An ordinary life

I regularly peek into different worlds online – the blogs I follow, Instagram, Facebook (not so much) and all the social media platforms that teenage girls and relevant organisations use. We keep an eye on these in an attempt to raise Agnes’s profile. It is essential to have an active online presence if you’re attempting to get anything off the ground these days. It could take up all day, every day if we let it. It is mostly hugely disheartening (Agnes is too tiny and independent to be noticed) and sometimes terrifically cheering (when people do notice and use the site). We put in so much work to create this fabulous resource and we believe in it, so we persevere.

It’s curious, isn’t it – what people present in little photo squares, in 280-character tweets, or longer, more considered blog posts, and the stuff that’s picked up by the wider media that becomes A Thing. There are gazillions of people and organisations out there, all waving, some frantically, many trying to be different and get noticed, many focused on promoting themselves, their wares, their opinions, their ideas, some just trying to connect. It’s a chaotic human zoo – inspiring, funny, heartwarming and often downright bemusing. We are all tiny specks in a whirlwind of dust.

Checking the number of likes and comments, though, chasing those hearts, can lead you down the rabbit hole. Being absorbed in it is not a good thing. I know I need to take regular breaks away from the online world to engage in real life and with nature outdoors to stop it from getting me down and eating up my time. Crikey, if I find it hard to get the balance right, goodness knows how kids are meant to learn self-restraint and moderation. My three seem to be constantly connected, headphones in, oblivious to my calls for someone to come and empty the dishwasher.

While there are many positives, I am absolutely sure that not one of us is actually any happier than if we were still living lives with old-fashioned dialling telephones and pen-and-paper letters, books and libraries. Yes, we can view the world and find information instantly, and feel connected and uplifted, but the online world can also make us feel isolated and dissatisfied. People have probably always compared themselves to their neighbours, but now we can compare our lives and ourselves to complete strangers, forgetting that people mostly only show their best bits, forgetting to be content with what we have. It is possible to lose sight of what’s really important.

Where was I going with this..? Oh yes, people. People and publicity. I have never been one to push myself forward. I have a memory from my childhood: I was quite small and was in the audience at a sea lion show (or it may have been dolphins). The person running the show asked for a child to come to the water’s edge (I can’t remember why). They pointed to me and asked me to come down. I sat rigid and refused to move. I can’t remember whether both my parents were there or what they said. I just remember the awful embarrassment of being singled out and then the burning shame that I had somehow not measured up, that being shy was a bad thing.

While I didn’t want to be singled out, I didn’t hide under a stone. As a teenager, I joined Greenpeace and Amnesty International and Friends of the Earth. I wrote letters and fundraised. It felt like you could make a difference back then. And still, although this bold, brazen world of selfies and self-promotion baffles me, I will stand up and be counted.

Listening to the news lately I’ve had that feeling of vertigo, where it seems that the world is becoming more chaotic, where worse things are happening, more horror, more injustice, more tragedy. Myanmar, Florida, Syria. If my daughter is in the room, she’ll ask to switch channels as she is horrified by everything she hears. I understand. I was moved to tears the other evening watching the news. A Syrian mother, covered in bomb debris, standing in a hospital next to her dying 12-year-old son, was pleading to the camera. There was nothing anyone could do. She was traumatised. The doctor was traumatised. Everyone was traumatised. It was heartbreaking.

The UK is not perfect, but it is at peace. Our children go to school, there is charity and health care, there is a robust legal system, there are strict gun laws, there are human rights, there generally is equality, and women can wear what they want and be totally independent. I am just an average, middle-class, middle-aged woman, a wife and mother of three. I am ordinary and average in every way and I lead an ordinary and average life. But being ordinary doesn’t mean I have nothing to say. I will keep on plugging Agnes, I will keep wittering on about stuff on my blog. Give me a cause, show me an injustice and I will help if I can.

Unlike that mother in Syria, and unlike millions of people in war-torn countries or living under oppressive regimes, I have the option of whether to lead a quiet private life, a showy-offy public life or something in between. There may be a cacophony out there but I have my freedom and I have my voice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

30 thoughts on “An ordinary life

  1. I find it increasingly difficult to watch the news on TV as it seems so voyeuristic. I think I know the clip you referred to – the bit I found most traumatic was the doctor at the end of the clip who walked away and crouched down, head in hands.

