Insta Me

Yesterday I went on my very first ‘Instameet’ – a group of photo-app Instagram enthusiasts met up to socialise and photograph the Tall Ships Festival in Greenwich. There were about 100 of us ‘IGers’, as we are known, and there are ‘meets’ like this all over the world, in most major cities. I loved it – I met some really great people who are as curious as me about the world, with the same ‘that could be a great Instagram’ view on life in London.

I’ve always been a bit of an Instagram purist – I take the ‘insta’ part of it very seriously and HAVE to post photos then and there, in the moment. It slightly irks me when other IGers post things a day or even a week later. The ‘insta’ element has gone as far as I’m concerned and these photos become ‘latergrams’. 

So it took me by surprise that the majority of IGers are using state-of-the-art digital cameras, a range of editing apps, and taking and storing up pictures to be edited and posted later. I posted my Tall Ships pictures as we walked round, all of them taken on my lil’ ol’ iPhone, within the Instagram app, with only a filter added here and there. When I ‘checked in’ to a particular location, I was actually standing there. 

There’s nothing inherently wrong with either way of working but it made me think about how I always want instant gratification and how difficult I find it to wait for things to happen. I like to live life in the moment, because very quickly the moment is gone.

This affects every facet of my life.

Some time ago, a work colleague coined the term, ‘Lisa Time.’ I’d go to the pub with her after work and complain about how long it took for people to do or respond to things. Whether it was a response to a work proposal or a text from a guy I liked, I’d moan to her about how long it all took. One night, she said, “Lisa – those people you think are slow are actually just running at normal speed. It is you who is going fast.” 

This was an epiphany for me. I started to think about all those times when I have found slowness so tiresome.

Commuting to work: quite apart from obvious delays on public transport, I often think that I could complete a day’s work by the time some people have moved out of the tube station. They seem to be rambling happily along, as though they’re on a relaxing holiday. In fact:

Holidays: when people take pictures of themselves ‘relaxing’ on holiday with a cocktail, I wince. Just the word ‘relaxing’ makes me cringe slightly. In these pictures, people are often staring soporifically at the camera, and you know they’re just going to be sitting there like that, without moving, for hours. I find it difficult to be so inactive, so anaesthetised from life – if I’m going to drink, then it comes with very lively conversation and possibly dancing. If people ask me what I do to ‘relax’, I say ‘I go for a run or walk to work.’ Yep, that’s my form of anaesthetic. I’ve actually had to train myself to do ‘sun-lounging’ on holiday, with regular breaks to do something relaxing. Like walking.

At the supermarket: my nemesis is the painfully slow self-checkout, with people moving items over the scanner at a glacial pace. I’m often tempted to just grab the stuff and do it for them. There you go, love. You just gained five minutes of extra time in your life. You’re welcome.

Buying stuff: instant gratification means I buy stuff now – clothes, holidays, drinks, books, food. When I want them (within reason). I don’t save for a rainy day. I know that freaks some people out, but I think I’ve seen too many lives fall apart in later life to wait for some mythical halcyon day to arrive when I can spend all my money. I want to enjoy it now.

Dating: the deliberately slow response to a message so that the receiver doesn’t think you’re too keen. I’ve given up on that. I just answer. I’m usually near or holding my phone when a message comes through so I just answer it. “That was quick!!” they always say. Yep, it is. Deal with it. 

Work emails: I operate a fast-response policy. Sometimes too hastily done, but I can’t bear the other person labouring under a false impression of something, if I have the correct answer to the query, or a correction to the content of the email. Over the years, I’ve caught sight of a few colleagues’ inboxes with hundreds of unread, unresponded-to emails. I can’t bear to look…

Facebook and Twitter: again, I operate my fast-response policy, if only to get rid of the annoying notification symbol from my wall. I want to answer or accept the invitation and move on. As with work emails, I sometimes see friends’ notifications numbering over 20 and shudder. If I get one – I see it, answer it if required, move on. 

Group activities: if I’m going out with a group of people to the pub or something, I always walk on ahead by myself. I can’t bear that moment of faffing around waiting for slowies, and then having to curb my pace as we walk to the venue, filling the time with small talk. I time my activities so I get there ‘just in time’, not before or after (well, maybe a little bit after, as slowies sometimes slow me down en route). It happened at yesterday’s Instameet – the moment after the initial group ‘meet’ in Greenwich saw me striding off on my own to find a space to take pictures. I caught up with a splinter group later, just as they were deciding to move on to the next location. Perfect.

Technology: my iPhone is actually too slow for me. If I accidentally open the wrong app, that split second where it opens and closes makes me want to yell with frustration. The same can be said for supermarket checkout scanners – I’ve put the item on the bagging area before it’s even recognised what it is. Keep up, Tesco, keep up.

