Giving Up Facebook

I’d be lying if I said that I haven’t been tempted to delete my Facebook account. In fact, it’s something that I’m strongly considering. Such a move would be hot on the heels of the deletion of my (previously dormant) MySpace and Bebo accounts, I feel like I’m on a roll and if I stop now I’ll be forever in debt to endless ‘social’ network sites that I get bored with very, very quickly.

Facebook’s good for keeping in touch with people who you don’t get to see as often as you’d like to, school friends who you haven’t seen in ages and just general banter with the friends you see every other day. But after the 100th Farmville invite and event invitation it gets a bit weary.

And I just can’t keep up with the bizarre social competitiveness that some people seem to thrive on, changing their profile pictures every day and endless updates of how “last night was a messy one.” (What are the odds they were sitting at home in their pyjamas watching Jersey Shore, eh?)

Or maybe it’s the opposite, maybe I’m bizarre because when I go on nights out I’m not arsed about getting my picture taken with everyone in the room. If someone is snapping pictures of you every two seconds then chances are that you’re not actually having that great a night. And when I’m hungover the last thing I want to do is look at a computer screen and announce the fact that I feel like my insides are dying – I prefer to get a takeaway and weep about my self-induced illness.

I don’t like drawing attention to myself, I have a very boring life and no pearls of wisdom to share, nor do I care if you’ve just found tin foil that’s cheaper in Spar than in Londis (yes, that was a real status update) or if you’ve just contracted herpes (not real, but I’m sure it’s only a matter of time).

What originally began as a fun way of interacting with friends has turned into a surreal world where you find out much more about people than you ever wanted to and if you’re not eating dinner on a yacht with Barack Obama off the coast of the Bahamas then you’re the weird one.

But every time that little white arrow is hovering over the “cancel account” button I hesitate. What if I end up losing touch with some people and then never having any way to be in contact with them ever again? What if something funny happens on Facebook that all my friends will have seen and then I’ll be the odd one out? So I retreat. I click back to the homepage and reenter the world of endless holiday snaps and pointless status updates.

Cancelling my account is something that plays on my mind every time I log in. I start to weigh up the pros and cons in my head with neither column being particularly convincing. Sometimes I just give up and go to Spar, because cheap tin foil won’t sell itself.


The Weight Debate: Why the world is going crazy

Leafing through the magazine I glance at the latest YSL campaign, a thin model is looking back at me from the pages. Her loose-fitting clothes give her an almost childlike appearance while her cheek bones appear to be the only things giving her face shape. Underneath the image of this model is a picture of YSL’s elle perfume, a purple and gold rectangular bottle oozing femininity and glamour.

I love fashion, or to add to my dramatic tendencies, I devour it. I read through Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar as though my life depends on it, I soak up all of the lastest season’s runway looks and keep a close eye on predicitions for next season’s looks. I glance admiringly at the clothes, I marvel at the beauty tips which I think are genius at the time of reading but am just too lazy to bother doing. I judge Kate Moss and Alexa Chung’s outfits as though I know what I’m talking about and I try to think of ways to transfer these styles into my own look.

Topshop model

I’m a fashion lover, and I’m not afraid to admit it. One of the most well-known and supposedly desirable jobs in the fashion industry is modelling, but it is also the most contentious. For years the size zero debate has raged on, a furore which has given the Daily Mail many chances to complain about the fashion industry yet use headlines like “Good job she’s a size zero” too. Recently pictures of models have been used on the Topshop website who have skeletal and gaunt appearances, it’s caused outrage among eating disorder groups who appear to believe that such images can cause and promote eating disorders.

Here’s some home truths: fashion is an industry, models are an integral (but ultimately replaceable) part of that industry. Models aren’t meant to be a reflection of people you see everyday walking down the street, the majority of models tend to be very tall, striking and, well, awkward. In essence they’re just clothes horses for the designers who want their clothing collections to look high fashion and desirable.

An acceptable image?

The notion that images of models alone can cause people to develop eating disorders irritates me. Can people not be trusted to make their own decisions and not be so easily influenced by the unrealistic appearance of an airbrushed model? Could it be that this is just another attempt by the Nanny State to tell us how things should and shouldn’t be? Because the only message that I’m getting from this furore is that us, the public, can’t be trusted to make our own decisions.

