Posts Tagged ‘social media’
On this day in 1997, the words immortalised by Baz Luhrmann ‘Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)‘ are 14 years old.
The original article appeared in the Chicago Tribune entitled, ‘Advice, like youth, probably just wasted on the young’.
The author, Mary Schmich set out to write a fictitious graduation speech: “Most of us will never be invited to sow our words of wisdom among an audience of caps and gowns”.
She invited her readership to do the same. Fourteen years later, bloggers from over the world took up that mantle and the ‘Sunscreen Challenge’ was born.
Bloggers have spent one hour creating a graduation speech. Essentially, it’s the advice they’d pass onto school leavers today based on their own life experience.
If you’ve enjoyed this blog – please retweet it or repost. For Twitter, include the #sunscreenchallenge tag and find other blog posts using this hashtag.
When you’re young, the ‘future’ seems like a million years away. 25 is old, 30 is ancient and 40 is a different species. There are so many things I wish I could tell my younger self, but knowing what I was like when I left school, I probably wouldn’t have listened.
So this is a letter — a letter from the future if you like — and it’s for the kids of today. I’m going to tell you what I’ve learnt during those years since I left school. I could drone on about the importance of a good education and the need for a solid pension plan, but just like the 16-year-old me, you won’t listen.
Instead, I’m going to tell you about the things you can’t buy or get a piece of paper for.
The important things.
Tell your parents you love them
Tell them as much as possible. Yes, your mum has that annoying habit of calling at the most inconvenient time she can find, and yes, your dad still looks a bit awkward when he gets a kiss from his gay son. Parents get on your nerves; it’s their job, but one day you’ll look at them and see two old people who may not be alive much longer — and it’s terrifying.
Being a ‘rebel’ isn’t cool.
The motto ‘live fast, die young, leave a good-looking corpse’ is a load of crap. You ever seen the body of a crystal meth addict? Exactly
Find something you love doing and do it.
There’s a saying: “money can’t buy you happiness.” It’s true, but lack of it can make you miserable as well. Well, here’s a newsflash: you can earn money doing what you love without subscribing to a life of poverty; you just have to be creative and work hard. After all, there’s a big difference between having a job you hate and having a career you love.
Think before you judge
Next time you see someone who’s thinner, more beautiful, has a better body or is more successful than you, don’t be in such a hurry to tear them down. Life is lonely when people hate you for no reason.
Find something you love about yourself
It’s strange how we need to be inspired to love ourselves, but need no inspiration to put ourselves down. So take a look in the mirror now and pick a part of you that you love. Appreciate it every day. Say it out loud. It’ll make up for the rest of the time when you’re being hard on yourself.
Life is loud. We live in the age of TVs, the internet, smartphones, Facebook, Twitter, iPods, rush hours and work. In a world filled with noise and commotion, learn to appreciate those moments when all is silent. Take ten minutes every day. Switch off your phone and tell the world to do one for a bit.
Learn the difference between strong and hard
Take it from someone who still falls back on the ‘I am an island’ mentality. Islands are lonely. Hard people are usually just very, very frightened, so they’ve made themselves impervious. You see, when something is impervious, it doesn’t need to be strong because it can’t be damaged. Accept your vulnerable side. You’re not weak, you’re just human. We all need a cuddle sometimes.
Fall in love
Love can’t be ‘created’ and it can’t be stopped. Love doesn’t adhere to a schedule or a timetable — it just happens. If you love someone and they feel the same, grab them, hold on to them and never let them go. It’s terrifying, wonderful, exhausting, painful, exhilarating and ridiculous — and it should be experienced whether it ends up hurting you or not.
Nothing beats a hug from a child who loves you
Seriously, it’s the most unconditional love there is.
A smile can make someone’s day.
Really, it can. Think about the last time someone said, “have a nice day” and meant it. Think about how nice it felt. We spend half our lives scowling at people who get in our way. So next time someone steps on your foot, just smile at them and see how good it feels when you get one back.
