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Last night I uploaded a new profile picture to Facebook.

Lev019

The Likes I received were incredible/ridiculous/many. Every time I checked my phone, the Likes had increased. I went out to yoga, put my phone on silent, and by the time I came home an hour and a half later, the number had skyrocketed further, still. As I write, I’m on 209 Likes and 23 extremely generous and complimentary comments. That’s a Like Record for me, the most I’ve had on anything I’ve posted over my five plus years on the social media platform.

So, I’m thinking, ‘Wow, this is great! People think I’m attractive, people like what I’m wearing, my smile, the composition of the photo, or a combination of all of the above’. It made me feel good, I felt (no pun intended), Liked. I felt more worthy than I had a few hours before, I felt more accepted and somehow, more legitimate, as a valuable, equal member of my peer group, of society, if I can to take it to that extent.

Here’s the problem: I recently had a professional photo shoot at a professional photography studio. I had my hair and make-up done by an ‘artist’, was shot by a professional photographer, and the team used ‘props’ like a fan to blow my hair around, made lighting and furniture adjustments, and positioned me in ways they thought complementary to my figure/features/whatever. Essentially, they directed me into looking ‘good’. The photographer said she had all the knowledge and experience needed to produce the most flattering shots and I was (and still am) grateful for her keeping to her promise.

But, how do I know she succeeded?

Because one of those photographs is the one I made my profile picture less than 24 hours ago. That same one with the most Likes, kind comments and good feelings that have come as a result of the finished product.

Oh, there’s another Like. 210, now.

So, here’s the thing. What does it say about me that this course of events and tiny clicks, minute actions by others, granted, by you, that have led me to feel a significantly increased my self-esteem over a short period of time? How else could I have achieved this sense of okay-ness on my own? Am I so dependent on others that I am unable to pick myself up?

And, perhaps, what does it say about you? Is this a situation you’ve too, been in?

What lesson does it teach me, or us, about our society? About praise, about dependence, about the relationship between looking good and feeling good?

Instant gratification. Social media provides me – and I suspect most of my generation if not everyone active across the various platforms – with comments, Likes, Followers, that give me a sense of achievement. For that second that I’ve got someone else’s attention, I’ve been thought of, considered, mentioned.

Truth is, my presence in your mind probably is only momentary, fleeting if anything was. You’ve no doubt now scrolled down your newsfeed and Liked three other Friends photos, status’ or Shares. But in our fast-moving world, that moment I was present with you is as significant as I can ask for.

But, here’s the thing. Is that person in that picture you Liked actually me? I mean sure, it’s me – the image captures my hair, my face, my favourite clothes, my ring, my posture. But, I’ve been manipulated. Edited. Touched up.

Granted, it wasn’t actually touched up a whole lot. If I had a copy of the original, organic, un-Photoshoped photo, I’d post it here for you to make that judgement yourself. I saw it before editing though, and I’d say they only smoothed out a few blemishes or whatever they deemed to be imperfections on my face or something.

But, what about all these pre-production adjustments? I spent a good 20 minutes getting my hair and make-up perfected before they even considered taking me into the proper studio (for lack of a better word) part of the ‘studio’. Yes, they opted for a fairly natural look (upon request), and they let me bring my own clothes. So, I suppose the final photograph could be considered a fairly realistic representation of who I am. But, what is troubling is knowing that had I uploaded this picture (see below) instead, I’d probably be sitting on a solid, oh, five Likes, if I’m lucky. And they’d most likely be from my nearest and dearest who fit the ‘take me as I am’ brief.

Photo on 18-12-2013 at 3.24 pm

We’re constantly being bombarded by Photoshopped images of celebrities, by messages of the ‘ideal’ body type, skin colour, hairstyle. We’re told, heck, dictated to, what’s ‘hot’, what’s ‘in’, asked ‘who wore it better’, shown so-and-so’s ‘biggest blunder’.

To be honest, it’s all fucked.

And I can only say this because I play into this culture of externally-identified ideals of perfection and sources of assurance. I’m a victim and an offender but it’s perpetual, it’s enthralling, it’s insane.

