Home, Humour, Lifestyle, London, Mental Health, social media

Inspired by Britney Spears: what happens when it gets toxic.

Baby, give me it
You’re dangerous
I’m loving it

Too high
Can’t come down
Losin’ my head
Spinnin’ ’round and ’round
Do you feel me now?

Oh,
The taste of your lips
I’m on a ride
You’re toxic I’m slippin’ under
With a taste of a poison paradise

I’m addicted to you
Don’t you know that you’re toxic?
And I love what you do
Don’t you know that you’re toxic?

(Britney Spears, 2013)

Saying ‘social media is toxic’ out loud is about as revelatory as saying the green pasta twirls are the best; everyone knows it. If it wasn’t so faffy (and wasteful) buying a packet of Tricolore and picking out just the green ones, I’d absolutely be bingeing on them as much as I binge on Twitter, Instagram, Whatsapp, you name it. But I’m not. I’m sticking to good old fashioned fusili, because I don’t have the time for that shit and I’m waiting until they just do the right thing and invent entirely green packs of pasta, and also, I’m too busy bingeing on Twitter, Instagram, Whatsapp, you name it.

I work from home on Fridays. Last week was possibly the busiest week in recent memory (and my memory isn’t great because social media keeps killing off my brain cells). On top of my job which that week included organising a press night, I had improv rehearsals, an improv show, a photo shoot, rehearsals for another play and several meetings squished in around that like a tea cosie of added pressure. It was a great week – I like being busy and everything sort of worked and went okay and I look my age and not like a haggard old hypothermic witch in like 75% of the photographs – but it’s been 11 days since I’ve had a day to just ‘be’ and so last night I thought I’d not bother setting an alarm and wake up naturally.

At 7.45pm – because apparently when you turn 28 you become a morning person – for approximately 36 seconds I felt like a goddess. My body and brain was refreshed and my electric blanket was more comforting than a hug from Oprah. Then I picked up my phone and began the morning scroll. 47 minutes later I’m a different woman. I’m stewing over a cup of tea, feeling nauseous, distracted, unmotivated, and, ever so slightly wizened. Excuse my use of ‘wizened,’ it’s just so fun to say.

I spent a few minutes talking to my sister-in-law, who I live with, about how I need to start charging my phone downstairs and investing in an alarm clock, so I can’t tempt myself with all the glories of the online world before I can even properly see out of one eye. I then grabbed my phone and deleted all the apps. I mean, I say all the apps, I kept Whatsapp – because I’m not ready to lose my entire friendship group and I have a lot of long distance relationships to maintain – and I deleted Facebook ages ago because these days it’s about as interesting as a pot of houmous. But I did plonk Twitter and Instagram in the trash and now I’m sitting down to contemplate where to go.

When I think about what I’ve seen on social media this week it’s no wonder I’m ageing prematurely and constantly vomming a small bit in my mouth. On Twitter, before 8am, I’ve seen pigs being tortured, racist Halloween costumes, stories of sexual assault, men telling women they’re shit, women telling men they’re shit and petty, bitchy gossip which is reminiscent of being 14, except in year nine we had MSN so we just said it to people’s faces. On Instagram, I’m seeing people’s holiday snaps, perfect vegan breakfasts, nights out, cocktails, shopping hauls, pumpkin after pumpkin after sodding pumpkin, often shared by people I know – and I’m including myself in this – aren’t actually happy. Not really.

Why are we teasing each other with snapshots of our perfect moments when life isn’t perfect? What are we doing to each other? Why are we playing this game, which we all know isn’t real, to make ourselves feel better for a split-second until we see a picture of someone else in a bikini/drinking a frappuccino/getting a free holiday/getting engaged/having a baby/being more successful than us/buying a house/spending loads of money/being cool and suddenly feel shit again?

When I was on holiday I turned the data on my phone off and started writing a blogpost I never ended up publishing. It was called “vacation: unfiltered” because I got really cliché in Tuscany. Yet again, I’d reached a point where I spent more time looking at Twitter and Instagram than I did breathing, blinking and, judging by the state of my IBS, digesting food. Something had to change. So why not add to the challenges I had already set myself for holiday (get a tan, regular bowel movements, eat ice cream every day) and turn off that free 4G?

Here were some of my entries, about the detox but also compensations for the one photograph of the pool I gave in and uploaded to Instagram, in the form of some holiday truths.

