What Do We Owe The Internet?

I have recently been through some big, beautiful, life-changing milestones. It’s been an incredible year. I got married, went on a honeymoon, purchased and moved onto a narrowboat and cut my lovely long locks off to donate to Little Princess Trust. Some of these Big Events I chose to share with my 450 close, personal Facebook friends, others, not as much.

(It’s worth noting that all the people below, had, without doubt, only the best intentions, it’s that our ‘sharing culture’ seems to have developed into somewhat of an obligation.)

The Big Day.

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Me, thinking more about my soulmate than selfies.

During the wedding, we were, perhaps not unsurprisingly, a little pre-occupied and so didn’t take many photos. However, it didn’t stop people, just hours after the wedding, requesting images of me, the dress, the cake…. We were exhausted and had already shifted into full honeymoon mode, so people had to wait. And boy did it drive them nuts. “Where are the pictures?” “Still haven’t seen any of the bride…” “What about one with the dress..?” We weren’t even in control of who uploaded what, and yet people seemed almost accusatory that we hadn’t given them what they wanted: a window through which they could access the special day too. A lovely sentiment, but slightly aggressively expressed.

The Honeymoon.

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Disneyland – a place for love and sharing!

Then came the honeymoon and we took LOADS of photos! Hundreds. We wanted to capture every magical minute, and so we did. And, to help manage our storage, we decided to dump some online for safe keeping so we could free up the memory cards. In pinged the next helpful message. We were advised, in no uncertain terms, that a honeymoon was no place to be ‘worried about’ taking and uploading pictures, it was a private time where we should be focussed on each other. (We couldn’t win!) The person that sent us this message missed the fact that this process was one we were enjoying together, posing, spotting photo opportunities, selecting which ones to upload… they had assumed, wrongly, that this was not a fun, bonding, part of our honeymoon. However, after a few firm messages, we stopped. Then, of course, came the comments asking where the pics had gone. The internet assumed the worst. Did you get bored? Had you run out of things to photograph? Did you run out of time? Eventually, upon our return, I ended up uploading every single picture we took, because going through them and selecting the faves had become a big chore, and much less fun with my partner now back at work.

The Home.

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My gorgeous husband on our floating home.

Next, we got our beautiful narrowboat and it was time to celebrate! Except that it wasn’t, we had a huge number of engine and overheating problems. “Where are the pictures?” I had broken down and been stranded on a number of occasions. “Come on, we want to see it!” Several people, some friends, some paid professionals, had had a go at fixing it, we’d got our hopes up and then it had overheated / gone bang again, “When are you going to share a pic?”  We, myself in particular, were left feeling deflated, defeated and more than a little distressed. “Let’s see it then!” People had no idea the stress our little floating home was causing, every day I had my head in the engine, getting greasy, slowly soaking in bilge water and tears, willing the engine to listen to my pleas and magically fix itself. I hadn’t shared a status explaining all this, justifying the absence of images. I didn’t have to. For now, I was busy trying to sort it all out, not focussed on documenting the experience. I didn’t have the time, energy, or inclination to show off our new home, yet.

The Hair.

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Hair to share!

And finally, the big haircut. The event of the year, nay the century, eclipsing all three of the previous milestones. Or at least that’s what your would have thought given the online reaction. I posted a pic of my long locks, waving in the wind, about to be chopped. Then mum and I took loads of photos of the process, the cut, the colour, the plait ready for donation. BUT, we decided on a ‘no Facebook upload’ agreement. BUT WHY?! Where are the pictures? Give us pictures!!! Because this was a fairly dramatic change for me, I’d lost 12 inches and gained five colours, I wanted people to see it in the flesh and get a chance to react in ‘real time’. I didn’t want some family members to see it online before they saw it in person. Apparently this was a selfish decision. The onslaught of comments actually ended up causing a fair bit of stress and anxiety. I’m prone to these things anyway, but the barrage of comments, requests, and demands, for pictures went on and on. When in the olden days we would have satisfied our curiosity with an ‘incidental visit’ to our neighbours (I’m looking at you Rachel Lynde and Mrs Bennet) we now could end up, completely unwittingly, contributing to what feels like the internet equivalent of pitchforks and torches, outraged at being kept from what we see as rightfully ours.

