Book review: I see London, I see France

CAUTION: Spoilers ahead!

In 2017 I had the incredible privilege to undertake a great European road trip with my husband and parents. For nearly four weeks, we hopped from country to country, ticking things off our bucket lists at every stop. Mom wanted castles and culture, dad wanted nature and walking, my husband wanted to bump fists with statues of musical greats and visit their homes, my own pleasure is art, literature, fairytales and magic. We all wanted wine, great food and to experience something new together. And we did, everywhere we went.
But while backpacking, or road-tripping, through Europe is the adventure of a lifetime for anyone, what makes it life-altering is not so much about where you go as it is about who you go with. Which brings me to I see London, I see France by Sarah Mlynowski.

The book follows first year college (university) students/best friends Sydney and Leela on their great European adventure.
This is the trip they’ve both been dreaming of ever since they started reading books as teenagers. They have a bucket list of their own to work on, complete with stinky cheese and high tea, but they also have to budget to make it through four and a half weeks of traveling.
Each of them also come to the experience with an extra piece of baggage: Leela is recently broken up with her college boyfriend, with whom she was supposed to go on this epic trip. Sydney leaves behind an agoraphobic mother with her sister who, despite having grown up in the same household, just doesn’t get what it takes to take care of someone who fears leaving the safety of their own environment. The story is told from Sydney’s POV, and everywhere we follow her, so does her guilt over abandoning her fragile mother and teenage sister. But it is only for four and a half weeks, she constantly reminds us, and she said she’d go straight back if either of her selfish family members can’t deal with her absence.
Speaking of selfish, the really selfish person is Sydney’s best friend and travel partner, Leela. Not only does she count on Sydney to do all the planning, but she repeatedly changes her mind about where to go and about who she would or wouldn’t like to share in the experience. That is because, despite the breakup that caused Leela and boyfriend Matt’s plans to fall through, Matt and friend Jackson follow in Sydney and Leela’s wake on a trip of their own. This complicates matters to no end and is also the main plot-twist in the book, because it turns out Jackson is both easy on the eye and an interesting, if not exciting, travel companion, and Matt and Leela have unfinished business. Throw in selfish Leela’s jealousy over Sydney’s new college friend, Kat, and you’ve got yourself a story with plenty of intrigue, twists and turns and a few OMFG moments to boot. But it wasn’t the story so much that had me riveted. Not that it wasn’t riveting, it was. It was just that, truth to be told, once Sydney and Leela started going places, trying new foods and experiencing new countries and cities, I was there again, or for the first time, experiencing Europe as though it was as new to me as to the two characters portrayed in the book. And I thought what a marvelous job Sarah Mlynowski had done with the thing that some would consider secondary to the story; the traveling. At every twist and turn in the book I thought: ‘Poor Sydney! If only she could have done this with her mother like I did,’ or ‘Poor Leela, if only she would see how much work her friend put into trying to make this trip awesome for her,’ and I walked up narrow staircases with them and snapped selfies of great tourist attractions with them and when I put the book down, it was as though I had just returned from Europe again with my family, who had trusted me so completely to plan a trip that on the day we left for Europe, they still had no idea where we were off to. And it was magical and romantic and new and exciting and fun. Lots of fun. Both times.
So if you haven’t done the Great European Adventure yet, choose your travel partner(s) carefully. And read ‘I see London, I see France’. You can call it research. Or you can just experience the great European adventure, which is what this book is. Don’t go to Europe and act like Leela. Be the better friend, the traveler who is open to new experiences, the person who eats the snails even though they look disgusting. And if you ever go see a sex-show in Amsterdam, don’t be the idiot who gets up on stage with the performers. Be the idiot who takes video proof to show that you were there, then deletes it, to show that you care.

My travel companions, waiting for the bus in Florence, Italy.

Happy travels!

My short stories now available on Scribd!