We, as a society, have an addiction to judgement. We draw conclusions from un-evidenced or unsubstantiated data. We take thing at face value and buy into advertising, media reporting and gossip without stopping to consider our deeper values or attitudes.

Even when just taking that photo above on my computer’s Photo Booth, I took a couple. I wanted to look my best ‘in a bad situation’ (read; day at home, no make-up, dirty hair). Side note: omfg the temptation to edit that picture was enormous.

But, why is this? I’m not saying we don’t have the right to want to feel beautiful, to feel accepted and to want to be happy. Naturally, that’s an inherent aspect of building one’s self-esteem, something no one should be denied. It’s something principally deeper than that.

It’s more about how we source that emotion, and questioning why we value certain ‘sources’ over others.

And, it’s also about how much we rely on social media for quantified assurance and positive reinforcement.

211 Likes.

I don’t want to play the blame game anymore than I have, nor do I believe this culture has come about as a consequence of a single event/person/aspiration. It’s a process, it’s constantly evolving. And no one is immune (J-Law, case in point).

212 Likes.

I’m not anti-make-up, anti-media, or even anti-Photoshop.

But, if I – or you – can’t upload any picture of ourselves in equal self-confidence, and are dependent on external input to confirm or trash our mood and opinion of ourselves, I think there’s at least something to think about.

Print publications two days in a row – lucky, or what? A snippet of this post appeared in today’s Age newspaper. You can check it out online here.

photo-2

 

Additionally, check out this article written by Olav Murrlink, a Research Fellow at the Griffith University’s Griffith Business School. He explains the metrics behind the new advertising to content radio, and how it will impact upon revenue, content and presentation.

TheAge_690x300

Dear Fairfax Media,

Oh, what has come of this new Age?

Today marks The Age’s first edition in a new ‘compact’ format. But, unfortunately the paper I opened this morning seems to have been filled with more advertising than quality journalism one would expect from such a longstanding source of professional news reporting. I appreciate the arduous process you’ve gone through to establish, edit and produce this new Age, but the result is something much more like those trashy tabloids it sits next to in Victoria’s news agencies. The font, the increased type, the colour-coding system… they’re all lost on me, I’m afraid. And despite your claim that this evolution will make the paper ‘Easier to pick up, [and] harder to put down’, my personal track record is telling otherwise.

Maybe it was just the kind of day I’ve had: first day back at university for the year, new subjects, new people, early morning trains to catch, no seat to sit on on a peak hour train, conversations to be had, internet to distract me and breakfast to be eaten. But as I’ve mentioned I’m a loyal, daily reader of the printed news. And this paper is far from welcoming.

You say you ‘Got the answer, no questions asked’, but maybe you should have asked some questions.  You used experts (tick) to monitor readers (tick) using neurological technologies (tick) to gain insight into their unconscious (tick). It sounds impressive when you put it like that, I’ll admit. But consider this sentence – page 20, teal coloured News section of today’s edition – ‘More than 100 readers of The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald were asked to read both broadsheet and compact versions of the newspapers in real-life conditions…’. More than 100 readers of two major newspapers? That’s all you could manage? And real-life conditions? Shit, that must’ve been hard to emulate! Now tell me, Fairfax, what was the demographic of the sample you ‘asked’ to participate in your ‘research’? Were they representative of your current readership? The readership you’d like to gain? Or maybe those you’d like to lose? And you say results found compacts were ‘considerably more engaging…”obviously [with] great results for our advertisers too”‘. Well from what I can tell, the greatest advertising source in today’s paper is you, yourselves. Yes, you must have some kind of explanation as to why you’ve made this terrible decision to move to a more ‘engaging’ format but I highly doubt it warrants five pages of advertising within the first 21 pages of space used for NEWS reporting. Is this really the biggest news of the day? And if it’s not news, then your colour-coding is lying to me. On day one!

