The Social dilemma – why am I scrolling more than I’m sleeping?

The Social dilemma – why am I scrolling more than I’m sleeping?

Scroll versus sleep? I recently watched The Social Dilemma and it left me feeling pretty hopeless. I thought I was pretty good at not being on my phone, putting it down at 11pm and trying not to lift it until 8am the next day. But the screen time reminder thinks otherwise. It likes to prod fun at me with jeering messages informing me my screen time is up 15% on the previous week for a grand total of 6 hr 17 mins a day. Six hours a day on my phone… how? Doing what? Achieving what? I claim that I don’t have time to read two books a week but I can do 6 hours A DAY of giving Zuckerberg more data to manipulate and sell. Scandalous. Six hours is the number of hours I sleep. More sleeping than scrolling is the healthier option here. So every week I look at my screen reports and vow that next week I will be better but better never seems to happen. Why?

Even while watching the documentary which informed us of the heinous nature of social media and the power our smartphones have over us, I still found myself reaching for my phone every time it buzzed and sometimes even when it didn’t. Our phones have become an extension of us, an additional limb; tethered to us at all times. You would be shocked if you looked at the amount of times you pick up your phone on a daily basis. Mine exceeds 200 nearly everyday. Can you imagine doing anything else 200 plus times a day that isn’t a natural bodily function like blinking or breathing? Our phones have become so intrinsically linked to our person that we pick them up subconsciously and unwittingly immerse ourselves in the online sphere rather than engaging in the physical world around us.

According to an article by Harvard University researcher Trevor Haynes,  whenever you get a social media notification, your brain sends a chemical called dopamine along a reward pathway resulting in a feel good feeling. Therefore it is no wonder our phones are such a distraction; they have become a quick and easy way to get a dopamine hit by simply getting attention from your network in the form of likes, comments, retweets, all with just a few taps of your thumb. The constant chasing of this validation is an addiction and neurologically damaging. The documentary indicated the soaring levels of anxiety and depression amongst young people brought on directly by social media overload.

We are thus left in this social dilemma – we know the constant scrolling and constant use of social media is damaging yet it also has a wide range of positive aspects. We know that it allows us to connect with friends/family on different continents, to engage with educational content, lending a platform to marginalized voices and boosting social justice movements to name a few. This is even more imperative in 2020. Perhaps The Social Dilemma needs to be taken with a pinch of salt? There aren’t three men in a room who are carefully planning and controlling every aspect of our feeds but there is a carefully curated algorithm tailored to us. It manipulates features to make our devices as addictive as possible to keep us tipping those scales towards more scroll and less sleep. Thus with this in mind – it is no negative feat to try reduce our screen time. Is it too late for us to change our habits? I don’t think so. You can take control. You can have your own algorithm in real life. Several small changes can lead to a bigger overall shift in our relationship with our phones. I have been setting screen lock to kick in at 10.30pm-8.30am, turning off notifications for apps, leaving it at home when I go on a walk and charging it in a different room are all small but significant ways I have started trying to reduce my screen time. It’s actually becoming easier as time goes on. Hopefully in a few weeks I will be reading rather than refreshing, talking more than texting and most importantly sleeping more than scrolling.

Lucy Mullan is an Msc in PR and Communications at Ulster University, working part-time at Keys Premium Finance. She can be found at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lucy-mullan-2b8309102/

When you can’t control the situation, control your reaction to it

I think everyone would agree that normality has been thrown out the window and a ‘self-isolating book for dummies’ would be greatly appreciated right now. But that’s not going to happen anytime soon so I have came to the conclusion that we have two options:

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  • We can let the situation take control of us
  • Or accept that we can’t control the situation but we can control our reaction to it.

 

The cliche is true: we really are all in this together. I am now 5 weeks into isolation and the version of me that you would have seen 4 weeks ago is extremely different to now.

The Meltdown

When isolation began I worked from home for a few weeks. Truth be told if not for work I would have lost my mind! It was the only thing filling these long and empty days (and I know a lot of people will relate). Next thing you know I am off work for 4  weeks and now what? This is the question I asked myself repeatedly. For the first time in so long I had no purpose and that was the most difficult thing. The next few days was a downward spiral of: anxiety, sleepless nights and mind draining bordem.

The Comeback

Looking back now I’m annoyed  that I wasted a week moping around feeling sorry for myself. Little by little, day by day I started doing things that I had been putting off because I was so busy. Then it occurred to me that I have been handed a huge opportunity! Think about it under normal circumstances if someone said to you: ‘take 4 weeks off work and do nothing or go try new things or spend time with your family’ YOU’D BE BUZZING! SO that’s exactly what I did!

A New Chapter

First steps: Write a list of things that you always said ‘I’d love to try that’. Now go and do it. It’s that simple. Read the book that you bought 6 months ago, try a 30 day online yoga class, bake a cake, start a blog.

(This actually is my list and I have now done all of the above!)

Doing all of these things was great and it distracted me for an hour everyday. But I knew that if I was to take back control I would have to be in control of my emotions and my mind.  After a lot of research and many podcasts later I learnt that journaling may be the answer to all of my problems. I have kept a journal on and off for many years but I’ve never committed to it, so after lots of research I realized that I definitely wasn’t doing it right before nor was I getting the many benefits out of it.

Journaling

“ What a comfort is this journal I tell myself to myself and throw the burden on my book and feel relieved.” Anne Lister.

After a few weeks I perfected the journaling technique that worked for me. This quotation is the best way that I can explain it. Usually we would open up to other people. But there is so much going on in the world right now that no one wants to hear my first world problems, so I open up to my journal.  I wanted something that would: add structure to my day, allow me to aim for goals, let me reflect on how I felt and visualise beyond this time in my life (creating a sense of hope). I can honestly say that the benefits that this process has had on my mental health has been mind blowing and for the first time in a long time I have control and I am happy. 