There’s more to an eating disorder than merely looking at a picture of Lily Cole and suddenly deciding you’ll stop eating. In most cases there’s underlying issues, such as low self-esteem. The question that really needs to be asked is why do so many young people suffer from eating disorders, why are they so uncomfortable with who they are that they feel the need to drastically and dangerously change themselves. I get the distinct impression that models are just being used as a scape goat. While there’s a chance they may influence people I find it hard to believe that they alone should be blamed for eating disorders.

Wrestlers and body builders don’t receive as much criticism as models, when arguably they should also receive the same amount of criticism. Don’t they too promote an unrealistic body image? But wrestlers and body builders work in a specific industry, it’s expected that they have a particular appearance. Most people can accept that if someone sees a picture of Hulk Hogan they’re unlikely to drink their body weight in protein shakes, but clearly few of us possess the ability to stop ourselves if we see a picture of a waif-like model. People don’t hunt down Johnny Vegas and Phill Jupitus and accuse them of promoting obesity, but for some reason it’s perfectly acceptable to target models.

How to survive the ‘summer’ months

Ireland has three seasons; winter, winter lite and autumn. Right now, in mid-June, I’m pretty certain it’s the end of autumn nearing winter. With fresh drops of rain converging into puddles on the roadside and the early morning sound of hailstones tap-tap-tapping off the window I feel as though the weather patterns here are more confusing than Lady Gaga’s fashion choices. Half the time I shudder to look out the window incase I see a lost gondolier looking back.

Fortunately such inclement weather is common during what is supposed to be Ireland’s summer (ie a day or two in July)  so being cooped up indoors isn’t a world away from what I’m used to during the summer (read: winter lite) months, be it at a gig or Jervis Shopping Centre. But what if, similarly to me, you’re a poor student who can’t afford to go out everyday and so find trudging through the rain on a daily basis a bit pointless and unnecessary? Luckily, entertainment is never far away and can be cheap.

Teh internetz
I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve watched videos of cats playing keyboards and being ninjas on YouTube. But hey, if you’ve got hours to kill there’s worse you could be doing. Apparently the internet’s educational, but all it’s done so far has made me unimpressed by the decidedly dull cats that wander through the estate I live in. YEAH FELIX, I’M TALKING ‘BOUT YOU.

Ah books, I think the majesty of books may have been forgotten in the haze of kindles and online editions but I personally think you can’t beat leafing through the pages of books, inspecting the scribblings left by previous owners and the feeling of success or sadness when you close the book after reading the final page. So go on, read a book, libraries are there to be used.

Listen to Music
It’s said that Ian Curtis of Joy Division only liked listening to music when he could sit down and properly listen to the songs with no distractions – no newspaper, no books, just appreciating the music for what it is. Most people get their music fix listening to their iPod on the commute to work or college, hearing the music through headphones which don’t really do justice to most albums. Put your iPod in its docking station, or CD in its stereo, and listen out for for every chord and key change, the nuances in the vocalist’s voice. You’ll never hear the album in the same way again.

Get Arty!
Most people stop painting and sketching when they finish school, but there’s something to be said for the sense of acheivement that comes from completing a sketch or painting that turns out exactly how you want it to. I firmly believe that everyone has some artistic talent, it just takes practice. And no matter how your artwork turns out bear in mind worse has probably been displayed in gallery exhibitions (Richard Tuttle’s ‘Triumphs’ springs to mind), so don’t lose heart.

If any of the aforementioned suggestions don’t work then you can always begin building a boat, or perhaps a plane. I’m going to get a headstart on building an igloo, winter’s coming soon!

Why I’ve decided to continue going outside…

I’ve recently come to realise that the world is a dangerous place. At any given moment in time, be it at home, out with friends or just walking to the shop, I can be attacked. Even though it’s not very likely, I feel that the only course of action is to lock myself in my room, barricade the doors and windows and never leave the house. THE WORLD IS TOO DANGEROUS, ESPECIALLY FOR YOUNG WOMEN!

Or so I’m lead to believe. Recently there have been reports of rape attempts in the Dublin suburb of Tallaght, it has been reported that the assailant used a rope in an attempt to tie up women he was attacking but was disturbed by passers-by and got away.

