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Television is Life

Life has begun to feel like I am sort of auditioning for one long YouTube video. I’ll be alone, say, in an empty windowless corridor or in the bathroom. But when I speak and move, I edit myself as though I am being watched, More specifically, I am picturing myself as if I am on film. Even down to my thoughts – often, I’ll be talking to myself in my head and if mid-thought I stumble over my virtual words, or think the wrong word, my brain will go back and re-run the thought as if I were saying it aloud. To an audience. Why can’t I be myself with myself any more?

I’m not quite sure how I let this happen. I’m not exactly a performer, there is certainly no unrealised desire in me to be famous, to be seen. I prefer to be alone. You could argue, quite rightly, that writing a blog is a performance. But clearly the appeal for this writer is that I can always edit.

tv sketch editI’m sure I can’t be the only one who has noticed themselves doing similar. Ringing any bells? Although I’ve been thinking about this only recently, I know it’s something I have been doing for a long while. And I blame the television! A pretty easy target. But, worryingly – or rather, not worryingly at all in this day and age – my TV is always on. It literally is a member of the family, a friend. Well, come on, friends – we have several. And so with 30 years of such indoctrination is it any wonder that we are constantly putting on a show. We’ve been practising all our lives – almost trained to act like we’re being watched. Like it or not, it’s not just the actors behind the screen – somehow, we have all become performers.

It must be even more intense for the younger lot or perhaps – not that they will have noticed. It will have been this way for their whole lives. For this generation TV isn’t so much influential as dictatorial. A guide for a life in front of the screen. Even on the most basic level, there’s always the threat of someone taking your photo. Then there are the bigger, inescapable eyes of Big Brother, watching our almost every move. And now, with social media, we are always being watched.

It’s exhausting! And not just the show, remembering to check your words and your outfits. No, there is the vast mental effort needed to consider, and the impact this performance has on our self-esteem. Our ideas about life in general. With so much visual competition there’s a lot to learn from, to inspire and challenge us to improve and grow, yes. But we have all set up an outer image of ourselves – the persona we want the outside world to recognise us as, the persona we want to convince ourselves that we are, even in private – and how can we constantly live up to that? It’s as though we are measuring up to a hologram.

I recognise this because I know it is something I do in myself. As a teenager I had created a persona that I never let myself switch off from, even once the bedroom door was closed and it was just me (and the TV), because I wanted it to be real. Laughably, that aspirational figure was very much based on Bridget Jones. Somehow, the constant pretence made it more believable. It was comforting to pretend.

Remember those poignant words of William W. Purkey? You gotta dance like there’s nobody watching. I’m wondering, are we actually capable of this anonymity anymore? Or has the mantra turned on its head? You’ve got to dance like somebody is watching, because there most likely is – even if it’s just in your head.

I came across an article recently about what was referred to as the great illusion of the self. Of what little of it I understood, there seems to be a growing argument among psychologists that we – or rather ‘you’ – are not the person you thought you were, underneath it all. And with this in mind, maybe there isn’t any real harm in pretending. Besides, what greater comfort is there?

Despite myself, I seem to be crying more than one should – at the television. I’m not much of a crier away from the screen. Yet there I am, wailing at the sight of an abandoned dog in one of those harrowing fundraising adverts. Sobbing during a local news item about an elderly war veteran robbed by thugs.

Why is it that I am so ready to open the floodgates in front of strangers I neither know nor care about on the television, but run a mile at the thought of exhibiting an uncomfortable emotion, admitting a vulnerability, to the actual people in my life? Well of course, I’m certainly not unique in this unhealthy behaviour, the roots of which aren’t exactly rocket science. It’s dramatically less hassle unleashing your inner emotions via some (seemingly) unrelated incident involving a small child and a rare disease on the news, rather than admitting your fears directly to a loved one. This is why counselling is so effective. Well, that and counsellors are trained professionals… your tv isn’t exactly going to pipe up with some coping techniques to offer you.

At home, the tv is always on. Critiquing what we’re watching takes on a real importance and, as the years go on, I find I’m over-relating with tv in general. It’s like I actually know the characters in The Big Bang Theory, that they really exist. I’ll have full-blown conversations about them – sometimes, when I visit my parents, we will speak more about what’s happened on the tv than we do about events in our own lives. And with real seriousness.

