The Accidental Activist ?

My life as a Social Worker, taught me that little things matter.

Small acts, can make a difference. And small acts done repeatedly or by enough people, can make a big difference.

And whilst I have left the daily activities of Social Work behind, not all of the Social Worker in me has retired. And essentially, as you may have read here, this is why I started The B Side.

I believe too that I was able to move from wanting to do it, to feeling able to, because a lot of people each did one little thing.

In February 2017, I wrote a rather lengthy Facebook post about marriage. 185 people liked it and 67 commented.

This was not something I expected. But this response got me thinking that maybe there were people who might resonate with and benefit from, my experiences and musings.

So not only did I instantly feel supported, I suddenly felt like I could move from WANTING to DOING. And, perhaps still make a difference in the lives of others.

So, I decided to write.

My mission?

To tell stories, and in doing so, provide people with evidence that they can survive anything. Or start again. And maybe even some kind of blueprint with which to do it.

So, could I become an activist?

Challenging aspects of the status quo of my society and times’ ?

(Crozier De-Rosa and Mackie 2017 p 5)

Maybe.

Albeit, accidentally.

Because people liked something I did. And I started to do more of it.

And who knows how much more that could grow.

The Accidental Activist. I like it. I’m going with that.

Photo Bernie Ryan

However as quickly as I started to feel a little warm about where this was going, the chilly wind of criticism blustered in with the phrase ‘Armchair Activism’.

Which, apparently refers to those little things people did for me, and which I do for others, like ‘liking’ and sharing online. The poor cousin it would seem, to real – world activism of ‘putting bodies on the line’

(Whitehead 2018).

A ‘Slacker’ form of Activism?

And to twist that derogatory knife a little more, it is also now referred to as ‘Slacktivism’  – an online form of ‘self -aggrandising politically ineffective activism’ (Cabrera, Matias and Montoya, 2017 p 400 ). Something, which is more about making ourselves look or feel good than actually making a difference. Things which are done easily and ‘performed with little effort’. (Christensen 2011)

Ouch.

I do agree that there will always be a need for action that occurs off line in order to effect change. And that we ought be mindful that ‘true social progress will not occur on social media alone’ ( Cabrera et al 2017 , p12 ).  

However, is it accurate to say that because a thing can be done with less effort, it cannot still be useful or effective?

It’s a bit like saying that ordering my groceries online is not as useful or effective as me traipsing down on foot to the supermarket.

I know which one I prefer.

This week, I talked with Dr Anita Hutchison about this, and in particular, whether digital activism deserves the slacktivism rap it has acquired.

Dr Anita Hutchison
Photo supplied with permission

Dr Hutchison is from the group Doctors Against Violence Toward Women ( DAVTW). A group who are not only raising awareness but successfully recruiting support for change. Including recently the #SackAlanJones movement. Something which has now resulted in over 100 sponsors withdrawing their support from Alan Jones, and a planned review into his breakfast show.

Cover Image

“laptop-woman-03298” by tlcj878 is licensed under CC0 1.0 

Good on you Dr Hutchison and your colleagues and supporters.

What’s wrong with working smarter, not harder anyway?

So Ok, one might once have associated activism with only labour – intensive actions like The Women’s March in 2017, involving 5 million people across 81 nations, (Crozier De-Rosa and Mackie 2017).

2017, Women March
“2017 Women’s March in D.C.” by Polly Irungu is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 

But one now has to wonder how those 5 million marchers were called to action in the first place and then organised.

I’m going to hazard a guess that it wasn’t via ‘snail mail’.

So thanks to you Dr Hutchison, I’ve been reminded that the little things do matter.

Especially to people like you who might become Accidental Activists as a result.

Because if what I am doing is motivating you to continue your efforts out there (Gong 2015, p99), that’s a slackness I’m happy to live with.

References

Cabrera, N., Matias, C. and Montoya, R. (2017). Activism or slacktivism? The potential and pitfalls of social media in contemporary student activism.  Journal of Diversity in Higher Education, 10(4), pp.400-415.

Christensen, S ( 2011 ) Political activities on the Internet: Slacktivism or political participation by other means? First Monday Journal. Volume 16, number 2.

Crozier-De Rosa, S. and Mackie, V. (2018). Remembering women’s activism. Routledge.

Duke, J. (2019). Alan Jones breakfast show to undergo ‘full review’: Macquarie chairman. [online] The Age. Available at: https://www.theage.com.au/business/companies/alan-jones-breakfast-show-to-undergo-full-review-macquarie-chairman-20190910-p52pqs.html [Accessed 14 Sep. 2019].

Gong, R. (2015). Indignation, Inspiration, and Interaction on the Internet: Emotion Work Online in the Anti-Human Trafficking Movement. Journal of Technology in Human Services, 33(1), pp.87-103.

Whitehead, J. (2018). Are You Sitting Comfortably? DIVA Magazine.

Soundtrack for Soundcloud Podcast – ‘Bumbling’ –

https://freemusicarchive.org/genre/Instrumental/?sort=track_date_published&d=1&page=3

Curiosity and Learning – Are THEY the Secret Weapons you need?

Yes, I knooooow it’s Sophia, but Hey, she is right.

Ah yes, that elusive fountain of youth. Fancy it being in our minds after all.

Good to know.

Heaps cheaper than all those other places we are supposed to be able to find it.

I do have another post with more thoughts on ageing coming soon.

But for the moment, I want to share something cool related to Sophia’s thoughts, that I was reminded of yesterday.

I was in Melbourne overnight for a Communications Careers Forum organised by Deakin University. ( Thanks for that btw, Deakin ).

And before my 51 year old butt hit the chair, I’m sure that everyone could see that I was the oldest student there, by at least twenty years.