The local Sinn Fein TD Sean Crowe has urged people to be vigilant (what? but I was just about to walk down that deserted road at 1am listening to my iPod really loudly!) while Facebook is rife with what appears to be an ever-growing list of places where attacks have taken place in Tallaght.Crowe has said that “a number of women have been attacked in the Tallaght area” while in the Irish Times it has been stated that there was only one report of an attempted sexual assault in the Tallaght/Clondalkin area.

The Facebook updates which have been saturating my newsfeed are as follows: “Apparently there’s a lunatic out there attacking women in the Tallaght area. One attack was earlier today near Bohernabreena Cemetery and another this evening in Kingswood, in the park beside Newlands Cemetery. Luckily, both girls got away but he’s coming up behind them with a rope. Please don’t go out walking by yourself. Please repost.” Again, apparently there was only actually one incident and that was in the park beside Newland’s Cemetery.

Though such news is unlikely to cause mass hysteria, advice such as “don’t go out walking by yourself” is patronising and suggests that we should fear being next. To put things in perspective, Peter Sutcliffe, the infamous Yorkshire Ripper, murdered 13 women in Yorkshire, an area which had a population of over 2 million at time these attacks were taking place. 13 women. It’s certainly not a good thing, but it’s not going to send me running to the hills.

Being vigilant is one thing, but living in fear is another. Having seen an innumerable amount of posts on Facebook from people saying that they’re not going out walking on their own and also their family members insisting they get lifts everywhere instills the sense that you should be constantly watching your back, almost as though you should expect be attacked if you’re a young woman who happens to be out walking alone.

Staying out of isolated areas, being aware of your surroundings and making sure you have your mobile phone within easy reach are all good ways of staying vigilant, but believing that there’s imminent danger if you so much as put your shoe on the pavement isn’t healthy for anyone.

Kilmainham Gaol

Kilmainham Gaol

I’ve always had a curiousity about prisons, crime and the justice system in general. Combining this with my interest in Irish history meant that when the opportunity arose to see Kilmainham Gaol I didn’t hesitate – I’d seen the pictures, had heard the stories but now I wanted to see it for my own eyes.

The tour begins in the Catholic chapel of the jail, the chapel in which Joseph Mary Plunkett married Grace Gibbons just hours before his execution. The chapel is small and cold, but the designs put into the pews and the cloths were to be in stark contrast to the rest of the prison. Oddly enough for somewhere religious there’s something infinitely depressing about the chapel, far from somewhere to seek solace it seemed to serve as more of a reminder of the cramped spaces the prisoners were in.

Following on from a brief presentation in the chapel we were led into the East Wing, a short space with unnervingly creaky wooden floors and green cell doors, all with spy holes so the prisoners could be watched by the prison guards at all times. These were all down a narrow corridor, and they were all situated uncomfortably close together. During the famine years overcrowding was a major issue in Kilmainham, at one stage it was recorded that there were 4000 people imprisoned, which forced prisoners to share already cramped cells made to hold one inmate and other prisoners were also kept along the hallways.

The West Wing of the Jail

A cold breeze was flowing throughout the jail –  the windows used to consist of metal bars and no glass, such was the Victorian way of design, and even though glass has now been installed it’s still very windy. This chill was ever present for the duration of the tour. On the West Wing of the prison, and perhaps the image that most people associate with the prison, there’s a straight metal stair case leading through the three floors of the prison with cells surrounding the centre in a circular formation.

Only the prison guards were allowed to use the straight metal stairs so they could have quick access to the cells on all three floors. There’s a small, spiral stair case adjacent to the stair case the prison guards used, the spiral stair case had sharp twists and very little foot room. These were the stairs that the prisoners had to use, which they had to walk up slowly while the prison guards kept an eye on them. The design of the West Wing was to serve the prison guards, the way in which its laid out gave the gaolers a view of evey single cell on that wing. There’s an echo which permeates throughout the prison with every move, this was fully intended to be there so the guards could hear everything the prisoners did.