Don’t be in a hurry to grow up
Every day I see kids trying to be older than they are. Stop it. You’ll be an adult for way longer than you’ll be a kid, so learn to enjoy it while you still can. When you’re lying in bed at the age of thirty, worrying about mortgage payments, divorces, children and grey hairs, you’ll long for the days when the biggest worry in life was whether you had enough pocket money for a new X-Box game.
Make mistakes, fuck up, fall down and get back up again. It’s human nature to make mistakes, but that shouldn’t stop you from living. Don’t be the person who gets to the end of their life and says “I wish” — be the person who says “I did”.
“Don’t regret anything you do — because in the end, it makes you who you are.”
— ‘Closer To The Edge’ by 30 Seconds to Mars
As an HIV/AIDS activist, one of the questions I wrestle with daily is this:
At what point does educating people about HIV start to dilute the fear of the virus itself?
Sorry to get all controversial on you, but bareback sex feels good — that’s why people do it.
It’s no good brushing it under the carpet in the hope that people will conveniently forget this small point, because it’s a simple fact of life; your dick is packed with nerves that respond favourably to something warm and wet. And no, I don’t mean apple pie.
Well, I’ll tell you what doesn’t feel good: The fact that I couldn’t snog the face off of my gorgeous, HIV negative (now ex) boyfriend when we went to bed at night, because there was usually blood in the sink after I spat my toothpaste out. Nope, that’s pretty depressing, actually.
Or what about the fact that I can’t drink alcohol any more because of the damage the years of medication has done to my liver? Tonic water, anyone? Just me? Oh, okay then.
I’ll tell you what else doesn’t feel good: that despite still being relatively young and in my prime (I’m 31), I’m usually so exhausted by the end of the week that I sleep for half of Saturday and tend not to move past the sofa for the rest of it.
And did I ever tell you about how I got this scar on the side of my face? No? Well that was from last November, when I changed my medication, had a massive allergic reaction to it and was found hours away from a coma at the bottom of my stairs by my mother, who came round to check I was OK after nobody had heard from me for four days.
This, ladies and gents, is the reality of HIV.
In July 2008, I wrote for the Pride Blog, and I talked about HIV and the “Tombstone Generation”. For people like me, growing up in the 1980s, HIV/AIDS was without a doubt regarded as a killer. We were bombarded with images of falling tombstones and icebergs, and ominous voices telling us: “don’t die of ignorance.”
Before this period, the message was even closer to home. Paul Burston, author of “The Gay Divorcee” recently told PinkNews: “”For those of us who are 40-plus…we didn’t need ‘icebergs’, we saw friends die in hospital.”
I guess if you were sexually active in the 80s, going to a funeral every week in the 90s would have put the whole barebacking issue into perspective.
Fast forward to 2010 and things have changed dramatically. Take me for instance. I have a great job, I earn a good salary. I don’t live on benefits. My boss is very understanding about taking time off for hospital appointments, and treating the virus means simply taking five pills in the morning. It’s just become a part of my daily routine, like putting my contact lenses in so I can see properly.
Yes, HIV is now very much a ‘manageable condition’ — rather like diabetes.
In the developed world at least, we’re so fortunate to have treatment and care available to us, and I can’t put into words the respect and gratitude I have for the men and women who dedicate their lives to finding new treatments, vaccines, and hopefully one day — a cure.
But with all these advances in medical science, we’ve ended up with AIDS no longer being the killer it used to be. So it’s only natural we worry about it less.
It’s also invisible — you can’t see it, so it becomes easier to bury your head in the sand and forget about it, as opposed to, say, a dirty great weeping sore on the end of your cock.
It feels like lately, AIDS awareness campaigns have taken a very softly-softly approach, concentrating on a gentle “use a condom” message.
This is all well and good, but what about showing people the harsh realities of HIV? The anti-smoking lobbyists have got it right, with a slew of increasingly more graphic ad campaigns, and images of rotting teeth and blackened lungs gracing every fag packet.
Should we take our lead from the anti-smoking groups and start including similar on the DVD cases of bareback porn? Or would that ruin our fun too much? I mean, who wants to think about AIDS when you whack a porno on in the background while you’re sticking it to/getting banged senseless by some cute guy who thinks you’re hotter than molten lava?