Ok. Righto. Probably twenty five 🙄.

Despite me wearing my coolest new pair of General Pants cord flairs.

( Trust me. They are just about the coolest pants I’ve ever owned ).

Anyhoo, notwithstanding my cool pants, one could excuse me for feeling self conscious, or that I was a little out of place.

A bit like that time I was in labour and in my haste to reach the spa bath, I ran down the main hospital corridor, dragging my drip behind me.

In the nuddy.

Sorry for that mental image.

Yes, some things you just can’t unsee…
via GIPHY

Anyway, thankfully, back to the seminar.

So, did I feel self conscious and out of place?

The answer is actually a resounding “Nope”.

And this is where we get to the first bit of the cool part.

I love young people. I love the energy, humour, eagerness and enthusiasm that young people exude. I love the many ways their fresh eyes and hearts see the world.

And above all, I love the bravery with which these beautiful young people share their talents, passion and dreams.

Which is why I take every opportunity to support and champion their endeavours. And to hang out within the radius of their infectious enthusiasm. And marinate myself in it.

And in doing so, I close the gap between them and me. As though I never left their world.

And here’s the second bit of the cool part.

Yesterday, I was reminded that in so many ways, I haven’t.

” Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young .”

Henry Ford.

Thanks Henry.

You see, there are many things we cannot change.

However I am, and you are, as young or old, as we choose to be.

That’s right. As we CHOOSE to be.

It really is that simple.

Yes stunned Hollywood GIPHY lady. I sure am.

Yesterday, as I sat in that forum, I realised why I did not feel out of place.

It’s because I more recently committed to ongoing learning, challenging myself, and not seeing myself as ‘done’.

And in choosing to embrace this B Side of my life, I’m now just as much at the start of this new career and chapter, as my younger classmates are at theirs.

So, bam. Age instantly becomes a moot and powerless point.

And ironically, because of this, I am in fact also healthier, physically fitter and more vibrant and youthful than I’ve felt since I was, a teenager.

Quite the bonus!

One of the guest speakers yesterday, Trevor Young of PR Warrior, also echoed the value of ongoing learning and relentless curiosity in our lives and careers.

According to Trevor, without these elements, we will forever struggle.

I’m with you Trevor.

As you all know by now, I lost my mojo in both these departments for quite the while. And a struggle it certainly was.

So to have the ability to entertain them both again, is a joy.

Trevor also said to just ‘get out there and do something’. Because things only happen when we are DOING something. Not when we are waiting to be perfect BEFORE we do something.

And this of course, echoes the mantra of my lecturer Dr Adam Brown

“Learning by Doing. Learning by Doing. Learning. By. Doing”.

It has become entrenched in my psyche. Because I am indeed learning so much, by DOING.

And something you are witnessing as it happens, here at The B Side.

There may be a day when I will look back at some of these posts and cringe a little. However I can tell you that I will never delete them.

Just as Trevor has not on his blog which he started in 2007.

Because like the pencil marks on the doorway that our children continued to stretch past, I too will be able to see how much I’ve grown.

My body may become less fit, and less healthy, as the years progress.

However I choose never to feel old.

And will therefore never be unwelcome at the table of youth 🙂

Yep! That’s me at the table. 🙂

The B Side Prequel..

OK, so I’ve been taking some time out for myself these past couple of weeks.

And if you are curious, you can check out a few of my recent adventures  here and here.

However, something else that emerged during this time, was my desire to create a short video message to you.

So, I did below.

And at the end of it, I’ve left some tips regarding HOW I did it, because only a couple of months ago I could barely work out where to find the videos on my iPhone, let alone make one.

I Kid You Not. I was useless.
via GIPHY

But what’s the video about Bernie?

The video is my attempt to give you, as personally as I can, a little more of ‘The B Side’ ‘s ‘Back Story’.

Videos online help me feel more connected to people if I feel they are talking to me. So, I wanted to try to create that for you.

Because I am talking to you.

And in thinking about what to say, I felt it was time to be a little more explicit about what brought me here.

I realise that it might look a bit like some ‘over sharing’ of some personal information, but I actually wish that people were more ‘into’ that some years ago, when I was desperately needing to know that I was not alone.

So yes, it might be fashionable to look like we are jumping on the ‘authenticity’ train but perhaps there’s a fair enough reason for that after all.

Why would you want to hear this?

Whilst I was talking, I thought about who you might be, and imagined you perhaps going through a challenge, or standing at the cross roads of your life.

And I remembered what I most needed to hear when I was there ; that I wasn’t on my own, that other people had suffered and survived and that so perhaps, could I.

What do I hope for?

I can only hope then that I might be that person for someone, that I once needed.

And perhaps it is you.

For I am reinventing and thriving in new ways that I never thought possible, and that is what ‘The B Side’ is about.

I want you to see that I am living this, whilst writing about it. And that I do understand what it is like to feel like you’ve permanently lost that light at the end of the tunnel.

I also hope you might feel able to believe that there is a B Side coming for you, that will one day help you make sense of why you hung on.

And lastly, I hope that you might be inspired to tell your story.

So that we can stand together in our challenges, and not in our pretense.

Anyway, here it is …….

PTSD and Me.

With love from Me 🙂

PLUS – HERE IT IS HOW TO MAKE A LITTLE VIDEO :

Bernie’s newly minted tips for the ‘Beginner – est’ of Beginners ….

