THE ABSTINENCE

large (4)No, this isn’t what you think it is.

I will not being doing a Josh Hartnett and refraining from any between the sheets action for forty days, instead I will be abstaining from unhealthy online habits.

If you didn’t grow up in the grasp of a Catholic childhood, you’ll be wondering why I’m abstaining from anything in the first place. But the reason you filled your gobs with pancakes yesterday is because you’re supposed to be giving something up today, for forty days and forty nights. (Bet ya didn’t think of that as you sprinkled the sugar on your fifth crêpe of the day, did ya?) It was supposed to be your final feast – a last supper if you will – before giving something up, or doing a good deed each day for the next month or so.

No, I am no longer a follower of the Catholic faith; that went out the window along with skirts past the knee and a complete incapacity to speak to men. However, I like to stick to tradition and normally mark the occasion by giving up bread in a bid to lose a few pounds, but seeing as I’ve realised I actually need it to function these days and lunch times get a bit boring without it, I’ve decided to do something to cleanse the mind, rather than the colon this year.

I’m going to stop stalking people on social media.

I’m not talking catching up with a friend I haven’t seen in a while or checking in with my favourite bloggers, I’m talking the stupid kind of stalking. The type of stalking that gives you a similar buzz to a theme park ride, paired with a come down worse than Glastonbury. I’m talking the stalking your ex kind. The stalking your new boyfriend’s ex kind. The stalking anybody ever attached to your boyfriend kind. Or the stalking somebody you’d like to look like kind.

I’ll shamelessly hold my hands up and say that I love it. There’s nothing better than sitting down with a cup of tea and a couple of free hours to snoop on someone who makes you feel a little bit insecure about yourself. Think about it. Why wouldn’t you look through your ex boyfriend’s photo album of him and his new beau in the Bahamas? It’s obviously, completely vital to take a look at your current boyfriend’s life before you. And it would be silly not to take a look at that girl with the perfect body after you’ve gobbled down a burger and chips. It’s the most stupid and ridiculous, but actually, one of the most common things to do of an evening. But why do we do it?

I hate to say it, but it’s a female thing. I genuinely don’t know one bloke who stalks his ex girlfriend – or someone similar – but boys, please correct me if I’m wrong because I’m no expert. And also, I’d like to think that it isn’t just us girls who do it.

Back in the day, when you broke up with someone, they disappeared from your life quicker than a fat kid at a salad bar. These days, they’re more in your face than Lady Gaga’s engagement. So for the next forty days and forty nights, I’ll be avoiding this social (media) trap and refraining from stalking those who I shouldn’t because, well, it makes me feel a bit shit.

So whether you’re religious or not, pinpoint your bad habit and give it up – be it smoking, vodka, or something a little less easy to reach out for – 40 days is far less daunting that 365, so see it as a trial resolution for the year ahead.

You never know, it might result in you kicking that bad habit once and for all.

Good luck!

The Ex-File

Opening up facebook is like opening up your very own ex file.

No matter where you look, even if you’ve unfriended your ex, they will somehow barge their way onto your computer screen.

You’ll find them lurking on the most unexpected of profiles; hugging lots of super attractive, prospective partners, gallivanting in the Lake District with their new lovers and writing cryptic messages on people’s walls that they know you’ll read. But facebook paranoia aside, why do we hunt for ex-tra evidence that we should still be with them? Back in the day, a break up was a break up. You probably never saw them again, reducing the recuperation period to half of the length of time you went out. These days it’s double that. If we’re not seeing a status update about their lad’s night out, we’ll see a tweet or a peep from them. Not ideal. Of course, the intelligent thing to do would be to remove the boy/girl from your home feed. And even (in very brave circumstances) delete them altogether. But that’s never going to happen, as most of us have some inexplicable urge to know exactly what is going on in their “post-us” lives.

Now, I don’t want to generalise, but I’ve found that the most successful stalkers are normally those of the female variety. We have a relentless urge to know what his new bird looks like, where he has been eating out since we broke up and whether he still wears those trainers we bought him. Guys don’t seem to want to know.  Deep down I know it’s for the best if I don’t “accidently” stumble across a photo album of his newly-single summer spent in California. However, my stalking stats are inadvertently very useful in determining how well I’m doing in the break up stakes.

