Lifestyle, Mental Health, Social media, Uncategorized

Social Media Cleanse Diary – Day 5

Looking back it this time last week…

I made it to the end of my first working week in surprisingly good shape.

I figured it would be most difficult to kick social media to the curb during working day as the impulse often becomes so strong at times of boredom whilst in the home office.

I must admit Friday could have been a potential banana skin as the workload started to die down throughout the day, thus introducing opportunities for boredom to take hold.

I’ll also admit I encountered some strong urges at various intervals, mainly as I craved to find sports updates in preparation for the weekend’s fixtures.

I ended up using social media just the once in the end, which I am chuffed about. I am however a bit bitter sweet about it too, as I felt it was a temptation that could have been prevented.

The indulgence consisted of a quick check on Instagram for updates on the climbing centre that I attend and had plans to visit at the weekend.

My friend had told me the centre was to be half closed due to a leaky roof and flooding and this threw our plans into disarray.

I tried to find out more on the situation through their website, to no avail. My friend advised updates were being provided on Instagram.

Great!

Due to this lack of consideration of those who do not use social media, I found myself too demanding of information to resist. Obviously, this meant I had a cheeky check on my Insta feed whilst I was at it.

As I say, very frustrating. But the good news is that this just ended up being a one off and I managed to steer clear of all platforms for the rest of the day, which was great.

Things since Friday have been crazy busy and so I haven’t had time to log how things have progressed in the week that followed. I plan to post a week long summary over the weekend so do keep your eyes peeled to find out how things have gone in week 2.

For those who are yet to read up about my current challenge, get up to speed @ https://wordpress.com/read/blogs/16414670/posts/510

Don’t forget, if social media addiction is something that interests you, why not check out my young adult novel The Invite and join troubled teen Lindsey Hookwink on her night of virtual horrors that well and truly expose her unhealthy smartphone habits. 

Lifestyle, Mental Health, Social media, Teen fiction

Social Media Cleanse Diary – Day 3

After yesterday’s myriad of mind games, I feel like today has been much more straight forward in terms of my emotional response to this social media cleanse.

The great news is that I have managed to build once again on yesterday’s success and in fact only used social media once all day!

In my wildest predictions I would not have expected myself to curb the habit to such an extent at this very early stage.

Oh I do hope the whole 2 months will continue in this vain.

The one time I did use social media, it was a quick 1 minute check on Facebook. I was immediately greeted once more with the social media post that has annoyed me all week and so I went straight to refresh the newsfeed wheel of fortune which decided I would like to read about a burned out car instead. How lovely.

It is worth mentioning at this stage that my partner is a bit sceptical about my methodology for this challenge.

She believes I should go cold turkey from the offset and she also doesn’t believe that I should keep Direct Message platforms such as WhatsApp available for usage.

She even believes that using my blog to post updates is in fact using social media and therefore contradicting what I am trying to achieve.

Everyone is entitled to their opinion and my other half doesn’t hold back with her opinions I can tell you that much for sure.

Perhaps her observations are valid to some extent and maybe this is why I have found things rather easy so far. It is difficult to say.

In spite of this I will continue on with the same plan, but I am now contemplating whether to up the anti for the final few weeks of the challenge and simply ghost any and all online avenues until I reach the end.

Maybe I could go as far as chucking my phone out and communicating via barn owl. Who knows?

All I know is I’m feeling good at the moment and hopefully this will be a feeling that grows as the challenge goes on. Only time will tell.

For those who are yet to read up about my current challenge, get up to speed @ https://wordpress.com/read/blogs/16414670/posts/510

Don’t forget, if social media addiction is something that interests you, why not check out my young adult novel The Invite and join troubled teen Lindsey Hookwink on her night of virtual horrors that well and truly expose her unhealthy smartphone habits. 

Lifestyle, Social media, Teen fiction

Social Media Cleanse Diary – Day 2

Success is Relative. I would like to think that all humans… | by Mitch  Massman | Live Your Life On Purpose | Medium

So, I breezed through my first day of cutting out social media yesterday and this injected me with confidence as I prepared for day 2.

All things considered my second day was another great success. Looking back at my log, I can see that I did in fact access social media one time less than yesterday which I’m ecstatic about.