  • Check any legal issues related to your location – Because I was filming in a cemetery I phoned the Waverley Council to check that what I was doing was ok. It was.
  • Visit your location a few times before you shoot to account for lighting, weather, crowds, or issues with sound. I made four trips in total before I was happy.
  • You don’t need fancy equipment for a short video like this. I used only my iPhone 8, a $99 lapel mic, and a selfie stick Tripod.
  • But do use make sure that your sound, lighting and the stability of your camera are sorted!
  • Position yourself, or subject in either the far right or left third of the shot. This is called the ‘Rule of Thirds’, which draws the viewers eye into the whole shot rather than just the centre. You will notice that this is where I positioned myself. Even in some of the additional footage, which also allowed me to roll credits in the other third of the final footage.
  • Look into the lens, NOT the screen. This is how I conveyed that I was speaking to you, because I was in essence looking at you through the lens.
  • Be mindful of how you use editing. I chose to leave in some of my pauses and less than perfect speech, so that you gained a sense of who I am. And hopefully had you feeling comfortable with me. But for other purposes, it would be more effective to edit these out for fluency.
  • On the subject of editing, you can use a simple program like iMovie, which is what I used to put my footage, soundtrack, videos and titles together. However it does have some limitations.

Fessing up to Challenges !

  1. I did a LOT of initial takes, due to noise, forgetting what I wanted to say, being too critical of myself and finding that I was editing way too much and it didn’t feel as genuine. So in the end, I abandoned ship and went back a week later and did a clean run which only took me two takes and felt more natural and me.
  • I would certainly get a larger sturdy tripod as the wind on my second shoot was fierce and almost blew my selfie stick tripod away! It also resulted in some shaky video that I had to correct as best I could with the iMovie software but it wasn’t perfect.
  • Sticking to a time limit was very tricky for me, so if you are making a video and you need to keep it short make sure you practice it in advance.
  • I had some trouble with the editing of the photos over the video, to make it more seamlessly fit. I ended up having to fiddle quite a bit with the order and placement of them to allow iMovie to let me ‘fade’ them out.

So – go have some fun and make a video.

And, believe you can start again, with anything.

Truly, if I can do it at 51.

So can you.

Credits:

Music ‘Awake’ – in the video was by Scott Holmes via http://www.freemusicarchive.org Creative Commons Licence

CC BY – NC 4.0

All photos and video footage supplied by Bernie Ryan and used with permission

Filming at Waverley Cemetery used by permission of Waverley Cemetery and done with respect to all those resting there.

Never Look Away – You are far cooler than you think.

As Ricky Gervais’ gorgeous character in Derek might say ..

“ Hanging out with the people I love is my ‘ favouritist’ thing !”

And this is true .

Yet I can also highly recommend including yourself in that list.

Spending time exploring the world and yourself on your own sometimes, is a lot more fun than you might think 😉

When was the last time you took yourself to dinner and a movie? I know right !!!

But how curious is it, that being able to spend time in our own company should feel like a selfish aberration … in this busy life of doing.

Or such a great act of courage..

As though we are afraid of what we will find.

Which I suppose is why we keep ourselves running so fast … and our lives so often jam packed with busy – ness.

Convinced that we are hurtling ourselves in the right direction and looking to others to cheer us on….. just to be sure.

When it is not their job.

And seldom stopping to ask ourselves, how we feel.

And what we think.

Or being quiet or patient enough to listen to the answers.

The irony of which, is that regardless of what we find should we sit in our own company …

NOT discovering it, can have us living in a ground hog day existence, not of our own choosing.

Which often requires Herculean acts to survive anyway.

And loneliness. And pain.

Which is to the ultimate detriment of what we are truly yearning for ❤️

And no one can ever know but us whether our trajectory is leading us closer to, or further away from, what we need.

Sometimes we just have to take the stairs anyway… to know if we are heading in the right direction…..

I watched a beautiful film last night – ‘Never Look Away’ – in which a German Art Professor reminds his class that the only person who will know if the art they create is good, is the person who created it.

And our life, is like Art.

In fact, what we contribute through it, and leave behind us, should be our greatest work of art.

But we so often end up confusing ourselves and others with all this running around searching.

And disguising ourselves inadvertently with layer upon layer of what we’ve hastily acquired in our effort to become ‘someone’ or to find ‘something’… ‘out there’.

So much so that we and others start to believe that this is who we are.

When the greatest gift we can give the world and ourselves, is to be, and love who we actually are. Not easy I know. But doable nonetheless.

Not my best shot, but who cares – this is who I am a lot of the time 🙂

And to do what we truly love to do.

As to quote Derek again:

” If it feels right I do it, if it doesn’t I don’t. That’s how I know.”

Lol.

How odd that we get into so much strife simply forgetting to notice how we feel.

So we need to give ourselves enough opportunity to remember who we are and what feels right.

And then, to have the courage to become our own best friend in pulling ourself up to our feet, looking front on at that same self, flaws and fears and all, and saying :

‘ So, There. You. Are !! And it only matters that I like you. So get out there and be it !”

And in doing so, the rest will most certainly sort itself out.

As one of my dearest, dearest friends often reminds me.

Because it’s not that complicated after all.

“ Good people doing what they love, is the same as doing good ”.

For yourself and others.

I’ve a lot to thank Ricky Gervais for lately.

God bless him.

And all the people who love me enough to have selflessly both championed and joined me on this recent sabbatical into the TheBside.

Thank you

I love you all more than I can say.

May we all become better at not looking away.

The gold is so often in the shadows.

❤️

Time to get real – Um, things only work when we do !

” The Artist is frustrated not because the passage is slow, but because he imagines it to be fast ”

– Art and Fear –

This one line, represented an immediate epiphany for me.

And if you are a frustrated creative which, let’s face it, most of us are in some way or another – how is this quote sitting with you?

Have you also just now been blindsided by the realisation that you may have held unreasonable expectations of yourself and the creative process for like, oh, I don’t know, FOREVER !?