If you’re a reader, which I sincerely hope you are, then you’ll have heard of Scribd by now. If you haven’t, here’s the low-down: Scribd is a subscription service for all things bookish and a lovely way to pay a little for a lot of reading material. Each month, for only $8.99 you get *unlimited access to their large catalogue of books, magazines, audiobooks and documents, which can be accessed from your phone, tablet or computer at your convenience! And now, to make the deal even sweeter, my short stories are available for Scribd subscribers both in Afrikaans and English! The full “Nuwe Stories” short story series (Afrikaans Edition) is available for your reading pleasure. The series consists of three anthologies: Nuwe Stories, Nuwe Stories 2 and Nuwe Stories 3, each comprising a collection of Afrikaans language short stories from millennial writers such as myself. And of course my own short stories are there too. Look out for “Onder die Brug” (Nuwe Stories), “‘n Kis vir Boel” (Nuwe Stories 2) and “Utopia” (Nuwe Stories 3).

Nuwe Stories, ISBN 9780798156448. Now available on Scribd!

Nuwe Stories 2 – ISBN: 9780798164627. Now available on Scribd!

Nuwe Stories 3, ISBN: 9780798167987. Now available on Scribd!

If Afrikaans isn’t really your thing, I have a special treat for readers of the slightly more widely spoken English language. My latest short story, “Hot Wheels“, is now also available on Scribd.

Hot Wheels: A Short Story. ISBN: 9780463642849.
Now available on Scribd!

So get clicking and start reading, and remember, if you liked what you read, review and recommend!

Get your Scribd subscription here. Click on the book names above to read each book on Scribd.

Happy reading!

Three Short Stories about Johannesburg by Elizabeth Pienaar

I have a confession to make. I love short stories. I love reading them, I love writing them and I love recommending the good ones to my fellow readers. A lot of people tell me they don’t like to read short stories, because they “get to spend so little time with the characters”, or “just when they get into it, the story is done”, or even, and this surprises me, “short stories don’t give authors enough scope to exhibit their abilities”. While you are allowed to have that opinion (if you happen to share in it), allow me the chance to change your mind. I know just the short stories that’ll do it.

I’ve mentioned Elizabeth Pienaar here before, because I adore her writing. The previous time I wrote about her, it was about her book “Bobby”, a beautiful tale about a dog’s life, based in truth and told from the dog’s perspective. But today I want to talk about her new series of short stories, collectively named “Breaking Down The House”, in which Elizabeth takes a very candid look at life on the streets of Johannesburg. The first story, Pius, is about the stark reality that faces every South African today; that no place is really safe anymore, that work is scarce and hard to hold onto and that sometimes life takes you on the roads you’d rather not have travelled. This story won the South African PEN Award, which is a much better endorsement than I could ever make. Nevertheless, I’m telling you, read it!

Get “Pius” on Amazon Kindle by clicking the link below.

The second story, “Breaking Down The House”, placed 2nd in the PEN Award. It takes a whole new look at the interplay between rich and poor and how, by helping someone else, you can sometimes also help yourself. It’s smart, intriguing and, even though it’s a short story, the characters are so well developed that you’d struggle not to identify with them. It’s short enough to read while waiting at the doctor’s office and it will keep you hooked until the end (or when your name gets called, whichever happens first).

Get “Breaking Down The House” on Amazon Kindle by clicking the link below.

The third story, “Rejoice”, was the story that really got to me. I’m a sucker for hero types and flawed characters and I’m an even bigger sucker for stories with heart. This one’s got all of that and more. It’s about the relationship between a worker and employer, and the many facets of the human condition, of relationships founded on uncommon ground. This story was so good that I’m biting my tongue not to tell you any of the details, because it’s something you should experience first hand. And it has all the scope of a full length novel without the time-investment of reading a four hundred page book. If you can only afford to get one, this is the story you should get! But really, you should just get all of them.

Get “Rejoice” on Amazon Kindle by clicking the link below.

