Monday, October 29, 2012

Cyber Space where a facade isn’t just for Halloween!

‘By not tweeting, you’re tweeting. You’re sending a message’
And at the risk of not conforming it seems that the youth of today scramble to sign up to all available social media outlets; Facebook, Twitter, You Tube, Blogs, Ask fm, My Space.
Personally speaking,  I am a social media junkie; it’s difficult to remember a time when the ‘hash tag’ wasn’t of any salience, when 140 characters wasn’t  all you had to express your thoughts, and when you couldn’t virtually check in and tag your friends at social occasions – allowing both a physical and virtual presence. Social media has allowed the world to be at our finger tips – from connecting with friends on Facebook, to following celebrities on Twitter, to posting music videos on You Tube, creating a blogs, commenting in public forums on a plethora of topics, promoting a start up business, a new career perhaps, or simply keeping abreast of global events.
The immediacy, brevity, reach and the social connections it offers has compelled millions of users to join various social media networking sites. It is slowly replacing traditional media outlets as a ‘breaking news source’; Twitter itself broke the news of Osama Bin Laden’s death. Companies can now forget about the massive marketing budget and turn instead to social networking sites to create brand awareness, build an online reputation, utilise it for recruiting and to connect with customers.  We now get a glimpse into the lives of celebrities as glamorous as they may be – through the likes of Twitter and Facebook    . It’s all very exciting when Bressie tweets a twitpic, and relatively less so when the likes of Piers Morgan does the same, each to their own I suppose.
But alas, despite the many benefits of social media, we have seen an increase in the misuse of social media by individual patrons. Individual patrons who hide behind their social media accounts by utilising different aliases, so that they can engage in cyber bullying are mere cowards. Yes, everyone is entitle to their opinions, but utilising social media sites for bullying purposes is leading to drastic outcomes; namely the untimely and tragic deaths of young people who find the public degradation on these sites too difficult to deal with.
On a very personal note, I took part in an in conversation interview with a national paper in which my name was utilised, my views on the topic of emigration given, and a photo attached. I was extremely proud to share my views with the nation, but somewhat unprepared for the backlash.  It almost felt like a personal attack, and despite the many supportive comments it was the negative comments which ultimately played out in my mind for a number of hours after it had been published. Thankfully, I’m not a naive young lady, I’d consider myself strong, comfortable in my own skin, self assured and well aware that not everyone in this world has to agree with me, nor do they have to like me – I am an acquired taste after all! But that said, I’m 24 years old – if I had received them at the age of 13 would my reaction be different – quite simply, yes!
I awoke this morning to the news of Erin Gallagher’s death, another young girl of 13 years who met her untimely death at the hands of online bullies. It appears that a number of youths had been bullying her via Ask fm, a social networking site. Her death comes a mere six weeks after Ciara Pugsley aged 15 took her own life after receiving vicious messages on the same social networking site.
Comments on the Ask Fm site suggest that Erin was subjected to physical and virtual bullying. She responded to her tormentors warning them that she would take her own life because of being subjected to the online bullying. Unfortunately, 24 hours later, she did.
Ask Fm is a site where comments can be posted anonymously, whilst sites like this shouldn’t exist; it is possible to access other accounts under a pseudonym. The young Donegal girl’s elder sister, Shannon, took to Facebook last night, paying tribute to her saying ‘No one deserved what you went through. I’m sorry that I couldn’t prevent it. Love you with all my heart”.
That’s the thing, cyber bullying is much harder to track, and often the words utilised hurt more than any physical scars bullies will leave. They are left on a public forum forever, and seen by many, your peers, your fellow students and your friends. Everyone can be very quickly alerted to these online attacks, and witness them, and utilise them as a source of entertainment forgetting that despite it being a virtual forum, there is a physical human being being ridiculed. That human being can’t switch their feelings off like you can a laptop; they too have a heart, and in most instances are young teenagers – where fitting in, being ‘cool’ and having a huge number of virtual friends is of great importance to them. Teenagers, are in the process of moulding themselves into young adults, finding out who they really are, and getting to a place in which they are truly happy with being that person – being you! The pressures on young people these days to mould themselves into a certain stereotype which the media (and photo shop!) has created makes being young extremely difficult. Add the pressure of an online forum and you can see where the pressure can sometimes become too great. That is ultimately what happened to Erin, a young girl, with a life of opportunities ahead of her, cut short because the taunts and jibes of cowards cut deeper creating wounds she could not heal.
This weekend, we were all donning masks and guises for Halloween, for one night only, yet we fail to remember that everyday there are cowards in this world that will don a mask, via a social media account, under a false alias, and torment, hurt and bully others.
These cowards prefer to hide behind the mask of the social media account, to hide behind the computer screen, and sit safely in their own homes not realising the ruination their actions can cause. I urge you all to recognise that this is the second time in the past two months a young person has been subjected to such torment, this cannot continue – if you’re not brave enough to say something face to face, don’t hide behind the facade of a social media site, instead, don’t say anything at all. 
The Forgotten Irish Graduate, 29th October 2012