Or is it just me who is coming to grips with the possible source of a lifetime of angst ?

AKA, the unconsciously held belief that talented and successful people for the most part, find ‘art making’, in any form, fairly swift and painless in comparison to the rest of us.

Yes, yes, of course I knew that some practice and effort was involved, but ultimately far less than I seem to have wrestled with.

And as a result, this other blessed lot, get to spend more of their lives basking in the delight of their far more easily acquired accolades and success.

Like Santa at a pre school Christmas concert.

They just breeze through their creating, because, well, they are just bloody creative !

And so here I’ve been, languishing on what I now know to be the fantasy train and spending a lot of time whilst there, in awe of all these blessed and gifted others.

And feeling just a little bit, ugh, yep..

Jealous.

#noreallyimhappyforyou
via GIPHY

So who am I talking about?

Well, you know, those groovy free spirited fourth generation musicians who were born to create hits whilst simply standing in the shower, or sitting at a campfire.

The people with guitars and messy but cool hair who need only their genetically acquired talent to marry a melody with lyrics.

As easily as pairing up socks.

( Maybe not the best analogy if you’ve been to my house.. but anyway … ).

And those writers, who sit in cottages peering into fireplaces ( there’s always a fire in my fantasies…. ) and sipping red wine whilst churning out books, articles and blogs in a brilliant stream of flawless consciousness.

Often before breakfast.

Yep, wine before breakfast. That’s what happens in their perfect world.

And it doesn’t make them sick either.

And let’s not forget the confident orators blessed with the gift of the gab, accurate memories and articulate finesse.

Telling their stories on the radio or telly without an ‘um’ or a ‘like’ any which way to be found. Perfect in every way.

For Gods’ sake.

And here I’ve been for what seems an eternity, screwing up bits of paper, deleting things, rolling my eyes and stomping about the many houses we’ve moved in and out of.

Whose floorboards were no doubt glad to see the back of me.

And sometimes my kids. And husband. Yikes.

And time and again I’d arrive back at the only conclusion I could ( or so I thought )…

That because I have not been able to churn out a Harry Potter novel or a ‘Candle In the Wind’ hit tune in one fell swoop – I just do not have what it takes.

And should therefore give up.

I feel you Lucy…
via GIPHY

Yep. Perfectly rational.

Thankfully however, a couple of months ago in yet another deft move, my super sleuthing therapist served up a juicy watershed moment when she handed me the little ‘Art and Fear’ book.

I wasn’t sure where she was coming from when she did it, as we were relative newbies to each other.

However in an act of faith ( she did come highly recommended ) I took the book. And read it. Even though I rolled my eyes ( on the inside of course ) at the title’s inference, that I could be afraid of writing or singing.

I mean please.

These two things are all I have ever wanted to do, in terms of a career. Or hobby.

As if I would be frightened of that!

Although only a few pages in, I worked out that I could be.

Or am.

” It’s much easier to admire our heroes from afar, than to be our own lesser version of those qualities ”

– Owning Your Shadow –

Robert Johnson

( No prizes for guessing who gave me that book also. Lol ).

So yep. It’s a bit scary to really put ourselves out there.

Much easier to live with the possibility of “If Only, One Day… “

Not to mention the realisation that we are also likely afraid of actually having to WORK hard for our success.

What???

Yep. Way too hard.

via GIPHY

So, it turns out that talent isn’t enough after all, and in fact, isn’t even always necessary, as long as one applies a few other practices and principles ( Get the book ! )

And that my fantasy has been a load of rubbish.

Can you believe that all this time, people have been out there WORKING HARD at their crafts??

That’s ok, it only took me 50 YEARS to work this out…. 🙄
via GIPHY

What the actual hell.

Yes, it seems that whilst I’ve been sooking and envying and having a crack here and there, they have been…

Writing and editing. Shooting and re taking. Painting and turfing stuff out. Recording and re recording. Trying and failing. Swearing and stomping. Staring at blank pages and silent keyboards. Getting up early and going to bed late. Submitting and being rejected. Missing their kids. Practicing and learning. Starting and stopping. Stopping and starting. And here’s the coolest thing.

NOT QUITTING.

And for most of my life, despite WANTING to write songs and tell stories, I just haven’t followed all the way through with enough gusto because of this nifty little dream wrecking combo:

COMPARING ONESELF WITH OTHERS + BELIEVING THAT SUCCESS COMES EASILY + LIFE BEING A LITTLE TOO COMFORTABLE

= GIVING UP.

I remember once hearing a story about a man with a dog sitting tied up in a yard always whining.

His neighbour asked what was wrong with the dog. The owner stated that the dog was sitting on a nail. So the neighbour asked the logical question as to why the dog didn’t just get off it. To which the owner replied

” It just isn’t hurting enough”.

Yup.

And similarly, Bayles and Orland say this:

” Artists don’t get down to work until the pain of working is exceeded by the pain of ‘not working’ “

Bam.

So with the help of my therapist, my PTSD necessitating career redirect, my fabulous Deakin Uni lecturers tutors and classmates, and of course a whole stack of people who love me, I have gotten down to work.

Realising that it will take learning, practice, mistakes, vulnerability, inconvenience, humility, persistence, resilience, patience, grit. Fear and courage.

And not quitting.

And hence, as a start, this blog has come to pass.

With all the challenges and successes that I will do my best to share within it as you and I navigate the B Side of our lives, for whatever reason.

Because it just got too painful for me, not to do what I love and discover who I am.

And I realised that I simply have to do the work bit by bit, and love doing it regardless of where it leads.

And in the process, perhaps share a few things with you as I bumble along.

