Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Narcissism: It's officially a trait of Social Media Users!

I was reading The Times at the gym after my swim this morning (I decided that if I was going to get wet through doing some exercise it might as well be intentional and not because the weather is unrelentingly bad), and I came across an interesting little article in the technology section about research into social media usage. Apparently Facebook status updates are favoured by the middle-aged whilst Twitter is the preferred medium of the young.

Apparently the need to post one's current status is a clear sign that one is too self-involved. And possibly that you've got too much time on your hands and need to get out more. According to the article:

Hundreds of students participated in the reattach, published in the journal Computers in Human Behaviour. It found that those who were vain tended to tweet more, but those who were middle-aged and fond of themselves preferred Facebook.

The researcher (I can't remember his name and it's not in the photograph I took of the article !) found that: "Facebook acted as a mirror to the user's perceived image."

So there you have it. If you constantly need the affirmation that others are reading your posts, or you are just too self-involved, then monitor your Facebook usage. It could be telling the world more about yourself than you thought it was.

Monday, January 27, 2014


Having resigned my commission so-to-speak and come off the accredited list of Baptist ministers, I felt a little isolated and vulnerable when it came to my position when serif families through the funerals that I have continued to do. I could have taken out a simple insurance policy to cover me, but I wanted to look for something that was more than just a liability protection plan. 

So I've joined an organisation called the Federation of Independent Celebrants. It's a mixture of folk from all sorts of backgrounds who serve in a variety of ways celebrating life's great events. It's early days of course, so there's little for me to say about how it all works and what it means to me beyond the insurance cover to be part of such an organisation. On the either hand it's good to be part of something and I look forward to learning from and maybe sharing with others.

If you're in a similar position to me, independent of a church and yet still looking to serve the community in this way, then you too might like to look at the FOIC. You can read more about them at the website

How easy is "Sorry"?

Sorry seems to be the hardest word. The vents of the last couple of weeks would seem to bear out the truth of the Elton John and Bernie Taupin song. It seems to me that there are several problems or issues that have become more obvious recently that prevent people from sating sorry. 

The first is the presumption of guilt. If I say sorry that means that I've done something wrong. I am guilty of whatever it is someone chooses to accuse me of doing and I can't afford that to be implied. Second, the is the greater issue of self-justification. I can't afford to say sorry because the truth is my action were irresponsible or impulsive and I don't want to admit that. A third issue is that sorry is no longer enough.

These issues work both ways. We can't' accept an apology because it undermines our right to be wronged, our sense of paranoia or some other undercurrent of self. In essence we can't say sorry or accept sorry because it leaves us vulnerable, defenceless in a world that constantly demands that we justify almost everything we do and at no time do ever make a mistake.

Of course some things are so serious that there has to be something more than a simple sorry, and a sorry without any change in actions is worthless because there's no growth, no acceptance that we need to do something differently no matter how innocent or harmless we think our act or words might have been. Justice is not set aside by the humility of an apology. An apology however admits some culpability, some level of responsibility for the own actions.

It just seems to me that if a sports person who makes an inappropriate gesture acknowledges with hindsight that it was stupid and inappropriate, and that they are truly sorry for any offensive cause, then it would go a long way to resolving the situation. Similarly if one's actions cause offence or are inappropriate then that too can be a cause for expressing sorrow without it become some sort go guilty plea in a media circus driven court.

I'm not saying that sorry makes everything okay. I remember a particular episode on Frasier where Niall and Frasier have a significant issue to deal with when Niall ends up in bed with Frasier's ex-wife. Niall apologises and asks Frasier, "Are we good now?" To which Frasier replies, "No, but we will be."

Sorry is the first step in reconciliation, and maybe a significant step in addressing what happened, why it happened and how to move forward.

I wish sorry wasn't the hardest word, but it seems that it will continue to be so for those who are too afraid to admit their frailty and their need for help to live well with others.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Energy drinks

Did you know that a 500ml can of "relentless", one of many so-called energy drinks, contains 56% of the average adult's daily guideline amount of sugar? I always assumed they had a pretty high sugar and caffeine content, but 56%!

I got thinking about this as I watched a BBC Breakfast News report about energy drinks and young people. The debate was centred around banning or not banning these sorts of drinks for younger individuals and the "soft drinks" industry duly made all the right noises about them not being appropriate for anyone under 16 (although apparently one drink states on its label that it's not suitable for anyone under 3!), and the need for parental vigilance. But let's be honest, if my mum had told me not to drink Coke when I was 14 would I have listened? I think you all know the answer to that.

