Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Are We the Vainest Generation of Them All?

  It’s Saturday night, yours truly is in her favourite Dublin night club having a great time.  The combination of vodka and Fiona-friendly music certainly has me in the zone.  I’m dancing away without a care in the world, oblivious to anyone around me but my friends.  I decide a trip to the ladies is in order, however upon arrival my state of blissful ignorance is brought to a grinding holt.  I look around to find my fellow females pouting & posing, basking in their reflections.  Some are even taking iPhone ‘selfies’ in the bathroom mirror.  Like any Facebook user my homepage is usually flooded with selfies, so it’s certainly not a foreign concept to me. However I assumed these DIY portraits were taken in the privacy of one’s own home, usually the bedroom. I was shocked to see women doing this openly, in full view of everyone inhabiting the bathroom. More shocking to me was the fact that they did it without even a hint of embarrassment or shame.  Then it hit me, no one is batting an eye lid because this is the new norm.  It’s no longer enough to be secretly satisfied with the reflection that greets us, we now need the whole world to see just how good we look.
  So were these young ladies smiling in these selfies? Of course not, nobody smiles anymore, and if they do it’s certainly not a genuine one. A true selfie expert knows how to execute the perfect smile, one that ensures his or her features look as flattering as possible. The eyes are widened (referred to these days as smising), while the cheeks are gently sucked in, giving the illusion of high cheekbones.  If smiling isn’t for you then don’t fret- the 'Duckface' is a perfectly acceptable form of selfie expression. Just follow the aforementioned eye and cheek technique, but this time press your lips together like you are blowing a bubble.  And don’t worry if you don’t like what you see, you can just delete it and go again.  Digital film has certainly changed the way in which we capture our ‘moments’ these days.  Spare a thought for the poor buggers in the past that had to wait until their pictures were physically developed by a third party before they could decide if they were sexy or not.  Back then even if you were happy with your images, the amount of people you could show them to was limited.  Thankfully the birth of social media has rectified this injustice.  Now everyone and their dog can see just how hot we looked last night.   

    Women are not the only culprits when it comes to our generation’s obsession with self-image.  Previously it was assumed that a man could simply pop on a pair of jeans and a top, and head off on his merry way.  Not anymore.  These days expectations regarding the male appearance have definitely increased.  We are living amidst the Geordie Shore generation.  A man seeking to attract the attention of a decent lady should meet certain requirements.  He must have a tan, a well-defined set of abs, and of course the biceps to go with them. I’m sure there has been a steady rise in the amount of men signing up for gym memberships the world over. I’ve witnessed first-hand this new breed of man in training. They tend to ignore all cardio equipment and head straight for the weights, which just so happen to be situated in front of the mirror.  Their intentions clearly have less to do with general fitness and more to do with looking good naked. But can we blame them? These days they’re under just as much pressure to look good as we are.   It’s stiff competition out there (no pun intended).   

    Once you’ve put in all that hard work in the gym, you’re going to want to show off the results right? Of course, and why shouldn’t you.  Behold the male version of the selfie: usually involving a tight fitted top with a low V-neck to give those pecks the recognition they deserve.  Some men take it even further, posing half-naked ensuring those chiselled abs are on full display. 

  So who’s to blame for this rise vanity? Is it reality TV shows like Jersey and Geordie Shore? Or are they simply highlighting a pattern of behaviour that already existed. Perhaps we can look to technology and social media.  Smart phones have certainly made the process of taking pictures easier than ever.  We no longer have to lug around a bulky camera on our nights out.  Plus we can download certain apps to make our pictures look more glamorous and professional. Social media then allows us to instantly share these works of art to hundreds of our ‘friends’. 

   Maybe it’s not vanity at all.  As human beings we all have insecurities that are perfectly natural.  These insecurities are no doubt heightened by our society’s infatuation with beauty.  Some of us may crave reassurance, and therefore post these selfies in the hopes that people will tell us what we need to hear.  Whatever the cause it seems a shame to me that people focus so much of their energy on what they look like, especially when they’re on a night out.  You’re so supposed to be having fun, enjoying the moment.  At the end of the day we’re all going to be old, saggy, and grey one day. What would you prefer to look back at, perfectly constructed images or genuine fun-filled memories? I know my answer. 

