Tuesday, 29 December 2009

What happened to Christmas?

In chatting with fellow tweeters and reading Misswiz Christmas blog I have realised that this is the most un-festive Christmas I have had. Not that I haven't had my Turkey with all the trimmings, lovely presents and seen my family, but something was missing. I am an Athiest, so no I don't think it was the religious element that was missing, as I have held these beliefs for many years yet still got into the festive spirit. So what is it that makes Christmas feel... for want of a better word Christmassy?

I do wonder if it was my decision to avoid the torture and expense of the "work Xmas do"? I rarely enjoy it, and don't really get on with many of the other staff outside work (with one or two exceptions, but they also often avoid such nights out). I can be a little more outspoken after a drink or two, and have made the gut wrenching mistake of being a little bit too honest with some of my work colleagues in the past ("No, I won't kiss you because you are a complete twat!" is one of my favourites). And no matter what does actually happen there is always the rumour mill working over time and awful drunken photographs on Facebook following the event. This year I decided I couldn't be arsed. So booked to see Pappy's the week before Christmas, and the The Quireboys supported by Wolfsbane on the Saturday before. Great nights out, but they did lack (and rightly so) any festive spirit.

I also hate to admit it, but as much as we all despise the Christmas decorations going up in shops really early; when I used to work in a shop it drove me insane (with the endless Christmas music) but at the same time it did wear me down and get me into the Christmas spirit (eventually). Now working in a mental health unit it is not the same. The wards do put up a few decorations, but this seems inappropriate in my department, people are not well and certainly not happy (or they would not be there). Don't get me wrong the ward staff try to make things as nice as possible for inpatients on Christmas day, but it is far from a happy or festive place. I have realised today that there seems to be another not so nice trend; for the last three years I have returned from a couple of days of for Christmas to hear bad news (a patient I know being readmitted or relapsing/an incident/a suicide). It is part and parcel of the job, unfortunately, maybe my subconscious now remembers and dreads the post Christmas news?

I think the one last part of the puzzle for my lack of Christmas spirit is that I don't have any children. To me it is a time for children to celebrate and learn new traditions (with or without religion involved), they have the wonder and excitement which I have now lost. Luckily I did have a few of these moments of joy spending time with my nieces and nephews. However, one of our family traditions has managed to suck the joy from this too. We all meet at my Mum's house on Boxing day for "meat and mash", it is a bit of an all day buffet and has always been fun. Last year and this year things changed. I'm not sure if it was due to me being ill both years (yes, really ill not just hungover - last year with tonsilitus, this year a rotten cold) or just the general chaos and noise. The children are no longer cute little babies that we can pass around for a cuddle, but all toddlers or older, all demanding attention fuelled by the sugar and gifts. Even Mum hid in the kitchen with me as we plotted ways of escaping her house without anyone noticing. It didn't work, our plans were foiled.

I don't want to be un-festive next year. I have decorated my tree, but maybe I need to have a proper think about what makes me not only in the Christmas spirit but also happy to be so. I need to plan my Christmas as a celebration of what is important to me (and yes include family - just not all at once). I can't simply be too old to enjoy Christmas any more (I'm only 29!).

Sunday, 20 December 2009

The Stigma of Social Networking

I haven't done one for a while, so it's time I had a little ramble. Does anyone else feel there is any stigma attached to using social networking sites (Facebook/twitter/forums)?

I ask because I have met up with some friends I haven't seen for a while, as usually happens at this time of year. They have asked what I have been up to, and I tell them about my new found love of comedy, and my adventures this year (Latitude/Edinburgh/various trips around the country). They ask how I got into it and I explain, basically through chatting to lots of lovely people on social networking sites. This is where there is a mixed reaction.

Some people are shocked but strangely impressed. As if it is a brave thing to talk to strangers online and then arrange to meet them in public places like gigs and see what happens. I don't find it brave, except getting over my own nervousness perhaps. Especially when saying hello to comedians after their set. Online however it is easy, as it feels some what detached and they can always ignore me if it doesn't work out, or if I become annoying block me. Having the agreement to say hello from a chat on twitter does make it easier in reality, permission is granted, and it then becomes less intrusive (with both comedians and fellow comedy fans).

Others have had a different reaction. I sometimes get the "Oh, you are an internet geek now" look. Or they quickly loose interest and drift away. I do wonder if this is through ignorance, not using such sites or having an understanding of how they work. I must admit, this reaction tends to be from people who don't know me as well. The ones who don't give me the time to explain how I got involved and the lovely people I have met as a consequence of it.

