Don’t lose yourself in social media

Commuting

A genuine blog is more than sharing formal articles, it’s an uncomfortable gaze into the life of its author. Personal posts are usually the easiest to write as the words flow but the hardest to publish. The words below formed in my mind whilst travelling home late last week. It describes the struggle of balancing social media with more “fulsome” activities such as reading in-depth articles, books or digesting podcasts.

Sometimes it’s easy to be caught in the trap of updating social media for no purpose at all, always waiting for that next update. Balancing this personal relationship with social media whilst following online at a senior career level… well, it requires a degree of self-discipline. Some online professionals choose to almost completely disconnect themselves from social media in their personal time; I don’t, I can’t understand how you can or would want to.

Online has formed part of my identity, a real and virtual life. What you see is what you get. You may be able to relate to the words below, or not. In truth? I don’t mind, it provides a snapshot of the journey I find myself on.

Don’t lose yourself in social media, balance it with life.

***

Stop what you’re doing. Just think.

Endlessly scrolling down your Facebook feed to find that little explosion of ‘social’ endorphin is a drug that will get you nowhere.

Do you even remember life before Facebook and social media? Really, how long has it been now? Over 10 years, thousands of status updates and online interactions later.

Friends have come and gone. Life has fundamentally changed socially and politically. Passions lurk as embers waiting for ignition but are threatened to be extinguished by the power of that ever-scrolling news feed. Benighted conundrum, the mind has a tantrum, social media continues to be updated, life flashes before your eyes – it’s come and gone.

Meanwhile the drum continues to beat, online has become a U.S. monopoly and a commercial feat. Where is this going? From the humble beginnings of Miniclip to building grassroots online communities. We used to build our villages but now they have become faceless cities. Pawns locked into a game of cat and mouse; our personal lives fuel transatlantic riches and the cat purrs.

This used to be the game, the escape and it’s now the king. What do you think the balance looks like? Face in the looking glass and life is beginning to look a lot older. Millions of keystrokes later, trading information for social kicks. How is this world set to grow? Will it swallow all or will a balance be found?

Am I alone? Is this addiction? Does any of this matter?

Before you pick up your smartphone, think. What has changed?  

See beyond your age: 26 life lessons at age 26

lonely playground

lonely playground

Last Monday I hit the beginning of my late-twenties and started to think about life lessons.

I find it difficult to comprehend that I was 18 years old eight years ago. Family photos show the quick transition from boyish complection to manhood. Time stops for no man; the years are racing.

For me right now, life is a treasure chest of opportunities. Whether that is translated through my appreciation of philosophy, joy of reading, understanding of the arts (yes, I’ll include heavy metal in this category!). After years of curiosity, I’m even turning my hand to amateur photography for the first time.

Whilst an enthusiast for life, I’ve also experienced some tough life lessons. Losing a close-friend, turmoil of relationships as people transitioned from university, the depression of being stuck in a job that wasn’t right. Sadly, natural parts of life and more to come.

At the end of the day does age matter? Not in my eyes. It’s your attitude, thoughts, and actions that really count. In my head is an excited eight-year-old chasing dreams and the surly older man who is told that he thinks beyond his years.

So in a similar style as Stephen Waddington’s wise observations from middle-age, I’ve contributed some of my own life lessons below. Broadly categorised into the main things that matter in life; purpose, relationships, career, learning, approaching life.

Perhaps when I hit middle-age some of my approaches to life will change? I’m still learning. The below shows where some of my thinking currently stands.

Purpose

#1 Live for pleasure

The primary form of intrinsic good in life is pleasure. It’s safe to be directed by a hedonistic lifestyle if it operates within ethical guidelines.

#2 Be lead by convictions

The most turbulent personal years was when I hadn’t formed my own convictions. Be true to what you believe in and put this before everything else.

#3 Freedom of enquiry

Be thankful that you live in a liberal society and don’t be afraid to approach life as a sceptic.

#4 Be inspired by others, but don’t imitate

When it comes to role models, life is full of potentials. Be inspired but don’t try being somebody you’re not. Perfect yourself.

#5 Challenge perceptions of success

Your life is not an advertisement; material gain will not bring you happiness. Your journey through life might be a mess, you will have to work hard.

Relationships

#6 You’re never an expert

I’m certainly not.

#7 You’re not singular

Where possible put yourself before others, act as a couple and contribute to your communities and society. Self-obsession makes life impossible.

#8 Build bridges

Do not burn them. Treat people as you would like to be treated. Don’t let emotion overcome you in difficult situations.

#9 Keep calm. Carry on.