I consider myself a member of a generation for whom it is still considered a little anti-social, embarrassing – downright ridiculous – to talk so much about something as trivial as the television. It’s an admission that you don’t have enough to say for yourself, about yourself. Times have obviously changed – look at the Gogglebox phenomenon. And while I maintain that too much tv is prone to make us lazy and insular I would also argue that, contrarily, tv does have a valid role to play in today’s society – encouraging connections in its own, very modern, way.

When an episode of The Apprentice finishes, and we all rush to Twitter to de-brief, we’re brought together as part of a (weird) virtual community. And when we say nothing to our partner/parent/sibling in a whole evening other than ‘what did you think of Eastenders?’, well – it might seem to sad to the older generation (and to me, a bit), but at least it is keeping some lines of communication open!

So really, tv is a way of building bridges that perhaps wouldn’t otherwise be crossed, virtual ones and actual ones. Just as it’s easier to cry about something you see on the telly when it reminds you of something you hold quietly inside you, it’s easier for some people to talk to others in those displaced terms too – an easy, ready-made medium to communicate through, in which we can all contribute. Something we can all use to relate to each other with because, come on, who doesn’t watch the tv? (Well, I do know two people who don’t have one…) I can’t see the situation changing either – judging by the constant chatter of the young people that come into my workplace, it’s apparent that tv – well, YouTube actually – is the focus of their days.

I Googled before writing this post and – surprise, surprise – too much television is resoundedly considered bad.

It can shorten your life.

It can change the structure of a child’s brain (?!)

It means DEATH!

Apparently sitting sedentary in front of a screen for more than two hours a day doubles (yes, doubles) your chance of a premature death. a) I feel genuinely anxious about this alarming statistic. Should i alert my GP? I think I’d need to join a queue, and b) if this is in fact the case, work is definitely killing me.

Of course, there’s distinctions to be made between the kind of tv where you sit glass eyed unquestionably watching pointless drivel for three hours straight, the content of which is seemingly made up of repeating what’s just happened because, presumably, it assumes its viewers have been rendered stupid by merely watching it. (Perhaps death is preferable here…) But it seems unfair with so many screens in our lives now to blame the biggest, oldest one. Surely some idiot glued to their mobile phone screen whilst driving is much more deadly.

What would be your Mastermind subject?

I was thinking about this in the shower the other day, as you do. And it occurred to me that I no longer have a subject that I can honestly say I specialise in.

The revelation made me genuinely sad. Have I let myself down?

mastermind_chairImage courtesy of bigissue.com

I don’t really specialise in anything any more – I just generalise, badly. It’s not the end of the world. I’ve managed to get through life so far. But over the last few days I’ve been asking myself the question – what exactly do I know?

It’s generally acknowledged that you’re supposed to know more things when you get older, right? But in reality while (some of us) become wiser, cold-hard-facts-knowledge is something we just end up forgetting. Life takes over and we stop practicing – getting on with daily life doesn’t leave an awful lot of time for knowledge pursuits. Not unless you’re doing it as part of your day job.

I’d say that my knowledge peaked at 22 and it’s all been drip dropping out like a leaky tap since.

Does part of us stop caring? I’d argue that most of us get to a point where we’re not trying to prove ourselves to the world anymore. You start to relax.

I was quite happy with this relaxing, until the other day in the shower. Now I’m worried – should I be learning more stuff?

You forget what it is like to learn. The confidence it brings. When I was at school, absorbing all that information was effortless. Natural. So much so that I took it for granted. But now as an adult, well – it’s a totally different, scary slog of a story.

Last week – before the shower – I was told that my punctuation is all over the place. At the age of 31 and owner of a Bachelor’s Degree in the English Language this bombshell was hugely shame inducing.

Handily, for some reason I’ve had the Penguin Guide to Punctuation in my bookcase for who knows how many years. So, I thought I’d spend ten minutes reading through that to refresh my ageing memory…

Eight days later, and I still have not grasped the functions on the comma. *At this point I will take the opportunity to apologise for the offensive and incorrect use of commas riddled throughout this blog post.

When the weekend arrived I was at my wits end. I thought I’d give my poor brain a break. Do some relaxing, something I am confident I am good at.

