Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Is Facebook Making Us Depressed?

Zuckerbergggg *shakes fist*

I'm a 3rd year student, so naturally my Facebook feed is full of old school friends, uni friends, friends of uni friends, people who I've only met once and barely spoken to, and the odd random person who I keep forgetting to delete but constantly posts YouTube videos of a cat riding a tortoise. (That one's a keeper.)

Scrolling through my newsfeed I realise that I currently know more about many of the people I shared a classroom with, than I ever did when we were actually at school together. I know how the guy-who-I-sat-next-to-in-science's recent relationship ended, and how his year's study in Germany was 'amazing'. I know about the girl-who-me-and-my-friends-silently-hated's gap year in Australia, and what she had for lunch today, and how many hours she spent in the library last night. At the click of a button I can scroll through hundreds of personal photos of someone who I barely spoke to yet know intimate details about. The only thing we had in common was sharing air space in an overcrowded classroom, and perhaps a ruler may have swapped hands now and again.

Besides the issue of voyeurism or 'Facebook stalking' there's also the issue of competition and comparison. Someone is always skinnier, prettier, or more successful than you. It begins to feel as if you're stuck in some sort of school reunion purgatory, constantly being reminded of your short comings since leaving school. No longer do we have to wait until we're 40 to feel as if our peers have overtaken us, thanks to Facebook we're instantly updated on the internship, the award, the engagement, and the marathon running. It's easy to think that everyone else is having much more success than you, and that they're somehow 'winning' in life with constant updates on every new development. Never before have we been able to scrutinize our own lives in such detail.

So I deleted them. Well, I tried to. I got down to about 257 before it got too hard. Would I secretly miss checking up on that girl who went to Durham, but who I surpassed at English A-level? Would I feel a gap in my day when I didn't spend a good hour clicking through all of philosophy-girl's holiday photos? What if they achieved something amazing and I didn't know about it, so I couldn't question every decision I'd ever made after school and wonder 'what exactly am I doing with my life'? Perhaps I could do without them after all...

So off they went. I sorted the wheat from the chaff. Would I stop and talk to this person if I bumped into them on the street? Would we have a decent in-depth conversation? The answer being 'no' for more than half of them, off they went, and I watched as my number of friends slowly declined.

But then came the re-adding. Friend requests popped up from people who I'd deleted. THEY KNEW. But why was my primary school best friend trying to add me again? She'd never spoken to me in about 5 years, nor had she make any contact online, yet she felt the need to know about all of my goings on like a silent watcher from afar. This was getting a bit weird. It was almost as if she'd gone around collecting people from her past like tokens. Not to talk to, but just to have there to look at. Kind of similar to what I was doing really...

Conclusion: Facebook is evil and people from your past use it spy on you.

Or perhaps it's better to think of it like this: people don't share everything on Facebook even though it may seem like it. (Twitter on the other hand...) Apart from the odd person who isn't afraid to share every raw and intense detail of a break-up, people only tend to post things that they're proud of or are happy about. It's only when you talk to people in person that you realise that what you see online is only half the story. Like how the person who went on the gap year spent quite a lot of the time feeling isolated and alone, and the girl who looks like she's having the best uni experience ever also has the worst housemates ever. We like to present ourselves to the world as having it all figured out, when really that isn't the case at all. (Well, at least I hope it isn't..?)

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

A Perfect Day at Penguin

Last Thursday I made the trip down to London from Manchester for Penguin's annual Graduate Open Day.  
I had to get up at 4am to be there for 9. No one should be forced to get up that early unless they're going on holiday, seriously. Train stations are very eerie at that time as well, and I did not envy the people who were opening up the coffee places at 5:30am. The train was pretty empty as well, apart from the odd sleepy businessman in a suit.

The sun came up somewhere past Rugby, and I pulled into London Euston at around 8am and jumped on the tube to Charing Cross. Even though I live and study in quite a big city, traveling to London and riding the underground was still a bit of a novelty for me. I felt like such a tourist.

I arrived at Penguin head offices in good time and we were whizzed up to the 10th floor for breakfast. Apparently the room that we were in was the room from which Winston Churchill watched the Blitz, so we felt pretty special.

What followed was a series of talks from those who work in all of the different departments at Penguin, and the companies which are part of the Penguin group as well, like DK, Viking, Michael Joseph and of course Puffin and Ladybird. (Who didn't have those as a kid?)

It was really interesting to hear about all of the different processes that go into making a book. From predicting 'the next big thing', to editing, production, publicity, marketing, rights, and sales. Each speaker gave their own story of how they broke into the industry, and what they're looking for in a graduate. It was great to hear about people's personal experiences and all the different routes that they took to get where they are today.

Also - free lunch! A student never turns down free food, especially if it's thai green curry. Mmmm.

During lunch we had the opportunity to talk informally with quite a few of the people who spoke earlier in the day. It was great to be able to ask them questions on a one-to-one basis rather than in front of an audience. Although quite a few people still had a large group around them!

Everyone was really enthusiastic and genuinely wanted to help as much as they could, and I received some great advice.

The ever so lovely Ashley and Bryony who I met at the event :)

At the end of the event we were given a goody bag which included a copy of The Help, which has recently been made into a film starring Emma Stone. I saw it the other week and really enjoyed it, so I'm looking forward to reading the novel. Definitely my kind of goody bag.

(Part of being a student is coming home and realising that your parents are slowly turning your room into a store cupboard)

All in all it was an amazing day. Really insightful and inspiring. Publishing is like any industry: if you've got the passion and the drive (and are willing to work your way up) you can do it. Well, that's what I'm telling myself anyway...


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