Now, if after reading these you still don’t like short stories, there’s probably no ointment for that particular condition. If you did, feel free to scroll down for more recommendations!

Find out more about Elizabeth Pienaar by visiting her website at www.elizabethpienaar.com.

As always, be kind and review. Authors don’t only want to know what you thought, they want others to know what you thought and they depend on your reviews, shares and endorsements to get the word out.

Have a great week!

 

‘The Boy With The Coin: A Short Story’ Free on Amazon Kindle this Star Wars day!

Perhaps it would have been better if the boy had a lightsaber, but he doesn’t. Coins have greater value to fatherless children. Or perhaps it’s simply because lightsabers are probably, kind of, a little too sci-fi for this particular tale. Nevertheless, if you download ‘The Boy With The Coin’ today, or tomorrow, it is a sign that the force is strong within you!

Also, the story is about an old man, a young boy, and, maybe not very surprisingly, a coin! ‘The Boy With The Coin’ is free on Amazon Kindle on 4 and 5 May, 2017. It is always free on Kindle Unlimited.

Book review: Oil and Marble by Stephanie Storey

Last week I read Oil and Marble by Stephanie Storey. The book is a fictional rendition of Florentine life between the years 1501 and 1505, the time during which Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo Buonarotti were both in Florence, each working on creating the respective masterpiece that would later immortalize them for future generations.

As backdrop to the tumultuous lives of these two artists, history provides us with some of the most eventful years in Italy’s colorful past: the ascension of Pope Alexander VI, better known as the Borgia Pope, and consequently the ravaging of the Italian city-state system by the Spanish Pope’s son, Cesare Borgia, leading the Papal armies. The interplay between the Medici family, the French invasions of Italy and the near constant conflict between Pisa and Florence also comes into play here, but the much stronger underlying spirit of the book is one of pride, honor and love.
As an Art History student during my undergrad years, I briefly met these artists, learned about the zeitgeist that surrounded their genius and of course, the art itself. But coming to this book more than a decade later, purely with an eye on reading art-historic fiction, I was both surprised and delighted at the depth of perception it brings to the reader and how much of it is based in truth. The book not only lets us in on the machinations of sixteenth century patronage and politics, but also on the perceptions of art, art-making and society during a time when gender and class distinction dictated every aspect of a person’s life and education.
Storey’s Da Vinci is undoubtedly the genius we know him to be, but he is also a man of complex emotions, dreams and of great pride. In Oil and Marble, Da Vinci’s beauty and arrogance hides his own insecurities. He knows his allure, his power over people (by way of reasoning) and over art (by way of science), but he carries within him a kind of darkness that only comes to the fore in his most private moments. In contrast, Michelangelo’s character is portrayed as one of constant and very public turmoil. He lives and dreams at a pace unreachable by philosophers and scientists because he fears, above sickness, or starvation, or even death, that he will be forgotten. He does not, like Da Vinci, know his power, but he nevertheless believes steadfastly that it is within him to reach greatness. If only he would be given a chance, if only he can do so before he dies of hunger.
Both artists believe in possibility. For Michelangelo, the Duccio stone holds uncountable possibilities, despite its many flaws. He is at odds with the stone; if it would just speak to him, would allow him to see what is at its heart, then perhaps he can find what lies within the marble. The greatest possibility Michelangelo sees, however, is not the beauty of the art, or the amount of comfort the payment from its completion will provide him. He sees a future far beyond his own lifetime and he rushes toward it with unerring clarity. In contrast, Da Vinci sees, perhaps, too much possibility. He claims to leave his art unfinished because, by doing so, it will forever contain the possibility of greatness. Da Vinci, too, looks well into the future. Will the humans of the future achieve flight? Will they uncover the secrets he is forced to leave undiscovered because of time? And what about the arrogant young stonecutter? Will he perhaps make something more worthy of Florence than the Master from Vinci?

