The Freedom of Cycling

Over the past month or so, I’ve started to really enjoy cycling. It’s so refreshing being out in the country roads and on two wheels. You’re always alert and looking out for potholes, listening for cars, watching out for flying insects and other cyclists. But at the same time, I find myself switching off from the world and not really thinking about anything in particular. It’s living in the moment and enjoying the minutes as they pass by.

Each ride is different. Even if you go out for a three lap circuit, on each lap there will be different drivers, obstacles, birds singing and smells in the air. Cycling through the British countryside may seem monotonous to some, but I’ve found it’s really got a lot to offer and racing against others through the Strava app really makes it fun as I compete to win the QOM (Queen of the Mountain) achievement on certain stretches of road.

When I started triathlon, I never thought I’d like cycling, as it was my weakest discipline. I’m still not as speedy as others are on two wheels, but I’m definitely improving and liking it more each week. Last week, I cycled 80km in one day, which would have made me cry at the beginning of the year, but I just got on and did it. And the best part of that day? It was FUN!

I’m trying to do longer rides in the build up to my upcoming triathlons but this week I’m doing school talks all around the West Midlands, so am not sure how much free time I’ll have, but I know when I get on my bike, I’ll enjoy going new places, seeing new things and building up strength to go further faster!

Adding Your Boss on Facebook

Over the past couple of years, I’ve had several part time jobs at university, selling tickets, bar work, conducting interviews etc. I’ve found some of these jobs through Unitemps and some through Facebook itself. With casual jobs, usually the meetings, rotas and other important information is shared on a secret Facebook group. I like being in a work Facebook group as that way I can see who else is working on the same shift as me, other people ask questions so I don’t have to and sometimes there is group banter between co-workers.

They be adding you like a boss

The only thing is, to be part of one of these secret Facebook groups, you have to be added to it by the group administrator, which is always your boss. Your boss can’t add you to this group until you two are Facebook ‘friends’. It puts you in an awkward position as to be part of the group and know what’s happening, you have to accept your manager’s friend request, giving them the opportunity to look at your friends, photos, status updates, events you’re attending etc.

When you accept their request (which you ultimately have to), you’re then given that same access to give your new manager a Facebook stalk. The temptation is too much and within a week or so, you find yourself watching their ice bucket challenge, seeing the selfies of their dog and you know which restaurant they took their partner to for their anniversary. It’s too much information and potentially awkward…but you can’t decline their request, nor can you leave them in the Facebook friends buffer zone.

So what can you do?

In these situations, I’ve accepted my new manager and instantly added them to ‘Acquaintances’; this Facebook list means that you’re still friends with this person, but what they see of your profile is limited. You can change your photos, status etc privacy setting to ‘friends except acquaintances’ meaning that anyone in your acquaintances list won’t see these things. Then, I’ll unfollow them, so that their cat photos won’t appear on my news feed. Out of sight, out of mind.

It’s probably something I shouldn’t worry about as I never post anything ridiculous on Facebook. But I do have some photos on there that I only want actual friends to see. So when I finish these casual jobs, I always delete the boss as if I need to contact them for anything, I think it’s better to do it by phone or email, not over Facebook.

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Afterthought: On the other hand, I have a part time job as a Team Leader and I had to add the new team members as Facebook friends to add them to the secret group for our work. I’m not sure how they felt about it, but as I’m a student I think I’m less intimidating than having a more senior ‘boss’ figure adding them. I’ve never pried into any of their profiles or stalked them because I don’t have the time and as we organise parties, I’m not going to fire them if I see a picture of them drunk.

Greetings Cards

As an English person, I love sending and receiving cards – postcards, birthday cards, Christmas cards, the lot. They’re great mementoes you can keep for ages and I have a big bag filled with birthday cards from when I was little, as well as a box of postcards I’ve received over the years. I’m aware I sound a lot like a hoarder at the moment and maybe I am a little.