    Your sea lion show ordeal sounds very familiar. I too was like that as a child. Even now, I find the Look At Me culture of Instagram difficult to understand and much prefer blogs, which seem a little more grounded and friendly. And ordinary. I’m so thankful though that we have the choice to take whichever route we want.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It was that clip, Anne. Just awful. I know what you mean about voyeuristic. It feels wrong to be watching people at their most broken.
      On a lighter note, I found a ‘dog’s’ IG account yesterday that had almost 30,000 – yes, that’s 30,000 – followers…

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Wonderful post and I wholeheartedly agree. There is a balance to social media, and I am trying hard to attain some measure of it. I enjoy all of the information, but it can also be a distraction and time-waster. I enjoy keeping up with old friends and meeting new friends. I also like that I can see what is going on in other parts of the globe firsthand (sort of). This is not a great time in the US right now, but I remain hopeful. Our youth are starting to rise up and that makes me optimistic. Although a tragedy spurred them on, but isn’t that so often the good that comes out of the bad? Speaking of youth, I have checked out Agnes. What a wonderful and much-needed online presence these days. Kudos!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you for your inspirational blog. I to although well over 70 am horrified by all the current issues, rape, gun crime, acid attacks and basically man’s inhumanity to man. Let’s try to help our youngsters see that basic kindness, compassion, patience, and respect for each other will win through. I very much appreciate living here, but all is not perfect…..the question is “what can I do?” Let us adults ge stuck in and try to help each other……..don’t think we can leave it to others…..we don’t have a say in the results then ….do we?
    Thanks again.
    Brenda

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This is a super post Sam. I don’t like the constant noise of social media so generally steer well clear of it. I resist it. But i understand the pressure to conform and the anxiety of being left out of it. X

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, CT. You’ve hit the nail on the head and I think you’re wise to resist it! Your approach to life and blogging is one I wholeheartedly admire.

      Like

  5. I get emails from the Syria campaign – but I sometimes skim, as I can’t bear to read the details.
    In between I switch off the computer … lost in a good book, or wreaking havoc in the garden.

    Good luck with Agnes. It can be better to have quality, fewer engaged and enthusiastic readers, rather than empty numbers ticking up.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I have been feeling the same about the news lately. It’s all been so utterly heartbreaking. I remember being a shy child, but also supporting Greenpeace, FoE and various animal charities quite robustly. Standing up for what you believe in somehow overcomes the shyness a bit I think. Good luck with Agnes. I know what you mean about social media, it sometimes seems that you need to be doing it constantly to build a brand. I cling on to the fact that there are plenty of freelance writers who do well without living on social media. Agnes is a great resource, I hope it does well. CJ xx

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Tragedies around the world are instantly beamed into our sitting rooms these days. During the horrors of the first and second world wars the ‘ordinary people ‘ did not get to see so vividly what was happening. While acknowledging the benefits of the WWW etc I do worry about the false lives young people are being sold/living.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Me too, Brian.
      Re the world wars, you’re right – there were absolute horrors but they weren’t widely known. You’d think the powers that be would learn from history, wouldn’t you?

      Like

  8. As a person of Syrian descent, I agree with you about the horror of the news we see from there. I have mostly stopped consuming news lately. I don’t want to stick my head in the sand, but neither do I feel like it’s a healthy, productive thing for me to be up on the latest developments anymore. I am very ordinary. I don’t like to call attention to myself very much, but I know that having a blog sort of makes it necessary all the same. I don’t care for social media at all anymore, though. I stopped using Instagram because it made me feel badly about myself, as did Facebook. I can only be who I am, and it was becoming increasingly difficult to feel good about who I am when I saw such “perfection” every day, all day long. I know that isn’t how most people feel about it, but it is how I feel, and I think I’m entitled to my feelings, in spite of those who tell me to lighten up and not let it get to me. It does, and I can’t help it. So I’m finally feeling confident and proud to tell people the truth about that. Thank you for a thought-provoking post today, Sam. I appreciate reading your thoughts on any topic, but this one really resonates with me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for such a considered comment, Jennifer, and I’m glad you understood what I was on about. I agree that there are people who can easily cope with the whole social media thing and those who can’t. I definitely think it would be better for me if I was off it altogether and I totally understand your aversion to it.

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    1. Thanks, Eliza. It was thanks to my friend Charlotte that I got involved in Agnes (and also that I started blogging!). It’s good to do what we can to try to make the world better, whatever it is.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. We all have to find a way to make a contribution. Agnes is addressing an important need. It doesn’t have to be huge to be worthwhile. Good luck with it. Personally, I think it’s important for every person to make what contribution they can. It adds up. You never know when there will be a breakthrough.

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  10. Well said .your feelings are replicated by many of us. I was only wondering this week how Agnes was getting on. It must be a hard work but the thought of it helping young girls must spur you on. It is interesting to read of those guys who originally set up Facebook are trying to limit the IT in their children’s lives! Sarah x

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Well said, Sam. I find social media quite brilliant for connecting with other gardeners and bloggers but it’s the genie that won’t go back into the lamp; with reader statistics for printed news and mags falling, and kids as young as 5 being given iphones (I’ve seen it in the Apple store), it’s become a pandora’s box. Kids find their tribe through social media and all we parents can do is lead by example and hope they’re taking note. Teenage years have always been tricky, your Agnes site is brilliant and I so hope it gains a wide audience. Caro x

    Liked by 1 person

  12. ‘Agnes’ is the sort of resource that I would have loved to have been able to signpost young people to when I was working Sam. Are your local secondary schools aware of it?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sorry for the late reply, Anna. Thank you for your comment. I have been in touch with my children’s school but they are SO strapped for resources, including time to do anything other than the bare essentials, that I’ve had very little joy there so far.

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