straight/gay/bi for relationships and/ or sex were not something I thought about or held any interest in.

A few years back I discovered the term ‘asexual’ with regard to humans rather than plants and some of it ticked boxes in my head of yep that’s me. It is hard when life’s ‘norm’ is something other than we feel but realising and accepting that is our norm. It has been part of personal journey and now at the point I can do both.

I’m not going turn my profile picture rainbow on social media in support of the news but instead use my words to help those in countries that cannot express their love for fear of estrangement from family and even death know they’re loved too. Finally, I send kisses, hugs and toast my tea to you all with whatever love means to you.

© Fi S. J. Brown

There’s an app for that

Today if we want to learn how to do something we go to a site like YouTube to learn by video or we use an app on our phone/tablet to do it for us. More and more we let an app do something for us, rather than working out or learning how it is done, as quite often quicker and easier than spending time, or so we argue, learning how is not important. Yet our parents and grandparents would, if they were lucky, go to a library and borrow a book to learn how to do something but many more would learn from their parents or grandparents directly or indirectly.

It is as though in many ways we are now reliant on technology to think for us, not question and wonder for ourselves for there are other things we would rather do than study. Yet at the same time we complain of a boredom our ancestors would never have understood, with so much now possible we find it hard to find something to do…is that not a contradiction? Is it because we have become so reliant on machines for us, that some cannot think for themselves? It seems as though some almost need the machine or app to tell them exactly what to do, when and how!

So what can we do? As for some being without the internet and/or mobile phone is although missing something or no longer part of modern life. Those that choose not to have social media are thought of as strange, as the cynics believe they must have something to hide or even anti-social! I have considered doing this myself countless times but decided to keep for sharing creativity such as music, art, photography and writing. So much of our lives based upon the screen that conversation in person seems so strange to some, but with an alcoholic drink it’s ok!

Does technology improve our lives, is in now ruling or even ruining our lives? Stopping to think about what makes us human, all we can do with our many senses and our capacity to learn new things from scratch. Yet now it seems like we are sleepwalking backwards by relying on something else doing things for us and thinking for us so we can get on with something perceived to be more “fun”. In many respects the robots of science fiction are here but are not the humanoid droids we thought they would be. Machines taking over, is it really so far fetched?

© Fi S. J. Brown