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Journaling pages pictured on my blog @mindtalkblog

I was always that person that bottled things up and kept myself to myself. I hid behind an insecure smile and I found it difficult to sleep because the conversation between me & my mind was so negative. I can not stress enough the positive impact this has had on my life and especially on the quality of my sleep. I now sleep like a BABY!

Tip: I have gotten into the habit of finishing my journal entry every night by writing down a few things that I am GRATEFUL for. Because no matter how tough the situation is, we all have at least one thing in our lives that we are grateful for.

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My Blog

The new me had so much energy and positivity that I wanted to share my thoughts about journaling with other people. I believed that everyone should have the chance to experience how I feel. So, on 15th April I set up my own blog on Instagram called mindtalkblog. It talks about all things journaling: what it is; how to do it; tips & techniques etc. and to my surprise the response has been amazing!

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https://www.instagram.com/mindtalkblog/ FOLLOW ME!!

I have wanted to create a blog for years but something in the back of my mind has always stopped me. Perhaps it was my confidence or perhaps I had to go through this experience first. But finally I ran out of excuses because all we have at the minute is time. Time to take chances, time to grow and time to flourish.

So I will say it one last time: When you can’t control the situation, control your reaction to it.

 

Kayleigh Tinney is a 3rd year BSc in Communication, Advertising & Marketing student at Ulster University, currently doing a placement year at The Irish News. She can be found on: Instagram – @Kayleightinney and LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/kayleigh-tinney-76b240161/.

Life lessons learnt from living in Lockdown

Brexit, same-sex marriage becoming legal in Ireland and the hilarity of Donald Trump actually being the President of the United States. Those are a few of the historical events of my young adult life that I thought I’d be telling my children and grandchildren about. I never thought I would be telling them about the time a global pandemic shut down the world and changed life as we knew it.

When Coronavirus first came onto the scene I, along with many, didn’t take it too seriously. I just washed my hands with a bit more attention to detail, palm to palm… right palm over left… and don’t forget your thumbs, and waited for the media hype to die down. Up until March, I was attending work and class as usual, living in Belfast, planning the trip of a lifetime with my best friends and rolling my eyes when my Mum would say, “What if the Coronavirus is still around then?”. It was then that COVID-19 got closer and closer to home, cases of the virus and deaths were on the rise and plans to close schools, businesses and social spaces were in the works. I left work on the 13th of March after a day of hearing customers say, “This isn’t good. By next week I think the world will be a lot different.” and I started to think that they were right.

Within a few days, I had to cancel an upcoming St. Patricks day trip to Amsterdam, was temporarily let go from my part-time job, I learnt that I would not be going back to University for the last few weeks of my Final semester and Boris told us that when a friend asks you to meet, say no. For many of us life has been on pause for weeks now, I’m on day 38. And in those 38 days, I have found myself looking at things differently and realising the amazing things I took for granted before COVID-19 changed our lives as we knew it.

“We are not trapped, we are safe at home.”

After a few days of frustration, disappointment and anxiety about the fact that I had to prematurely move out of my student house in Belfast and move back home for the foreseeable future, no longer live with my friends and spend every day minus 1 hour within these walls, I realised how lucky I was to have a safe home to spend quarantine in. Heat without having to stick £5 on the meter every few days, my mothers cooking and the company of my loved ones which I previously would have taken for granted. All of us who are able to spend this time inside with our families are fortunate, and it puts a perspective on the essential workers who are putting themselves at risk every day to protect us. Please protect them by staying at home.

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Mis Amigas

To all my friends who I have ever cancelled plans on or not followed through with that, “omg we need to get coffee sometime!” I’M SORRY, I’LL NEVER DO IT AGAIN. I will never hesitate when someone asks me to go out, to watch a movie or to go for a walk. Want company on a trip to Tesco? I’ll be there. I miss cooking dinners with my friends and struggling to have everything ready at the same time. I had to binge watch Too Hot Too Handle by myself without running commentary from my friends, lusting over the boys and wishing we looked like the girls. I miss Limelight Mondays, Hatfield Tuesdays, Funkarama Wednesdays. I miss the supportive chats that we had when one of us had a bad day, was worried about a deadline or our futures and the cup of tea (or bottle of wine) from your best friend that fixes everything. At a time like this that is detrimental to many peoples mental health, it makes you realise how much a little chat and a cuddle from your bestie makes everything okay. But for now, watsapp check inns, a Saturday night on house-party and making plans for the epic reunion when this is all over will have to do.

My University Life

I am thankful that as I began final year, I was in a great place mentally and after completing an amazing placement I was enthusiastic and excited about starting my final year at university. I made a promise to myself that I would enjoy every moment because it was my last year and it would soon be over… and it was over sooner than I thought. I was so fortunate to make a group of friends within my first couple of weeks as a First Year in Jordanstown, a group that has carried through to final year and no doubt the rest of my life. My group of friends and classmates were something I never took for granted, but I took for granted the coffee dates between lectures, university nights out and struggling through a hangover together the next day. The “are you going in?” texts, the “wtf is going on” during lectures texts and the “HAVE YOU STARTED THIS ASSIGNMENT???” texts. Complaining about the car parking prices whilst telling myself “I really need to start getting the bus” but never doing so because the walk to the bus stop is just too much effort in the morning and I’d rather have those 11 extra minutes in bed. Buying an overpriced mexican wrap from Spar and eating lunch on the mall followed by the collective “should we go to the library or should we just go home” discussion.  