It’s Tuesday as I write, and I haven’t been on Facebook since Friday. I checked Twitter once, because it’s Edinburgh Fringe and I get FOMO, and I gave into temptation and posted a photo of our swimming pool on Instagram, because, let’s face it, us millennials have been bred to brag, and what’s the point of having a swimming pool to yourselves set against a backdrop of Tuscan vineyards if you can’t ignore the view and instead spend 15 minutes showing off to people, most of whom aren’t your friends?

I’ve checked Instagram once and Whatsapp about twice a day – because I’m very attached to my friends, and also there are other ways of bragging.

We have been truly ravaged by mosquitoes. I look like a pepperoni pizza.

Yesterday I got stung between the eyes by a wasp and it’s only thanks to the fact I’m already double-dosing on antihistamines due to my worldwide hay fever together with the fact my body is already covered in red bumps that you can’t tell. 

In fact, I also have spots thanks to sun cream that are worse, far worse, so that’s nice.

I have IBS. The biggest triggers for bloating that can rival a woman who is six months pregnant are dairy and white flour. My diet on holiday has mostly comprised of pizza, pasta, bruschetta, ice cream, yoghurt and extra bread alongside every meal. My attempt at eating vegan regularly has flown so far out the window I THINK it has landed somewhere in the Yorkshire dales. If it’s any consolation I did find vegan Calippos and, if I hadn’t already posted on Facebook that Ed and I are getting married, I would be at the registry office right now, trying to make a Vegan Calippo my life partner.

I think I have three ingrown hairs on my bikini line.

It took us three days to find good food out. It might look picturesque but Tuscany’s main delicacies are wild boar and steak – not ideal for vegetarians.

Our shower only releases one line of water, like when a hose (or penis) dribbles a bit. Washing over half a metre of thick hair is one hell of an adventure.

And, finally, the image I project on social media versus the reality:

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The irony about writing this blog post is I’m entirely reliant on social media to get anyone to read it. So, already, within about an hour of deleting the apps I’m travelling the old-fashioned browser route to satisfy my approval cravings. And I’m reliant on it in other ways too. I’d never have raised over £1000 for my half marathon without Facebook. No one would come and see my shows. I wouldn’t be able to stalk cute babies dressed as characters from Killing Eve. I’d be ignorant of many world events – and equally at risk of staying in my tiny bubble.

But something has to change. Today a particularly vicious, gleeful cycle of bitching on Twitter pushed me over the edge. Me taking a break isn’t going to change anything – but I might actually be able to get some work done today if I stop letting it overwhelm me. It’s not always industry-related. Sometimes it’s an animal cruelty video. Or an Instagram story by someone whose life is cooler than mine. So I guess this is my way of making a promise to myself – to detach from it all – and also, as much as I find it hard to imagine that anyone has read my blog and thought ‘I’m so jealous of that cystitis-fuelled, anxiety-ridden queen of IBS,’ to just compensate for any part I’m playing in that social media game by dismantling it, acknowledging the bullshit, and taking off the filter.

It’s Friday morning. It’s 10am. I’ve done no actual work yet except write this blog. I’m sat in my Harry Potter pyjama bottoms with no bra on. I think I’m allergic to my laundry detergent so I’m regularly itching various parts of my body. I just ate Cornflakes with oat milk – part of my vegan agenda that begins at 8am and ends as soon as I eat chocolate and cheese later in the day. My hands are numb because the house is cold. I’m me.

 

 

Lifestyle, Mental Health, Travel

Breaking The Seal

This trip to Australia has played with my emotions so much I genuinely think it’s the cause of all my split ends. All the ups and downs of travelling are frazzling my head, my heart and my hair.

Today, for my last day in Sydney, I went for breakfast pancakes at The Rocks, a little boutique collection of cafes and markets adjacent to Sydney Harbour, in a cobbled street that sings of sailors past, where you can daydream away the day watching the world’s largest cruise ships coming and going with the ease and grace of giant swans.

After gorging on maple syrup and ice cream like we both had a burning desire to get diabetes before 10am Tamar and I made plans for the rest of our lives and life felt really good. We walked along the harbour to the Opera House to say hello to my favourite sunbathing seal and I felt totally at peace, admitting to Tam that the last week had been the point in my trip I’d been waiting for; the stepping stones towards clarification and inspiration.

