Why Google shouldn’t always be the answer

There is no doubt that the internet has changed the way we learn things – online courses, Youtube tutorials, how-to blogs, even e-books – the list is endless when it comes to the rich resources at our disposal.  Whenever we’re stuck on something, for example for me – it may be some weird glitch on Excel; I’ll have a browse on Google and suddenly find myself scrolling through a random IT advice forum thread looking for an answer. And let’s not lie – Google is pretty good at its job and will (eventually), four times out of five, usually provide a helpful answer to your query.

Cheers, mate: My polite response when someone gives me the ground breaking advice of ‘just google it’.

However, before the vortex that is the internet, humans were our first port of call for learning things. Apprentices in jobs that require the mastery of the hands – would closely shadow a professional in that field, carefully watching them at work, taking notes and eventually imitating. Similarly, before the numerous recipe blogs and Youtube vlogs out there – recipes were passed down orally or learnt through the close observation of family members preparing a certain dish.

Humans have and always will be valuable to the learning process – and this doesn’t stop in the face of the internet. It’s why I get slightly annoyed when someone asks a simple question and others patronisingly say ‘Why don’t you Google it?!’. Yes, they could definitely do that – and perhaps they will or plan as a second step; but is it so wrong that their first port of call was to actually ask you, a fellow human for your opinion? I don’t think so.

Of course, don’t get me wrong, there are definitely some instances where this attitude is justified. For example, when it comes to educating ourselves on the struggles of marginalised communities, referring to digital resources can often be a more thoughtful approach. This is simply because when asking questions to members of these communities, many people ‘on the outside’ often do so with a sense of entitlement – they don’t owe you or have a duty to educate you. There is often also an emotional labour that comes with explaining the struggles you go through as a marginalised person that can often threaten your peace or happiness, especially if you have to do it repeatedly. For example, many black individuals have to repeatedly explain why non-black people should not use the n-word; explanations that often go on deaf ears and knowledge that you probably have just gotten from Google without involving a poor soul who is probably tired of having this conversation.

This aside though, and overall – I think we need to be find a way to tip the balance and bring humans back into the learning process once more. And by that I mean, asking a question to someone as your first port of call. At the moment, it feels like the balance is skewed and the internet always takes priority – people will trudge through several pages and PDFs for answers, if it doesn’t mean apparently inconveniencing another soul. (To be honest I can’t say I’m 100% innocent on that front!) Yet, the danger is even when it comes to matters dealing with life or death, people will apply this mentality – they, for example, don’t want to bother doctors or they want a quick fix answer (which has a high chance of being incorrect depending on the source), they’ll therefore go to Dr Google and hope for the best.

As a world bombarded by tech, how do we go about changing something so ingrained into our behaviour and normalise…well, just asking people? God knows.

All I’ll say is next time someone asks you something – accept that yes, it could be googled but they’ve asked you and probably for a reason. Don’t chide them and sneeringly say (or type), ‘you should just google it’ – give them some credit. If you don’t know – just apologise, admit you don’t have an answer (or point them to another person or resource) and move on. It’s not that hard, it’s nice and it’s free.

Three Things I wish I had known before starting University

We’ve reached that point in the year where people have graduated in the summer in a flurry, albeit virtually due to government restrictions. September now marks the month many start university for the first time and others start the application process for university. I write this with these groups in mind as I hope I can relay some wisdom to them in order to help them make the most of their university experience.

  • Mental Health Matters

When I say university can be tough, I mean TOUGH in all caps. Reading can pile up and the occasional pest of essay writers block means writing an assignment is not a simple thing you can add to your to-do list and then quickly tick off. Rather, you have to chip away at it over gruelling hours of intense thought and typing. In the midst of all this it’s definitely easy for your mental health to take a back seat. From personal experience sometimes it seemed like every time I took a break i.e. listened to music, took a nap or decided to read something non-academic I was wasting time which could potentially be used to study. From that comes guilt which deters you from doing such relaxing activities often.

Stress can eat away at you for such reasons so it’s important to attend a university that has the mental health of its students high on the agenda; counselling services, leave of absence policies and available resources or stress reducing activities i.e. sports, Pilates, arts, baking etc are important to things to have on campus, for example. If I had known about this in advance, I would have definitely added mental health services to my list of criteria when choosing a university and I would advise prospective students who are shortlisting universities to do this too.

