Wednesday, 31 July 2013

My top longreads in July

This is a regular feature where I share some of the best longform articles I've read over the past month. Busy month!

Orange is the New Black: The New Way To See Prisoners - I've swiftly become addicted to this show on Netflix, do watch it if you aren't already hooked!

I'm Good With Myself - Fantastic interview with Orange is the New Black's Laverne Cox who plays Sofia. (Not technically a longread but I loved this and I promise that not all of these links are about OITNB!)

Suddenly We're Ubiquitous - There are thousands of photos of us that we don't know exist. What will happen when they all become public? Interesting thinking!

How Googling Unmasks Child Abuse - What web searches can tell us about crime rates. Great read for data nerds like me.

All My Exes Live In Texts - Why the social media generation never really breaks up.

Kids, the Internet and the End of Privacy - From 2007 but still utterly relevant today.

The American Male at Aged Ten - A beautiful, touching memoir.

My Mom Couldn't Cook - How one author's childhood meals shaped his attitude to food.

Difficult Women - On the downfall of Sex and the City, a show I really think would have different meaning if I watched it again now.

Marooned at the End of the World - In 1913, an Alaskan exhibition when horribly wrong when a ship carrying 31 people froze in the ice. What happened next terrified me.

Miss Teen America Find Freedom for a Day - 18 year old Eleana joins a wilderness summer camp for 'troubled' girls. This was a really sweet but sad read.

Up and then Down - This is a story about lifts (or elevators!) and what happened when a man got trapped in one for 41 hours. I will now think of this every time I get in a lift.

Learning About Humanity on Public Transportation - Life on the NYC subway can be amazing and horrific.

The Long Run - A lovely piece about the winner of a race that the locals thought he had no business entering.

The End of the Hangup - With the increase in smartphones, how can we show our outrage on the telephone? 

As Freezing Persons Recollect the Snow, First Chill, Then Stupor, Then Letting Go - The cold hard facts about freezing to death. I ski, I love mountains and so this frightened me quite a lot.

Vince Gilligan on the End of Breaking Bad - Another TV piece, the final season returns in two weeks and this gave some great insights into how the show is written.

Like this post? Check out my other longreads collections

Monday, 29 July 2013

My evolving identity

I wear a lot of hats. Metaphorical, not literal, of course. I’ve got a slightly weird head shape that doesn’t suit anything more than a beanie so you’re unlikely to see me stomping the streets of London in a cloche, beret or panama any time soon. I’m going to Australia in 3 months and already feeling anxious about how I’m going to protect my scalp in the baking heat without looking like a total tourist.

What I mean is that I play many roles in the story of my life. I’m a digital producer, a blogger and a writer (are they the same thing? I tend to separate them in my head.) I’m a student, an (ex-) volunteer and charity supporter. I’m a daughter, a sister and a girlfriend. I’m a consumer, an influencer and a 30 Day Shred championess (official title).

All of these different bits of me make up my identity. I am the sum of these parts (and many, many more). This is who I am. I love that I am a person who is many varied things. There are bits that I am super proud of, the bits I can brag about that make me feel like a great person. There are bits I am mildly embarrassed about, the parts of my identity that are made up of eating Ben & Jerry’s in bed and crying at the new Robinson’s advert (separate activities).

My life has changed a lot in the past few years. I’ve lived in three cities, had four jobs, learnt new skills, made new friends, lost track of some old ones and all of this means that my identity has constantly been evolving.

Late last year I quit my volunteer job after three and a half years supporting children and young people. I was doing too much, missing too many shifts because of diary conflicts and I knew that pulling back was the right thing to do. I don’t regret it for a moment because the young people I supported needed more than I could offer at that time. But the thing that surprised me the most about quitting is how sad I felt about losing the ‘volunteer’ part of my identity. It was one of my proudest hats and I never wanted to take it off.

Now my identity is set to change again. Ask me who I am in 7 weeks time and I won’t be able to say “I am a student”. Since 2010 I’ve been studying part time with The Open University. I knew I wanted to work for the charity I volunteered for and that my chances would improve if I had a qualification that related to children and young people (previously I’d studied communications then TV production). I worked shifts, had plenty of free time and needed to make my brain work hard. I missed education, wanted a challenge and so The OU was perfect.

Four years later I’m about to finish the third of seven modules it will take me to complete a degree. I’ve studied health and social care systems, working with children, young people and families and this year I’ve studied death and dying. And I’m ready to stop.

My efforts paid off and I now work full time for the charity I volunteered for in a role that is brilliant and varied and excites me every day. It definitely fits my dream job criteria! Studying part time requires around 8-16 hours a week, on top of work. I only see my guy at weekends so I cram my studies into evenings Monday to Thursday. More recently I’ve taken to studying every lunchtime while my colleagues soak up the sun. Throw in the time I need to eat, see my friends, catch up with my family, read, write and exercise and frankly, I am exhausted.

Uni has become the part of my identity I dislike the most. The direction my course is heading in is interesting, but different from the path my career is heading in. There’s a lot to learn in the digital world and lately I’ve felt like uni absorbs the time I could be using to get better at my job, better at writing, better at networking and better at helping others.