Thursday, October 18, 2012

What Richard Did? Fiction vs Fact!

"Fiction gives us a second chance that life denies us".

So said Paul Theroux; and I guess my constant stream of thought during this movie rendered this statement to be somewhat true. The Lenny Abrahamson’s movie ‘What Richard Did?’ is loosely based on the novel ‘Bad Day in Blackrock’; whilst both claim to be fictional certain aspects of the story were inspired by news coverage of actual events. The actual events refer to the death of Brian Murphy outside of Anabel’s nightclub in Dublin which involved three former Blackrock College students.

The movie captures the very essence of the life of affluent South Dubliners at that moment in time, and the factors which can contribute to an episode like this unraveling. The stereotypical Volkswagen Golf driving, self-absorbed, hedonistic, rugby playing, D4 head quickly emerges, and the main character Richard Karlsen (played by Jack Reynor) embodies each one of these traits superbly. Richard utilises these traits to woo the girlfriend of a less privileged eighteen year old Conor, and like all D4 charmers, it works. However, despite the commencement of a relationship with Conor’s former flame, Lara, Richard is somewhat insecure. Insecurities can take hold in a way like no others when you’re young and naive, and you apply a great weight to the little things in life; failing to see they are mere stages of adolescence. Richard’s insecurities were too great, his jealousy was immense, and the sheer notion of Lara interacting with Conor ignited anger inside him. After a house party, a drunken altercation occurs in the driveway of the house between Richard and his mates, setting on Conor. The altercation ends with Richard casting one final blow to Conor’s head. To Richard and his crew, it appeared that Conor got up and staggered off, but news filters through the air waves the following morning that a teenager died outside the aforementioned house party the night before. Richard panics.

At the risk of divulging too much, I will not disclose or spoil for you how the story plays out.
But we all are aware of how the true story unraveled.

I for one went into this movie wondering how Abrahamson would deal with the resulting court case in which the nation felt cemented the theory that, the rich take care of their own. In the end you are left feeling like a mere observer into the life of the affluent, and the fragility of life, how one nano second, one fit of rage, can change life as you know it for good. Private schooling and a privileged upbringing cannot alter one’s behaviour. The privileged lifestyle whilst it may remain in the aftermath of such an event cannot quench the mental struggle that you can only hope the perpetrators face every day of their lives.

It is a thoroughly enjoyable movie – an excellent Irish production, it may be somewhat fictional, but you cannot direct your thoughts away from the true story which this movie shadows, its origins are inescapable.  

When I think of this case I think of Brian Murphy, a youngster, who died at the hands of a vicious unnecessary assault, a life wasted; a life for which no one was truly held responsible for ending – I’m angered. There was no justice for the less affluent youngster, yet ‘the money can buy society’ from which the accused hailed from, the guys who caused this heinous assault, now roam the streets freely.

Yet, on watching this film, strangely, I find myself feeling some remorse towards Richard, the perpetrator. We see the film through his eyes, What Richard Did; how one nano second can tear your life apart, one foolish fit of rage over something so frivolous. We don’t however see the aftermath or the anguish faced on a daily basis by the Murphy family so for that reason we are drawn to Richard’s plight.  

As I alluded to earlier in this passage ‘Fiction gives us a second chance that life denies us’.