The good news is that today's generation has way more information available to them about nutrition and the affect of sugar and caffeine etc on their health. The fact that they are still teenagers mitigates against making the best choices, but that's just how it is.

The truth is that while we are better informed than we ever were, we're still human and we don't make positive choices easily. Just because you can make a soft drink with 50g of sugar in it and 32mg/100ml caffeine doesn't mean necessarily that you should! Typically a standard can of Coke contains about 30mg caffeine and 16g sugar. A medium latte weighs in at 12.8g sugar and 150mg caffeine (Starbucks tall). But how many 15 year old would get through 2 or 3 lattes in a day compared to 2 or 3 cans of sugar filled carbonated caffeine water?

Maybe we will have to start labelling these drinks with their ingredients and side-effects in larger print, limit their age availability and put them behind closed doors as we've tried to do with cigarettes. I've yet to see the shutters down over the tobacco supplies in several well-know stores, so I'm a little sceptical about the impact of such measures.

What kept me from smoking was learning about the affect it had on health. Perhaps, if we taught more nutrition, improved understanding of what contributes to a healthy diet, then we could address many of the worries and concerns about fast food, energy drinks and other issues our western diet faces.

I recently did a couple of seminars about nutrition and when I asked the audience "What is nutrition?", the perceived understanding was that nutrition was about healthy stuff. Until we understand that nutrition is about everything we eat and drink we won't make much headway on issues surrounding what our young people are choosing to eat and drink.

Wel, I'm off for a glass of water before running around a tennis court for an hour or so. I won't be reaching for the Red Bull, Lucozade or even an isotonic, isolytic sports drink to keep me going. Just a bottle of water and a oxygen tank!

Monday, January 13, 2014

2014: When did that happen?!

Well, it's 2014. Already two weeks into the new year and I'm wondering how we got this far. Actually the start to the year has been pretty quiet. Last year I had quite a few funerals in January, but so far this year I've only got one, but I have had to say no to a couple, so may things are similar to 2013. The "no's" arose because they fell on a day I was unavailable because of a non-moveable appointment. I'm always disappointed when I have to say no to a funeral. Not because of the fee, but because I feel like I'm letting family down by being unavailable. But that's inevitable some times, an unavoidable consequence of life.

My unavailability on that day was because I was teaching in a local college. I'd been invited to do a couple of workshops about nutrition, fitness, anatomy and physiology with dance students. It was a good, interesting and challenging day. I was quite exhausted by the end of it. Hopefully there will be other opportunities to do the same in the next academic year.

So, 2014, what are my plans, hopes and dreams? Well, to be honest, I've not really given it a great deal of thought. I caught myself asking someone a question the other day about their one big hope for the year, only to wonder if I had one. Turns out I did, but unlike other years when I've sat down and given careful thought to the vision for the coming year in church, these last two years haven't had that focus. Last year my 'vision' was to complete y course and get qualified, but this year, well i don't seem to have a plan yet.

Off the top of my head I have a few goals I'd like to achieve. Getting under 14st, would be one of them! I'd also like to get my LTA rating down to 8.2. Both of those are measurable and ought to be achievable. In fact reaching the first could help with the second if it means I'll be fitter and a little faster around the court. The second requires me to win two competitive matches, which doesn't sound hard but last year's results tell a different story. Hopefully I'll play better this year, and I'll try to practice more too. What I need is a hitting partner with whom to practice and some match play strategy.

Losing the extra weight is going to be tough. I know we did it a few years ago, but I didn't work hard enough at keeping it off and I'm not sure what to do about it this time. In one sense it's really simple. Move more, eat less. But simple as it sounds, it's more difficult in practice. Eating less is easier when you measure what you eat, so keeping a diary will help there. But it's not just a matter of volume, it's the calories that count. If I were giving myself advice about this I'd probably say don't beat yourself up about what you can't change, but take action in what you can change. Take positive steps towards your goal not negative ones.

So, let's get 2014 on the road. Set some goals, work out a plan, write a list. Do whatever it takes to set out on a journey towards 2015 that hopefully won't mean 2014 ends with a list of if only's but that it ends with a list of I did that's instead!