Although my identity is changing, I am ok with not being a student anymore. University is just one way to learn, and I’m looking forward to being able to use this extra time in a productive way. I’m looking forward to guilt free no-plans evenings without the constant feeling of “I need to read this chapter” and “I need to write 1500 words on psychological theories of grief”. I miss cooking and want to spend more time trying new recipes. Last year I started making a patchwork quilt which I haven’t touched in months so I can’t wait to pick up that project again. I'm excited to invest more time in my blog and my writing and my friendships.

Who knows, I might even put my volunteer hat back on, because that is one part of my identity I really do miss.

Thursday, 4 July 2013

My Snapchat addiction

Now if you've come here thinking "Oooh that Holly June, she's a right sexter!" then I will hazard two guesses: 1) You've seen some media coverage about Snapchat and 2) You've never used it.

Snapchat is a photo and video sharing app that lets you decide how long your photo/video will be visible for, up to a maximum of 10 seconds. After that, it disappears. The press have hailed the app as a 'safe' way to send sexy snaps because once the image is gone, it's gone and they can't be shared. In fact, I've yet to see an article about Snapchat that doesn't mention sexting.

I work with young people, so I'm fully aware of the risks involved with  sexting. I'm also pretty digitally savvy, so I know that anything posted online; tweets, photos, videos etc. can never really truly be deleted from the internet. The data always exists somewhere. The same is true for Snapchat photos, they don't disappear and they're still stored somewhere on your phone albeit hidden away, not taking up space in your gallery.

In my line of work, if kids use something then I want to know everything there is to know about it, so a few months ago I downloaded Snapchat to get a better understanding of how it works. At first I just sent the odd snap here and there to a colleague and since then my friends list has grown to a whopping 5 people. But here's the thing, I now send multiple snaps every day.

In the past week I've sent my guy more Snapchats than texts and it's played a key part in my blossoming friendship with Amy, who recently made me burst out laughing with a picture of her and her boyfriend wearing polystyrene packaging on their heads. She also sent a video of herself dancing when I got a new job. THAT is what Snapchat is perfect for.

You see, it's all about being silly. The types of things I send I would never bother to text, email or tweet at someone. I know the photos will be viewed for a few fleeting moments and so I don't care if I'm not wearing make-up or my face is stupid (I am often pulling faces) or if it's something as dull as a banana with a face on it. The weirder the Snap, the better.

This isn't about creating lasting memories, it's about a tiny moment in your day, sharing something that will make someone smile. There's none of the artistic pressure you might feel with an app like Instagram though don't let that boundary your creative side (hello MS Paint style effects!) I get the same endorphin rush when I get a Snapchat alert that I did when I was 15 and texting boys for the first time and because I know I've only got a few seconds to see it, they command my full attention. When a message arrives, I often have to sit down and take a deep breath to mentally prepare myself for it.

For me, Snapchat is perfect for a small group of people that you have a great connection with. I don't think I could handle having hundreds of friends, nor would I want to receive images from randomly added strangers.

There are some great games you could play with this app. I read an  article about a family in the US who were separated over Christmas and used Snapchat to share photos of the various dishes they were eating with competing levels of delicious. I'll show you my mince pies if you'll show me yours, if you will. What a BRILLIANT idea!

With infinite opportunities for creativity and childishness, my Snapchat addiction shows no sign of waning, and there's yet to be a nipple in sight! (Edit: Just realised this is a lie, I did once get sent a photo of a knitted boob)

It's also really good for expressing your feelings about Game of Thrones.

Monday, 1 July 2013

My top longreads in June

Sometime around last Christmas, I discovered the joyous world of long-form reading. A world where news is delivered in more (far more) than 140 characters, where words demand more than 30 seconds of my attention, where mysteries are solved, solutions to world problems are sought and my horizons are infinitely broadened.

Internet, long-form reading has changed my life. I am reading more often, learning about a variety of topics, subjects I never thought I'd find so compelling, and with it I'm developing a greater appreciation for journalism.

When something sparks intrigue I share it to my Readability app and then take myself off somewhere quiet a few times a week to devour as many pieces as possible. I sometimes share these on Twitter, sometimes in a G+ community I'm in, and I thought it would be good to share a selection with you every month.

Here are some of my favourite pieces I read in June 2013:

Scrubbed - The murky world of black-ops reputation management

Flick Chicks - I'm getting a big kick out of anything Mindy Kaling related at the moment so her piece on female stereotypes was a good revisit

Overfed An A Mother's Affection - The Modern Love section of the New York Times is an endless source of heartwarming reads

Say It Out Loud - How David Sedaris improves his writing by reading to crowds

I Made $570k Last Year, But I Don't Feel Rich - The Billfold has consistently good interviews that reveal how money affects us differently

The Suspects Wore Louboutins - The true story behind the film The Bling Ring which I really want to see

Private Ceremonies - A counsellor in an abortion clinic shares her own personal experience