I should note however that not everything was as rosy as it sounds. I experienced a strange complex whereby I found myself instinctively reaching for my phone in search of social media but then stopping myself before deciding to click on the App. Sounds like a good thing right? Maybe it is, but the problem here I feel is that this prevention tactic is actually preventing me from getting a clear picture of my social media habits. It has also meant that the few times I actually did access social media, it was accompanied with feelings of guilt and shame for some bizarre reason. 

Perhaps this is just helping me to achieve my full social media blackout more quickly? I do hope so.

Worse still the very few times I did access social media, I was displayed with the same update from an individual that filled me with anger and sadness. I felt as though Facebook knew that the post hit a nerve and decided to keep throwing it in my direction.

I feel all of this emotion is making me more determined to get rid of the damn platforms as quickly as I can, which is surely a good thing.

Another interesting conclusion I found from today is that I felt less likely to use social media as I knew it would involve making a log of it, which I simply could not be bothered to do.

Maybe I have just been overthinking things with the challenge today and hopefully tomorrow will be less tubulous and even more of a success.

For those who are yet to read up about my current challenge, get up to speed @ https://wordpress.com/read/blogs/16414670/posts/510

Don’t forget, if social media addiction is something that interests you, why not check out my young adult novel The Invite and join troubled teen Lindsey Hookwink on her night of virtual horrors that well and truly expose her unhealthy smartphone habits. 

films, Lifestyle, New Fiction, Technology

So, it is acceptable for our tech to snoop?

In a recent attempt to bypass the lockdown boredom, I stumbled across a film that really captured my attention. I seem to keep doing this at the moment.

The film was called The Circle and after watching the trailer I immediately questioned how and why I had never watched or even heard of this before.

I mean the movie had an all-star cast, which included huge names such as Tom Hanks and Emma Watson. It was only released in 2017 and the concept looked pretty on trend to me.

After enjoying the trailer, I didn’t have to think twice before initiating a search for it on Netflix. However, in the few moments before playing the thing I scoped out the reviews on IMDB and was dismayed to learn that it only had a rating of only 5.3. With no back-up option at the ready, it felt like a slap-in the face.

In my stubbornness and determination not to follow the flock of film critical sheep, I disregarded the information at hand and decided to give the film ago regardless.

I’m really glad I did.

Ok so it wasn’t the greatest Tom Hanks film I have ever seen, but it was certainly an eye opening one, that is for sure.

To explain in a nutshell, the movie was basically about a rogue tech firm who glorified its new surveillance products as innovations that would make the world a safer and more transparent place. Furthermore, the company headquarters were essentially a camp where young employees were brainwashed into endorsing a rather sinister obsession to eradicate people’s privacy. Emma Watson’s character was introduced as the company’s latest recruit/ victim and the story considers her disturbing journey which leads her to discover and challenge what is really going on.

Aside from the immoral undertones of privacy breaches explored within the film, I found I could really empathise with the culture of the company that was portrayed; which was one of obedience, intense pressure and a lack of longing or courage to challenge an unfair system. It is quite disturbing to realise that this culture is one of familiarity and I’m sure this is an ethos that many major companies instil. The company in the film was on a mission to gain power and control in order to maximise profits at everyone’s expense.

On a whole the film really helped me to consider a dangerous side to technology that I hadn’t considered or at least was not overly concerned with before. It made me think about how our phones quite clearly listen in to our conversations and then as if by magic offer us a targeted advert or offer us a news article based on the subject. I’m sure lots of you will have noticed this.

At times this may seem comical and sure, we are just being provided with an innocent looking advert. But if you take a moment to actually think about it, it just isn’t right. And The Circle just made me ponder the possibility of how the benefit of technology can quite easily turn into turn into a danger if manipulated against us.  

So again, I think back to the IMBD rating and have to ask myself the question, why was it was poorly rated? Aside from the important overall message, it had a big name cast, lots of action and some good twists. I just cannot seem to comprehend it. Perhaps I have an unusual taste in films, who knows.  

It is all a matter of opinion, I guess. Maybe it is the fact that we find the concept far fetched? Worse still, is the premise just too real that we can’t handle the dark reality?  