As I complete my degree online without the thrill of hand submitting my dissertation or looking forward to my friends and I throwing our caps in the air at a Summer graduation, I am disappointed, but can’t help reflect on the past 4 years and realise that your University days really are the best days of your life. 

the little things I will never take for granted again

  • Calling into my Grannies for a cuppa and a natter
  • Spending time with my extended family
  • Going to a job I loved with co-workers I loved even more
  • Barista Bar Coffee (really thankful for the coffee machine my Brother got for Christmas)
  • Brunch, lunch and dinner dates even though I said I’d save money and cook at home all week
  • Making plans with my friends without having to say, “If we’re able too by then.”
  • Contemplating going to the Gym and then not going
  • Bumping into friends on the street
  • Awkwardly bumping into people you follow on Instagram and the two of you not knowing whether to say hello or not so you just give each other an awkward nod
  • Going for a browse in the city and coming home with £60 worth of stuff I didn’t need
  • Opening an ASOS parcel without my mum disinfecting it first
  • Last minute nights out that end up being the best nights ever

The world as we knew it will never be the same. I say this without the intent to belittle the severity of the virus, the lives lost, the pressure it has placed on the NHS and the disastrous effect it has and will have on our economy. Putting all of that aside in this instance, and purely looking at the way this has affected our outlook on life. This has put everything into perspective, shown us what is important, what’s not, how we should appreciate the little things in life and hold our loved ones a little closer. I think we will all lead a very different life after this, and maybe, that isn’t a bad thing.

Catherine Maguire is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising & Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be found on Instagram: catherinelauram and LinkedIn: Catherine Maguire

 

 

 

 

So far, yet so good

So far, 2020 has been one big slap in the face. We all had big plans for this year, and I don’t think the “c-word” (behave, I mean the other c-word) was in any of them. But I have chosen not to let it break me.

If anyone here has read my last blog post on ‘Mindset’ you will know that I tend to look for the positives in everything and I like to make the best out of a bad situation. In this situation however, I didn’t have to look very far to see the good side. All I had to do was look outside and see that my neighbour who hasn’t gotten off the sofa in 10 years, is now outside doing their daily walk, or go onto Facebook and see my old school friend putting on a live concert in their living room just for the hell of it.

I want to make it clear that I understand how utterly horrible this virus is and I do hope it leaves us as quickly as it arrived. Nonetheless, the virus has put us all in the same situation. It’s here whether we like it or not, so we may as well make the most of it eh?

When our mate Boris announced the lockdown, it was bittersweet. On one hand, we all knew it needed to be done and that it was the only thing that was going to get us closer to defeating the enemy. On the other hand, there was a state of grief that masked the entire country. We had to say ‘see you later’ to a lot of the things that we take for granted every day – our friends, family members, hugs, our freedom.

I know I am extremely lucky in all of this; I live with my wonderful family, I have the countryside on my doorstep, and I am both emotionally and physically healthy. I am fully aware that there are others who don’t have the privileges I have and this lockdown may be mentally exhausting for them. To those people, I salute you. However, if you are in a similarly lucky position to me then I want you to stop moping around and start to see why lockdown is actually a blessing in disguise.

In the short time we have been gifted with lockdown, I have realised a few things about the human race:

1. We do a lot of things just to please other people

I don’t know about you, but I have not worn make up, washed my hair, dressed nicely, put on fake tan, or shaved my legs half as much as I would if we weren’t in lockdown. Boys, call me disgusting, but if a girl is telling you that she has, she’s probably lying.

The only time I have put on make-up or clothes that aren’t sweats, is when I am recording a video for my music pages. But why? Because that’s the only time other people see me.

We all like to pretend that we wear make-up and do all these things for ourselves to feel good – and don’t get me wrong, it does feel good to strut around your bedroom feeling like Rihanna – but can anyone here honestly tell me that they have put in half the effort in the last 4 weeks as they would have in normal times? Of course not!  I mean, what’s the point in making an effort just so you can stare at yourself in the mirror?

Maybe it is about time we started doing these things for ourselves. If you want to buy nice underwear, curl your hair and wear red lipstick just to make your morning coffee, then do it. Likewise, if you feel your best in a pair of sweats and a messy bun, that’s okay too! We’ve got to start saying “I am going to do this because it makes me feel good” because right now, you are all you have.

2. We all needed a break

I don’t know what to believe when it comes to the origin of this virus. I do like to entertain the idea of conspiracies and theories, just because they are a lot more exciting than some dude in China scranning a bat and starting a global crisis. Nobody has a definite answer as to where this started or where it will all end but what I do believe is that this needed to happen.

I said it from the start, but maybe this is Mother Nature’s way of telling us to chill the f*#k out. It’s like she has given us this beautiful planet with all its resources, where we can roam freely and do as we please – as long as we don’t take it too far. The same way our parents allowed us to go and play with our friends, as long as we are back before the streetlights go on. But what happens when stay out till after dark? We get grounded. Our parents trusted us to be home by curfew but when we broke that trust, the privilege got taken away from us.

We have been abusing our planet for years, thinking we could continue to do so and we would keep getting more and more chances. But we were on our final straw and we didn’t even know it. We pushed our luck and used our last chance.

I read an article about the fish returning to the rivers in Venice since the residents and tourists have disappeared. This, among other amazing observations, shows how much we as humans have damaged the earth’s natural beauty and maybe the only way to restore the planet is to keep the humans away for a while. An American living in Wuhan said, “I used to think there weren’t really any birds in Wuhan, because you rarely saw them and never heard them. I now know they were just muted and crowded out by the traffic and people. All day long now I hear birds singing.”

As well as the world needing a break from the humans, I think the humans needed a break from the world.

We wake up, go to work, come home and go to sleep, then we wake up and do it all again the next day. I work in the events industry and someone said to me at the beginning of all this, “what are you going to do if you can’t work?”. I replied “I am going to walk, run, cycle, play guitar, draw, write, sing, read, listen to music… maybe just live my life?”

They were shocked. Imagine your life not revolving around work?

As a society, we live to work, we don’t work to live. All I ever hear are people saying:

I need a break…’

‘How is it Monday again already?’

‘I wish I could have some time off to do nothing…’

We have been given the break we’ve been asking for, yet there are people who can’t wait to get back to ‘normal’. We go through the rat race of life, constantly competing with others. Whether it is for a promotion or scrolling through Instagram to see who has the most expensive handbag, we are always pushing other people down in order to raise ourselves up. And we call this normal?