What struck me as most unusual was how biased my own opinion of these artists had been prior to reading Oil and Marble. Perhaps I had preconceptions because I had studied these artists somewhat at university, or maybe it was in spite of my prior experience of them, but I had always had this idea that Leonardo Da Vinci had come by his education and knowledge because of his privilege. This privilege, I now understand, only existed in name. Leonardo did not have a formal education on account of his being the illegitimate son of the notary Piero from Vinci. Though home-schooled in basic reading, writing and arithmetic, Leonardo couldn’t read or write properly until well into adulthood, when he had chosen to study letters by writing and rewriting words and sentences until he was fluent in their use. Even his signature, not an artist’s rounded lettering, but a child’s scribble, attests to his lack of skill in this regard. Yet, today, he is known equally as a writer, mathematician and scientist as for his art.
There is also another, perhaps much more important aspect to the bias I noticed while reading Oil and Marble, and that is the preconceived one-dimensionality of an artist’s sexual orientation.
It is a well documented fact that Leonardo Da Vinci had many male partners, specifically his long-time student and partner Salai, to whom he left the Mona Lisa upon his death, as well as Francesco Melzi, who shared his final years and inherited all of his notebooks. Based on his personal history it is reasonable to assume that Da Vinci was homo-sexual, and this is also what we are predominantly taught. Because there is sufficient evidence for Da Vinci’s homo-sexuality, it is easy for art historians to underplay and even overlook the sexuality in his works, especially his paintings, or to make sweeping statements about his experiences of and attitude towards sex, sexuality and gender. But in Oil and Marble, Storey achieves an intricate balance between what we know of the man’s sexual exploits and the interpretation of the artist’s very unique ability to imbue sensuality onto his female subjects, specifically Lisa Gherardini (del Giocondo). Storey suggests a side to Da Vinci that most historians wholly ignore: that through his careful study and constant questioning of the human condition, he not only learns to understand the suppressed intelligence inherent in his female sitters, but he comes to love them on a level that surpasses sex or sexuality.
The book culminates in the completion of each of these artists’ most iconic works, but it also leaves us with a new beginning for each of them. For Michelangelo, it is the beginning of a career, the beginning of acceptance by his family and friends, the beginning of a life underpinned by taking responsibility for himself. For Da Vinci, it is the beginning of a more personal journey, one of acceptance, understanding and humility.
In the afterword to Oil and Marble, Stephanie Storey says the book was twenty years in the making. As her first novel it set an impossible standard. Her prose is uncomplicated, well-researched and beautifully written. Her settings are colorful and tactile. Her characters are well-rounded, unique human beings who experience the entire spectrum of emotion while inspiring an equally broad range of emotion from the reader. But beyond her ability to write interesting characters and strong plot, Stephanie Storey understands that for the reader of art-historical fiction, there is the added expectation of well-written art. Art that comes to life on the page. Art that is tangible, vibrant and evocative. Stephanie Storey writes this kind of art.
There is a reason why, while reviewing a book that is essentially about art, I haven’t written a single thing about the art contained within Oil and Marble’s pages. This sacred task I trust to the writer.

Travel blog: Jökulsárlón

There are few places in the world quite as magical as Svinafellsjökull, where you can get up close and personal with glacial ice that was formed millions of years ago.

There are few places in the world quite as magical as Svinafellsjökull, where you can get up close and personal with glacial ice that was formed millions of years ago.

Jökulsárlón means ´Glacial-river lagoon´ in Icelandic, but it´s far cooler than the name suggests. Ever seen those National Geographic specials where large pieces of glaciers tumble into the water? What about those shots of seals, sunbathing on the ice? You can view all of that, and more, at Iceland´s Jökusárlón. But sometimes, when you travel, the things that you can´t photograph make for your greatest memories. Find out why by reading my travel blog about my first visit to Iceland, first published by wesaidgotravel.com.