Additionally, instead of having maybe, six or seven articles to a page, we now have one, and that one report takes up half the space while the other 50% is filled with advertising (and as we established, mostly yours). Your paper is now more ads than news, and the funny thing is, on pages 20 and 21, you’re advertising your new format to those who’ve already made it that far into the paper. Chances are they’re wanting more real news and less ads at this point, yet the surprises today just keep on coming. You explain Matt Martel “spent a couple of hundred dollars buying up French newspapers, Spanish newspapers, Dutch newspapers…” to see what ‘worked’ and what didn’t. But maybe that money could have been better spent interviewing Australians, your primary readers, and you could have applied those findings to your investigation.

And the thing is, it’s not the compact format I am against. I am a frequent user of Melbourne’s public transport system. I like to read my news, in the morning, in print. The broadsheet was awkward to hold and its pages were messy to turn in such close proximity to other commuters. But what I am challenging here, is the content. The way it is presented. The news to advertising ratio. The commercial look. The cheesy use of colour. The font that reminds me of comic sans even though it’s not. The weather page is hard to understand. The ‘cheap factor’ has increased and the aesthetic appeal has been washed away with last week’s rain. And now a footy fanatic must wait until their spouse/friend/family member has finished reading about global politics before they can analyse their team’s victory from Sunday’s twilight match. Or vise-versa. And clealry, that is about as far from Melbournian as it comes.

So, Greg Hywood (CEO and MD), David Housego (CFO) and the Board of Fairfax Media, I ask you, what would the late David Syme, founder and cultivator of your fruits, say about this new Age? Or maybe you could just ask some of your loyal readers, that might be easier.

I want to coin #bringbackbroadsheet and set it off on Twitter. I want you to know how I feel, and how I’ve no doubt, many of your thousands of readers feel. Because today is no doubt, one of the Darkest Days in Australian Media. Stuff sport, politics and the ‘big banks’ lies’ you speak of. You’ve topped the lot. And prepare for the onslaught and retaliation you’ve sparked. Because you can’t change a Melbourne institution without hearing from the people. So hear you will.

I remember the night I was gifted my first mobile phone. Mum, Dad and I were sitting at a local restaurant – fine dinning, with while table cloths and polished silver to boot – and I had just been announced as (Co-) Captain of my school. I was super excited, but also bummed because I’d really wanted House Captain of my house, Oswald, so I could spend my time making up chants and buying green pom-poms and get kudos for it. But there I was, co-captain of the Junior School. And all that responsibility and achievement in my parents’ eyes had merited my very first cellular telephone. I. Was. Stoked. Not a lot of my 11-year-old friends had a mobile phone, but I distinctly remember one friend who had the prized Nokia 3200, one of those ones where you could change the cover and even collage your own on paper and stick it under that wonderful plastic backing. And the game of the moment was Bounce. Fuck, I loved Bounce. Getting that little red ball over jumps and passing levels. I remember when I finally finished the game (ie. completed all the levels), I felt like I’d won the lottery. Bounce was kind of a progression from the Old School Snake (an example of a game that has disintegrated and disappointed thousands of kids across the globe through it’s reincarnations). I played snake on my mum’s Nokia 3410, which she got as part of her work plan. Now I’m more of a Sudoku kinda gal. Gotta love a bit of Sudoku when you can’t sleep at night.

Nokia 3200

Nokia 3200

Nokia 3410

Nokia 3410

But my obsession with all things mobile started prior to my school captain election, in Year Five. We were given the task of our own personal project. We could research, write up and present to the class on any topic we wanted. So while most sensible girls chose to study volcanoes and make cool explosions with bicarbonate soda happen on classroom tables, I set out to ‘prove’ to my parents I needed a mobile phone. The truth be told, I did very little actual research for that project and I don’t know how I got a good mark for it because the teacher must have known I was full of crap. I remember sitting in front of our old, big, blue-backed Mac in my dad’s studio, typing up lines that were founded and composed completely from my imagination. Obviously a bibliography was not important in Year Five, or if it was on the criteria, it certainly wasn’t checked prior to marking. I probably just bullshitted and wrote http://www.nokia.com, http://www.sonyericsson.com and http://www.telstra.com without even clicking a button. So from memory, I ‘analysed’ the best plans to go on, the benefits of Telstra vs. Nokia (clearly not comparable ‘items’ one being a provider and one being a phone manufacturer), and printed and cut out pictures of phones I thought were pretty cool and would look good in my hot little hands. Pretty hilarious nearly a decade on. Since then Sony Ericsson has dropped the Ericsson and Nokia’s have been largely superseded by the infamous iPhone and it’s competitors. But the aim of my project was to get a phone. And I guess it worked.