If you were around in the mid 90s, you’ll vividly remember the image of Leah Betts in her hospital bed, which was circulated to the press in 1995. Her mother released the photo in the hope that people would see it and think twice about taking Ecstasy.
What would make you think twice about barebacking? An advert asking you very nicely to use a condom, thank-you-very-much, or being slapped round the face with the image of someone in the last hours of their painful life, covered in KS lesions, getting water through a drip and pissing it from a catheter?
Now ask yourself this: Is a few seconds spent having a giddy, bareback orgasm worth that?
Let me tell you a story.
It was a chilly evening when I arrived home late last Tuesday from a business trip. The house was empty, which was no surprise, seeing as my flatmate was on annual leave from work and therefore getting in on some big-time mattress action at the boyfriend’s place.
I dumped my overnight bag, shucked off my suit jacket and loosened my tie, then went to the doormat to gather the post.
I squinted in the low light at an official looking document I’d gathered up amongst the takeaway menus and boring circulars from the bank.
My stomach dropped through the floor as I read the words at the top of the page:
HIGH COURT ENFORCEMENT AND CERTIFICATED BAILIFFS
Now, I’m a good boy and I pay all my bills (pretty much) on time, so I knew it must be some sort of mistake. A closer inspection revealed it was actually for my landlord, who’s very kindly giving his rental property — my home — as his address.
It’s weird; I’m never one to panic over things like this — the ‘big’ stuff doesn’t faze me. Bad service in shops or restaurants? Running late or being kept waiting? Yep — guaranteed rant-fodder. But tell me my house just burnt down and I’m cooler than a penguin on skis.
But hey, nobody wants to be confronted with a letter that basically says: “Hey! Guess what? Bailiffs came to your house today because they wanted to take all your stuff! Yaaay!”
Not exactly the welcome home I’d expected.
Now allow me for a second to digress. I promise it’ll make sense in a sec.
Throughout my love affair with the internet, one thing remains constant:
I love Twitter.
Ask anyone who’s ever tried to wrench me away from my BlackBerry for more than five minutes and they’ll confirm that I’m a bona-fide addict. I’ve lost count of the amount of times my friends have turned to me and screamed: “Stop bloody tweeting!”
So naturally — out of frustration rather than fear — I stood in my kitchen and tweeted the following:
“Fucking wonderful. Have just arrived home to find that bailiffs have visited while I’ve been away because my landlord hasn’t paid his bills.”
Within five minutes, my long-time friend Mike (LondonVoiceover), had seen the tweet, called me and put me on the phone to his ex-partner and now close friend Jules, who happens to be a top lawyer type. Jules outlined the law and my rights, and told me he would put me in touch with a solicitor if I needed one.
One of my followers, misterebby, saw the tweet and linked me up with his friend StumpyKim, who’d had a similar experience. I also got detailed tweets from TrevorCosson and dizzy84 telling me what to do.
BradDMason was in his office in Toronto, Canada when he read the tweet, and proceeded to Google UK tenancy laws, which he then tweeted to me.
And when you’re standing in your kitchen after a 5:30am start and half a day of travelling, thinking: “I really don’t need this” — even hearing a simple “sorry to hear that/big hug/hope everything’s OK” from people is kind of nice.
A while ago I wrote about how Facebook is controlling your relationships.
For me, Twitter does the opposite. While I never forget the fact that it’s a virtual social network, it’s a far more accurate reflection of what happens during ‘real’ socialising than Facebook.
It’s like being in a bar full of people. Some know each other well, some in passing, and others not at all.
You can wander around and dip into others’ conversations as you please. If they don’t float your boat, you move on.
You’ve got the attention seekers, the jokers, the idiots, the loudmouths and the just plain barking. You can choose the people you engage with and those you smile at politely and ignore.
And if you want to break off into a virtual corner and have a private chat, you’ve always got the option of direct messages.