On that note and in the interest of transparency I can tell you that this blog post did indeed take ages, required a lot of editing and back spacing and quite the few deletion of GIFS.

I’ve also been writing it in my flannelette pyjamas, un showered, with messy not- cool hair, and no wine. And it’s now almost 2pm.

And as an extra reality bonus, you may like to watch the following blooper reel to see a little of what occurred in the making of the video in my last post before this one.

So maybe watch that first here, to appreciate what is to come next.

And how things are seldom as easy as they might appear.

It’s not G Rated.

Yep. I swore.

I was going to bleep out the swear words, but I did swear, so what would be the point.

I was on my own, and feeling very frustrated.

And it really did take me soooooo many attempts and a lot of work to arrive at the final product.

Probably like all those other people have had to do.

And like you will.

Just don’t ever think that you can’t do it. Like I once did.

Or that’s it’s too late.

Or that you are too old.

Because. You. Aren’t.

Bernie xxxxx

PS – Oh – and do get these books:

Art and Fear – David Bayles and Ted Orland

Owning Your Own Shadow – Robert A Johnston

Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway – How Digital Media became my friend through Online Study.

Back in the day…

It’s another Saturday afternoon and I’ve taken my place once more in a queue of equally resigned fellow students. Awkwardly juggling our cumbersome yet coveted cache of recently nabbed text books.

There’s little use protesting as we file along quietly, etching forward in our high tops and thongs. Lost in the only place there is for anyone to go in a silent queue in 1989. Our thoughts.

And the holy grail for which I’m trading these hours of my life?

The University of NSW photocopier. My ‘ground – hog’ day task is to copy chapter upon chapter of this weighty tome. And I have no smart phone to compress time.

via GIFY

My fellow queue -ees, are around my age. In fact, of the approximately 441,000 students enrolled in Australian Universities in 1989, almost 275,000 of them are between 18 and 24. Only about 60, 000 of them are over 30 (Department of Education, Training and Youth Affairs 2001).

There are a few of those ‘mature age’ ones in my year though.  You know, the ones who ask all those last- minute questions in classes, which regularly delay our arrival at the Uni Bar.

Fast forward thirty years (ouch) and I fear I am now that annoying mature age student.

One of the 317,000, who as at 2015, were over 30 ( Qayyum and Zawacki – Richter 2018).

For here I sit at ten pm, tapping away on my Mac Book, Googling up to date research and learning via a plethora of online platforms. I am learning, in the comfort of my own home without a whiff of ink, or a highlighter to be seen. However, unlike my unfairly maligned former classmates, I’ve spent not a cent on transport, parking or childcare. Neither have I missed a dollar of paid work. Or traipsed through the elements.

I’m feeling a little bit of retrospective guilt.

This is how I often trudge through my study. Researching on my phone in bed……sorry, not sorry.

Up? in The Cloud…

For I am one of 15,000 Deakin University ‘Cloud’ Students (Deakin.edu.au, 2019).

This means that I do all my learning online. Perhaps then, I’m not so annoying after all. Unless I keep twitter messaging my classmates at 2am.

I might be skating on some thin ice there….

Since little about ‘The Cloud’ has ever made sense to me though, I must admit to initially feeling more than a bit terrified of studying in it. Terrified that I, like a fair proportion of my photos, might become invisible. I mean who really knows how it works??

 

Does anyone actually know where the cloud is???
via GIFY

I doubt I am on my own. As one of a growing number of mature age women returning to study, also likely wrestling at times with digital fluency. You can read my earlier post regarding that and my reasons for returning to study here if you like.

But I’m pleased to say that we are doing more than Ok. And that even I am now three quarters through something I did not think I could do.

As whilst men continue to use digital technologies more often than women and are more proactive in learning digital skills, apparently once we women develop them, we are better at using them. To educate ourselves AND to find work (Sweet, 2016). Bam. And, phew!

So how many of us are out here ?

55.5% of all enrolled University students in 2018 were women (universitiesaustralia.edu.au, 2019). Women have also been outnumbering men in course completions for the past 50 years. (Wgea.gov.au, 2018)

Triple Bam.

And across the genders, over the last decade, the proportion of domestic students studying off campus through Australian Universities, has increased from 21% to 25%.

This figure jumps to 29%, when the private Open Universities Australia consortium is included (Qayyum and Zawacki – Richter, 2018).

So there must be a few of us!

Is it all about the Internet and being able to study in our pyjamas??

There’s no doubt that women value online study because of its convenience, flexibility and accessibility. All largely thanks to digital media.

However it’s not enough to say that simply the ability to study online (pyjamas or not ) heralded a complete solution to barriers to study. Or that this alone has us flocking toward it in increasing numbers. Because electronic distance education has been available in some capacity since the 1970’s. (Qayyum and Zawacki Richter, 2018)

It is increasingly necessary to consider, HOW, digital media and the internet is used in a new pedagogy, or method and practice of teaching. One, which focusses on the online student’s needs and thus maximising their engagement.

Qayyum and Zawacki,– Richter, (2018) , refer to this era as the ‘third phase’ in Australia’s distance education history. Shifting from methods of simply forwarding face to face content electronically, to enabling high levels of interaction and content delivery via social media, videos, animation, graphics, voice and discussion forums. And, other concepts such as the ‘flipped classroom’ utilising digital media and other teaching methods (Dilnutt, 2018).

My weekly ‘flipped classroom’ was our Zoom webinars, enabling my classmates and I to research and digest content at our own pace BEFORE we met visually with our tutor and each other online. I also access my lecturer, tutors and fellow students, via twitter, email, phone and discussion boards. Plus access to library, study and student instant chat and phone support. This has all been critical to my ability to succeed. And all a result of my university’s understanding that it’s not enough just to have the technology, it’s important to understand how to use it to meet the unique needs of online learners.