  • Any Placements available? 

I did a philosophy degree so I didn’t see much universities offering this option and I may be wrong but placements don’t often get offered with humanity degrees like the one I did. They’re unfortunately often only for practical based subjects like STEM degrees. But whilst on the search for my first graduate role I realised what a difference one year of work experience (which is what you get on a placement) could make. It would particularly help when trying to tackle the now very common issue of employers require 1-3 years work experience for entry level roles. Or…employers could just be more realistic with expectations and become more willing to invest and train graduate employees, but I degress…

  • University can be lonely.
Photo by Jopwell on Pexels.com

I think this realisation kicked in more in third year if anything. Particularly if all your friends are studying different courses or live away from you this can cause difficulty in frequently aligning your schedules to meet up. This becomes more of the case during exam season where everyone tends to cut themselves off from people more than usual in order to minimise distractions. It puts you in a weird position where you tend to savour social interactions and become more grateful for them. I remember watching late night dramas or having conversations about philosophy and politics with my flatmates in second year and those are honestly some of my more treasured memories. You go away feeling lighter, feeling happier and feeling closer.

Friends are what help to shape the university experience since its purely not enough to attend and attempt to survive with a ‘I only came here to study mentality’. When they say you get what you put in, this applies well to friendships at uni. Where I met most of my friends is through my course and through random societies – socialising with people within these two groups is the best way to bond with people who have similar interests/passions to you.

That’s it from me! I hope this was helpful; people often tend to romanticise the university experience and although yes, it can be rewarding it definitely has its difficulties too. This shouldn’t put you off but it’s always worth having such knowledge so you dive into the experience well equipped and well informed.

5 Struggles with Adulting

What is it about being an adult that is so hard?

I guess for me personally I still feel like my 18-year-old self at times. To explain that further, when I turned 19 I felt no different than I felt when I was 18; this feeling happened pretty much every birthday until next thing you know – BAM, you’re in your 20s. Yes, you’re technically an adult and everyone is treating you as such but your mind is still in the teenage zone and not ready to adjust. The only way I can describe the feeling is like when as a child you were prematurely pushed down the playground slide before you felt ready; usually by an impatient child crouching behind you. The things that make being an adult hard can’t really be pinpointed or reduced to one thing so I’ve placed five I’ve thought of below. I can guarantee you there is more than five but since I’m writing a blog post and not a book, five it is.

1. Fending for yourself.

Love makes the world go around and so does money – and you start to understand that more as you grow. The inadequacies of the education system coupled with traditional financial institutions leave one very confused adult. Three areas to master are; spending -making wise purchases, budgeting – looking for opportunities to help you spend less and saving – putting money aside for a certain goal or future rainy day. Key to mastering these areas in self control – something we can have in droves and at other times not have at all. It’s especially hard when your#’re about to purchase an item on a website’s check out and have to ponder the question ‘do I really need this?‘ – trust me, I’ve been there way too often!

To avoid your mind scrambling I recommend getting a ‘money manual’ a go-to guide explaining some finance basics that you can keep in reach on the shelf; mine is Money: A User’s Guide by Laura Whateley.

2. Navigating the World of Work.

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Photo by You X Ventures on Unsplash

Especially when you’ve never had a full-time job before – the world of work can be quite confusing to navigate. From job applications and interviews to steering through office politics, difficult colleagues and performance anxiety on the job – it can all be very daunting. I remember reading my first payslip and thinking ‘what does this evening mean?!’ On top of that, there are the indirect things linked to work like figuring out your ‘personal brand’ and networking which aren’t exactly necessary but are advised. These are things no-one properly talks about in-depth, or they expect you to get used to such concepts very quickly. The truth is, that it can definitely take some time – and a lot of googling!

3. Balancing Self-care with other’s needs

This is one of the never-ending tightropes we have to walk in life. I’ve written in the past about listening to others and how caring for others is linked to our self-care; this is because as a Christian I believe that loving others as much as you love/care for yourself is very important.  