I read a tweet that said “Coronavirus has proved that everything around us is a fake social construct. We are learning to live without things our lives revolved around, like work, school, gym, malls and society. It’s taught us that in the end its your own home and family that keep you safe.”

Now that all the things we thought were important have been taken away from us, it’s like we are being forced to face ourselves. To ask ourselves, when all is said and done, what is really important, what is really ‘normal’. The system has been shut down and we don’t have to keep running anymore; we don’t have to keep pretending anymore.

So before you try and rush back to ‘normal life’, ask yourself which parts of ‘normal’ are really worth rushing back to. 

3. When this is over, we gotta seize the day

Carpe Diem. We’ve all heard it, I’m sure some of you even have it hanging on the back of your door. But have you ever thought about what it means?

How many of you have made plans in your life that you just ‘never got round to’? Maybe you were planning to find your dream job, maybe you were planning on going to the gym to get your dream body, or maybe you were planning to travel the world – but you just ‘never got round to it’.

I had plans, we all did. There are things we say we are going to do, but we always put them off.

“The gym will still be open on Monday, I’ll start then.”

“The flights are too expensive this year, I’ll travel next year”

“I’ll go see granny next weekend instead, she will understand.”

The truth is, you have been telling yourself you will start the gym every Monday for the last 10 years and your poor granny boils the kettle for you every Sunday but you are always too busy.

Too often, we take these little privileges for granted and expect them to be available to us forever. But guess what? The gym isn’t open on Monday, you can’t fly anywhere anytime soon and you most definitely cannot go and see your granny next weekend.

We need to start seizing the day. We have been putting our goals off for too long, and now the possibility of achieving them has been taken away from us. None of us expected this to happen but we assume that these things will always just be there when we want them, and now they’re not.

We will reach the other side of this and it is not the end of the world. But one day it will be, so if there is anything you can take away from this lockdown, it’s that life is short. Book that flight, apply for that job, buy that car you’ve always wanted. Start working on your dreams, before it’s too late.

4. Humanity is at its best when we are united

Finally: the most positive thing to arise from our current situation. Never before has the whole world had to come together to fight one common enemy (except in the last season of Game of Thrones).

For the first time in the history of mankind, celebrities, CEOS, politicians, cleaners, receptionists and interns are all in the same boat. Suddenly, it doesn’t matter how successful you are or how much money you have – nobody is immune and the only thing that is going to get us through is the common realisation that we are all the same.

Personally, I think I speak to my friends and family more now than I did before lockdown. We are so far apart but, in some ways, we are closer than ever. We are finding new ways to communicate and using our imagination to keep ourselves entertained.

I never thought I’d see the day when all my friends would spend their Saturday night doing a virtual pub quiz and I certainly never thought we’d be in our 20’s still nominating each other to neck pints and do handstands, but hey, we adapt.

The thing is, normally we are all too busy to see each other or hang out. We always have something more important to do or someone else to please, but when everything is stripped back, that’s when we can see the people who will keep us sane during the hard times. The people who are always there in the background. You may not always have time to show them your appreciation, but when life gets too much and you feel like falling down, those are the people who you will catch you. Every. Single. Time.

One of my best friends recently said to me, “I am so grateful I’ve had this time to bond with my little sister. I never had a childhood with her because I moved away when she was younger but we are so much closer now”. 

And that’s what this is about. As I said at the start, I know this isn’t an ideal situation and there are definitely some people who aren’t as blessed as you and I, but we are the lucky ones and it’s time we started recognising it.

This post is based on my own individual situation. If you are someone who is finding it tough to see if the positive side of this, please read my blogpost on ‘Mindset’ and to see how you can break the situation down into more manageable pieces: https://niamhdoherty.com/2019/11/02/you-are-the-puppet-your-mindset-is-your-master/

If you just need a listening ear, send me a message on Instagram (@niamhydoc) and we can have a cup of tea via Skype and a virtual hug.

 

Niamh Doherty graduated from Ulster University last year with a BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations. She now works at ICC Belfast, attracting large conferences to the city. Niamh can be found on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/niamh-doherty-b49ba2179/. She blogs at: https://niamhdoherty.com/

The world works in mysterious ways

As I returned home from my Barcelona placement excursion I secured a job in Dublin. My main incentive was to gain some more experience for my CV and to prepare me for the world of work. 

Before I knew it, my 2nd big city experience of the year commenced.

Initially, Dublin didn’t seem a city I thought I would gel with, but I was so wrong!

I started my new job in an event management company on Camden Street, smack bang in the centre of the Dublin scene. My new workplace was everything I wanted and more, the happiness you get when having delightful work colleagues has such a detrimental impact on your daily wellbeing. I slowly found myself walking into work in the morning with a spring in my step. An eagerness to learn and excitement to see my works pals. I very quickly became one of the team.

Working on some of the coolest events the country had to offer I became very tired but so appreciative of the opportunities I was getting to experience! Seeing the most extravagant corporate employee parties to the madness behind the festival preparation scene. The backstage hustle was one I definitely loved and it gave me such an insight into my future career, and my excitement for it.

Not losing sight of the beauty that is our capital city… I loved the walk to work in the morning, getting to walk the streets of ‘the big smoke.’ Seeing the Molly Malone statue sit nicely whilst sipping on my Butlers coffee, I had never felt more at home. My lifestyle in Dublin seemed to be one that I fitted into perfectly. From the 9-5 working day to the sociable evenings with friends or a run around UCD campus to clear my head, I couldn’t fault it.

Being a stone’s throw from St Stephens Green made for lovely lunch time strolls and being only quick jaunt to Grafton Street was perfect for the occasional lunchtime shopping trip… ok very frequent shopping trip.