You’ll meet lots of different people through life. Don’t count your friends, value the relationships you have.

Career

#10 Do what you love

This goes back to #1 ‘live for pleasure’. You’ll spend almost ¾ of your life working, make sure you enjoy it (this is the secret to success).

#11 Beyond money

Whilst it’s not always possible, try to think of money as an outcome of enjoying work. This is challenging in the entry-level roles of a career, but I’m certain it makes a difference. Being motivated by money alone is not attractive.

#12 Be prepared to work

Nothing in life comes for free, you have to work for it. Rather than aim for the successes in life, think about what you’re willing to struggle for. Do you want a big salary? Then be prepared to work through late nights for it.

#13 Respect

Everyone is different. Everyone knows something you don’t. Don’t be quick to pass judgement, you have no idea what people are dealing with behind the scenes.

#14 We’re all human

We all face the struggles of life. We’re all naked under our clothes. When things get tough, realise that the world is much bigger than the contained situation you’re dealing with. I find perspective alleviates stress.

Learning

#15 Learn something new each day

Try to learn something new each day. No, Google is cheating. Actually talk to people and leave the confines of the home and office. True learning is through experience.

#16 Never give up

Nothing was worse than struggling with dyslexia as a child, but having a passion for reading and writing. It was frustrating, but I beat it. Today I manage and almost hide my dyslexic traits entirely. How? I can recognise the way I think and know the mistakes I make.

#17 Don’t be afraid to make mistakes

I’m not telling you to mess up a multi-million company merger. Just don’t be afraid to try new things, receive advice from others, and build on your abilities. Learn from your mistakes, create something incredible.

#18 Listen

Stop talking. Listen. You’ll learn a lot.

#19 By guided by passion

In life I’m a child lost in a sweet shop, chasing interests and being guided by curiosity. Let your learning be guided by your passions.

Life lessons

#20 Balance

Technology has merged our careers with personal life, try to keep these separated. Use the off button, otherwise what’s the point in living?

#21 Dealing with hardship

Life can be difficult; some situations are tough to understand. Stay true to yourself and eventually try to use experiences to help others. That’s why I made the decision to contribute this post to CALM last year.

#22 Support

You’re not giving up by letting others support you. Always be willing to support others. The human race is biologically one big family.

#23 Actions

There is a difference between action and intention. Make things happen in life, otherwise you’re just speaking empty words.

#24 Look after yourself

Sadly, we’re not immortal and the decisions we make with our health today may impact the rest of our lives. I’m still trying to look after my body better.

#25 Love

Without love, life is not possible. Nurture love, try not to understand its complexities, but appreciate it.

#26 Age

See beyond your age. Don’t let it sway your approach to life.

Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red

Last weekend I visited the Tower of London, to see the major art installation Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red; marking one hundred years since the first day of the First World War. All 888,246 poppies represent a soldier’s lost life during the war.

The placement of the artwork against the 948 years old Tower of London, surrounded by a modern city provides a sense of perspective; we’re here thanks to the service of brave men. Not just from the First World War, but from many wars since. Even in the bustle of city life, the memories that all the poppies represent provides serenity.

That’s why I took the below picture and highlighted the vivid colours of the art installation. We should always remember those who gave their lives for our freedom.

Tower of London poppies

I’ve just deleted 100,000+ emails

I say ‘just’, it actually took 32 hours to clear the inbox entirely. Emails went as far back as 2006 in Gmail, with a whole host of social media notification updates such as:

  • “You’ve just received a new message on Bebo!”
  • “You’ve just received a friend request on MySpace.”
  • “Thank you for signing up for a Facebook account.”

It was scary just how much information about my childhood was contained in those 100,000+ emails. At first glance they could all appear to be junk, but with the right analysis tool, it wouldn’t be difficult for someone to get a very accurate picture of what my teenage years were like. Messages from old love interests (one of which is now married!), attachments from secondary school and plenty of University essay drafts.

To have all of that information deleted provides an air of freedom, but also a clear sense of loss. The past has truly been erased; gone in a couple of keystrokes. It’s not like I’m trying to escape the past of if I have a problem with Google owning so much information about my life. It just needed deleting.

Whilst I let my laptop process all those emails I went on a 7-mile walk with my other half to help her train for the Marsden March, which happens next weekend. Walking from Esher I took this picture as we passed over the A3, the giant urban pathway is strangely beautiful. It reminded me that it is good to see the world through your own eyes, rather than represented through pixels on a screen.

Walking over the A3

I wonder what the next 100,000+ emails about my life will look like?