But as this was a fictional tale based on a true event, both in fiction and in reality Conor (Brian Murphy) never got a second chance that life so cruelly denied him.

For Richard Karlsen, fiction gave him a second chance; normality resumes and life continues with Semester 1 in UCD.  

For the real life Richard Karlsen, his name was dragged through the media (and rightfully so) yet the charge for manslaughter was quashed. He may be free but he’ll never get a second chance to emerge from Anabel’s nightclub and make the decision not to have dealt that final blow resulting in the untimely and necessary death of Brian Murphy. He’ll never get a second chance to walk away from that shameful situation. His name will forever be linked to this case.

That’s the beauty of fiction, it offers characters hope and gives them that second chance. Real life however isn’t that considerate..... it’s a one way ticket, no return fares, no second chances!

 The Forgotten Irish Graduate, 19th October 2012

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Fame Hungry or Money Hungry?! The motive behind the autobiography!

Maybe the race for the Christmas stocking filler has begun earlier than anticipated this year, but one thing’s for sure, a plethora of celebrities are lining the shelves of bookstores with their autobiographies, from Cheryl Cole, David McWilliams, to Tulisa Contostavlos, we will definitely not be short of some light reading this Christmas. I’m the first to pick up nonfiction, but I can’t quite see how reading about Cheryl Cole and the likes is an interesting read, nor why they feel the need to pen their life stories whilst under the age of 30 – maybe they are reliant on book deal number two to cover the later stages of their lives. To me, autobiographies by those with true talent, who aren’t exactly media crazed people are the best reads – Andre Agassi’s Open is one of the most honest insights into the life of a sportsman I have yet to read, Steve Jobs biography, Dean Karnazes, Aung San Suu Kyi they offer a glimmer into an extremely interesting life, and can inspire so many by sharing their stories. The same can hardly be said for Cheryl Cole’s brawl with a bathroom attendant in a night club eh?!
But the latest, and possibly most bizarre autobiography of all, is the memoirs of Melanie Verwoerd, the former director of Unicef Ireland. Melanie was well accustomed to being in the public eye, having married the grandson of the South African Prime Minister, Hendrik Verwoerd. She wasn’t solely known for this however; she was successful in her own right as an anti-apartheid activist and was also one of the youngest MPs representing Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress. Given this profile, one would expect her memoirs; entitled ‘When We Dance’ to be an interesting read. Instead half the book is devoted to a two year relationship she had with the late RTE presenter, Gerry Ryan.
The untimely death of Gerry Ryan shocked the nation in 2010; however his family have kept a dignified silence since then. Not his partner though, Melanie has decided to utilise her autobiography as a ‘tell all’ book about her relationship with the star. She details what seems like every minute detail of their relationship from their first date in his Ballsbridge apartment, to their first holiday together staying with U2 manager, a close of friend of Gerry’s, Paul McGuiuness in the South of France, to the financial duress he felt in the lead up to his death, spending €30,000 a month, how RTE shunned him for the top gig of Late Late Show presenter in favour of Ryan Tubridy, and she continued to divulge these stories, up until and including the moment where she found the late Gerry dead on the floor of his apartment. Ms Verwoerd is even brash enough to detail Gerry’s devastation at the time his marriage collapsed with Morah.
On Wednesday the book was due to go on sale, but was temporarily taken off book shelves, as an injunction was made by Dave Kavanagh, a friend of Gerry’s, objecting to certain passages in the book. A hearing is due to take place later in the month, which has now delayed the publication of this book. Let’s hope the judge takes it off the shelves for good!
It seems however that others are coming forward to discuss their feelings on this book. In speaking with the Irish Independent, Pat Kenny, said that ‘he was deeply saddened that Ms Verwoerd had decided to reveal details about Ryan’s private life – including his personal finances’, and also how ‘Gerry wrote his own book and he had a chance to share all of this. But he chose to share none of his difficulties and he didn't intend for any of them to be in the public domain... So I don't know why Melanie has decided to do this. And I think it's very sad that she has.’
Ms Verwoerd even accused Pat of not being ‘truly close to Gerry’ and not being ‘around him in the last two years as his friend’ to which Pat Kenny denied, stating that they met several times a week, and often went for lunch and a chat, and had done so on the Wednesday before he died. Pat Kenny’s statements are laden with veracity in saying that Gerry had the opportunity to divulge his personal difficulties but chose not to. It also appears that maybe Melanie did not know Gerry quite as well as she claims to, as Pat details the close friendship he did in fact share with Gerry. Are Melanie’s claims an attempt to grab some headlines? Or possibly to create a media storm surrounding her memoirs to ensure good book sales? It seems likely.
Also, in the Late Late Show tribute to Gerry Ryan Melanie also said that she was extremely hurt not to be mentioned and that it was as if their relationship had never existed. The truth is that tribute was to Gerry Ryan the broadcaster, not to celebrate their 2 year relationship. The fact that she was hurt shows a degree of immaturity and again a constant need to be in the limelight.
His family never felt the need to be mentioned; instead they wanted to celebrate his career as a broadcaster and what he meant to his listeners. Since his death, his family have continued to keep a dignified silence, they have not chosen to pen his every move, his traits as a husband, as a father, as a friend... instead they’ve chosen to cherish those memories in the way Gerry would have wanted.
I can’t quite decide the reasoning behind Melanie Verwoerd’s decision to release her autobiography, which for the most part is focused on her 2 year relationship with the later RTE broadcaster, Gerry Ryan, which she claims he wanted told.
Intimate moments are those generally shared between two people, Gerry Ryan had the national airwaves to broadcast these moments, his financial worries, his most private feelings, but he chose not to. He had the perfect medium, had he wanted to share. He clearly didn’t. The lady, who claims to have been the closest to him in the run up to his death defies all this, by publicising his inner most thoughts.
Fame hungry or money hungry?! I may not be able to establish Ms Verwoerd’s motive, but the remaining salient feature of her decision to pen these memoirs, is an obvious lack of respect, for the one person she apparently loved.
The Ryan Line closed 2 years ago Melanie.... and let’s leave it like that, let Gerry Rest in Peace. 
The Forgotten Irish Graduate, 14 October 2012

