Tag Archives: Social media

Living in the now

The biggest lesson I’m learning this year is this: ‘Now’ is the only moment that is in your control.

The unfortunate mixture of depression and political upheaval I’ve been battling this year are drilling it into me. I look away from the moment I hold in my hands right now, and the world becomes very overwhelming. But when I focus on this present day; minute; breath, I begin to see ways through; ways to make creative and beautiful responses to the ugliness I see around me, be that an untidy house or a xenophobic society.

Whatever your ‘now’ looks like, be creative with it and make it sing. What can you make out of the raw materials this moment presents you? What’s the best way you can handle this situation? Who would you want you to be right now..?

It’s easy to worry with the world looking as it does, to look back and find people to blame and make the enemy, or look at the future and be paralysed by fear. Even looking at my social media feeds I see a lot of sharing of angry or fearful articles, but much fewer practical suggestions for what to do now. There’s a lot of uncertainty around. But so much of that uncertain future is in reality out of our control. And the past has happened. What we have is right now.

What’s the best we can make of it, to shape the part of the world, and its future, that we can influence? Let’s look for all the positive moves we can play, to break down hatred and division, to spread hope, to fight for what’s right and campaign hard against bad policies as they come up. Whatever the future looked like, we’d still have that task before us.

So we don’t know how our country’s climate change policies will pan out – so, now, let’s do what we can; keep on doing what we can to minimise our own impacts, encouraging others, turning up the volume to make sure our leaders know it is an issue we care about… and doing what we can to actively stop things sliding in the wrong direction. We don’t know what will happen to our immigrant friends; so, let’s ensure they are welcomed, challenge hatred, and stand up for their rights in the media and with our politicians. We don’t know what will happen to our healthcare; so, let’s support and listen to those working in healthcare, and echo their concerns to our government, and maybe find ways we can step up our practical care for others ourselves.

I’m now making a conscious effort not to share in the speculation, but to spread both hope and practical responses. We don’t know; but we have ways of doing good today.

And should we worry? Of course Jesus taught us not to worry. But I think there’s a difference between being concerned and heartbroken over injustice, and being so preoccupied with material concerns (Jesus was speaking about concerns over money, food and clothing for example) it stops us from following God, especially where that challenges our comfort and convenience*. Should we worry about terrorism for example? On the one hand, yes; we should be concerned that this is happening in our world and allow it to move us to prayer and action, perhaps doing what we can to support refugees fleeing danger, support the persecuted Church, or build bridges across society’s divides. On the other hand – no. It shouldn’t make us so afraid we fear to live the daily lives we are meant to live.

Living in the past or the future can steal the potential from the present if we let it. I’ve written this from a political perspective as I’m seeing the impact of the Brexit vote, and political uncertainty at home and around the world, on both my own activism and that of others; so many of us stuck between anger and paralysis we’re not quick to respond to today’s challenges and keep our eyes on the current work to be done. But in my own context of learning first hand how mental ill health can send us into an unhealthy vicious cycle of worrying about the past and the future until we feel too overwhelmed to face the present, I think this applies far beyond ‘politics’.


What is in your hands right now? What is one thing you can be, or do, right now?

Just do that.

* There’s also a huge difference between a healthy person being preoccupied with their own worries, and having a clinical anxiety disorder. Jesus never instructed us not to be ill, that just happens; instead we need to support one another going through illness…


Falling foul of the Facebook name police

Being real comes with associated costs. It’s always easier and more comfortable to hide ourselves behind masks, different ones for different situations, play roles that make us fit in and stop others getting close enough to see our flaws and vulnerability. I was anticipating some of these costs when I began this project, but I’ve just come up against one I was not expecting; my Facebook profile!

This is perhaps a strange post. I’ve loosely categorised it as ‘politics’, since it raises questions for me that I think affect people, although I’m not sure how exactly to address those questions. But I’m putting the story out there; perhaps just adding evidence and asking questions might be useful to someone more knowledgeable about online privacy issues than me, who might be able to frame a call for change.