I’m not sure if I’m cumulatively gaining extra time in my life by all this high-speed activity, but to me, it’s not high speed, it’s Lisa Time. It’s just the way I choose to live and I do find it difficult to witness people going at half pace. To me, they seem half alive, but maybe I am missing something.

I have tried to slow down in recent years and be kinder to myself, but still, my best moments are the spontaneous, fast-moving, ‘alive’ ones. Like the moment last night where I met one of the IGers from that morning and went drinking and dancing on the terrace outside the Royal Festival Hall. I was exhausted from the day but why would I go home and sleep when I could embrace the moment? It felt like the official Last Night of Summer, as we danced outside.

So today, I’m relaxing, after my Big Night. I’m writing this in bed at noon, with Sunday Brunch on my iPad next to me and espresso on tap. 


Might go for a run in a bit…


The Lost Art of Apologising

This week, singer Cee-Lo Green tweeted that a rape is only a rape when the victim is conscious: “People who have really been raped REMEMBER!!!” and then deleted his ill-advised tweets on the subject. He then came back again to say sorry: “I sincerely apologize for my comments being taken so far out of context.” It stirred up such a shitstorm he has since deleted his account.

Let’s have a look at what went wrong with that apology. He didn’t say sorry for saying such a dreadful thing, instead he was sorry WE took his comments ‘out of context.’ This is the classic Non Apology. He might as well just have said, “My bad” – the ultimate Non Apology.

A few years ago, I came across a classic Non Apologist who kept saying, “I’m sorry you feel like that,” whenever he did something to upset me. He was sorry I felt like that, not that he’d MADE me feel like that. I then discovered that this is a Thing. A deliberate tactic to avoid the allegedly huge climbdown of ego that is required for a proper apology. I hear it all the time now, so seeing Cee-Lo say it when he was so blatantly in the wrong *almost* made me laugh.

I dated a guy a couple of years ago whose mantra was, “never explain, never apologise.” It was one of those alarm-bell moments that made me think, “I’ll always explain, and I’ll always apologise.” (It also made me think, “Bye…”) It’s an apparent bastardisation of the Disraeli quote, “Never complain, never explain,” which Kate Moss subsequently nicked. I think I prefer Disraeli’s version.

I once had a relationship with someone who behaved dreadfully towards me, who knew he had, and kept trying to get me to meet him so he could force his Non Apology on me, with a full ‘mansplanation’ of why the relationship had broken down and he’d immediately found someone else. Because I refused to meet him I eventually got it by email: “I don’t think I did anything to you that I should feel ashamed of.” You go on telling yourself that, sunshine.

Anyway, the Cee-Lo story has really made me think about the Lost Art of Apologising and why we find it so difficult. Even a shove from a stranger on a busy pavement elicits a strange hissing sound as they start to say the word but it dies on their tongue. ‘My bad’ became the replacement ‘sorry’ for a while a few years ago but even that feels like it’s disappeared. The classic ‘I’m sorry you feel like that’ response is so ubiquitous now that even I’ve said it once or twice. I think it stinks.

I’m convinced that British people are more likely to say sorry when someone else has bumped into them at the supermarket checkout than if they themselves have really upset another person. In many cases, we’re offering up apologies all the time where they’re not required, and have become the butt of many an American joke because of it. Often, the worst offenders are women. We apologise for asking questions in the workplace: “Sorry, this is probably a stupid question, but…” and that drives me mad. I’ve trained myself not to do it after receiving some really good training some years ago where this tendency was pointed out. Never apologise for asking smart questions, ladies.

Now, I make a huge effort to say sorry when it matters. If I accidentally whack someone with my bag on the Tube I make a massive deal about looking them in the eye and apologising. There’s nearly always a scowl there when I do it, that immediately breaks as the words come out. They look genuinely shocked that I’ve managed to get beyond the ‘ssss’ to the full word.

I always find it easy to apologise for mistakes in the workplace (I have a ‘Hands Up It Was Me, Guv’ policy) but find it way more difficult to say I’m sorry in personal settings. I genuinely think it’s one of the bravest acts a person can carry out and the effect of it in most cases is to completely nullify the anger or hurt one has caused in the other person. Plus a serious weight is lifted off your chest once it’s done. People really respect you for it, and that’s because saying sorry takes guts.

Cee-Lo could have avoided all the shit if he’d just said sorry; that his comments were untrue, inappropriate and wrong. Simples. What he actually said is unfortunately what so many people would say these days, as they slip and slide away from taking full responsibility for their words and deeds.

Some refuse to apologise for their words under the banner of ‘freedom of speech’: earlier this week, the Twitter troll who victimised Caroline Criado-Perez and Stella Creasy with rape threats last year, who is now facing jail, said: “It is a sad day for free speech. I think my tweets have been misinterpreted.” 

Well I think the saddest day for free speech is when people fail to freely say sorry to each other for causing very obvious distress and hurt.

Cee-Lo – just say the words and let’s all move on.