My first phone was the Nokia 2600. I remember taking it home, opening up the manual and letting it ‘fully charge’ over a no doubt sleepless night. It lit up for the first time and I went to school a very happy chap. Not long after, I got a Roxy lanyard and a purple Von Dutch cover for my buddy, and I was right up there with the cool kids. Who could resist a girl with a cellular in her pocket?

Nokia 2600

Nokia 2600

In the summer between Years Five and Six, my family took a trip all the way up the east coast of Australia. We stopped off in Canberra, and then drove for two full days before reaching the Sunshine Coast. I think that entire summer I spent only $10. I reached the end of my credit period (my phone was prepaid) with over $80 left. I was economical and responsible, and I was proud. I also was highly antisocial and rude to anybody that texted me as I’d only reply to the most important of messages, things that deserved a reply. I don’t think I ever made a phone call. It was all about the texting. I remember my aunt and grandmother commenting on how good I was with my phone use, and my younger cousins being jealous of my new acquisition. My mum was so happy with my (bare minimum) usage, and I managed to keep it up for quite a long time. I think I mainly used it to tell the time and played around with all the settings and the screen savers. Oh, and the games.

At the time, personalising your ringtone was just about the coolest thing you could ever dream of. I remember being excited when I got my 2600 because the manual said it had polyphonic ringtones. My mum’s stock standard 3410 was only capable of blasting monophonic brutalities of Bach and Mozart, whereas I could have Rhumba and Calypso. Life was a dream. Television ads selling ringtones and tacky screensavers were common, and watching late at night gave one options some might consider verging on pornographic, suitable for Adult Viewers only. I remember visiting the Vodafone store on my phone and laboriously considering ringtone after ringtone, wondering whether it would be worth all of those $3, and if it would unknowingly find me in a situation of monthly deductions from my $10 allowance. I don’t remember ever making the purchase. It was probably for the best. Mobile phone providers and fellows seem to have a knack when it comes to scheming and reeling in customers unawares.

But things got complicated when other friends got the Nokia 6101, and similar phones that had more impressive features than my 2600. Infrared was never really used amongst my cohort, but Bluetooth became all the rage. Flip phones were ‘in’ and my lanyard was pulling me back. So my jealously and I grew simultaneously. On another note, for some reason, Year Six saw a rebirth of the Tamagotchi. And I refused to get one, because I wanted to be the first one to be ‘over’ it. You see I was ahead of the pack in other ways. I’m still kind of like that, refusing to get involved in things because I want to be the first one who’s passed it. I tried this with Instagram and succeeded for a while. I thought it was pretentious. But whom am I kidding? Photos of food, feet and (duck) faces are sadly addictive (and eat up my data allowance every month).

Nokia 6101

Nokia 6101

With Year Seven came new friends, a new experience despite being at the same school, and new mobile phone trends. Around this time, Orange was phased out and 3 because the hottest provider. Friends held their mobiles together tight when transferring songs via Bluetooth, much like one did with a Tamagotchi. The strength of the Bluetooth signal wasn’t revealed until later, when we realized immediate proximity wasn’t as necessary as we’d previously thought. I remember pressing play for Anthony Callea’s Rain on my portable CD player and holding my phone next to the speakers to try and record an enviable ringtone. Unfortunately, I was unsuccessful, one, because it sounded like crackly shit, and two, because apparently, Anthony Callea was in fact not cool. At the same time, I unfortunately made my email address about him, and created a Piczo site with the URL of ‘mscallea’. Obviously my priorities were in tact, and my preference in guys, spot on. When I found out he was gay I was pretty devastated.

My Year Three teacher’s fiancé had proposed to her while he was swimming in the shark tank at the Melbourne Aquarium. And he worked for Sony Ericsson. So basically, I thought the company must have been pretty sweet to get a guy like him. I got my Sony Ericsson z550 as a present from my grandmother around Year Eight. Super happy to get a phone with Bluetooth (and a camera!), I was all over that shit. Until the first one had a technical malfunction. And the second one, I dropped straight into a glass of water at a restaurant, in front of the grandmother who’d purchased the product for me. And the third one, which was stolen. Boo.