Wanting to be a writer vs. being a writer

“Follow your dreams”, that’s the spirit of the times for young people leaving school and those who are re-thinking their careers. I was lucky to grow up in a home where the general consensus was not to follow a career path that pays well, but to follow a career that sits well with me. For me, almost any career in the arts would sit well, partly because I don’t have the aptitude to do a nine-to-five office job and partly because I don’t feel like I’ve achieved anything if I haven’t created something new. This doesn’t mean that I look down on everyone else for being able to do these jobs, just don’t expect me to understand the complexities of their day at the office.
I tend to think of office jobs in a fairly linear fashion. This is how they look in my mind: You go to the office. You work at completing your work for today. You go to lunch. You come back to the office. You finish your work. You go home. You relax and forget about the office until tomorrow morning. You get up and do it all over again.

Wanting to be a writer

For a writer I imagine a completely different task-management-plan: You get up when you’re ready to. You don’t go to the office, but rather grab your computer and get back into bed. You read a few blog-posts and articles before getting coffee and settling down to work.

Coffee1

You realize that you need to do some research before writing the next passage, so you head to Google. You get more coffee.
You haven’t read a book in like, three days, so you do that, since it’s anyway too warm/cold/noisy/quiet/emotionally draining etc. to write. You get some coffee.
You attempt to write something, but get distracted by something you wrote three months ago and didn’t finish yet. You attempt to finish it, just to find out why you had stopped in the first place: the story wasn’t going anywhere. Still, you spent time writing that, so you end up not deleting it, just in case the idea does turn out to be WML (Worth Millions Later). You get some coffee, for inspiration.
You still haven’t written anything all day, so you buckle down and put down a header:

Anthrax

You look at it and muse about what meanings or expectations people will gleam from it when they see it on the cover of your debut novel. You Google the word, just to make sure it’s as bad-ass as you hope. It is. Then you do an in-depth search about all the ways in which a person could commit murder using Anthrax. You see dollar-signs about your head. This book is going to sell millions!
You attempt a basic story outline:
Wally Silberman is an ordinary guy, working a nine-to-five office job. His life is uncomplicated until he accidentally overhears plans of an illegal weapons-exchange while having lunch at the local coffee shop. The next day he finds an envelope with anthrax on his desk at work.
OK. You think this is sufficient to build a story on.
You type “Chapter One – An ordinary man” and then go to get some more coffee.
When you come back to your computer you don’t like the idea, probably because there’s not much to hold on to or like there.
You write a new idea:
After his lab-assistant wife dies in a chemical accident caused by a lack of safety precautions, Hal Osprey has nothing left to lose. He is intent on getting revenge and he means to show the company just how flawed their safety is.
OK. This seems like something!
You type “Chapter One – Chemistry” and get up to get some more coffee. It’s the only way you’ll stay awake, because when you come up with anything remotely close to a full-fledged idea at two thirty in the morning, you had better keep going.