Is there a stigma around using social networking sites? I don't really mind the assumption that I am a nerd as I have always been rather academic, but to think that using such sites means I have no life. I have found the opposite has happened, I have become more sociable through using twitter (I always went out with my 3D friends but as I get older they are often busy with children/husbands/work).

Plus there are other benefits of such sites, they are a wealth of information (depending who you follow and how you use them). Tonight the power of social networking sites was realised even more when Killing in The Name of became the Christmas number one, thanks to a facebook and twitter campaign. More importantly other important issues are raised, discussed and publicised sing such forums, such as the campaign for Libel reform and raising awareness of numerous charities.

In my opinion social networking sites are a very valid and new way of communicating. I consider that perhaps the stigma arises due to the fact that this may be true, the fear of the unknown. The celebrities who publicise their use of twitter do raise its profile, but those with technophobia (not fear of electronic dance music) remain unwilling to hear about the benefits of such technology. Twitter (and facebook) is not my life, but a hobby I enjoy and use in order to do more; meet more people, read more and go to more places. Yet I often feel forced to defend my use of the internet to actually have fun, people are still ignorant enough to believe that an interest in social networking sites means you are unable to socialise in the real world. This is simply not true.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Social networking is not a substitute.

I think this ramble is a bit of a reiteration of my first couple of posts on this blogspot, but the topic has been refreshed in my mind this week. I know I said that twitter is just fun, and that is all it should be and facebook I tend to keep more for my 3D friends but I have realised (again) that there is a little more to it.

A few weeks ago a 3D friend removed me from Facebook, this led to a confrontation (via text) and the eventual realisation that for some unknown (and some inaccurate) reason she wishes to disassociate herself from me. This was upsetting in itself, and sounds like the stuff of school playgrounds. Is this what the world has come to? Do friends not argue and fall out in person any more, where issues can be debated like grown ups? My concern is that by using social networking like facebook and twitter with 3D friends (defined as people I see more often face to face and have known for some time in case you forgot), we are removed from the context. I don't know about anyone else but I find it easier to have an opinion which is considered and planned out by using such mediums. I'm not sure this is always beneficial where an emotional dispute needs to occur. Saying things on the spur of the moment means that things actually get said and then dealt with. I am reminded of this tonight having spoke to two other friends who have now been banished using the facebook dumping method, they were understandably upset, and with no explanation were too shocked at the immaturity of an action.

I was also reminded this week that sometimes things said on twitter and elsewhere in the virtual world can also intentionally or unintentionally hurt people's feelings. I know the majority of people using such mediums do not mean any harm, but it does happen. It may be that someone takes things the wrong way, or has had a bad day. I'm not saying that we can protect ourselves or others from this, but I do wonder about my emotional responsibility. It sounds heavy, but it isn't. I have several friends pending in my facebook account, this is because I'm not sure who they are and I like to keep my facebook profile rather selective. However, I have not explained this to them, so as far as they know I have rejected their request. Is this rude? What is the etiquette? I also try to reply to most people who reply to me on twitter, it is basic good manners. But my question is, should there be manners and etiquette in the virtual world? I understand celebrities not responding to everyone (they would be there all day) but the few replies the most of us get are easy to manage.

I remain partially detached from social networking sites, in that they get a version of me/what I am thinking; the image I wish to project. Yet, I have found that I can still be hurt by them, I can imagine the situation where I could take a tweet/facebook comment the wrong way. The above situation is different in that I think it should have been managed differently.

I think I need to summarise this ramble, as it is a bit more unplanned than usual, so my key points are (and remember this is just my opinion, feel free to disagree/comment):-

- Social networking sites are not a replacement for open discussion with 3D friends, nor are they an appropriate way of ending any sort of relationship. At least explain such actions.

- I am aware that some people struggle with social 3D situations but if you have 3D friends I would suggest trying to keep them that way (at least some of the time). Emotions are difficult to read and often misinterpreted in the virtual world.

- It is polite to reply to people if you can, even if you don't follow them, you never know you may get to know them and follow them in the end. Unless they are rude/offensive/inappropriate etc. Us none celebrities can usually manage this most of the time.

As usual these are my thoughts, so feel free to discuss anything you think I have misjudged with me on here or twitter. Thanks for reading. (I feel better after this one, maybe it was more of a rant?).