In Support of J-Law

On Sunday I wrote a blog post about sharing on social media, in which I talked about how people will always use that bit of information that you’re fiercely guarding to try to bring you down.

And oh boy, was last night’s celebrity ‘nude’ picture hacking a brilliant example of that. A whole host of female celebrities had their private, cloud-based, naked images published on some crappy online image forum, 4chan.

Jennifer Lawrence seems to have suffered the most from the privacy violation, with her pictures trending on Twitter, until Twitter eventually did the right thing and blocked accounts who were sharing them.

But 4chan didn’t stop there, they tried to get other women to join J-Law in ‘solidarity’ and post naked pictures of ourselves under the hashtag #leakforJLaw.

We didn’t.

You’re fuckwits, 4chan.

There have been some brilliant articles written today about the wrongness of all of this, the best in my view coming from Scott Mendelson, in which he says that the emphasis should always be placed on the criminality of these privacy invaders, and not place the responsibility of self-protection and crime-prevention on women. I recommend you read it right now:

What I’m talking about in this post is the absence of any leaked male imagery. All the celebrities are female. Where are the celebrity cockshots, huh? We know guys love sending them, even if we don’t ask for them, and some even use them as their profile picture on online dating sites (makes a change from standing next to a tiger). So why haven’t they appeared here?

Someone made the point to me today that there is hardly ever a face in a cockshot, which wouldn’t help a hacker know his victim. But even more probably, they know all too well that we’d just laugh at the pictures and declare the guy ‘a bit of a knob’ and move on.

Take US politician Anthony Weiner (wow, did he live up to his name). Not only did he ‘accidentally’ send a picture via his public Twitter account to a woman who wasn’t his wife, but continued to send them to her and other women under the pseudonym of Carlos Danger, even after he was publicly humiliated. You couldn’t make this stuff up. Ok, his career was stuffed when he resigned last year but it is very clear that he had ‘self-harmed’ by going public by his own hand, so to speak. No third-party leakage there (sorry).

Take James Franco – he frequently posts late-night semi-naked selfies on Instagram – they’re self-leaked, and he has publicly stated that, “…it’s what newspapers want — hell, it’s what everyone wants: attention. Attention is power.”

You might think it is Jamesie, but the sort of attention Jennifer Lawrence is getting is not what everyone wants. It is designed to disempower her and all the women it is violating. They are not in control of it. (And by the way, you may have chosen to post your naked self online, but the attention you’re getting is laughter, mate.)

Chris Brown. In 2011 he ‘leaks’ a naked selfie he took in a bathroom ‘for a woman’. It just happened to coincide with his new album release. Funny that. Totally in control of his own image. And yet again, this is naked-selfie control that is not afforded to women.

Mendelson’s article talks about the Disney reaction to Vanessa Hudgens’ leaked nudes ‘scandal’ in 2007, in which they treated her like a “sinful child” and released this statement: “Vanessa has apologized for what was obviously a lapse in judgment. We hope she’s learned a valuable lesson.”

Well I think the lesson we’ve all learned is that women have to apologise for letting themselves be publicly sexually humiliated by men. Oops we left our sexuality right there where you can see it – sorry, we’ll find a better place to hide it. Why should we feel ashamed that we took pictures of ourselves for our lovers? Is female sexuality such a powerful thing that it has to be stamped on whenever it surfaces?

As Mendelson says, it is not the taking of the nude pictures that is in any way scandalous, it is the stealing of them. That is the crime. There have been a number of occasions in the last few years where I have had ‘creepshot’ pictures taken of me: stealthy images taken by smartphone on public transport or out on the street.

Sometimes it is brazen, with a phone thrust in front of me, other times it is quietly done, a quick click on the tube as I realise a phone is facing my legs. Each time it happened I felt angry about the stealing of my image for some kind of perverse enjoyment later. Maybe I’d end up on a website where they’d rate my legs or face out of ten, and follow it up with a torrent of horrible comments. I daren’t think about it.

That’s why I hated that ‘Women Who Eat on Tubes’ Facebook group that surfaced last year – the thought that our images were being stolen, posted and laughed at by braying frat boys with one hand on their tiny dicks. (I might set up a retaliation group: Braying Frat Boys on the Tube with Tiny Dicks.)

And don’t get me started on the relentless pursuit of nudes from guys on online dating sites. Are you on Whatsapp or Snapchat? they say, as a prelude to the inevitable request for pictures. Tiresome, guys, tiresome. Why do you have to own so many images of us? (Well obviously I know why, but why not just use porn like everyone else?).

Tonight, I hope that Jennifer Lawrence is surrounded by her friends, family and a shit-hot group of lawyers. I hope she’s remembering that she hasn’t behaved like a Weiner or a Franco and that a crime has been committed against her.

But most of all, I hope she’s looking at her BAFTA, her Oscar and Golden Globe awards and thinking, “fuck you, 4chan, I’m not going anywhere.”