Back to the job, my favourite project had to be the “Tesco Finest* Banquet at Electric Picnic”. The Tesco Banquet was a fine dining experience prepared by chefs Derry Clarke and Mark Moriarty. Creating that finest experience at Electric Picnic, with all proceeds going to Pieta House (a charity helping those with mental health illnesses) and Temple St Children’s Hospital.

The set up began and then, all of a sudden it was festival week and we were in a field. The hard work was about to begin. The Marquee shot up, deliveries were arriving, crew men were assembling sets. Photo opportunities started to look the part, the bar was installed and stocked up, trees and décor began to take over what once was a plain old field. And with a wave of a magic wand we had a Banquet fit for the President himself. (It was not this simple and straightforward at the time, it was extremely stressful, but alas).

Showtime was upon us (EEK!). The Banquet began on the Saturday of Electric Picnic weekend so we had one more day to ensure absolute and utter perfection.

Well, before I knew it I was greeting Greg O’Shea (Ahhh!) and friends alongside other special guests into our Tesco finest* dining experience and showing them to their seats. Playing it very professional and cool, of course. The dining commenced on our first sitting and everything after that was a blur, but, it was amazing. The feedback was great and the general feel of the Banquet was beautiful. The Tiny Quartet’s strings accompanied by Niamh Farrell’s vocals sent goose bumps racing up your arms whilst guests sampled a 5 course meal fit for a king.

Just like that, it was over. We had 4 sittings with hundreds of guests and some very happy clients. With a whopper of a sum raised for the charities selected, how could we not be happy?

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Undeniably a stressful, yet incredible, and very fulfilling job to take part in. I very much look forward to see what next year holds! 

As Mark Anthony once said, “If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.”

Derbhla Evans is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at: LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/derbhla-evans-132417153/

A Worthy CAUSE

It was always my intention to volunteer with a local charity during my final year of university, I wanted to give some of my time to help in any way that I could. I got involved with CAUSE – a mental health charity focusing on providing support for the carers of those people with severe mental illnesses. The work they do is extremely important, and they are the only charity of their kind within Northern Ireland. 2020 is their 25th anniversary and so they wanted a Communications/PR volunteer to help raise awareness about their birthday year and so I quickly put my name forward to help.GD30

After a great first meeting with two members of the CAUSE team I was all set for my new role as a Communications volunteer. Fast forward a few months and I have been able to meet various members of the CAUSE team and they have all been so lovely and welcoming. I work mostly with the wonderful Anne Holland who is the fundraising manager for CAUSE. I was instantly drawn in by her bubbly personality and we get on very well, she is a very positive person and there is a never a dull moment when she’s around.

The first day that I met Anne she persuaded me to sign up for CAUSE’s biggest fundraising event – Strictly Come Dancing. This was one of the most memorable and exciting things I have ever done, I encourage any of you that have the chance to participate in a charity run Strictly to do it! I always fancied myself to be a good dancer but that was exclusively reserved for weekend dance floors, however I quickly learned after attending my first training session that I did not have one ounce of rhythm in me…

Everyone else was twirling, kicking and cartwheeling around me whilst I was like yes! I can do a star-jump! We started training in September with the goal of our big Christmas – themed show night at the end of November. I was like a fish out of water during the early training sessions as without any experience and 3 dances to learn my poor wee legs couldn’t keep up. My lovely partner and I got assigned the Cha-Cha to Snoop Dogg’s version of Winter Wonderland (I know lol) and we had one group dance to All I want for Christmas and one to Fairy-tale of New York. So, no pressure eh?

As the weeks of training went on, I started to grow more confident with the aid of everyone involved in my Strictly experience, they were all so kind and encouraging and they helped me every dance – step of the way.  By the time it came to show night in November at the glitzy Stormont Hotel I was a bundle of nerves and yet still filled with so much excitement and anticipation for the night ahead. I tanned myself up, got the lowest cut shirt probably ever worn on a man, and wiggled into my skinny fit velvet trousers – time to Cha – Cha! Our dance went great, I made a couple of tiny mistakes but sure the audience didn’t realise what I was supposed to be doing anyway! The judges loved the dance and most importantly my navy lace shirt was a hit. Our two group dances which book ended the night also went fantastically and it’s safe to say I was completely Mariah Carey’d out at the end of it all.

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An amazing amount of money was raised for CAUSE which is the main reason we did the show in the first place and without the incomparable Anne Holland at the reigns there would have been no show to perform at.

Apart from my amazing experience with Strictly, I’ve had the best time volunteering for CAUSE. I’ve had the opportunity to see what goes on in the day to day running of a charity and how important promotional materials, communications and PR are for a small local charity.

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Most recently I was given the chance to go to a recruitment fair at the Belfast MET Millfield campus and talk to various students looking for volunteering and placement opportunities. I highly recommended CAUSE to all the students I talked to and even promoted CAUSE’s latest Strictly event – Strictly Jigs and Reels. It was a really fun experience and great to see the amount of young people eager to volunteer.

 

I am currently working on developing some promotional materials for CAUSE’s 25th anniversary, having the opportunity to think creatively outside of an educational setting is really fun and rewarding; especially when it is for such a great charity.

I have thoroughly enjoyed my time with CAUSE and can’t wait to see what the rest of their Birthday year has in store! I cannot emphasise enough how important volunteering is, especially for small charities. So, I encourage anyone reading this to even consider volunteering, be it for CAUSE or another charity – I know that you won’t regret it!

Gareth Donnelly is a final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. He can be found on LinkedIn at http://linkedin.com/in/gareth-donnelly-1a6161196 , Twitter – @GarethDonnelly4 and Instagram – @garethd__

The ‘C’ Word

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My family.

No, not that C word, I’m talking about the dreaded C word, CANCER! It was June last year when I heard the following four dreaded words leave my father’s mouth, “Girls, I have cancer.”