We walked into town. Loafed around the library. Got tired from all that hard work. Sat down in said library for a break. We looked up and realised the square outside was packed. Positively teeming with throngs of over-excited small children literally running, throwing themselves at whatever was going on.

I’ll tell you what was going on. Science.

The British Science Festival had come to town, and my word was it going down well.

Some children were blowing bubbles bigger than the London Eye.

Some children (and grown adults) were running barefoot through a bowl of custard – which held solid under the weight of those who ran quick enough.

But the biggest hitter – and most entertaining to watch – were the mini canisters which, when filled with two reactive elements, exploded.

The sheer glee on each child’s face as the canister propelled itself into the air as if by magic, and the rapt fascination as they were shown how this had happened was really was heart warming. And a little inspirational.

That thirst for knowledge is something I wish I had made more of an effort to hold on to.

But of course, it’s easy for kids. They have tons of time to dedicate to learning. They don’t have any worries about money, work or getting the washing done.

Perhaps the answer is to stop being so damn lazy. Just take up a hobby. REALLY take up a hobby. (Not just buying Kirstie Allsopp’s Craft book and leaving it there next to the TV.)

Because despite it being hard work – and I already have enough of that at actual work – learning new things really does make you feel better about yourself. Helps you feel as though you can go about the world with some confidence – even if you don’t want to take it over any more.

Being a specialist in something – no matter how trivial or obscure – is a small way of demonstrating to the world, and to yourself, that you’re still here. In a small, relaxed way.

So, I think after I’ve conquered commas I will release the inner child with me, and learn something. Perhaps I’ll start by taking out a science book from the library. Who knows, maybe this time next year I’ll be the one showing small children how to walk over custard.

And if John Humphrys invites me over to the big leather chair, I’ll have the confidence to say yes.

yoghurt sketch edited

It’s time for something especially trivial today, readers. Sorry. But I must get this off my chest.

Yoghurt adverts – what the hell?

These adverts have become the scourge of our televisions, multiplying in seemingly endless numbers every week.

At this terrifying rate, soon every other advert will be for yoghurt.

Why so MANY of them?? I’m bemused.

I mean, how much yoghurt does anyone ever buy? Surely the advert to consumer ratio is all warped.

Am I missing something? I’ve eaten yoghurt. It’s ok. Sometimes they’re very creamy. That makes them more ok.

But are they, say, delicious…not really.

Yoghurt does not meet your snack need in any way, shape or form. Everyone knows this. If anything, you are hungrier. Yoghurts are only ever bought out of guilt – guilt for really wanting to buy a chocolate bar.

Plus, it’s really inconvenient – if you’re not eating it from the comfort of your own home, you need to have cutlery on you.

But maybe I’m wrong. Apparently yoghurts can offer you a taste of luxury…Erm, are they luxurious? In any conceivable way? Christ no! It’s yoghurt, for God’s sake.

If for a second you’re entertaining yoghurt as an idea of luxury, you’ve got more problems than this humble product can help you with.

liberte

Image courtesy of Liberte

Not only are these adverts increasing in number, they are also taking silliness to whole new levels.

Greek mythological figures? Firemen? Sexy criminals? Lifeguards? Topless men in tighty-whities?

A magician??! Come on, everyone knows that magicians are not sexy. Creepy, yes. Yet here one is, in a jolly farmers market, turning fruit into yoghurt, surrounded by a bevy of young blondes who begin to giggle mindlessly. Hmmm…

Seriously indulgent? Sumptuous? Please. Yoghurts being pushed as luxury products? Sexy, even? I find this bizarre.

As far as I am concerned, you just can’t sex up yoghurt. If anything, it is one of the least sexy foods. It is barely even food. Despite this glaring truth, most recently Muller have tried to turn yoghurt into sex (ugh, sorry), courtesy of Nicole effing Scherzinger. Maybe she got confused and thought she was shooting another Herbal Essences ad. At least the painful acting makes it entertaining.

At best these adverts are silly and frivolous and at worst, mindless and patronising. Practically all are touted as a dieting aid. And with all these cues, they could only ever be aimed at women, naturally.

The more I think about it, actually, the more riled I get.