Yours Faithfully


Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Be Aware: Negative Aliens Everywhere!!!

    I’m 29 this month. There I said it! Still can’t actually believe that little Fiona Cooney is almost 30! Where the heck have the last 8 years gone? I always insist that despite getting older in the numerical sense, I still feel exactly the same as I did back when I entered the land of the twenty-somethings.  I genuinely believed this…..until now. The truth is I have changed. I’d like to say that these changes are all positive, thus shaping me into the well rounded woman I am today.  But that would be a lie, and us mature adults should never tell porky pies!!  With that said, I definitely see a confidence and strength in myself that was absent in my teens and early 20’s.  However whilst I’ve gained in the inner strength department, I seem to have suffered a significant loss in the area of optimism and positivity. This begs the question, as we get older and supposedly wiser-is it inevitable that our view of the world will take on a more cynical approach? Was our previous optimism really such naivety in disguise?
   I used to take pride in the fact that I was no longer the over-friendly, naive little girl of yesteryear.   The old me was the kind of girl you could take advantage of and disrespect without fear of consequence.  Fiona never stood up for herself and more often than not suffered in silence.  Fast forward nearly a decade and the girl you see today is a far cry from her predecessor.  Although I still consider myself the fun-loving friendly sort-my approach to disrespect, whether it be to me or to those around me, is a little different.  For better or worse I no longer have the ability to silence my inner vigilante.  I'm definitely proud of how far I've come, and often ridicule the old Fiona.  She was a weak, pathetic version of me, one that I was happy to see the back of.  It felt like I was starring in my own version of Muriel’s Wedding. I was the new and improved Mariel and was dammed if I’d let the old one creep back in.
   It’s only lately that I’ve started to change the way I view the previous version of Fiona.  Yes she was a little naive and perhaps too soft at times.  But was she really that bad? Does she actually deserve the level of shame I associate with her?  I don’t think so.  For one thing she exuded a level of positivity that the new me can only envy.  I remember a past employer of mine once asking if I was on drugs because I was happy all the time! So how do I get her back?  I know youth and optimism go hand in hand, so I shouldn’t expect to have the same outlook as I did when I was younger.  But at the same time I don’t want to go on feeling like this either.  It’s like a negative little alien life form has taken over my body- altering my state of mind at a slow rate so as not to raise suspicion.  Change can be a subtle little bugger, it’s only when you compare your current behaviour to that of your past that you realise just how much you’ve changed. 
  These days, instead of seeing the best in people I instantly assume the worst. To be fair it’s hard not to when day after day you encounter ignorant, obnoxious human beings.  I find today’s youth particularly disturbing. They seem to lack a certain level of restraint and respect. It’s as if nothing scares them, not their elders, not even the authorities. With that said, I’ve also come across some genuinely lovely, well-mannered youngsters. I guess that’s the key, ignore the bad, focus on the good.  By paying attention to everything that’s wrong with the world around you, it’s easy to forget how much good there is.  Some days I would start work feeling great, however all it would take was one rude customer to completely alter my mind set. It didn’t matter that the majority of people I encountered that day were lovely and appreciative, all I could think of was that one vile person.  In a sense I allowed their negativity to rub off onto me.  So how do I stop this happening in the future? Perhaps it would help if I thought of these nasty little specimens as ‘negative aliens’ hell bent on transforming me into one of them, like something out of ‘The Body Snatchers’. I could use my invisible shield of positivity to fight them off, maintaining my optimistic outlook.  Kill them with kindness so to speak.  It’s definitely worth a try and a lot cheaper than mind altering substances. So the next time you find yourself being drawn into negativity, remember the aliens can’t get you if you don’t let them.  Bring forth your shield of positivity and fight for right to remain an eternal optimist!!!

Yours Faithfully