It was a normal Friday afternoon for myself and my three sisters. We just got home from our shopping trip in Victoria Square and headed straight up to my room to do the usual fashion show that consists of showing each other our latest purchases from that day (I know typical girls). Mum and dad were away to get “their heads showered” which is understandable as there is only so much ’girl chat’ dad can keep up with in a day. They arrived home shortly after us which is when we were called downstairs for ‘a talk’. I don’t know about you, but when we ALL get called downstairs it’s normally because someone has done something wrong. Immediately we all start asking the question “Oh for goodness sake what have we done this time? who hasn’t emptied the dishwasher?”

Anyway, downstairs we went, and sat nervously on the sofa awaiting our lecture (I was really hoping it wasn’t going to be as long as a lecture in uni). After what felt like a decade of silence, mum finally says “Girls, your dad and I have something to tell you?” Uh oh, what on earth could this be about? ‘they’re getting a divorce’, ‘Mum’s pregnant’? (I was really hoping it wasn’t this one, three sisters stealing my clothes is enough, never mind four sisters doing it) ‘they’ve won the lottery’ (that would have been nice, no more university fees for me) all thoughts I had but never once could I have predicted or prepared for why we were really sat here together.

And that’s when it did, when you don’t predict it, The C word! A word I never thought I would hear, I never thought it would happen to our family. “Girls, I have cancer.” A ‘normal’ day for us quickly turned into a not so normal day. After we all had a quick cry together, due to the initial shock of the news we wanted to get the facts and find out the prognosis. Thankfully, mum went to the hospital with dad and was able to give us this information, dad was also there but as a typical man he was able to retain about 2% of what he was told.

Dad went to get his tonsils privately removed as he was complaining of having a sore throat for over a month. During this operation the doctor found a cancerous growth, one that they couldn’t remove there and then as it was too far on. He was told he would have to endure radiotherapy and chemotherapy, but the prognosis was good (I don’t know if it’s just me, but the words radiotherapy and chemotherapy are scary). Dad was already at stage 3 which was a shock as he obviously didn’t expect anything was wrong bar having tonsillitis. So, here is where I plea that if you feel like something is wrong, even a small thing like a throat infection please get it looked at as it really can be a matter of life or death.

Our family was very matter of fact about the situation and to receive any form of sympathy is very rare (unless of course you break a nail – that’s MAJOR). Therefore, once we got all the facts, we took a very matter of fact approach and instead of dwelling on the negative news, we all remained very positive. Dad was also able to retain a positive mental attitude throughout the duration of his treatment which again encouraged us girls to be positive about the situation. However, I do think this backfired on him as he really didn’t receive any sympathy from us at all, actually if anything it got worse for him. Even when he had to be admitted to hospital and fed through a tube, we all made light of the situation and he was still the brunt of all our jokes.

I guess my life lesson to you from this situation is that no matter how hard you think it is, how hard you think it is going to be or how hard the news seems at first, you can get through it! It’s true what they say, and as cliché as it is, ‘every cloud has a silver lining’ even if you can’t see it at first. I promise you that eventually it will come through. Throughout this difficult time, as a family we relied on each other for support, and although at times it was tough, we all stuck together and as a whole it brought us closer together and strengthened our already strong family bond. I know this may not be the case for you but there is always someone willing to listen and help you through tough times.

Dad’s personal catch phrase is “Living the dream”. Anyone who asks him how he is, the response is always “Living the dream” (I mean how could he not, he has four beautiful daughters and according to my mum a beautiful wife). Together as a family, I’m glad that he is still able to live the dream and to live it with us makes it that bit better.

The photo on the left: Now you can put a face to the name, this is ‘Dad’ when he finally completed his radiotherapy and chemotherapy. 

The photo on the right: My family (Minus Lucy – getting us all together is a very rare occasion) at Dad’s abseil for cancer. Yes, this was the one-time mum didn’t pick out his clothes and he did wear the costume the rest of the day.

Molly Stevenson is a final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on: Instagram – @molly_stevensonn; Facebook – Molly Stevenson; LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/molly-stevenson-4bb39115b/

 

1-0 to Winter

I’m that person who says “I can’t wait for the dark evenings and crisp winter mornings.” I’m usually bopping around in my boots and beanies, sipping on a hot chocolate, happy that it’s winter again. And I mean, Gavin and Stacey are having a Christmas Special this year after nearly a decade! This should be the best winter ever. But this year, I REGRET SAYING ANYTHING. CAN IT BE JULY AGAIN PLEASE? The winter rut of 2019 hit me hard & the fact I’m struggling through Final Year is not making it any easier.

I’m freezing, I’m tired, I’m uninspired and I’m unmotivated. I feel lazy, irritated (and probably irritating) and I’m not looking after myself, mentally or physically. I was thriving in Summer, living my best life, reaching my goals. But this winter? I’m feeling anything but.

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Enough was enough and a couple of weeks ago for the a thousandth time this year I said to myself, “Catherine, wise up”. I’m blessed with good health, in the final year of a degree I have dreamed of doing since I was 14, living with four of my best friends and fortunate to have many more around me. The last thing I should be doing is feeling sorry for myself because it’s cold and dark outside, I have assignment to do in a degree I signed up for and that the moon is making us all act a little funny. I decided to take it upon myself to find out why I might be feeling this way, and ways in which I can stop it.

Groundhog Day

A common reason we may start to feel stuck in a rut is when every day starts to feel the same. As a final year student with endless work to do, I felt the need to be in the library by 9am typing away, scanning journals and questioning whether this degree was really for me. Attending a lecture and seminar in the afternoon, before heading back to the library for another hour or two just to make myself feel “better”. When really, I was tired and my  heads so fried that I’m not making any progress at all and I had just spent 2 hours on a paragraph that most likely isn’t going to make the final draft of my assignment. Final year was draining me. I thought I was doing myself a favour, working super hard, getting ahead of the game, but I soon realised I was burning myself out and it was affecting me in more ways than one. I even got BANGS in week 5.