Here are the stages broken down for you:

Phase One. It goes one of two ways. We either delete them altogether, eradicating any chance of future rendezvous with his new partner. OR, I will check their profile on a daily basis, annoyed when there is no movement but utterly devastated when there is and it’s something I don’t want to see. I’ll then call them up, shout at them for getting with someone despite their single status. And swear never to speak to them again.

Then there’s phase two. Protect my own facebook. So I finally realise the perks of singledom and engage in flirty facebook action which I don’t want him to see. I tell him I’ve blocked him because “I don’t want to see what he’s up to”. Sneaky, yes. Silly, no.

And finally, phase three. You’ve got to the heavenly stage where you rarely to never check his facebook and one of your besties says ‘have you seen that *insert name here* is in a relationship? Much like phase one, this can go one of two ways. You will either log in using your pals account, check out the photos and resume phase one-type stalking immediately. Or, the better option. You actually feel happy for him or her. For the first time in a long time they’re genuinely happy. You’ve both officially moved on.

Although most of us are friends with our exes online, the rule of thumb I’d stick to is only do online what you would do in reality. So, would you stare blindly into the face of his new flame? No. So don’t do it in the comfort of your own home. Would you ever poke him for his attention in the street? I sincerely hope not. So refrain. Would you ask him how many people he kissed in France this summer? Absolutely not. So don’t go searching through albums to find out.

Much like a real-life friendship with an ex, maintaining an online link with them always sounds like a much better idea than it actually turns out to be.  An old school box of cards and ticket stubs which collects dust under your bed, only to reappear at yearly intervals is a nice keepsake. A cold-blooded, daily update of their suggested happiness without you is not.

Go on, press delete. You’ll feel better for it.

The Facebook

Since watching “The Social Network”, I have been utterly freaking out about facebook. I can’t help thinking about this narcissistic need we have to shove our lives into other people’s face all the time. I take part in it myself, but I have absolutely no idea why.

It’s terrible. I mean, how many times have you heard the phrase, “God, they look way better on facebook!”? Girls, clearly the pouting isn’t doing you (or I) any good. You might fool people into thinking you look like a supermodel on facebook, but you can’t kid people in real life. They will see you and they will notice the difference between your profile picture and your actual face. On the other hand, pulling a funny face in a photo doesn’t mean that you’re ‘an absolute nutter’ it usually just means that you don’t want people to think you take yourself too seriously. Why can’t we all just smile?

Aside from the creation of our alter egos, the weirdest aspect of facebook, is facebook stalking. The clue is in the word ‘stalking’ guys… It’s never okay. Why do we torture ourselves by stalking ‘the ex’? Not just your ex, but the ex of your current boyfriend/girlfriend and even your ex’s new girlfriend. Back in the day, you wouldn’t even know that your ex has a new girlfriend, nowadays you know what nail polish she wears. Why do we search for old photos of our boyfriend and his ex travelling across Eastern Europe looking tanned and really quite gorgeous together? What happened to picturing her as an oaf covered in warts to make yourself feel better? Ignorance, after all, is usually bliss.

Also, most of us are friends with around 300 people that we would probably ignore if we saw in the street or on campus, so why do we allow them to look at our lives, and vice versa? Surely they don’t care that I went out and ‘got smashed’ last night. Surely they don’t care that I’m ’really into my music’, so why are we friends on facebook? Because we spent one night out together? Or because we kissed once? We’re not ‘friends’ really, are we? And why is it such a big deal when people delete you off facebook? It kicks up more of a fuss than if they threw a pint over your bloody head!

… Don’t even get me started on facebook chat. That is THE most annoying part of facebook. All sorts pop up… “alright?”… “yeah, you?”… “yeah good thanks, what are you up to these days?”… “WHY THE HELL DO YOU CARE?! I HAVEN’T SEEN YOU IN FIVE YEARS!” I think you know what I mean. And if you don’t, you’re one of these ‘chat chasers’.

Despite all my reservations about facebook, I must say that I continue to use it regularly. It is the source of all party invitations at university. It is a way of keeping in contact with people you met on your gap year. It’s a place to share photos with your friends. Basically, until I graduate, I pretty much can’t come off facebook. I would actually be deemed ‘a bit odd’ if I no longer had a profile. It has completely changed how friendships work. I often wonder what life would be like without the convenience of the private message sitting right at your fingertips. I’d actually have to call people. Eurgh.

So for the meantime, I will revel in this social network and continue to be a frivolous facebooker; poking people as I please. Because, let’s face it… it’s actually quite fun.

Mr Zuckerberg, I salute you and your insane invention.