Settling in, Shaping up.

It was only once I had started work that I realised my grade from University; a first class honours. In utter disbelief I rapidly found myself reaching for the phone to hear the words from the horse’s mouth itself,

“Yes Mr White, a first. Congratulations”.

In terms of a public relations degree I’m not sure if this shows an academic inkling or instead a vocational determination. Either way, I passed University. Considering this achievement was worth over £20,000 I was surprised the graded sheet through the door was only 100gsm, no sign of gold. In terms of a public relations degree I have to come clean, the grade was an anti-climax. Achieving a first was brilliant but the main worth of the degree isn’t about the letters I can now put next to my name but instead the process. Studying at the University of Gloucestershire has prepared me well for the working world but now my attention is on learning the intricacies of working in a public relations agency.

It’s not my first attempt at agency life; Microsoft required me to take the hot seat in a client driven world but having now worked for two organisations I can confirm the biggest learning curve is the nitty gritty. Organisational skills, planning, note taking and report building take up a lot of time as an Assistant Account Executive.

“You first need to learn the basics. Walk before you can learn to run”.

A PR degree, if served correctly, will inspire enthusiasm but I’ve had to mellow my approach, slow my step – I must get the basics right first. Everyone has to go through this process and only those who do receive more responsibility. To be a graduate who has stepped out of University and into his first job is an increasingly rare occurrence. The chance to prove myself is now.

It is also my chance to meet and start conversations with journalists. After all, on occasions journalists find PR people useful and everyday a PR person can find journalists useful. It is a necessary media relationship and if utilised correctly is beneficial for both parties. A PR person will attempt to maintain clear messaging and a journalist must interpret them. It is a highly transparent business, a relationship which requires honesty and the understanding all content is for an audience. If the content isn’t relevant, the journalist won’t publish and the audience is saved from an irrelevant article.

The notion of a PR persons’ “little black book” has been replaced with LinkedIn and Twitter. Sometimes a journalist may implore these methods but essentially the media industry is reliant upon the traditional technologies of email and telephone. These are the two contact methods which take up the vast majority of my time and produce the best results. Essentially because they are efficient but mostly because the social networking landscape is so noisy. The most effective conversations are one-to-one, the best are face-to-face.

Each day I get to know a few more journalists and I continue to develop as a “PR Professional”. It is a fast paced, occasionally stressful and rewarding business. Settling into the “real world” requires one to ditch all preconceptions of working life and to instead embrace each day as a new beginning.

My “to do” list for the next few weeks

Blogging has played a vital role throughout my University career. Not only has it satisfied my craving to constantly write but it has also allowed me to network with students and professionals in the PR industry. Despite the (alleged) comprehensive attention I provide this blog I have a few projects running which also demand a fair amount of attention. The following are on my “to do” list for the next few weeks:

Dissertation on Measuring Reputation Online for PR
At the beginning of April I’m required by the University of Gloucestershire to hand in a dissertation between 8000 and 10,000 words. As of this post I am just over half way writing my dissertation on measuring reputation online for PR. The dissertation explains measurement techniques and introduces the world of semantic analytics. It is exciting but fairly brain intensive piece. I’m aiming for it to be MA level rather than BA (nothing wrong with an optimistic goal!).

Essays & Other Assignments
Dull and necessary. I can’t wait for all my University assignments to be completed. Not much to write about these tasks. They just need to be done which usually involves large amounts of library time.

GlobCom 2012
GlobCom 2012 is a global communication project where University students from around the world become separate virtual teams to satisfy a real world client’s demands. I’m confident of producing a strong proposal and presentation for this due to my experience at Microsoft as a Multinational Account Manager. Looking forward to this project.

Writing a Book [more details soon]
A group of students at my University are joining up to write a book about Google+ for the Public Relations industry. I will have more details about this project soon. For the moment I need to knock out 8000 words on several chapters. I’ve always wanted to be a published author (I’m already a sort of published poet…) and so this project will be brilliant.

Cheltenham Fundraising Event [more details soon]
At the beginning of March a fundraising event, organised by a few PR students, will happen to help raise funds for GlobCom 2012. The whole PR class needs to travel to Abu Dhabi for the GlobCom 2012 awards evening. Funds raised will go towards our expensive plane tickets. At this event local businesses will have the chance to bid for PR students to assist at their organisation. I am putting myself up for bidding which means you could have the chance to win my “expertise”. The winner may have me for a couple of days and use me as they please. PR strategy, social media, coffee making – even toilet cleaning! I am yours. I will have more details about this event soon.