Or are we simply not bothered or even interested in our own right to privacy?

Whatever the reason behind the ratings, I find the poor response to the film rather unnerving. Ok I get that it is only a film, but I believe we should all be intrigued by the big issues that are arguably happening right now.

If IMDB ratings aren’t the be all and end all and you are interested in issues around technology and privacy, you can check out The Circle on Netflix

In recent years I have become both fascinated and disturbed by the emergence and potential dangers of technology. So much so I decided to explore this issue with my fantasy fiction debut novel The Invite which is aimed at young adults. The story considers a scary concept of VR and addiction, but doesn’t cover privacy. Maybe it should have. Something of a thought to follow up on perhaps.

All that is left for me to say is I’m not too sure what will it take for us to wake up? Maybe movie directors should go with Tim Allen over Tom Hanks next time…

Books, Lifestyle, Smartphone, Technology

Smarten up on the dark truth

Teenagers chained to their phones

After sharing an update on my new book release, I received a comment online that intrigued me.

It was a suggestion to watch a documentary on Netflix called the Social Dilemma.

I was told it would blow my mind… and it did!

This production was suggested due to a strong overlap of themes to my book release, The Invite.  In my haste to find out exactly what these might be, I decided to watch it that very same evening.

The first thing I noticed is that the documentary was being presented by original employees from tech giants such as Facebook, Twitter and Google. I immediately thought this was unusual and so did not expect the content that was to come.  

The whole thing was cleverly done and quickly turned from being light-hearted and conversational to deeply disturbing.

The best way I can surmise this unnerving watch, is as a stark diagnosis and warning about our relationship with social media. The content focussed primarily on the sinister psychological methods of social media technologies to manipulate us, the people. We were educated about the use of clever algorithms that learn our behaviours and exploit them to the achieve the goals of the tech companies.  

The key message was that we are the product and social media companies will do whatever they can to keep us plugged into their pages.  

Without giving too much away, some of the shocking topics discussed included revelations such as how your phone knows what you are looking at, for how long and then feeds you info related to this.  

Scarier still, these algorithms conveniently refrain from showing you content that may contradict the opinions/views that you are being spoon-fed. When you factor in that social media sites do very little to filter out fake news, which in fact often enhances consumer engagement with their sites, it is very easy to see how many of us can develop a warped and extreme view of the world.  

There are various key messages conveyed throughout the short film, but rather than verging any further into spoiler territory, I will zip my lip there and strongly recommend you give it a watch. https://www.netflix.com/gb/title/81254224

The more engrossed I got into the documentary the more I realised how the content directly mirrored a lot of the dark themes presented in my own book. When you consider my story is fiction and this is real life, that is a rather terrifying conclusion.   

The warning conveyed on my screen made me realise that the release of my book might actually be the most important thing I ever do and is needed right now!  

Thankfully I can announce that my book is ready to make us all think about online addiction. You can actually order The Invite now by visiting  https://www.amazon.co.uk/Invite-C-P-Riches-ebook/dp/B08MCDYPPL

In the interest of objectivity, I should say it wasn’t all doom and gloom. The narrator’s believed that it was never the initial objective of tech companies to brainwash society. Like any other business, they just want to make money. It is just that somewhere along the way, things have got out of control. The key message I guess you could say, is that we need to get it back! 

Books, Lifestyle, Technology, Teen Novel

Editing Out Lockdown

I hope that everyone is still staying safe and well during these very uncertain times that we find ourselves in.

The past 3 months have been the most turbulent and bizarre times I can ever recall. I’m sure this is the same for all of us.

Right from the start I became determined not to succumb to despair and tried to find solace in my writing as a distraction from the horrors we have had to endure.

I wrote a teasing little blog here some months ago now, which briefly introduced my plans to write my first ever novel. I should say that a lot has happened since then and lock-down has offered me a rare opportunity to throw everything but the kitchen sink at it.

When I posted previously, I had just finalised my first draft.  I rather naively thought that this would be the holy grail and the final preparations would be a breeze.

Since then I have spent several years adding, refining and cutting out sections and it felt as though I was getting nowhere with it for a while.

Life in Furlough has given me a rare opportunity to hammer that final nail in the coffin and I’m excited to announce that I’m almost there!