So what happened?! It all began when a couple of weeks ago I decided, in the interests of being real, that it was time my Facebook profile carried my actual surname.

When I first joined Facebook a few years back, I was using it exclusively for work purposes, so instead of using my surname on my profile (which the people I was trying to network with might not have known me by), I used the name of the community I worked for – Speak – to give me a better context than my actual name would have done. Over the last few years, I have continued to be Helen (from) Speak, but have also begun to use Facebook for my own purposes. Whereas my friends know to recognise me as Helen Speak, where I use Facebook for work for other organisations, the name is now more a source of confusion than a help. So I decided to add my surname to my account, initially at least alongside Speak, for the sake of continuity.

So I now had 2 surnames on my profile, and for a week or so all seemed well. From Facebook’s perspective, a female user of undisclosed marital status had added a second genuine surname. Big deal. And then one day I went to log in, and was confronted with a page I could not pass, asking me to change my name. I tried various combinations of names, including my straight name, but the page only allowed me to save after I reverted back to Helen Speak. After that a week or so passed in which all seemed well, although I was now a little frustrated that I couldn’t find a way to make my actual surname display anywhere.

A couple of days ago I went to log in and was again unexpectedly confronted with a ‘Please change your name’ screen. I thought ‘Great, maybe it will allow me to change my name this time’, so clicked through. And this is where things became distinctly creepy!


Instead of presenting me a name change form as before, I was taken to a page requiring me to submit a copy of my identity documents to prove who I was! My account is suspended until I do, and my identity has been verified by someone unseen. Speaking to friends who still have access, I appear to have ceased to exist in Facebook-land, except that messages I’ve sent to them are still there but marked as ‘abusive or spam’. The only name I am allowed to use is the one on my official identity documents, and the documents must be provided to prove that that is indeed my official name. In my case, no big deal – the name I was attempting to add is indeed my name. But this is where the questions start to arise.


Firstly, Facebook says once identity has been established it will destroy copies of our ID documents – but who can guarantee that will happen? Who is overseeing the process?

Secondly, what if nobody knows a user by their official name? Wouldn’t that make them harder to find, rather than easier? If my name was something very common like John Smith, but everyone around me, including my colleagues and family, knew me by a more distinctive nickname, would anyone be able to find or recognise me by my real name?

Thirdly, there is more to a name than what is written on a person’s ID documents. One of the biggest lessons I learnt last year was the importance of family, and the range of ways in which true family can be defined to a person. That is perhaps for another blog once I’ve processed the lesson for myself, but one of the things that came out of it for me was that my community in SPEAK is far more to me than work, and has indeed become ‘family’ for me, in the sense of being a community I feel a tie to, a responsibility towards, and feel I can rely on for help. Therefore Speak is in that sense a genuine family name to me now, and I’m happy to identify with the rest of the ‘family’ through it.

Fourthly and perhaps most importantly, what if a person has a real reason to need to hide their true name? I know people who use pseudonyms online so that they can easily be found by people they want to be found by but not by people they don’t, for good reasons. People who work with children and who don’t want their profiles being found by their young people for a range of reasons including child protection and avoidance of online harassment. People who work in prisons, who don’t necessarily want to be tracked down online by those they work with. People who have been abused, persecuted or stalked, and who do not wish to be found by their abuser, persecutor or stalker. And there are plenty more reasons – Facebook seems to assume their users will automatically be a risk to others if they hide their official identity, neglecting to recognise the fact that their users could themselves be at risk from others by revealing it. Surely it would be possible to require a person have their official name on their account so that they could be tracked down if a problem arose, without requiring that that be the name publicly displayed on the user’s profile?

Finally, once my identity is verified, Facebook tells me I will never be allowed to change the name on my profile again. What if my marital status changes, or I need to change my official name by deed poll for some reason? I will either be stuck with a name that is not my own, which in some situations may be a real-life risk to me, or will have to rebuild my online life from scratch.

For me this is creepy, but at the present time, no more than an irony and an annoyance. For others, it could cause a serious risk. I have plenty of questions but no answers.