When I was younger, I would personally make birthday cards for my friends, printing off pictures of us together, their favourite band or something related to a private joke. That way I could write exactly what I wanted on the card and I’d often write a little personalised poem inside too.

But then, I got older, less artistic and hand-making cards became time consuming. I started buying cards from the high street card shops. I remember at first there was a huge variety of cards for a standard amount of people – Mum, Dad, sister, brother, cousin, nan, grandad, auntie, uncle, friend and then the childrens ones with badges. It was fairly easy to find a suitable card that had pictures of football, cakes, flowers or whatever that person liked, there seemed to be a lot of choices and adjectives.

Birthday cards with badges

Today I was in a card shop, trying to find some Christmas cards and adding to the list above for the ‘relations’ section of the card shop were: Mum and step-dad, Dad and stepmum, Nanna and Grandad, Nanny and Grandad, Nana, Nanna, Granny, the both of you, like a Mum, like a Dad, step-brother, step-sister, Auntie in-law, Uncle in-law, Godfather, Godmother, Mam, one I love, partner, someone special…you can even buy cards for your literate cat or dog.

A-meow-zing

Because the relations you can buy for increasing over the past few years, I’ve found the quality of cards has gone down. I’m a person who likes to make sure that I don’t buy a card that doesn’t represent the person who I’m buying for. I also like to choose a card with some of my personality in it through the words on the inside. A simple ‘Have a great day’ won’t do it for me. I’ve found that I couldn’t find a suitable card for my Dad for example. The few that were there were mixed in with the ‘like a Dad’, step-Dad and uncle cards, all had things like “to the best Dad in the world at Christmas”, considering I only see him a few times a year, it’s not quite a card that represents my feelings.

Almost all the female relations cards are pink and I don’t like pink. I know that I’ll get a few pink cards for my birthday, but what happened to the blues, greens and purples that used to brighten up the fireplace with birthday cards? Not every woman likes pink, nor is every Dad the best in the world, not every man likes sports on a card, nor is every cousin wonderful. Another thing to mention is that bestest is not a word! Cards have become less personal and more stereotypical mass market ‘one size fits all’.

I think the creation of all these new titles has been done to try to realistically reflect the change in our society, which in a way is good, can you imagine how a Mother would feel knowing her son sent a card addressed to Mum and Dad to his father and his new wife? But at the same time, with all these extra cards going on the shelves, ultimately, many have come off and I struggle to find cards that are suitable for my friends and family.

Give Kisses, not XXX’s

I have never been one of those people who put kisses on the end of every text message. In the past people have told me off for ending a text message with a full stop instead of an x. They have asked me if they have done something to deserve the apparent lack of affection I show in text messages. It’s not that I am cold and have no affection, I just don’t see the point in rows of x’s and prefer to put a smiley face instead. I think we should get in the habit of giving actual kisses, rather than x’s, after all didn’t X mark the spot? What spot? Why an X?

The phonetic sound of the letter X sounds similar to the word kiss and the shape of an X can be interpreted as two mouths joining together in a kiss. In the UK, there are “rules” for the amount of x’s or xo’s you should leave for different types of people. These can be interpreted in different ways, but I think the general rules are:

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx – little brother/sister gone a bit OTT

xoxox – hugs and kisses for friends

xxx – for close family, boy/girlfriends, people you love

xx – for close friends, other family members and a good middle ground between one kiss and three

x – for friends

– enemies, people you are angry with, your boss

I pretty much always use the latter for everybody I text.

I don’t understand where these kisses on the end of messages came from. In the UK we prefer handshakes and waves when greeting our friends. When British people do give kisses, it’s often awkward with people not being sure which cheek comes first…is it one, two or three…and do you rest your hand on their shoulder or their hip?