More than one person actually contacted my mum. Did she not like it? Did it go wrong? Is it terrible? With what came across as almost titillated glee, people had concluded that, as I chose not to share images immediately, I must hate the cut and be ashamed. And they wanted their share in the disaster. For why else would I not immediately update my profile with a selfie?

In the end I just chose flat out not to upload a proud shiny selfie of the new ‘do’, it was for me, not for them. I was happy and loved seeing people seeing it for the first time.

So What?

Once we choose to share a bit, the assumption is that we are not only happy to expose all the details of our lives, but in some way are obliged to do so. It’s not the fault of the people asking for images. We’re just curious. But give a little, and we expect it all. And, we can end up quite offended if you ‘withhold’ picture updates of significant events. We assume we have a right to access any part of someone’s life, after all, that is what Facebook’s for…

I know, I’m complaining about how intensely my loved ones are showing interest in me. But the anxiety and stress were real. I felt conflicted, like I was betraying people, a little harassed and, in the end, quite indignant that people felt they had a right to so much of my life.
Maybe, we can all think twice before we request evidence of people’s life events, haircuts, and breakfasts. Maybe we can assume that, if they want to, they’ll upload an image when they’re good and ready.

 

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Here’s a pic of my breakfast, in case you needed that too!

28 Plays: Time to Reflect.

I wrote a play every day for the entire month of February, 2017.

28, complete, short-plays.

Some were very personal, some where very bad, some were rushed, some had plenty of time to wander round my brain, some were written on a train, some from my bed, some from the house I where I was dog-sitting. Some sparked something in me that I’d love to explore further. Some will stay just as they are, odd little things, but evidence of a month of sustained creativity.

I surprised myself in many ways. I was pleasantly surprised at how disciplined I could be, and how I always found time, even if it was the middle of the night, or first thing in the morning(!), to create something.

I was also surprised at how important it is to me to be writing about women’s issues and mental health. The little-feminist-that-could kept creeping up in almost every play I wrote, and she was welcome there. Mental health, on the other hand, is something I would never have expected to want to write openly, and publicly, about. It’s something I’ve only just talked to my parents about, after 18 years of not knowing how. And that was just one explosive evening with very little follow up. So why did my writing keep circling back to mental health? Because it matters. Because I care. Because I need to talk about it. And because I want to contribute to the conversation, somehow.

So, maybe that somehow is theatre. Maybe some of these little plays will grow into something more substantial. Maybe there’s more to come.

Thanks for following, and watch this space 😉

Day Twenty-Eight, Play Twenty-Eight!!

“We started with 1928 – so lets end in 8291.”

I have a very spongy brain when it comes to anything musical. On more than one occasion, I’ve had something someone said stuck on repeat in my head just because I heard a rhythm in it. So, you can imagine how susceptible I am to radio jingles.

Hence 8-2-91 took me straight to “88-2-91 FM, BBC Radio Two.” And, so, I wrote my final play set in a Radio 2 broadcasting studio, on the 8th of February, 2091, interviewing an actress about her up coming Visual Reality play, ‘8291’.

I took that first idea and ran with it. This is what happened…

Enjoy!

Day 28: 8291

Day Twenty-Seven, Play Twenty-Seven.

“So this is your opportunity to re-do a challenge. Pick any of the previous 26 challenges we’ve done and write a NEW play following that brief.
I bet you’ve thought of a few better ideas since sending in your first version.”

I hadn’t, I’d submitted each play and kept going, I didn’t look back.