Twitter ‘friendships’ happen naturally; you’re not forced to cement them by declaring to the world: “X and I have MADE FRIENDS!” Can you imagine if someone chatted to you for ten minutes and then said: “Are we friends now? Can I have that in writing?” before forcing you to look at 300 photos of them?
I’ve met some wonderful people on Twitter, one very special person in particular. So while I stick to my original claim that you should never substitute a virtual circle for real live friends, being connected with people on Twitter is like carrying my friends in my pocket wherever I go.
And who wouldn’t want that?
The next day, after a considerable number of phonecalls and a lot of hold music, I managed to sort the intricacies of getting the heavies off my back and away from my front door.
So while Twitter didn’t exactly save me from the bailiffs, it certainly helped me sleep more soundly that night.
And you’ve got to admit — it was a pretty good headline, wasn’t it?
It was a new year and a new decade, and no better time to have a Facebook cull. I happily clicked that nice little X next to the names of all those random schoolfriends I’ve exchanged exactly one wall post with, a few people I no longer have to have as ‘friends’ now I’ve changed jobs, as well as a fair few randoms I’ve picked up along the way in my four years on the site.
Pulling up my list of friends, I noticed that a couple of people had culled me as well. Not that this was a big shock, but the act of ‘de-friending’ someone on Facebook is a pretty hefty statement — akin to taking out an ad saying: ‘I don’t actually like you that much’.
So what happens when I run into my cullers or cullees? Take Facebook out of the equation and there wouldn’t be a problem. It would be smiles, a quick ‘hi, how are you?’ and then we’d both be on our way.
Now I have visions of us eyeing each other suspiciously over our drinks from opposite ends of whatever bar we’re in, mentally sticking pins into a mind-effigy as we laugh and joke with others, trying to act like our egos aren’t bruised in the slightest.
So is this a good or bad thing? Is the obligation to publicly list the people you value making others realise what you think of them? Is it helping people to be more honest, or do we need an element of delusion and smokescreen in our lives to make the world spin with a bit less tension?
And when you see people you’ve sent messages to interacting with others, it certainly adds another dimension of paranoia to the usual ‘why haven’t they called/texted/emailed’ situation.
A study by an Oxford professor showed that people can generally only handle up to about 150 relationships at a time. So what does that mean to me, with over 400 Facebook friends?
I believe relationships are fluid — ebbing and flowing. Sometimes you see someone a lot, then they fall by the wayside temporarily as life and other stuff gets in the way.
Apart from a quick call on Christmas Day, I haven’t spoken to my friend Anna properly in a year. Yet I know exactly what she’s up to by her status updates, photo postings and wall conversations with mutual friends. And I know if I turned up on her doorstep tomorrow, she’d invite me in and we’d be chatting as if we’d only seen each other a week ago.
And Facebook has sent me back some great schoolfriends I lost contact with through fear of having to tell them I was gay. My best friend Ian and I got back in touch in 2007 and still speak regularly on the phone. In fact we spent a laughter-filled day together yesterday, swapping stories of work, family and catastrophic love lives.
People don’t have to be in your immediate life to be in your heart. My schoolfriend Jane passed away last year from a long battle with cancer. She was a month past her 30th birthday. We chatted often on Facebook, yet hadn’t seen each other in sixteen years.
If it weren’t for Facebook I’d never have known about her life, her beautiful daughter Lily, and happy marriage. I would never have got the chance to go to her funeral and say goodbye, and I’d never have met up with other friends there who had also slipped out of my life all those years ago.
I still talk to Jane. Her family haven’t deleted her profile, so I still write on her wall when I think of her. I like to think she’s up there, smiling the way she always did as she watches me careen through life like a pinball in an arcade game. Perhaps this is the new way in which we keep people alive — the 21st century method of talking to a gravestone.
However you use social media, whether you’re a ‘friend whore’ or like to keep your virtual circle to a minimum, remember this the next time you write on a friend’s wall or ping them a message on Twitter: In a world where we have hundreds of methods of instant communication, there’s no substitute for picking up the phone and arranging a real live catch up.
And no matter how many ‘friends’ you may have — in your online world or your physical one — never forget who your true friends are.