That being said, don’t lose yourself in the process. Seek to help others but do so whilst being rooted in an unshakable sense of self-worth. One way this might manifest itself is by you demanding your time be respected; yes, you’re giving it freely but that doesn’t mean you should be taken for a fool. Additionally, find those that will pour into you when you feel your most down – there’s nothing better than receiving some TLC from close friends when you’re at your lowest. Because yes, it takes a village to raise a child but it also takes village to keep an adult sane!

4. You need to figure out who the hell YOU are

Adulthood undeniably forces you to face the question of personal identity upfront. What are your passions? What makes you tick? What are some life long goals of yours?

Some people may find that their childhood has helped them to answer these questions very clearly. But for what I expect is the majority, it takes a lot of trial and error experiences to properly know these things. Passions and goals have a habit of even changing over time which is why you may meet people in their 40s or 50s who still may not know what they want to do with their lives.

For me, my identity journey has involved embracing what it means to be black, a woman and a person of faith. Society talks very loudly – all it takes is a 30 minute scroll through Twitter to feel like my brain is going to scramble from subconsiocusly absorbing eeryone’s thoughts! Making it a daily point to take a step back and look upwards instead of outwards or inwards is important.

5. Confrontation becomes unavoidable

When I was younger my mum would happily march to my school when she thought  anything or one was getting in the way of me having a positive educational experience – i.e incidents of bullying.

Adulthood still has its bullies – they have similar traits but just look different. They’re often people with little regard for others, who have unchecked previlege and are in a position of authority in some form. Although my mum is very much around, I know she can’t fight my battles for me anymore – I have to confront problematic people head on. The need for necessary confrontation will likely psotively correlate with age as you realise the growing importance of accountability and proper communication. It cna make all the difference if you are able to say – whether to a partner or manager etc – ‘You doing [x] makes me highly uncomfortable so please stop’. 

I’m by no means a master of confrontation so envy those that are. One thing I do know is that it has to be done with tact – there’s a right place, time and way to do things so it is worth covering these bases before jumping on the confrontation train!

Because #Blacklivesmatter

May the fire within you

Light the path before you

On the road to change

People are tired and want change. Or more specifically, BLACK people are tired and want change. We’re tired of seeing on a regular basis black bodies plastered on our social media timelines.  I sincerely hope leaders are wise and remember once again why they are in power.

Yes, all lives do matter but we want to reiterate that BLACK LIVES MATTER simply because in world where that should be obvious it is clearly not. Unarmed black citizens are dying at the hands of the police; an institution tasked with protecting them. Powerless, in pain and with no dignity; no one deserves to die like that.

It is important to note that although George Floyd’s death was the tipping point for the unrest and protests currently happening the problem reaches far wider than police brutality. From the criminal justice system, to healthcare systems and the job market, black people face institutional racism at every turn.

For example, when it comes to police it is likely that the way they are trained coupled with personal biases plays a part in dictating how they perceive threat. This means that saying these incidences are caused by a few ‘bad apples’ is not correct; all officers are trained this way and are made to follow these practices. This means technically they are all capable of committing many of the so – called isolated incidences we often see go viral.

I’m excited about the current surge we see – black people uniting for a common cause and a hunger for change. However, I will be more hopeful once I see those in power being more proactive and helping to accelerate the cause. I sincerely hope this is more than a moment and that we continue to push and be persistent. The UK is yet to see as much breakthrough as our American counterparts; partly because we live in a society that is very stubborn when it comes to the subject of race. However, I remain hopeful; since without hope there is no change.

For my fellow Christians, keep praying – God is in control and the giver of ultimate justice. It’s important that our hearts hate oppression as much as his did.

We are called to speak out against evil when we see it. Whoever said Christianity shouldn’t go alongside political activism lied to you. Yes, we should pray but that shouldn’t be all we do!

Lastly, I would just like to say we need CHANGE. Actual CHANGE. I’m tired of performative gestures, they’re very cute but literally last a minute in the grand scheme of things. Adding the hashtag and blacking out your IG last Tuesday was very nice but we’ve already seen plenty of incidences of companies and influencers who have done this insincerely. I remember randomly seeing a video of some white police officers kneeling before a group of black people and apologising. Once again, very nice but ultimately meaningless. You are part of an institution and therefore have the power to create some REAL ripples within the police force. Start an internal movement, gather like minded officers and place pressure on management – think smart, people!

