it’s that time of year…
New Year’s resolutions are about as controversial as Marmite. Whilst I love Marmite, overall I’m mostly pretty disdainful of the idea of New Year’s resolutions, of the whole concept of having to wait to ring in a new year to do something to better yourself…it seems like an excuse to push something you know you already should be doing away into the distance.
Having said that, I can definitely recognise why they have become such an established ritual for so many. Regardless as to your personal thoughts towards New Year’s resolutions, I think we can all agree that the new year seems like a very apt time to refresh our minds and bodies and our general outlook on life. Post-Christmas indulgence reflection motivated me to write-up, therefore, both some thoughts in hindsight, and a few key things that I think we could all do with a bit more of as we head into the new year.
2016 brought us a fairly good heaping of negativity. We felt the shock waves of Brexit, experienced the terrifying rise and success of Donald Trump, witnessed the further and continued destruction of life in Syria, and were left reeling after the deaths of what felt like an incredible number of creative and musical legends. The continued rise of non-state actors like Daesh (ISIS) meant that we saw loss of life in various corners of the world, from Orlando, Nice and Brussels, to Istanbul, Kabul and Baghdad, contributing to a depressing culture of Islamophobic hate at the same time.
2017 seems like an uncertain and scary year, with Donald Trump already proposing some incredibly worrying legislation that will have an impact on multiple facets of society. Brexit is going to be a long, drawn out process, and we as a country must come together to prevent another tragedy, like the murder of the wonderfully inspiring Jo Cox, from taking place again. Britain and America, and the European continent too, are seeming to take an increasingly politically polarised and right-wing drift, and it is up to us to pull it back.
My aim here was not to come across as overwhelmingly pessimistic, because between the dark times that this year has thrown us, we have seen rays of immensely bright light and positivity, too. It is easy to become entirely bogged down in the negativity that we see plastered across our papers, and to forget that there is a way out. To throw some perspective into the mix, I imagine years like 1914 and 1939 seemed slightly more depressing…
This is where New Year’s resolutions come in. I think we really do underestimate the power of the little man, the influence we can have when our minds and voices become a collective and the wider, societal shifts that can come about when attitudes progress.
So, onto the New Year’s resolutions:
- Educate ourselves, constantly
There are few things more important than education, not in the restrictive sense of degrees and diplomas, but in the sense of broadening your mind, and in working to broaden others. It’s as easy as staying up to date with the news, and seeking it out more frequently. In almost every corner of the earth, wherever injustice reigns freely, no doubt there is a journalist covering it, an activist shouting from the roof tops about it. It is up to us to seek them out. Laziness is the root cause of ignorance.
History is littered with wars and genocides that were borne of the fruits of man’s ignorance and lack of education. I strongly believe that education breeds compassion, and we could all do with a little bit more of that.
- Be less materialistic
Greed for power and wealth is one of those humanistic instincts than when translated on to a state level, can lead to devastating wars and loss of life. From an individual level, it often feels like we have little say in the whims and desires of power-hungry and money obsessed politicians who put cash flows above the value of human life.
Government policies aside, however, and on a smaller, more human level, materialism is something we can totally work on in our own private spheres.
What got me thinking about this resolution was the Christmas period, as millions are spent in stores and online across the world. The older I’ve become, the more Christmas has drifted away from being a day orientated around presents to a day orientated around family and laughter and too much chocolate, and all the better for it. Despite the Christmas period being my all time favourite time of the year, I can’t help but feel it is tinged with a sadder note, of material greed, of bragging, of unrivalled excess at a time when love is meant to prevail above all else. What got me most this year I think was seeing people broadcasting all over their social media the height and depth of their present piles under their dazzling trees, or their heaped, opened gifts for everyone to see.
We often get wrapped up (pardon the pun) in our own happiness and our own personal situations, and forget that there are people far, far less fortunate than us. Consumerism and materialism has become so ingrained in us that we put advertising our comfortability and wealth above our thoughts and respect for others. There is nothing attractive about broadcasting your wealth when you know full well you are probably in a minority in the indulgences you can afford. And I don’t say this from jealousy, but both out of compassion, and as a reminder that the festive period is about far more than money spent and presents received.
- See things on social media for what they really are
Being able to detach social media from reality seems to be one of our generations biggest problems. I thank my lucky stars that I was probably in the last generation to escape it all until I was at a suitable age, and can safely say now that my children’s social media use will be the same, whether they hate me for it or not. When I was a child/pre-teen, all that phones could do was enable you to text, ring, and play snake. (Not knocking snake, snake was amazing.) There was no social media apps or even connection to the internet, and the only thing you could really do after school to keep up with others was MSN. Nowadays I see nine-year olds with Instagram accounts and seven-year olds on facebook. That is terrifying! Social media is a multi million pound industry, and everyone wants a piece of it, even the kids.
Social media can be a beacon of positivity and light, bringing together people from the furthest corners of the globe. Yet it can be equally as dark. I had enough issues with bullying on MSN back in the day, I dread to think how my social life would have played out had there been even more online outlets for the vindictiveness that pre-teens can muster!
What is most saddening is the falsity of it all; the false advertising, the false beauty standards, the false personas people adopt in order to be seen as more marketable. These are issues that even adults seem to fall victim to, and if we can’t even detach the falsity from the reality, how is a 10-year-old meant to as they go through an extremely tough and formative period of their lives?
Social media can be amazing, if we take it for what it is; if we recognise that Victoria’s Secret models don’t look like that every day, by ANY stretch of the imagination; that the YouTuber who always has the latest gadgets, clothes and makeup, is getting almost all of them for free; that the Instagram IT girl who has the most perfect life one could imagine, has bad days, breakouts and poos like the rest of us.
Why not head into the new year with a fresh outlook on social media? Unfollow all of those accounts that make you feel stirrings of jealousy and bitterness at the pit of your stomach. Switch your phone off when you hear a niggling voice complaining about the fact that that girl has everything, when you feel like all you have is spots and school deadlines.
Those are my resolutions. 2016 might not have been the best of years, but we shouldn’t underestimate the power we have to make positive alterations to both our own lives, and on those around us. 2017 might show itself to be a year of continued political and social turmoil, but we can at least go into it with a clearer and more rational head on our shoulders. What are yours?
Love always, Kirstie x