MoreCoffee

When you return you start considering the broader outline of this story: what company were Hal and his wife working for, what were they creating and what went wrong in the lab? Why did the wife die and not Hal? Wait a minute – isn’t that the exact plot in Spiderman 3?
You find your copy of Spiderman 3 and watch the whole thing through. Apparently not. Never mind.
What could have prevented Mrs. Osprey’s death? Was she perhaps pregnant with their first child? Is that why revenge is so important to him? Is Hal a good name for a scientist? Where does the story take place and why there rather than somewhere else? What kind of habits does Hal have? How does he mean to exact his revenge?
You look at all these questions and begin to realize there will be a learning curve, or at least space for a lot of research. For one thing, you don’t know anything about science, scientists or Anthrax. Also, you’ll obviously have to build a chapter by chapter outline for this one, since you can’t really foresee where it’s going and you don’t want to end up giving up on it like the one you ended up not deleting earlier in the day.
You decide, since it’s late and you’re probably too tired to figure out the mechanics of this idea, to go to bed and start again fresh tomorrow.
The next day you get up, fully intending to write at least one chapter, but during your morning coffee someone rings the doorbell. Strange, you think, you don’t have any friends, why would anyone be ringing the doorbell?
A police officer is twirling his hat, which should rather have stayed on his head to hide that hideous hair-day.
“Good morning, officer. What can I do for you this morning?” you ask in your most polite voice.
The police officer doesn’t seem interested in anything you have to say, simply introduces himself via a badge before telling you that you are to come downtown with him.
“Whatever for?” you ask, no longer polite.
“You Googled Anthrax. You are now considered a person of interest.”
“By whom?” you ask, very proud of your correct use of grammar.
He has said as much as he was willing to and is now giving you the grandmother-glare, secretly hoping you will understand that it means you should drop everything, close the door behind you and come downtown with him.
You do so, though not because you particularly want to.
After hours of interrogation and explaining that you are a writer despite not having been published, you are let go.
Warned by intuition not to pursue the subject, you set down to start writing something else. You silently mourn the loss of an idea which could potentially have sold millions.

Being a writer

writer-caffeine

You go to your office. You decide what you are going to write and start writing it. You work through lunch because you want to at least finish a draft of Chapter One. You finish your work well before dinner, which gives you time to do chores, fetch the kids from school, cook dinner, help with homework, make a costume for the Halloween dance and catch up with blogs and Facebook. After dinner you put the kids to bed, call your mom for her birthday and finish reading the book you started last night, all the while jotting down things you liked about the manuscript and good ideas you have. Your mind is constantly processing ideas which will help you overcome some hurdles during your workday tomorrow. You go to bed having come up with the solution to some particularly annoying problems and having written them down. The last thought you have before falling asleep is that you’re confident your book will be done by the end of term, in time for the family vacation. You hope at least one person will like it. If you’re lucky, your book will get picked up.

Rewriting your prose for literary types (and rendering it incomprehensible)

The Book of Hard Words by David Bramwell

The Book of Hard Words by David Bramwell

I am affectionate toward books about words, which is how I came to read The book of hard words by David Bramwell. What comes next is what it inspired me to do.

This is the original flash fiction piece, written with it specifically in mind that I want to rewrite using only “hard words” from The book of hard words.

His neighbour’s unruly behaviour made him feel particularly bloodthirsty. The memories of his death and reincarnation returned once more.
Perhaps just one bite, he thought.
Biting her could be beneficial to him. He was one of a kind, a revolutionary of his time, because he was the only one of his kind who didn’t have the predisposition to kill his own offspring.
The more he thought about her slender digits, the more lustful he became.
She obviously feared speaking.
He carried her into his underground chamber. He hadn’t been there since the early part of the century, shortly after his rebirth, and the place was covered in spider webs and dust.
It had once been his winter retreat, but he had long since given up the practice. After his transformation it became unnecessary.
Tying her to a chair, he intended to pour her blood into a cup. That was, after all, the humane way of feeding.
He bent over her, ready to cut her delicate skin.
‘Wait,’ she insisted. ‘I can tell you many things about yourself. I am a palm reader.’
‘Is this a trick?’ he asked. ‘Or are you really a visionary?’
‘I’m not cool enough in the face of danger to be lying.’
He stuck out an overly cold hand towards her.
‘Hmm…,’ she murmured. ‘You have an unnatural vibe about you. Very mysterious.’ ‘Do you feel anxious during the full moon?’
He sighed audibly. ‘I’m not a werewolf, if that’s what you’re suggesting.’

How to use hard words in daily life.

How to use hard words in daily life.

This is the rewrite using hard words from the book.