I have a few final editing queries to address and then I intend to send it off for a final proofread before preparing the final manuscript.

In the coming weeks I plan to reveal more and more info about the novel, including the big title and front cover reveal along with the blurb details.

All I can say for now is that I hope my brain-child helps to make a statement about issues in society, such as addiction, technology and fear. My book is a non-fiction fantasy that aims to trap readers into a warped new world that will only spit you out when its finished with you.

If this sounds like something that might just be your street, feel free to watch this space for regular updates and sneak peaks.

You can also sign up for a newsletter below which I plan to drill down into more of the nitty gritty and also include exclusive offers for the book release.

At the moment I’m simply planning to publish for Kindle devices, but this is open to change depending on demand.

My aim is to get things done within the next few months so hopefully I can give you something different to enjoy as we try to endure this new normal.

I look forward to letting you know more soon.

Chris

Environment, Garden, Lifestyle

We should all grow up

grow-house.jpg
Self-grown fruit and vegetables

As the climate crisis continues to creep up to boiling point, I’m sure most of us are now starting to feel a mild sense of panic.

If it wasn’t for the widescale disbelief in the science behind it all, I think we may be in a state of anarchy.

As crazy as it sounds, my rationalisation behind our sinister state of affairs, is a universal sense of helplessness.

None of us really know (or believe) that we can make a difference to the dire situation we find ourselves in. Instead many of us have decided to bury our heads in the sand, carry on as normal and pray to god that the scientists have got it wrong.

As terrible as it sounds, it is an understandable coping mechanism that we have conjured up to help us get through the day. Life is already too tough for us as it is!

It is also understandable when you consider that the odds are stacked against us. Government doesn’t seem to care, supermarkets seem to get it but are making changes at a snail’s pace and the transport sector are being equally as slow in securing a mass emission crack down.

This basically means we are left with no choice but to go cold turkey.

I for one have been trying to dip my toe into the eco-friendly water for some time; but have found it a challenge.

However, I’ve now stumbled across one way in which to make a difference that excites me…

This is the idea of self-sufficiency.

And the idea was actually born out of the disappointment at having very little garden space.

I wanted to make my granite grey yard look a bit greener and so I went in search of some compact garden inspiration.

During the weekly shop, it is safe to say I found what I was looking for.

I stumbled across a miniature grow house that just happened to be the perfect size to slot into the corner of the yard.

Made from wood and equipped with greenhouse Perspex, it looked like the ideal home for nature to flourish.

When I noticed the price tag, I was amazed at how affordable my idea suddenly seemed.

This little gem was on offer through Aldi’s special buys and I couldn’t recommend it enough!

Obviously, I wasted no time in buying and with such an ease in putting together, it was ready for business in no time at all.

I started with a strawberry plant on its last legs. Its little leaves looked lonely in its new home at first.

And so I decided to give it some company.

I purchased a few small pots, a bag of compost and a few sachets of seeds.

I returned home with pipe dreams of tomatoes, cucumbers, peas and various other herbs.

I soon had 2 full shelves full of mud pots and embarked on my voyage to culinary independence.

At first it looked like a waste of time.

But then after about a week, the late spring propelled us into summer and this nurtured the birth of my first little shoot.

I was instantly flooded with excitement.

From then on, I haven’t looked back!

One by one the shoots came.

I then decided to add a bucket next to the grow house. My aim was to capture and recycle the rain water for watering the plants.

Within weeks everything started to grow like wildfire.

Every single night after work I come out to water the goods and admire their progress. And every night it fills me with joy to admire the latest developments.

And so after 2 months of TLC I have finally been rewarded with some of the sweetest strawberries you can imagine.

Knowing that these little beauties are free, free from chemicals and only a stone’s throw away, makes me feel on top of the world.

Any day now I can see an army of tomatoes, eager to ignite.

But the best thing about it all, is that it doesn’t make me feel as depressed about climate change.

I know this process will make a difference.

No polluting plastic is needed, no ammonia is churned out and no car fumes are being unleashed by driving to the supermarket.

If only everyone decided to take this small step, I think the road to environmental recovery might actually turn out to be more realistic than we are told is possible.