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I knew I had to let myself relax, take a chill pill or 5. Coincidentally the next morning Meibh and I had planned to go for a walk up Cavehill and go for a Brunch date afterwards. I know it sounds cliché when they say heading outdoors really clears the head. But seriously, my head hadn’t been as clear in weeks. After the best Avo Toast I’ve ever had, shoutout to Output Espresso, we were true to our white girl selves and went to Starbucks to do some work, where I completed and submitted my first assignment, without feeling stressed. Which is not surprisingly considering studies show that being outdoors lowers stress and enhances creativity. So, the next time you feel under pressure with work, don’t lock yourself in the library, go get some fresh air and relax for a few hours. You’ll be surprised with what work you’ll produce after.

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“Nobody’s Perfect.” (Hannah Montana, 2006).

When having a little snoop around this topic on Google I found an article that explains how Perfectionism can ironically make you feel stuck and effect your progress. Well… My name is Catherine and I’m a perfectionist. Something I thought I should be proud of. I even have it as one of my top qualities on my CV, oops. But after some reading I found out how being a perfectionist will have you going around in circles, never happy with whatever you have done. Completing an assignment will have you saying “could I have done this better?” a thousand times before hitting the submit button on turnitin, rather than giving yourself a pat on the back for completing an assignment which was really hard and challenging and something you should be proud of completing. Learn to squash perfectionism and recognise that something being done is better than being left undone. Focus on completing things, at a standard you’re proud of and show cases your abilities of-course, but move on afterwords and don’t beat yourself up on whether it’s perfect or not. After all, does perfection even exist?

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The little things matter

And then, there was just little things. I asked myself, was I looking after myself? Was I eating well? Was I sleeping enough? Spending time with people who made me feel good and doing things I enjoyed? And to be honest, I wasn’t really. So, I filled my wraps with salad for lunch and added a few pieces of broccoli to my meals at dinner time. I let myself sleep for 8 hours rather than set an alarm for 7.30am at 2am. When my friends at Uni asked me to go for coffee after I said, “I’d love to” rather than “I’m going to go to the library.” I arranged to see friends I hadn’t in a while, making plans I had to look forward to. I got back into some good habits I had let slip, remembered how important it was to get fresh air everyday and most importantly set some time aside just for ME!

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It’s pretty easy to get a little down in the dumps, but you’d be surprised at the little things that can make you feel a little better and help you ride through the storm. But most importantly, be easy on yourself, you’re doing the very best you can.

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Sometimes these feelings may be more than just being stuck in a rut. Such feelings may be signs of something more serious. If what you’re feeling is more than just being stuck in a rut, talk to a friend, a family member, your doctor or contact a mental health helpline right away.

Catherine Maguire is a Final Year year BSc in Communication, Advertising & Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be found on Instagram: catherinelauram and LinkedIn: Catherine Maguire

My Top Favourite Campaigns!

Ever since I started to study PR and started to understand the effort that goes into creating a PR and marketing campaign, I have gained an appreciation for a campaign that can make me stop and think!

For me, the campaigns I remember the most are those were companies use their platforms to highlight the social issues happening all around the world to gain consumers attention to the social issues as well as the product they are promoting.  These campaigns are always very controversial and inspiring, social media however allows everyone to post their opinions and views without focusing on the issues being promoted. Campaigns are becoming increasing more difficult to promote as consumers are always finding ways to avoid watching or listening to ads, which requires companies to work harder than ever to gain our attention.

Here are a few of my favourite Campaigns that focus on social issues:

Nike

“Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”

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Like many, I didn’t really understand the sacrifice that Kaepernick made when taking a knee during an NFL game, it wasn’t until I seen the Nike campaign that I actually researched what it all actually meant. Nike took a stance on a social issue for their 30th anniversary campaign, the campaign featured former San Francisco 49ers quarterback. Kaepernick took a knee during a pregame playing of the American national anthem in 2016 to protest racial injustice America, as a result of this he has not been signed by another team. This caused outrage among many people including President Trump who attacked the advert ‘’I think it’s a terrible message that [Nike] are sending and the purpose of them doing it.’’

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Many went as far as to burn or cut the Nike logo off their products in solidarity with their country, many felt it was unpatriotic and incited rage among consumers.. However, the campaign actually increased Nikes stocks by 5%.

Following this controversial campaign, Nike also launched a campaign featuring women in sports.

 

‘Dream Crazier’

Nike also released a campaign focusing on ‘crazy’ women in sport. This campaign worked to redefine what it means to be a ‘crazy’ woman and remove the negative connection of the word. It focuses on female athletes who have worked to break down barriers, to inspire the next generation of female athletes.

It features tennis champion Serena Williams who speaks throughout the campaign as she has personal experience of being called over emotional. She was questioned by both the media and social media when she returned to the sport after giving birth to her daughter.  Throughout history women have always been seen to be inferior to men within sport, to this day these negative stereotypes still apply.

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I have always appreciated Nike’s ability to tackle the most controversial issues without worrying how it will affect their brand but focusing more on bringing attention to issues that they support. Nike founder Phil Knight, said “It doesn’t matter how many people hate your brand as long as enough people love it.”

Jigsaw

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Jigsaw is a luxury British Fashion clothing and accessories retailer, that took a stand on immigration with their ‘Heart Immigration’ manifesto which challenged the idea that  anything or anyone 100% British.

NM24This comes at a time when no one knows what is in store for us in regard to Brexit and what this means for immigration. It focuses on the idea that is nothing is ever completely British, it is a little of this and a little of that. This was done exceptionally well by working aside ancestry UK to show how diverse fashion is as ‘British style is not 100% British. In fact, it’s just as diverse as we are’. It received a lot of support from social media as well as critiques who felt that it is not the brands place to speak on such a controversial issue.

Are we ever just one thing, if you look within your family or friend group are they a mixture of different nationalities or all one? I don’t believe any of us are just one. By using none traditional ways of promoting there brand they made me click into their campaign and look at the clothes in a more in-depth way than I would a brand who just use the same pretty pictures with pretty clothes as everyone else.