His neighbour’s obstreperousness made him feel particularly sanguisugent. The memories of his metempsychosis returned once more.
Perhaps just one bite, he thought.
Biting her could be beneficial to him. He was sui generis, a sansculotte of his time, because he was the only one of his race who wasn’t prolicidal.
The more he thought about her leptodactylous beauty, the more concupiscent he became.
She was obviously lalophobic.
He carried her into his hypogeum. He hadn’t been there since the early part of the century, shortly after his rebirth, and the place was covered in spider webs and dust.
It had once been his hibernacle, but he had long since given up the practice. After his transformation it became unnecessary.
Tying her to a chair, he intended to extravasate her blood into a cup. That was, after all, the humane way of feeding.
He bent over her, ready to cut her delicate skin.
‘Wait,’ she insisted. ‘I can tell you many things about yourself. I practice dermatoglyphics.’
‘Is this a trick?’ he asked. ‘Or are you really theophanic?’
‘I’m not sangfroid enough to be lying.’
He stuck out an acrohypothermic hand towards her.
‘Hmm…,’ she murmured. ‘You have a preternatural aura about you. Very mysterious.’ ‘Do you feel anxious during the plenilune?’
He sighed audibly. ‘I’m not a lycanthrope, if that’s what you’re suggesting.’

Have you had your hands on this yet?

Quote

And by this, I mean THIS:

The white-hot cover of "Nuwe Stories 2"

The white-hot cover of “Nuwe Stories 2”

Hot off the presses, Nuwe Stories 2 is the only cubic package you MUST give this Christmas. It’s not the only book you MUST own, but definitely one of them – at least right up there with your Bible and your Diary 😉 It has been available since the 15th of November… so what are you waiting for? It’s time you rush to your nearest bookstore to get it, or click here to learn more about the book and where to get it.

Your life will feel meaningless without it!

xoxo

When social media is no longer enough

Years ago, when my father had a dial-up connection that allowed you to view your emails and spend the occasional moments in chat rooms, computers and the Internet had a few basic functions that made people want to use them. Word processing, calculating payrolls and tax returns and the odd game of snake or worms, was what we spent our PC time on. Many feared this new age, the age of technology, because just like the industrial age, it had the potential to replace humans. But it didn’t. Not on a large scale, anyway. If anything, it created new opportunities, new disciplines of largely un-treaded territory. Back in those days there were no such things as digital cameras (remember film?) or mp3 players (remember Walkman?) and there certainly were no such things as social media, apart from chat rooms where one could meet with friends and strangers and exchange ideas or play iSketch.
In the nineties all of this, however, changed. Connections became faster, computers became smarter, and the consumer expected bigger, better and more all the time. The Internet became more accessible – it was no longer simply a way to send and receive messages, it was now also a way to advertise products, display and obtain information, travel virtually and play games with people from any country and any walk of life. The Internet turned from being a little corner bookshop, to being a warehouse with the largest stock in the world.
Soon digital photography and music became a reality, and suddenly computers became virtual photo albums and music collections. Wikipedia was born and so was Google. Information became available to anyone and everyone. People shared what they liked, disliked, wanted or needed and there was an inventive atmosphere the world over that had everyone excited and in the spirit for creation. A creative explosion ensued.

And then came social media.