The yard in which children ‘exercised’

During the tour of the prison various engravings and grafitti can be seen, one of the first archways before you enter the main section of the prison is inscribed with a quote from the speech of the influential Republican Padraig Pearse, “Beware of the risen people, that have harried and held ye, that have bullied and bribed.” It is believed that this was inscribed by a female inmate shortly after the Civil War.

In the cell of Grace Gibbons, which now has “Mrs. Joesph Mary Plunkett” at the top of the cell door, there is a mural that she painted of the Virgin Mary with a baby and four celtic designs around it. It’s fascinating that it has still lasted this long, and the bright colours she used seemed to almost distract from the bleakness of the prison for just a moment.

The execution yard

Following on from this we were lead out to the adjoining prison yards. For a time children were imprisoned in Kilmainham, they were allowed into the yard for one hour a day for exercise, but all they could do was walk in a strictly maintained circle with their eyes fixed to the ground so that they could not see “God’s light.” Similarly, the windows of the cells are all very high, this was so the prisoners could only get “God’s light” if they climbed up to the window, it was hoped that they’d do this to repent. Next on the tour was the infamous execution yard, where reveloutionaries James Connolly, Charles Steward Parnell and Padraig Pearse, among others, had been executed by firing squad.

Throughout the tour my awareness of the people who had been imprisoned in Kilmainham grew. The execution yard had a cold chill running through it (I’d imagine that due to it’s location that even on a sunny day it’d be cold) and large black crosses marked the execution sites. In both yards the jail seemed to loom, you would not forget no matter what you were doing that you were imprisoned. It seemed that even the small tastes of freedom, such as being outside, were tinged with the inescapable awareness that everything you did was restricted and you were constantly being watched.

At the end of the tour you’re led to the museum, which had various displays showing how the jailers kept an eye on the prisoners andalso information on the frought political history during the time that Kilmainham was in use. The last thing I saw on the tour was the guest book. In a bit of a comedic twist I noticed that above where I signed my name was another signature, which beside it had “Nationality: English. Comment: Sorry!”

The Tide is High and We’re Going Under

The word “holiday” will naturally conjure up images of pina coladas, palm trees and glaring sun. But the reality for most people who go on holidays abroad is that you’ll be greeted half-heartedly by your holiday rep Sinead, who will avoid you and all the other guests as much as possible, disappearing into the tardis I’m convinced they hide behind the apartment complex.

After the warm welcome to your holiday you can look forward to seeing an assortment of both Irish and British holidaymakers who will laze by the pool all day and bear a striking resemblance to a lobster by the time you return home. All of this and more awaits your arrival!

These factors, and of course the obligatory mention of the recession, are all ammo for Failte and Discover Ireland’s metaphorical gun. Ireland isn’t that bad, wherever you are you’re sure to be near a pub and everyone speaks English. The sun doesn’t suspiciously rise every morning eventually resulting in you looking like a new addition to a family of sea critters.

While the hilariously depressing term “staycation” has been haunting our eyes and ears, the Failte and Discover Ireland executives have been launching a massive ad campaign championing Ireland as the place to be, while a multiplicity of picturesque and serene images flood the screen.

We won’t be fooled that easily lads, we live on the island. We know that the local “messer” Cormac was probably at the side of the camera while you were capturing these images, watching you hastily getting them to the editing suite to replace the inevitable rain drops with jovial, dancing leprechauns.

Panning around various beauty spots in Ireland may be aesthetically pleasing, but in reality if you want to draw the attention of the Irish nation then show images of people pretending to be warm on the beach in Enniscrone while chattering their teeth or some fool who’s so drunk he can’t find the door handle that’s right on front of him.

And why? Because we all love a laugh, and the only way I’d be willing to stay in this country for my holidays is if I get frequent opportunities to laugh at people’s stupidity, the kind of the behaviour you see in abundance in Spanish holiday resorts.

This, however, is on the condition that they excuse ridiculous happenings when I’m on holidays. One such memorable occasion was when my brother fell asleep in the sun, and appeared a few hours later looking like a misguided Phantom Of The Opera tribute act. The right side of his face was an unpleasant shade of red contrasted with the left side of his face which was milk white.

So should I stay in Ireland for holidays? Yes, I’m sure I should, but why deprive myself of the joy of seeing other people’s holiday faux pas? Well, as long as they don’t notice me walking into a palm tree..