Education is your friend so keep reading and educating yourself; KNOW what you’re campaigning against and if it isn’t your lived experience then find out – read some Malcolm X, MLK Jr, Audre Lourde, bell hooks etc. and discover how life looks through a black lens. What forms discrimination takes and how it affects lives.

Netflix recommendations: When They See Us, Seven Seconds and Fruitvale Station. Also episode three of Trial by Media which focuses on a police brutality case.

Donate. Sign Petitions. March if you can. Share and amplify black voices and work.

A link to some resources are below:

Great article on what UK citizens can do:

https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/how-to-support-anti-racist-charities-uk-black-lives-matter-a9545986.html

Resources card kindly created by someone on Twitter (likely to be more US based):

https://moreblminfo.carrd.co/

Ways to help the UK #BLM movement:

https://blm.crd.co/

Lean on Me

This weekend I watched on amusingly on the train as a mother walked onto the train with her four children. All the seats were taken so they stood in the space in between the seats. Three of the kids stood in front of me and I observed their conversation as the train was starting to move. Two of three children were holding onto the handrails tight bracing for the train’s movement. However the youngest child – he couldn’t have been older than six- was adamant he didn’t need the handrail to support him; despite constant nagging from his older siblings. As the train moved along steadily, I continued to watch as he beamed proudly, strategically using his body weight to stand handrail free- despite the unnecessary effort he needed to do so.

Watching this innocent scenario unfold helped a lot of thoughts I have recently been having fall in place. Why – like the little boy perhaps – are we sometimes so adamant to ask for help or accept help when it’s readily offered to us?

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We’re social beings designed to support and love one another – never whether your storms alone.

I think generally we can be quite proud and stubborn – often thinking we can weather hard times alone. So we suffer in silence, often isolating ourselves from others ironically when we need them most. We also tend to think to ask for help says something negative about who we are; we’re weak, naive, not independent or self-sufficient. But truthfully, it says none of those things. It speaks volumes about the situation, not you. You’re going through a rough time. It’s a tough situation and you can only withstand so much alone; seeking or wanting help is understandable, if not expected.

The Stylist published a collection of issues last year looking back over their work covering the last decade. They published 10 issues featured many of the women that had graced their covers over that time – one of them being Reni Eddo-Lodge (journalist and author most well known for her book ‘Why I’m No Longer talking to White People About Race’.) When reflecting on takeaways from the last decade she said something quite striking to me. She stated, ‘there’s no self-care without community care’; in other words caring for each other is key to our own wellbeing. But more interestingly so she quotes a t-shirt slogan that says ‘Be less capable. You never know who might help you.’

I think her self-care point speaks for itself but her second point on vulnerability is worth reflecting on as I finish this post. The pretence of capability is not always needed; sometimes it’s worth being fearlessly vulnerable. Vulnerable without the worry of judgement, hurt or mockery. If ‘community care’ is to truly happen we need to make sure this does first.

 

Turning T&Cs into TLC

I walked passed a store recently which had a sign saying ‘free goody bags’; a sign which of course piqued my curiosity as someone who is a shameless lover of free goods. But when I paused to read further I saw that it only applied to those who spent a certain amount in the store- £60 or more.

I perceive life to be like that too; with terms and conditions (T&Cs) attached to every decision we make. Will the decision cause our financial hardship? Will it cause us mental or physical harm? The problem is- we don’t always know what those terms and conditions are until we living with the decision we have made.

This is something I’ve come to accept recently since I tend to be overly cautious with decision making. Simply because, I don’t want to live with easily avoidable regrets (but then again, who does?) But something occurred to me recently- there’s something to be learnt in every regret we have- or rather, every instance that caused a regret. Seeing regrets as learning curves changes things dramatically; for one it helps shift our perspective. Wade through the shame, embarrassment and self-resentment that your regrets have burdened you with and find a learning point you can take away from it. Maybe the lesson is to appreciate those in your life more, to leave fewer words unsaid, or maybe it’s to make more time for the things you love.

That learning curve will hopefully prepare you for a future situation and when the time comes; you will be thankful you went through that regretful situation.