Kisses aren’t all that bad though. I know us Brits are very happy in our own personal space and when strangers try to invade this things can get uncomfortable…


but I think it’s a nice way to greet people. I remember when I was living in Chile and every morning at school I would have to walk around the staffroom kissing everyone it seemed like a huge, pointless task (that would be repeated later in the afternoon at hometime) but now I see the benefits of it. It’s so much more social than a 2 second wave and glance around the room. By going to each person and giving them a little kiss on the cheek you get to give everyone eye contact, learn new people’s names and it’s just nice to have a one on one interaction with everybody. Yes it takes a little time but put the effort in with your friends and stop pressing the x on your keyboard.

Here are some pictures of cute kissing animals!

Afterthought: On the rare occasions when I do put kisses on text messages it means you’re very special to me!

Facebook Unfriending

As I am about to set off on a six month trip to Spain, I am soon going to take time to go through my Facebook friend list and decide who I want to share my posts with and who I want to unfriend. This is not the first time I have done this, I might add. I am quite personal and protective over my photos; I don’t like to publish too many on Facebook as I feel they are my personal memories. I question whether the girl from my Spanish GCSE class should be ‘allowed’ to see and download these photos of mine.

At high school and university, it is very easy to fall into the social media trap of meeting somebody once and immediately adding them on Facebook. You find them easily through your five mutual friends and when the request is accepted, you have a cheeky stalk of their profile, as you have full access to their photos, status updates, relationship status, a map of where they have been and even their high score on Candy Crush. Don’t deny it, all students have done this stalking at one point or another. This form of online networking and adding people to your friends list helps to gain social acceptance in a group of friends, where often subjects of conversation in ‘real life’ involve “Did you see the video that Tom posted last night?”. Creating a large online network of friends is also essential as a student so that you can see and are invited to events. Online promotion using Facebook is now huge and with Facebook’s ‘invite only’ privacy setting for events, if you are not invited by a friend you are not and cannot be on the guestlist.

Whilst I am abroad, I plan to use Facebook to show my photos to others and also as a back up for them. I know that the chances of my camera getting stolen AND my laptop breaking are very unlikely, but there is some comfort in knowing that my pictures are all uploaded somewhere safer than a memory stick – especially given my history with memory sticks. See my previous post here http://wp.me/p3sHrJ-y .

In an ideal world, I would only have my family, close friends and coursemates as my Facebook friends so that only they could see my uploads and updates. But this is not an ideal world. Filtering through my friends list, I see countless names and faces of ‘friends’, yet I struggle to remember when the last time I saw them in person was. I think it is suitable to call this large group of people ‘acquaintances’. If I were to see them in the street I would say hello, if they were raising money for charity I would probably spare £5. However if I was in trouble, I wouldn’t call them for help. Neither would I invite them to a farewell party. Is it right to unfriend these acquaintances? If so, when is the right time to unfriend them and remove them from my social circle? I know that they haven’t progressed to the friend level and that they probably won’t any time soon – unless they are also going to the same places in Spain that I am. I know that I don’t want to share my photos and personal experiences with them whilst I’m away. So what is holding me back?

Well now, nothing is.

Now that I am not promoting via Facebook for my job, I am ready to declutter my friends list. I no longer need to spam their news feed to get ticket sales and to raise awareness of the company I work for.

The general questions I will ask myself of the friends in my list will be:

  • Do you actually like this person?
  • Have you spoken to this person face to face within the last year?
  • Do you remember having any particular good memories with this person?
  • Do you have them as a contact in your mobile?
  • If they were to upload baby/ marriage/ graduation etc pictures, would you care?
  • Will you see and talk to them in the near future?

If the answer is no to at least three of the above questions, I will most likely delete them as a friend on Facebook. That is not to say that in some years to come we can’t change our friendship status back to ‘friends’.

Why be so over dramatic? It’s only Facebook you might say. Well, I feel that already as an active internet user I don’t have as much privacy as I would like over content related to myself. A simple Google search of my name brings up links to my online accounts and posts. Another click on the images part of Google also shows pictures of myself. These are public for the whole world to see – friends, acquaintances, strangers, employers – and there is not a lot I can do to change this. Yet I do have control over my Facebook profile and I think it is essential to restrict my photos, updates, events and my personalised map to just my real friends.