I’m not someone who often stops to pause and enjoy being happy. I frequent a habit of dread far more and imagine the worst things that could happen on a daily basis. Consequently even when I do stop to appreciate the little things I inwardly prepare myself for imminent tragedy around the corner, whether it’s burned toast or a faulty plane. When I forget to do this, crisis finds me. It’s something I’m working on, let’s leave it that, but I have a case in point.

Tamar and I said a rushed goodbye so I could leg it in flipflops to the ferry to Manly, a seaside town about a half hour boat ride from the city, where there is good surf for beginners and happy hour ice cream for me. Because I seem to have pulled every muscle in my body after tackling the Blue Mountains yesterday, the image of me running to make it onto the ferry in time was, I imagine, for all the other passengers looking on, like watching a large flightless and arthritic bird, desperate to take off, whilst the other successful birds flap above in the upper decks in a gaggle of despair and impatience.

I didn’t care. I made it. I was unbreakably happy. Maple syrup does that. I sat down and got my phone out to start writing the happiest blog in the entire universe, making a list of all the things I was so excited about, challenges to myself, dreams I wanted to keep, an entire post dedicated to the splendour of the mountains yesterday, and an open resolution really not to eat so much ice cream.

And then my phone died.

It seems the excessive amount of photographs I took of the seal caused it to spark, burn and melt in the centre. Either that or it anticipated the bragging, sickening happiness I was about to spill in Notes and it had an embolism from the shame.

Either way it was dead. And absolutely burning hot. It was frazzled just like the rest of me.

And that’s how it happened. I fell from grace. I went from inspired and improved and floating around on a little cloud of waterfalls and mountain views and maple syrup and sailors to crying on an old man who was wearing flipflops and socks at the same time, which is never ideal, in a seaside phone repair shop, begging him to save all my travel photos and put me back in touch with reality, promising never to indulge in seals ever again if it meant I could have my one true necessity back in my life.

Two painstaking hours later he fixed it (Kevin Yang – you are the from-now-on unsung hero of this story) and I could continue my day as planned.

I’m not a professional blogger. I tweet fairly frequently if there’s a big theatrical event or I want to show off my seal or similar. I do go on Facebook too much and probably overshare. You tell me. I don’t have Instagram or LinkedIn or Pinterest or GoPro or Wonderbra or any of these other things. My email accounts are a mess. I do use Whatsapp every day either to tell Ed I love him or my friends that I miss them or my parents that something has gone wrong and I need them. I admit I have taken too many selfies on this trip but in my defence kangaroos aren’t going to market themselves.

Taking all this into account I definitely definitely definitely should not feel like my world is caving in when my phone overheats. Or I shouldn’t panic so much when I think I’ve lost it and it’s just hidden inside my Aquarium leaflet. When I got off the ferry and legged it to the repair shop, this time like a large flightless bird clutching one of its injured young in its limp, inefficient wing, I was crumbling inside because I hated myself so much for not being strong and cool enough to just chill out and go to the beach and make do with an old fashioned map and perhaps send Ed a postcard saying I love you and my parents an urgent carrier pigeon begging for financial relief.

As I write this my phone just crashed again – this time I was going on to Twitter as I can see my friend Charlotte (by the way, this is for your Dad) has tweeted the picture of the seal. Guys, let me just say it now. We all need to stop reposting the seal. Clearly it is immensely destructive.

So now it’s my last day in Sydney and I’m panicking that I have to get a plane tomorrow and won’t be able to talk to anyone before I take off, which for someone with the same morbid attitude to flying as me, is the equivalent of refusing them any last words with their loved ones before they hang. I’m worrying still that I’m going to lose all my photos again as every time I back it up it gets terribly hot again and that can’t just be because my selfies are smokin’. And I did genuinely spend the last of my emergency fund on Kevin and his phone skills, so next time it breaks would mean selling a kidney or holding a rare Manly water dragon hostage if I want any hope of life with a working iPhone.

I have nine days left in Australia. I really would love to come home to England less reliant on technology and more confident at being truly alone. I’d also like to come home less anxious and with a more positive attitude and those aims are currently at odds with each other. Because I wrote in my last post that I felt safe and at home in the company of that seal. And now because of the bastard seal I felt and may continue to feel more far away and isolated than ever before.

This is the world we live in. We must not let the seal break us. We need to break the seal. As of today it’s become a metaphor for how simultaneously harmful and comforting technology and social media is to me. I’m aware writing this that I may have gone crazy. I think I’m too far in. You have been warned. Until next time lovers xx

Oh. This is the seal.

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