Social media is the dictionary description for words like Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Instagram and Google Plus. Textbook social media allows people to display every detail of their life in high definition, vivid colour, to anyone who cares to know more about them. I hardly need to explain this, because if you’re reading this, chances are you saw it by way of a post on some form of social media, but social media is the virtual edition of who a person is, or aspires to be. I aspire to be a published novelist, my interests lie with books and language, and anyone who has ever seen my posts on Facebook will attest to it that the virtual edition of me loves books and language related media. Every day someone who wants to know more about me might, by way of following my interaction via social media, learn that I am female, married, childless, a pet owner, interested in books and movies and music and wildlife and that I have a fairly average sense of humour. In fact, for those who look more closely, they will learn about my specific preferences, my likes and dislikes, my opinions on politics, society and the future, my current religious views or relationship status or physical form and even where I am and what I am doing at any moment of the day.
But do they know me as a person? They will feel like they do, because they will know a lot about me. But is that really the same as knowing me? Do they know that I don’t eat peas because I hate how they roll around on my plate? Do they know that I broke my nose in the second grade and have had multiple corrective operations? Do they know that I often disagree with what priests say during their Sunday sermons?
They can’t know those things, unless I chose to share them, and just as you, the reader, are forced to take these revelations at face value, they will be basing their knowledge of me on what they saw me post on social media. I am who I say I am, and therefore it is the truth.
Here’s the flaw: I do like the way peas roll around on a plate. I have never broken a bone in my body and I have never had corrective surgery. I do not disagree with priests during Sunday sermon, because I rarely, if ever, go to church.
What I just stated, may or may not be the truth. What I stated before, also may or may not be the truth. If I tell you both things are irrevocably true, then you will automatically assume I am a liar. If I tell you both statements are completely false, you will do the same. However, if I tell you that the reason I don’t eat peas is because I am allergic to them, you will feel yourself forced to believe me, because why would I make that up?
Social media has become such a part of our day that many of us start and/or finish our day by checking our preferred site. Who said what to whom and why? But consider what you used to do with that time before the rise of social media. Did you read one more book per week? Perhaps you had time for one extra TV show, or an hour a day extra for outdoor activities? I find myself wandering in and out of Facebook and Twitter more and more often, just to see how everyone else is doing, but more often than not I am disappointed that nothing has changed since an hour earlier (or if I’m really bored, three minutes earlier). I have already seen all the posts, liked the ones I like, shared the ones I agree with, commented on the ones I disagree with and posted a selfie or five of me in an elevator or in my car, eating ice cream or just holding the new smart phone that will allow me to access social media even more frequently. When there’s nothing new on the social media and I’m not in the mood for working, I feel cheated, like there’s nothing else left to do on the Internet. I gleam all the interesting news articles or blog posts, photographs, funny thoughts, political discussions, personal interactions, invitations or discussions and even which music to listen to next, from social media. I haven’t been forced to go anywhere and look for anything unless I am doing specific research, so when there is nothing happening on the social media that I follow, my computer might as well be broken.
Growing bored.
Yes, I did that. I said that I’m growing slightly bored with social media. I will probably post this blog entry on multiple social media sites and I will sit around waiting for someone to comment, to gauge whether people read the blog and how they are reacting to it and whether I am the only one who has reached the point when social media is no longer enough. What I’m wondering though, is what comes next, because one of the things social media has successfully achieved is to stifle the creative explosion that came before it. Now creativity is considered to be captured by “I haz a moniez, now what to do wif it” pictures of various animals and corny poetry about what it means to be a mother, father, brother, sister, aunt, uncle, son, daughter, grandma, grandpa, human, goth, emo, pet, teacher, etc. We no longer meet each other in person, and when we do, our conversations start with “I saw on Facebook…”. We no longer learn anything other than weird facts about animals posted by awareness groups which look good on our profiles. We no longer go out and smell the roses, we go out, take a picture of the roses and brag about them on social media. We don’t buy flowers and cards for birthdays, we send virtual greetings. We don’t call our friends, we poke them. We don’t know people, but we know everything about them. We live in a stalker’s universe, where the stalker and the stalked become best friends because they share an interest.
I’m not saying that when I post this I will quit social media. I’m not even saying my usage will go down. What I am saying is: it’s time for something new. Something smart, and fun and creative. Something that will force us to live in the world outside the digital one without constantly imagining how special moments or unique experiences will look on our social media pages. Something that will make us humble again. Something that we’ll do because we actually like it, not because it will look good as a social media post. Something we can be remembered for, by real people.
Oh! I managed to write this entire post without once checking my news feed.

I probably got this picture from someone's news feed on Facebook, so I don't actually know its source.

I probably got this picture from someone’s news feed on Facebook, so I don’t actually know its source.