Sony Ericsson z550

Sony Ericsson z550

I called my number from my mum’s phone after realizing it’d been stolen and the guy who’d stolen it answered it with “Fuck off, Mum”. Obviously it’d said ‘Mum calling’. I cried. I also remember losing one yellow and one metallic green Haviana thong that night. Should have thought about being trendy and indie, wearing one of each before realizing that I’d be stuck with a permanently mismatching pair of thongs as a result. You live and you learn.

Throughout the rest of Year Eight and Year Nine, I made my way through a number of friends and family member’s old phones. None of them were memorable, and many were largely unworkable, too. I chose to go the summer between these two years, mobile free. I was again, pretty ahead of the game, but maybe by 200 years or something (will they ever be entirely superseded?) and it kind of sucked when I couldn’t wish a friend happy birthday because I was stuck in northern New South Wales without access to another phone. I thought she’d hate me after that. To my surprise, we happened to be mature enough to move our friendship beyond it.

My next new (read: store bought) phone was the oh-so-common silver Nokia 3110, probably still living an infrequent existence today. It came with a Casino Royale theme and got me through the long days, late nights and drunken calls of Year Ten. Its camera was sharp and enabled me to have crappy techno music as my ringtone, so I was sufficiently happy. With this as my staple, I seemed to pass over the various editions of the fad, pink Motorola Razr’s which greeted you with “Hello, Moto” each time someone turned them on. Additionally, I missed the craze of slide phones and the Nokia E Series. That was definitely due to my insistence that I would not get something that everyone else had. Instead, in 2010, I got the Blackberry Curve 8520, which I never turned off silent or vibrate, so much so that when I passed it onto my mum the next year and heard it ring, it’s sound was foreign and unrecognizable.

Nokia 3110

Nokia 3110

Motorola Razr

Motorola Razr

Nokia E(72) Series

Nokia E(72) Series

Blackberry Curve 8520

My Blackberry saw me through hard times and some months my $29 cap was barely dented. I have always had a thing about saving messages, and it has been very rare that I ever delete one. I’m sentimental and a hoarder. Not the greatest trait to have but technology comes with a lot of memory these days, so why delete if it isn’t necessary? I loved its trace/sense mouse and enjoyed the having the full QWERTY keyboard to twiddle my thumbs over. I got into apps with my Blackberry, most notably Facebook, which I had unlimited access to. I also checked my email and did a few web-based things on it but it was pretty clear that it was a man’s phone, a business phone. Is that sexist? Probably.

Just after finishing school, I got a car and finally rose to meet the iPhone trend. I decided holding back from this one for the sake of individuality would actually be stupid rather than self-proving. And I’m so glad I did. I do use folders under the titles of Utilities, Reference, Games, News, Uni & Work, Photography, Melbourne, Sound and Health, but some of the apps don’t really fit into the folder they’re found in. Facebook and Twitter are out there on their own, showing their significance, and the frequency of which I use them. After placing such a focus on transferring music via Bluetooth in the past and making sure you had enough memory to do to, the iPod is now an inherent feature of the iPhone. Alongside its touchscreen, it’s almost strange to imagine being without it. And from monophonic tones through to techno trash, I now settle for the factory default ringtone and message tone. I’ve never even bothered to look twice. I love the Do Not Disturb setting, and the way everything syncs with my beloved MacBook Pro, including iMessage working across Apple platforms. My iPhone 4s completes me. We are engaged and in love. And it’s the greatest, most superficial and one-sided relationship I’ve ever had.

iPhone 4s

iPhone 4s

I don’t know if I’m part of Generation Y, or Generation Z, or the Techno Generation. But I know that my generation’s use of mobile phones, living in a developed country, has evolved as I have. My friends and I have gone from playing games on each other’s phones, to asking to look at another’s phone and pretend to be playing games while really reading messages to find out what they’re hiding, and have now reached a stage where our mobile phone ownership and use is fairly independent from one another, if not incredibly dependent on the device itself. But it’s the way of the world. And nothing’s going to stop its constant evolution. But as a consequence, the next time someone fails to reply to your message within a few hours, you’d be pretty right to think they‘re hating on you. But in the same respect, don’t be one of those people who sends messages consisting only of question marks. Because no one likes a hassle-r. So save yourself. Because that’s one reputation you’ll struggle to lose.