I am now a self confessed twitter convert. Twitter has significantly enhanced my engagement with my uni content, peers and teachers. ( I am also a little bit chuffed that @rickygervais has now liked four of my tweets…… )

Stone and O Shea (2018), in their study ‘Older, Online and First’, report that challenges facing today’s older online learners include; the overwhelm of technology for novice online learners, inappropriately designed course material and delivery methods, and inadequate interaction with teachers and other students (Stone and O Shea, 2018). And that the evidence points toward the need for instructor immediacy and relationship building strategies to reduce loneliness and isolation. You can’t get much more immediate than Twitter.

Stone and O Shea advise that online students need to be valued and understood in their complexities, communication and personal contact, courses designed and delivered uniquely, and timely proactive, embedded support provided.

(Stone and O Shea, 2018).

With all this in mind, I returned to the University of NSW last weekend, and trekked up to the library yet again, to consider and compare my learning experiences.

This sojourn reinforced that were it not for digital media and the ways my University uses it to engage with me, just like Michelle, Bernadette and Michele, I simply would not be at Uni. Period.

I made this little video about it.

#thingsyoulearntodoatuni.
#thankstothesegreatwomenwhoansweredmyfacebookpost
#ificandothissocanyou

Ok, so online study is not for everyone. And there are benefits to campus study that are difficult to replicate and which younger and otherwise unencumbered lives and bodies should enjoy at least once.

But thanks to digital technology, AND my University’s approach to using it, ironically I am reinventing myself, right here in front of you.

And I have enjoyed more personal support than I ever did on campus as a nameless face in a crowded lecture theatre.  

Whilst I loved my undergraduate years. I really do not miss that photocopier.

And all that walking.

References:

Deakin.edu.au. (2019). Study online. [online] Available at: https://www.deakin.edu.au/study-online [Accessed 1 Jun. 2019].

Dilnutt, R. (2018). Digital Inclusion: From Chalk and Talk to e-Education. The International Journal of Diversity in Education, 18(2), pp.11-23.

Qayyum, A. and Zawacki-Richter, O. (2018). Open and distance education in Australia, Europe and the Americas. 1st ed. Singapore: Springer Briefs, p.13.

Stone, C. and O’Shea, S. (2018). Older, online and first: Recommendations for retention and success. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 35(1).

Sweet, J. (2016). Access to Digital Technology Accelerates Global Gender Equality. [online] Harvard Business Review. Available at: https://hbr.org/2016/05/access-to-digital-technology-accelerates-global-gender-equality [Accessed 25 May 2019].

Department of Education, Training and Youth Affairs, Higher Education Students, Time Series Table 2000, ( 2001) Canberra.

Universities Australia, (2019) Data Snapshot, Deakin ACT

Wgea.gov.au. (2018). Higher education enrolments and graduate labour market statistics | WGEA. [online] Available at: https://www.wgea.gov.au/data/fact-sheets/higher-education-enrolments-and-graduate-labour-market-statistics [Accessed 1 Jun. 2019].

Video Credits:

Adam Brown, Social Media Stories Podcast, Episode 1 2019. Used with permission.

Video Music – ‘On Brevity” Josh Woodward Free download: http://joshwoodward.com/ CC BY 4.0

Video Image – “Female entrepreneur working on laptop credit to https://1dayreview.com” by 1DayReview is licensed under CC BY 2.0 

All other images and footage supplied by Bernie Ryan

THE podcast – At last.

Recently in another stroke of mandatory University genius I was required to create a podcast.

I must say that upon reading that I was required to record myself talking for up to 6 minutes, a little bit of this happened….

I mean, how hard could this be ? I talk more than that in my sleep.

Turns out , I wasn’t allowed to talk about whatever I wanted …

After a quick regroup, I contemplated the list and settled on ‘Digital Media and The Digital Divide’. I felt it would be the best fit for theBside.

But what EXACTLY should I focus on? …

After a lot of pondering, tweeting and reading about the digital divide, I remembered my rural roots, my experience as a Social Worker and my own mental health journey. I also use Facebook. A lot. So my eventual focus arose from this melting pot.

I wanted to highlight that digital inclusion remains out of reach for many, and that this can have significant mental health consequences. And, I wanted to explore whether online support can provide a sense of belonging and connection which is protective, in the context of rural Australia’s mental health crisis.

Strategies I used to create this podcast, also included listening to rural and mental health podcasts to learn from the content and formats simultaneously. I also conducted a Facebook poll; did phone interviews and probably read a bit too much.

How engaging could I be?

In order to achieve some balance within significant time constraints, I used quotes and paraphrasing from the scholarly readings which provided a basis for my arguments. These articles gave me an initial framework from which to springboard in the areas of loneliness, rural digital inclusion and social connectedness via Facebook. I padded this out with some anecdotal qualitative feedback which I used as a vocal soundbyte and another quote later in the podcast. I referred repeatedly to the initial case study character of Ellen as an anchor for continuity, and to aid listener retention via a story telling technique.

But did I ACTUALLY know how to record a podcast?

Um, not at all. Yet after a lot of Uni video tutorials, youtubing and talking to my classmates and kids, my voice was finally recorded via the Ableton program and professional microphone we have at home.

The telephone call was recorded via Audacity and then added to the Ableton recording. I selected a free creative commons Australian bird sample recording for the intro and outro sounds because I wanted to create a sense of being in the country. I also used my son’s midi keyboard to play the ambient piano in the background to soften my voice. And finally, a photo I took recently on my parents farm for the cover image.