But, I figured the fan-fiction brief had a lot of unexplored scope, after all, I am a fan of many things. I’d done a few Shakespeare nods, and the play I submitted for the fan-fic brief was Bill and Ted inspired, so I figured: Hey, let’s do Disney.

But I took the Disney princess back to their Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Anderson roots and then set them in a not-so-distant future post-apocalyptic world.

Enjoy…

Day 27: Just a Pretty Face

Day Twenty-Six, Play Twenty-Six.

“Step 1: Pick your favourite play from this year’s challenge (out of the 25 plays you wrote – which is the best one, do you reckon?).

Step 2: Check the word count of the play.

Step 3: Divide that word count by 2.

Step 4: Edit your play to the new word count.”

This was harder than it sounds, but I enjoyed working through this one again as it started off quite stream-of-conscious-y so it was nice to refine, and it was interesting to have to advocate certain passages and argue their significance in the piece.

Enjoy.

Day 26: Voice /2

Day Twenty-Five, Play Twenty-Five

“Every writer has started working on something and then gave up halfway through. We all have somewhere an uncompleted idea or play. Your challenge for today, should you choose to accept it, is to find one of those ideas and complete them!”

This was, I think, the kindest weekend challenge of all!

I was really grateful for this challenge, though I didn’t have much time to complete it.

Ages ago, I wrote a spoken word piece inspired by Romeo and Juliet. Earlier in the month, I wrote another Shakespeare inspired spoken word piece… Today I combined the two to start developing my one-woman Shakespeare cabaret show!

(You’ve been warned…)

Enjoy!

Day 25: If I Were a Boy

Day Twenty-Four, Play Twenty-Four

“Let’s write a play in a different language.
Some of you may know another language, and some might have to make it up!
Either way, make it work, but most importantly, make it interesting for an English speaking audience (Regardless of what language it’s written in).

Bonus – have a surprise ending! Surprise yourself. Get to the end and then do something you didn’t expect. A surprise”

This came from rolling my story dice, coming up with a number of components, then working them into a British Sign Language version of The Tortoise and the Hare.

Now, how do you write in BSL? Technically I didn’t, I wrote lines that could be easily signed and would, in my opinion, translate nicely to BSL on stage for a younger audience.

The whole thing was inspired by a beautiful production of Shakespeare’s Love Labour lost in BSL. So I tried to write with that in mind..!

Enjoy!

Day 24: Slow and Steady

Day Twenty-Three, Play Twenty-Three

Today we’re going R@dI©AL!

There are so many different ways in which we can create radical theatre. Whether we want to look at how we treat our bodies or how we use language or humor or space or our relationship with the audience or gender or ethnicity or sexuality or narrative, etc.

So let’s do that today.
Pick something you want to be radical about – and go wild!

[…]

Bonus points for using a new word you’ve never used before… Particularly if you don’t understand what it means.

These are sort of all the parts of  my attitudes to food and exercise, exaggerated, radicalised, split into several personalities and having dinner together.

Who says this writing challenge is making me go crazy…?

It ended a bit rushed, but I enjoyed the concept.

Enjoy!

Day 23: Too Much of a Good Thing

Day Twenty-Two, Play Twenty-Two

“Fan fiction is all the rage now…

So write something about your favourite characters doing something else.”

I’m a big fan of many things, Disney, Shakespeare, Musical Theatre….

Everything seemed too obvious, until it hit me, like a retro phone booth flying through the sky – Bill and Ted.

Keanu at his finest.

Enjoy!

Day 22: A Most Excellent Send Off

Day Twenty-One, Play Twenty-One

Sorry for another delay in keeping these updated, been in the JAM* camp recently.

We are all in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars, apparently…
so let’s get some inspiration from them.

Today we’re all about the rest of the universe.

I went to Star Trek, and stayed there – with a little Red Dwarf thrown in.

I love this genre, and I had language and communication on the brain, so just sort of explored that I guess!

Enjoy!

Day 21: Babble

*Just About Managing.