Applying for Graduate Schemes
For the last couple of months I have been applying for a variety of graduate schemes. When I leave University I would like to stay in the PR industry or move to lobbying. Filling in application forms is a necessary evil!

New Client
It seems I may have also managed to gain some freelance client work. This is an exciting opportunity to once again put my ideas, experience and knowledge into practice for the benefit of a company.

 

Phew! Only three months left of being a University student and I still haven’t learnt the art of sitting back and relaxing. I feel a post like this is necessary to silent the widely held view by sceptics that University students are lazy!

What is on your “to do” list?

The Love of Reason

“We all have this spiritual gift of reason
It would be a blasphemy to turn it down.
We are all Kings so put on your crown”

 

 

Socrates

The above three verses conclude a poem I wrote in sixth form, it got published through the school in a book containing a larger collection of poems. Whilst all the poems featured an iambic pentameter which beat like a broken pacemaker (including mine), the poems offered knowledge about what students thought about Christianity and Religion as a whole. Just as the poetic enjambment waltzed so did the minds of the students whilst writing, everyone interested in the conclusion of the book. Would all the poems follow a similar path? Would there be a clear structure, French ceasures, displaying a pattern of thought?

I must confess that I didn’t spend a great deal of time reading through the school’s poems. The pattern spoken by everyone else was a clear one though – poems were either in favour of religion or agnostic. Atheism was rare; not surprising as every family in the school had to be Christian to gain entry. Plus the Atheistic ideal isn’t one you can sell on its merits. With Atheism the only crutch which one can rely on is a materialistic one. Everything we perceive with our eyes is material; including our friends and families. So in my eyes a materialistic crutch isn’t so bad, yet for pupils growing up thinking a celestial being could offer a competitive fulfilment (plus a celestial home for once our time on Earth is finished) – Atheism loses its attraction.

The opportunity to write a poem for the school was one which made my heart jump. I love writing and still to this day I write poetry in private. It is my deviant love and sharing a piece of my selfish treasure with the school was an honour. For a few weeks I had ideas running through my mind. Generally I don’t think about creative ideas, they just happen. So thinking alone worried me that I may not have what it takes to provide a meaningful poem for the school’s book.

However one evening after having just stepped out of the bath, the idea struck me. The belief was a foundational one which I first met when I approached the logical positivist movement for the first time. In the spirit of the Vienna Circle I wanted to recognise that something we all have in common is curiosity, with that we all crave a belief in something which is mysterious.

Mystery surrounds religion but it also surrounds science. Curiosity drove Thomas the doubter to look for evidence that Jesus had been rose from the dead, it was also one of the reasons the Space race was born. Yet in my experience individuals in the Church had chosen to abandon their own reason, they had ceased questioning and instead were just living in faith. In effect they were leaving their shoes and mind at the door.

Whilst the mystery of the Universe satisfied my curiosity cravings, it is not enough for some, including my parents. Which is fine but as long as reason is embraced. Hence the verse, “We are all Kings so put on your crown”.

Yet reasonability is a dangerous path and can leave one fickle for a period of time. It is often said that one does not choose an idea, but is chosen by it. This mantra repeated since 2007 and yet those in the Church still saw me as a troublemaker offering the alternative idea. I prefer E.P Thompson’s “the enormous condescension of posterity” for we are in control of our own making. Perhaps it was the fault of my primary school teachers for praising me of ‘thinking outside of the box’. A phrase which isn’t often heard when you decide the conclusion does not require a worship leader or spiritual council.

For a time some members of the youth congregation of the Church would make the effort to get in contact with me, even comment on philosophical blog posts I had written. Sometimes in a bid to challenge my views but often because they wanted to know the alternative argument. Most educators in Churches are spiritual leaders who claim gifts of the divine and a knowledge which is inspired. Yet their knowledge outside of theology or rumoured spiritual experiences lacks wholeness. Members of the youth group still went to school, they craved evidence which only the Atheistic viewpoint can fully provide.

Answering the questions of the youth congregation was not an act of atheistic evangelism; instead it was an opportunity to provide suggestions. Students must be directed to the path but I will not walk down it with them. They must do that for themselves. It makes no difference to me what philosophical view point they chose, as long as they embrace Philosophy, the love of reason.

 

I need to…

Achieve a good grade at University

Find a job after I graduate

Quit smoking

Do more exercise each week

Find a girlfriend

Have a book published

Read more fictional books

Read more factual books

Buy trendier clothes

Learn how to play guitar like Jeff Waters

Pass my driving test

Tidy up my bedroom

 

Relax.