Learning By Doing strikes again!

I did take the advice of a classmate to record and time one of my previous assignments, which was initially helpful. However, I kept forgetting this and getting lost in the plethora of research I’d done. My first reading took nine and a half minutes. Not ideal. It took me hours to edit it down to the six – ish I ended up with. It was hard to strike the balance between making my arguments, and keeping it all engaging enough. I felt that I couldn’t edit it further without losing one or the other. Next time, I will pay closer attention to writing with the end in mind and try to achieve it all with less chocolate.

Anyway, here it is!

Intro and Outro sounds by https://freesound.org/people/danieldouch/sounds/167297/
CC0 – 1.0
Photo supplied by Bernie Ryan 2019



References:

Abs.gov.au. (2019). 8146.0 – Household Use of Information Technology, Australia, 2016-17. [online] Available at: http://www.abs.gov.au/Ausstats/abs%40.nsf/mf/8146.0 [Accessed 16 May 2019].

Andreasson, K. (2015). Digital divides. London: Routledge, p.xxi.

Cowling, D. (2019). Social Media Statistics Australia – March 2019. [online] Socialmedianews.com.au.

Digitalinclusionindex.org.au. (2019). [online] Available at: https://digitalinclusionindex.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/Australian-digital-inclusion-index-2018.pdf [Accessed 16 May 2019].

Handley, K. (2019). S2: E3 Loneliness – CRRMH.

CRRMH. Available at: https://www.crrmh.com.au/get-help-now/self-help-resources/podcasts/loneliness/ [Accessed 16 May 2019].

Hawkley, L. and Cacioppo, J. (2010). Loneliness Matters: A Theoretical and Empirical Review of Consequences and Mechanisms. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 40(2), pp.218-227.

Park, S. (2017). Digital inequalities in rural Australia: A double jeopardy of remoteness and social exclusion. Journal of Rural Studies, 54, pp.399-407.

Sinclair, T. and Grieve, R. (2017). Facebook as a source of social connectedness in older adults. Computers in Human Behavior, 66, pp.363-369.

https://freesound.org/people/danieldouch/sounds/167297/

To Be, or Not to Be, Me.

”What do you suppose your life will look like when you aren’t relying on other people’s approval for your happiness?”

Bam. Like a therapeutic sniper, my eloquent and nauseatingly serene counsellor had disarmed my confident fascade with an unexpected emotional ambush.

It was all I could do to produce an “Um, what?!! ” as I sat on her otherwise comfy couch feeling suddenly exposed and vulnerable. Not unlike those horrible dreams one has of being naked in a public place with nowhere to hide.

I imagined my glass of water tipped on her head.

Then I remembered I was paying for her insights. And I HAD asked her why I was having trouble with aspects of my online identity. And in fact, also with my love hate relationship with social media in general.

And she is nice after all.

But I still left 30 minutes later feeling indignant, with an overwhelming urge to commence yet another google search for great therapists. I mean, it’s not like I’m a young single uneducated narcissist who is using social media in order to feel better about myself or escape feelings of low self-esteem! (Andreassen, Pallesen and Griffiths 2016). Surely not.

I’m a 51- year old married mother of four with a University Degree and over 700 facebook friends!

And yes, the irony of including that last statistic in this sentence is not lost on me. So, by the time I slumped into the safety of the driver’s seat of my car, I knew that this psychoanalytic Ninja was on to something.

Bugger it. I was afraid of the reactions to the self I would project and what this might mean for me.

What a Pandora’s box we might be opening. But I was up for it. Particularly because I wanted my online ME to be ‘authentic’ and I didn’t think I could do that if I was scared.

But will the ‘Real Me’ please stand up?!

I’ve realised that my need to be ‘authentic’ emerged from the feeling that I’ve been pretending a lot of my life as a by-product of comparing myself to other women. I wrote an article in 2018 called The Great Pretenders in response to the escalating incidence of mental health issues in women yet an ongoing inability to talk about what is difficult in our lives.

But what IS ‘authenticity’ in an online world? How could I be ‘ Me’?

Authenticity required: password?
Authenticity Required: Password? Elias Bizannes. CC BY – SA 2.0

Do I even know what makes me me at any given moment? And is it really possible to convey a completely static ‘truth’ about who I am or have been?

The more I read and researched, the more I understood that it isn’t. Our interactions with others, whether online or face to face, will be influenced by our relationships with them and the purpose of those interactions. My online identity will always include some element of ‘stage management’ or ‘calculated authenticity’ in which I am aware of my audience and the version of myself I wish to present to it ( Smith and Watson 2014 p 75 ).

My profile pictures for example, on facebook, my twitter account and blog all reveal both my level of comfort within those forums and who I am communicating with.

The comedian Celeste Barber, who I adore, presents apparently unfiltered and ‘more real’ images in her photographic parodies of model shots. However Celeste also knows that there is a hungry market for her representation of herself. Her bravery in presenting an ‘authentic body image’, is similar to how I would like to present aspects of life as a middle- aged woman.

However, we will both be doing so, with the full awareness of what our audiences want. Our intentions can still be argued to be genuine, and our ‘authenticity’ might then be perceived in this context. It’s therefore also the choice of what we post, not necessarily the complete authenticity of the content that tells people who we are ( Kylie Lang Ted Talk 2014 ).

My audience saw me before I did!

My Facebook friends are the reason I was inspired to start this blog.

In 2017 I posted something I called, ‘What You Don’t See on Facebook’ as a stream of consciousness in a counter attack to the highlight reels we showcase on social media. I was sick of being held prisoner by them. And wanted to start ‘getting real’. And I suppose I hoped to be able to free a few fellow inmates in the process.