Gillette

It is  impossible to not know what the ‘me too’ movement is unless you have been living under a rock for the last few years. Gillette is just one of many brands who had to change their stance. They changed their tagline from ”The best a man can get”, replacing it with ”The best men can be”.

As a well-known men’s brand, Gillette challenged sexism, the dangers of toxic masculinity and the importance of setting a good example for boys. Throughout the ad, it shows examples of cyber bullying, sexual harassment and mansplaining. The advert also highlights the proliferation of the phrase “boys will be boys” as a means of excusing harmful or violent behaviour exhibited by young boys.

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This ad has been praised as being ‘pro humanity’ as opposed to ‘anti-male’. Actor Terry Crews supported the campaign ‘I was told over and over that this was not abuse. That this was just a joke. That this was just horseplay. But I can say that one man’s horseplay is another man’s humiliation.”

Throughout the ad, there was many examples of ways for men to improve the negative stereotype surrounding them following such a huge #metoo movement, I felt it was a very well thought out campaign that used the timing of the #metoo movement to their advantage. This is only one step they have take to actively challenge the stereotypes and expectations of what it means to be a man. As a company they have promised to donate $1m a year for three years to non-profit organisations with programs “designed to inspire, educate and help men of all ages achieve their personal “best” and become role models for the next generation”.

Piers Morgan tweeted ‘I’ve used Gillette razors my entire adult life but this is absurd virtue-signalling PC guff may drive me away’. Does he really think anyone cares about his opinion?

Project 84: Calm

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Did you know that 84 men every week commit suicide? It is one of the leading causes of death among men in the UK. CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) started a conversation about male suicide On World Mental Health Day, by creating 84 sculptures standing on top of This morning Studios in London.

NM20On the projects websites there are names and details of each of the men, who stories were told by those close to them. It shows that no matter where you’re from, what age or race you too can struggle. This campaign was implemented to put pressure on the government to make a change, this was achieved by the first UK suicide prevention minister being appointed. This campaign raised awareness for a every growing issue within the UK with  powerful message in a dignified way.

 

I can’t wait to see what campaigns are coming in 2020, as I embark on a carer in PR myself.

Niamh McNally is a final year BSc Communications Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter: @NiamhMc_Nally 

 

Odd One Out

As with any university student, the thought of picking a dissertation topic that you will put blood, sweat and most definitely tears in is a daunting prospect. I know I wanted to pick a topic that firstly I found interesting and secondly one that is a current issue in today’s society. With much thought, I decided to research the effects that social media has on our self- esteem and body image.

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One of my main inspirations for researching this topic was through watching a BBC Three documentary, called ‘Jesy Nelson; ‘Odd One Out.’’ We all remember Jesy as being on the X Factor in 2011, one of the four members of the girl group Little Mix. As a 12-year-old girl, I was in awe of Little Mix, an all-girl group filled with ‘ordinary’ happy go lucky girls, who had just won one of the biggest TV shows in the UK. Being thrown into fame and fortune and not being able to walk down the street without everyone knowing you, is probably a dream for many. However, for Jesy Nelson she quickly wished she had never entered and desperately longed for the life she once had.

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Watching the documentary was genuinely heartbreaking; seeing someone in the spot light who seems to have everything you could possibly want in life so depressed and dispirited. It is completely beyond my comprehension as to why anyone can fulfil pleasure through being an online troll and bringing others down for their own satisfaction. These trolls hide behind keyboards and don’t take a second to think about the impact their words have on the individual. The tweets circling about Jesy were truly repulsive: ‘The fat ugly one.’….. ‘Go kill yourself.’…… ‘Wide load coming through.’…. ‘4 members 5 chins.’ …. ‘Saggy, baggy, rough and don’t get me started on her face.’

 Controversial Katie Hopkins added further unnecessary fuel to the fire tweeting: ‘Packet mix have still got a chubber in their ranks. Less Little Mix more pick n mix.’ Jesy gave an authentic, distressing account to the consequence of the sheer level of hatred she was receiving, as she began starving herself which led to her attempting to take her own life in 2013. We are all guilty of putting celebrities on this unrealistic pedestal, I know I do!  Celebrities tend to have a god like status with a human face, however this documentary highlighted just how ‘human’ celebrities are, with the same emotions any sane person would have in this situation.

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Jesy Nelson’s documentary aired on 12thSeptember 2019, breaking the BBC Three record with 3.3 million views, 64% of which were 16-34 year olds. The film tackles mental health issues and appears to have made a real difference to those going through similar experiences. One fan tweeted: ‘The #OddOneOut Jesy Nelson documentary is one of the saddest and scary things I have ever watched. This needs to be shown everywhere to teach people the devastating effects their words and comments have. Be kind. Always.’  Another fan tweeted: ‘My favourite from day one. The girl I saw so much of myself in. Please know that not everything you see on social media is what it seems. We are all human beings.’ The amount of support Jesy has received following the release of the film has been staggering.

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I really do recommend everyone to watch this documentary, I have a lot of admiration for Jesy Nelson, in being so brave and for sharing such a deeply personal and inspiring message.  The influence that mass media has on self-esteem and body image, can be devastating. This particular case showed just how impactful vile comments can be, leading to body dissatisfaction and other health concerns including; eating disorders, low self-esteem, and depression. We all come in different shapes and sizes and shouldn’t let the opinions of others bring us down. I know that this film has empowered women from all over Britain and here in Ireland to embrace the body they’ve been given and not to let petty comments from petty people affect you.

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If I haven’t bored you and you’ve got this far please if you can take one thing from this blog post; be nice to people, no matter WHO they are, everyone’s fighting a battle others know nothing about. Now on that note off I go to start this dissertation.

 

Hannah Colgan is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at: LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/hannah-colgan-b65179166/ and Instagram – @Hannahcolgan890