Today I was in the city with friends and money arose as a topic of conversation. How to make money, how much money things are worth, and what we paid for certain acquisitions. One friend had paid $70 for the t-shirt she was wearing. The other was wearing a shirt that he’d cut to suit his own style, supposedly worth $100 at the time of purchase. Food was bought, myki cards were topped up with money for necessary travel into and out of the city, and we were all (of course) dressed and groomed with clothes and styling products/makeup/at-least-shampoo that had cost someone some dosh somewhere along the line, too.

We talked about haircuts. How much to get your hair dyed at a salon? How much to do it yourself? I used to have bright pink, dip-dyed ends on my long (read: extra spending) hair. I don’t know how much it cost because my mum paid for it, but I know that it was a lot. I also know that I had to pay the same stylist to un-dye it when I changed schools to meet the school’s uniform policy. I’ve also dyed my hair on many occasions at home, or with a friend, for a much smaller price. A packed of hair dye might cost anywhere between $10 and $35, depending on the brand. My friend’s hair was dyed currently, and she’d saved herself some money by cutting it and dyeing it herself. Boys, on the other hand, we were informed, needed their hair cut every four weeks, my other friend told us. So while guys haircuts are usually much cheaper, the cost adds up when you take into account how frequent their trips to the hairdresser are. Or how shitty the hair dye you buy from the supermarket is and need to re-dye it after its faded a week after you last forked out $15.

While we were out, one friend wanted to buy a ring, but it was $20 she didn’t have right now. The other told me his iPhone earphones were ‘only $35’. And that’s when it hit me. On January 1st, the Labor government cut the Newstart Allowance significantly, to an equivalent of just $35 a day. The majority of Newstart recipients are single parents (mostly mothers), meaning that not only does that $35 have to sustain one person for a day, it is likely to need to be stretched to support two, or more persons, children with needs, wants and wishes a parent only dreams to fulfil.

When you think of $35 it might not sound that bad right off the bat. But as soon as you start to consider some of the things mentioned above, it disappears without a trace. Hell, that’s without life’s necessities of health care, educational expenses (such as tutoring), extra curricular activities, hobbies, a gym membership to keep you in decent shape, food, rent and other living costs. How one, let alone multiple people are meant to survive on just $35 a day baffles me completely.

Families Minister Jenny Macklin suggested that she could do it. Acting Greens Leader Adam Bandt will actually go on the dole for a week and see how he fairs with such a measly amount. But the experiment, while interesting, will be rather inconclusive because everyone, including Mr Bandt, knows that once his seven days are up, he’ll be going back to conditions that enable him to work, eat, sleep and thrive as a politician and as an Australian not subject to these conditions.

I doubt anyone would choose to live consistently on $35. The unemployment crisis in Australian is again, set to peak, and as a person without a job, the prospects for gaining one are looking slim. Of course, I am lucky to be fully supported by family, but I cannot imagine this news being sunny for anyone. Especially those receiving the Newstart Allowance who are being told it is just a safety net and are highly encouraged to go back to work. What if there is no work to go back to?

So tonight when you are spending money on dinner, drinks, a movie or even on petrol, spare a thought for those that aren’t so fortunate to own a car, to go out to eat, or who can only afford fast food. Without money for formal or organised exercise, or the motivation to better yourself provided by such environments, many will find themselves travelling down a path of chronic disease and ill health… but that’s another story. And anyway, the government and tax payers have got their back, right? Yeah, right.

This is my first Christmas as a user of the popular smartphone app, Instagram. I refused to jump on the bandwagon for many months, making excuses that it was just another way for people to be pretentious, capturing their lives and applying filters for friends to double tap images in approval. Like many social mediums, it puts a focus on external reinforcement of your value as a person, through gaining followers and posting photos interesting enough for people to active their thumb and let you know. Props go out to those with more followers than those they follow. Pretentious – I think so.