The response was unexpected, with 184 likes and 74 comments. Someone suggested I submit it to an online magazine. I did. They published it here. Someone else suggested I start a blog. And here I am. It is important that I keep in mind then, what you, my readers want; how I hope you might respond; how I present myself over time; what interaction I have with you and what actions I might ask (Smith and Watson 2014 p 74 ).

It’s all Me after all.

I must also admit that until recently I’ve been an unwitting disciple of the dystopian view that the online world separates me from my ‘real self’, and is the enemy of my sanity.

This belief was in itself however, causing me great distress as both a publicist and an aspiring blogger and businesswoman!

I’m now realising that like everything, it is about balance. It is easy to ‘blame’ technology for my challenges. As much as it is easy to blame ‘other people’ for the way I see myself. And how I feel about me.

Damn that great therapist for making me own up to that.

I’ve also come to accept that I will not always be approved of, online and off. But that I will do my best to create an online identity that is congruent with whatever me I am.

But I need to remember that there will always be more to me than how I present at any given time, what I post ( Lang 2014 ) and others’ response to it.

So no, I didn’t sack my therapist. Because she really is great, whether she likes me or not.

References:

Andreassen, C, Pallersen S and Griffiths M 2017 ‘ The Relationship between addictive and use of social media, narcissism, and self esteem: Findings from a large national survey’ . Journal of Addictive Behaviours, Vol 64, Jan 2017 pp 287 – 293. Netherlands – Elsevier Science.

Smith, S and Watson J. 2014, ‘Virtually Me: A Toolbox about online Self Presentation’ in Poletti, A and Rak J. 2014, Identity Technologies: Constructing the Self Online, University of Wisconsin Press, Wisconsin.

Lang, K. 2014. ‘Being Authentic in a Digital World’. Ted Talk. You Tube.

One Day…

Turns out that just owning one is not enough. Or staring at it. Photo Bernie Ryan.

This is my lap top. I bought it in 2011.

Yep. It’s the same one. Note the dent on the lower right.

It hasn’t had an easy life.

I remember when I bought it. I felt I had arrived in that place in grown up land that ‘everyone’ else had competently conquered years before.

Fast forward to 2019 and I still don’t know how to use it properly.

It took me 20 minutes to work out how to upload this image.

And if my 2011 Mac Book Pro ( we wish ) were one of my teenagers I’m sure it would be rolling its eyes.

Although as I type these words, I remember that it took me 48 hours and five apple care saints last week, to deliver me past this spinning wheel .

So I guess it has been…

Drastic Times. Drastic Measures

I had great plans for my Mac in 2011, when at the age of 44, I decided that time was running out for me to become an author.

Or a business woman. Or a singer. Or an inspiration to anyone.

So I needed to get my shit together fast if I was going to make ‘One-day’ happen before I turned 50.

Because every woman lives with the silent terror of that inevitability.

The closer we get to 50, the harder it seems to remember many of our hopes and dreams, let alone nab them before they disappear completely.

Like single socks into the washing machine abyss.

But here we are in 2019 and I am still not breaking the internet when I google search my name.

For despite many things and people to be grateful for to this point, lots of other things have come undone in and around me since 2011.

And like my children on so many apparently endless car trips, I’ve found myself increasingly wondering, ” Am I there yet ” ?

And will I ever be?

Am I there at that place where the kids have grown up, and I have enough time, money or solitude to start writing? Am I recovered enough from life’s hurts? Am I wise enough, smart enough, inspired enough, fit enough, still young enough ( oops ), savvy enough? Have the family challenges subsided? The health crises? The relationship strains? Do I have enough money? Do I own that retreat near the water, or the mountains, or the hinterland from within which tomes of literary genius will be unleashed…?

Have I finished my counselling sessions, wordpress tutorials, coaching, digital marketing, personal development and writing courses? Is the household calm, quiet, clean….?

Um.

That would be a negative on all the above.

‘There’ is Here after all…

However what I have realised recently, is that I was always ‘There’.

I was There while we raised our four children in seven different homes in eight years.

I was There during teenage angst, drugs, car accidents, and tattoos.

I was already There juggling working nights, school fees, bills, family relationship breakdowns and cancer diagnoses. I was There when simply getting through the minutes of each day, felt like breathing in shards of broken glass.

And I was There when I had to end a 25 year Social Work career in 2015, after being dragged kicking and screaming into a diagnosis of PTSD.

I was There during the insomnia, the memory loss, anxiety, panic attacks, shivers, shaking and endless tears. I was there when I thought I was losing my mind, and future all at once.

And I was There, when getting to 50 was no longer about lighting up the internet.

But simply staying alive.

And now, I am Here. And I can tell you that there is no ‘There’ that will ever be the perfect time to start writing. But there is always the ‘Here’. And this story, my unfolding story, is the one that needs to be told. And it is not finished.

So what do you do, when you are 48, a frustrated writer with no other career options, and you have to totally reinvent yourself?

You lean on an army of good people, go to a lot of counselling and learn all of Brene Brown’s Ted Talks by heart…

And…

“ You must do the thing you think you cannot do ” – Eleanor Roosevelt

So, you start a blog.

Or in my case, and with support, you enrol in a university blogging unit

( #ALC708 Thanks Deakin Uni ) – to MAKE you start a blog.

And in doing so I realised that ‘One-day’ has arrived and reinvention is a daily commitment to start from wherever I am now, in imperfection.

And to learn as I go. By Doing.

Just as I am learning how to use this bloody website. Because I believe that the B Side of my life is going to be fabulous. And I hope, so will you. Because we older women are not done yet. We are just getting started.

But this time, we have the runs on the board that our younger selves were lost without.