On the one hand you’ve got outdated stereotype A – silly women, prancing around, drooling over half-dressed men and getting over excited at dairy products. And on the other hand, there’s outdated stereotype B – silly women, prancing around, obsessing over their weight and digestion, and getting over excited at dairy products. It’s insufferable. We could be here all day analysing what it all means.

Look. I like to call myself a feminist. A gentle feminist, if you can have such a thing. And whilst I find observations such as these thought provoking and very valid, I just don’t feel them deep down in my soul, if I’m honest.

Please don’t shoot me – I’m not a detractor! I’m just not as passionate about some things as my younger self was. But it is great to see so many more young women becoming passionate about feminism, especially when compared with the reception feminism typically received when I was their age.

People left, right and centre are talking openly about feminism now as if it is the new buzzword. Boosting by strong support from women in the public eye, including Caitlin Moran and Laurie Penny. It’s good to know feminism is no longer a dirty word.

However, I do feel rather cynical about the apparent renewed interest, and question the real impact it will have in the long term.

It feels very much like a popular fad being pushed by the media, hungry to see female pop stars out on stage in their pants, behind a big flashy neon sign, under the banner of ‘feminism’. For me, this is not feminism. It’s yet more advertising. All a bit vacuous.

And on the other side of the flashing neon, it’s all too serious and angry.

So, while I can neither relate to the media poster girls nor the academics, I find myself in the middle, on the sofa, entertaining feminist-lite thoughts, and I reserve the right to get irritated at yoghurt.

Turn off the TV you say? Stick to the BBC?

Yes, you’ve got a point. But when will I watch Come Dine With Me?

This is more me:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sf_roIC9Pso

I learned something from Come Dine with Me the other day (no, really).

Apparently, Merseyside has one of the highest numbers of unmarried people in the UK. I know – what’s the marriage status of the North East got to do with a bunch of idiots terrorising other idiots in their own homes? To put into some context, this was Couples Come Dine…I’m assuming that’s why they chose to throw this fact in, rather than just some random Liverpool bashing from Channel 4.

Bashing – now, there’s me and my defensive knee-jerk reaction to the subject of marriage, or rather not-marriage, rearing its ugly head. After years of social conditioning I now instinctively assume that when the subject is raised, it is usually done so negatively. Or confusedly, at least.

As I find myself now, in a) my thirties b) a happy long-term relationship with The One (I apologise) and c) not married or wanting-to-be-married-ever-REALLY, I am finding it ever more the case.

“What, you don’t want to get married? Oh, you’ll probably feel differently in a few years time.”

Why? It’s easier to assume I don’t know my own mind, rather than accept I choose not to marry. This seems to me to be a socially acceptable form of condescension.

Not-marriage

With all this in mind, the actual statistics really surprised me. The 2011 census revealed 51% of people have never married, or are divorced or widowed.

According to a piece in The Daily Mail (apologies for this, my second slightly dubious source), the Office for National Statistics said the changes “were the result of declining numbers of people making it up the aisle since the 1970s, and changing social attitudes towards people who co-habit or live alone.”

Maybe I just knock around with old fogey traditionalists (I don’t), but my social experiences just don’t match this picture.

Despite it being 2014, and despite being a ‘grown woman’ (of sorts), I still find myself embarking on conversations with total strangers where I feel the need to justify my decision not to get married. I can very much relate to those horrendous dinner party scenarios in Bridget Jones’s Diary. Women in particular just don’t get it, I’ve found. I get shot a look, like I’ve suddenly grown two heads and one of them is going to try and seduce their husband or something.

What’s going on?

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a big moan (ok, it is a bit). I can certainly understand why people want to get married. But I find it curious, the social taboos that still seem to operate in modern society, despite the very real facts of changing marriage trends.
I wonder, is this just me? It wouldn’t be the first time.

Or, does this strike a chord with other women?

As a jolly aside, wasn’t it a whole lot better when Come Dine With Me was sponsored by Blossom Hill wine? Glorious sun drenched alfresco scenes, women frolicking around (clearly not talking about not-marriage) in pastels, a bit of Camera Obscura playing. To replace it with dishwasher tablets…why? Is this another comment on the recommended domestic lives of viewers?

On that topic, get ready for my next post on the subject binge drinking. All the big hitters!

Bye

Source link: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2591541/Revealed-How-married-couples-minority-half-Brits-choose-live-just-stay-single.html

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