But nonetheless, I have grown particularly fond of my Instagram account, as is commonplace with its millions of users. Last week, Instagram (owned by Facebook) issued a new set of Terms and Conditions to come into effect in January, 2013. The new set of agreements stated that any images on a public profile could potentially be used by the company for their own advertising purposes, without making payment to the image’s original owner. However, Sky News has reported, “Instagram has no intention of selling your photos, and we never did. We don’t own your photos, you do.” Love a good bit of backlash to get regain our rights, huh?

Anyhow, on any given day I might log into Instagram a couple of times an hour, when I’m bored, when I have reception, or when I have an image to upload, myself. My usage of the app varies, but not a day goes by where I am completely sans Instagram. I am a product of my generation, but I feel my (over?)use of the program is not unusual amongst my peers. I follow friends predominantly, but also models, musicians and photographers from around the world, whose accounts I find are often updated from ‘a place I’d rather be’ (thanks, Corona).

So today I expected an increase in Instagram use due to the fact that it is Christmas Day (read my last post for my thoughts and wishes here), but what was once a platform where I may get one or two updates an hour, has been utterly transformed into an almost literal constant photo feed of celebrations, meals (Instagram – forever a foodie’s heaven), Christmas trees, dinning room tables adorned with Christmas crackers, champagne glasses, extended family clans, a multitude of presents, dressed up animals (with a variety of expressions), alcohol, scenic views, and brothers and sisters putting on a smile for the family photo.

So many photos, so little time one would think, on a day where it is important to be physically present and enjoying the company of those around you. But that’s the digital age for you, one where we are constantly connected, forever updating our profiles, our cyber existence, our Data Maps.

Regardless, I’ve enjoyed captured moments of Christmas from around the world, and for that, I have Instagram to thank. We had many funny moments here at our family Christmas, including my grandfather giving my dad a stack of presents most likely meant for my mum or me – a beautiful set of genuine Milano pearls as a multi-tiered necklace, a purse, bags and more, and he himself joining the digital age at 90, with a new mobile phone. Christmas is definitely something special.

You can follow me on Instagram at @elevfen.

And I recommend you follow these users too for your daily dose of viewing pleasure: Lynette Scott – @nett35, Doina Ciobanu – @goldendiamonds, Kristina Bazan – @kristina_bazan, @interiorinspiration, Charmaine Olivia – @charmaineolivia, @homes_, and Rumi Neely – @rumineely.

I’ve just got home from a run/walk around my local area and although I had no doubts, Christmas is definitely on its way. People are celebrating the holidays by decorating their shop windows, homes, and streets, and citizens dress up and don their cars with antlers.

It got me thinking about the Christmas tradition as I’ve experienced it living in Australia, and how this may differ to other parts of the world. As I jogged past homes I smelled the beginnings of a Christmas feast wafting through windows and onto the footpath. One house smelt particularly – and peculiarly – of salt and vinegar chips, while many others held the smell of barbecued meats, an Australian tradition, through and through. At my house tomorrow, a turkey will be served along with a Christmas pudding and treats that are commonplace in the northern hemisphere.

I live near a street that celebrates Christmas each year by putting on a show of lights, drawing crows of thousands over the 10 or so days leading up to the 25th. I ran down this street and noted the blown up Santas and their sleighs juxtaposed against the Streets ice-cream van and the makeshift coffee stand. While Australian and especially Melbourne weather can be unpredictable and ever changing, it would be fairly safe to assume that in Australia, your Christmas day is going to be warm, if not hot and sunny. It’s funny then, that the holiday has been transposed to our climate and infused with Australian culture, yet we still maintain the traditional elements of the holiday that make much more sense in an environment ravaged by snow and freezing temperatures.

Four years ago, I spent Christmas in Berlin, where it was indeed cold, and Christmas lunch was spent with good friends, a roast, and time by the burning fire. Everything about Christmas screamed warmth and joy, with carols sung as a hearty way of recognising the brutal but beautiful conditions outside the walls of one’s home. Here at home, I find that while many of these traditions are commonplace, it fails to fit our climate, and Carols by Candlelight has turned into a pop concert, rather than a true celebration of the holiday.

However, I guess you could interpret this as our way of acclimatising the holiday to our culture. And I suppose that’s what has occurred over time. But what would happen if we decided as a nation, or it happened that those in the southern hemisphere, or in warmer climates during this end of year period, that we should change our celebration of Christmas to July? I know that religiously, this doesn’t make sense. But so much of Christmas these days is just about shopping, presents and getting together as a family to celebrate each other, rather than the birth of Christ some 2000 years ago. And it’s not unheard of for people or workplaces to celebrate Christmas in July as a holiday in its own right, either. Then a roast lunch or dinner would be more fitting, as would all the reindeers and the chimney’s Santa uses as his entry and exit point to deliver his gifts.

The very fact that Santa lives in the North Pole and uses a sleigh to travel the night skies seems quite odd when you’ve had a 39 degree day on the 23rd of December, and are expecting to sweat your way through another Christmas.

The front page of The Age newspaper today showed a picture of Santa at a popular shopping centre, being fanned by one of his faithful elves, as he did swelter his way through yesterday’s heat. Maybe Australian Santas should decide to wear a more weather-appropriate suit, and ditch the hat for sunnies and stripes of zinc across their faces. Then they’d be promoting sensible sun exposure, too. Of course, I am writing this with a grain of salt (or a few), but I believe they are interesting points to consider.

The other part of the front page story was the tremendous increase of seafood sales over the Christmas period. People were stocking up on crayfish, prawns and lobster for their special day, which is an impressive adaptation as Australian’s may choose to feast on salads and pavlova, saving their turkey, chicken or ham for a cooler day.

In addition, the traditional colours of Christmas are red and green, which no doubt stand out spectacularly against the white snow of Europe and the United States. In Australia, however, they seem to blend in with the local flora, and with the drought now a thing of the past, at least momentarily, pretty much everything outside is some shade of green. Colour is incredibly symbolic across all holidays, countries and situations, and the green and red shades that dominate Christmas are ingrained into us as young children. Interestingly enough though, I can remember being in Venice in the lead up to Christmas in 2009, and what stood out most was the Italians use of white, or yellow lights to celebrate the holiday. There was little use of red or green as opposed to clear, bright globes to bring in the festivities.

Nonetheless, Christmas would not be the same without its traditions, whether they be obviously fitting or not. Colour is incredibly powerful. Take for example, the tragedy of the Sandy Hook shootings last week, and the way in which tribute pages across Facebook promoted wearing the school’s colours in remembrance of those killed. At first, on some accounts, the wrong colours were spread, but it was soon identified that the real colours to be worn in commemoration were green and white. On YouTube and in person, many people wore those colours to send their condolences and commemorate those lives. Similarly, at the one of the victim’s funeral, people were asked to dress in purple, in memory of her life and a person taken too soon. Last month, the family and friends of Melbourne woman, Sarah Cafferkey said goodbye to their loved one sporting the brightest of pinks, Cafferkey’s favourite colour. It is amazing that something so simple can penetrate a wonderful strength and a visible sense of community.

I also think of the people who, at this time of year, as caught in the depths of ill health, or find themselves without a family to go to on Christmas day. It is soothing to know that numerous charities, local groups and hospitals offer their residents a Christmas lunch, as no one should be alone during a time when it is so important to be surround by those who love and care for you. This is true for people of all religions. Even if you are Jewish, Muslim, an atheist, or of a different faith, Christmas falls near the close of another year, where we remember the year that was, and look forward to the year that is to be.

Today, the 24th of December, also happens to be my dad’s birthday, so today we are celebrating him, as well as preparing for tomorrow and all the days that follow.

Christmas time will bring unique experiences for each family, and individual circumstances will have an impact upon how you celebrate Christmas this year. But for all those celebrating, whether it be a birthday (of Christ or of someone dear to you), a public holiday, the end of a busy year in which the world did not end, or in fact, Christmas itself, I wish you good cheer and many happy 25th of Decembers to come.