Saturday, October 6, 2012

The Mid - Mid Life Crisis

As I slowly come to terms with the fact that I’m turning 25 next month, I find myself scouring the web daily for hours, relying on my good friend, Google, to inform me of ‘things to do before you turn 25’.... followed by a slightly more drastic search for ‘things to do before you die’. Thankfully, the prognosis isn’t terminal.

Apparently, broaching the 25 year mark is met with mixed sentiments. I’m now in the process of reassessing every minute aspect of my life to date. Cheers for the forewarning guys!!
I never had a bucket list, just a mere quote, a mantra on life if you may to which I’ve aimed to live my life by; the infamous ‘Stay Hungry! Stay Foolish’ quote. Since hearing it mentioned as part of the late Steve Jobs’ address to the graduation class of 2005 at Stanford University, it has become my mantra. I had believed it had served me well until now; until I felt the need for a re-evaluation of my life.
Google has churned out hundreds of things to do before turning 25 (or die), they vary from the everyday mundane achievable tasks to the outrageous, and some include:

- Go Sky Diving (Not yet....)
- Go Snorkelling (Yet to find an instructor brave enough to take me on...)
- Confront a fear (Currently attending swimming lessons to conquer my fear of water, also got my full driving license last year after confronting my fear of both 5th gear and the reverse around the corner!)
- Finish College (Done – aching to return though!)
- Open a retirement account (Can’t - You need money to do that!)
- See your favourite band live (Bruce Springsteen and the E Street band live in Barcelona May 2012)
- Look back on the last 25 years and make sure you’ve no regrets (Have loads, but believe that you should never regret regrets... we all have them, you just learn to live with them!)
- Take a multi day hiking trip (5,875m – Kilimanjaro.... on foot , the porters did not carry me, just my bag(s))
- Quit that job that’s making you miserable, end the relationship that makes you act like a lunatic, lose the friend whose sole purpose in life is making you feel like you’re perpetually on the verge of vomiting. You’re young, you’re resilient, there are other jobs and relationships and friends if you’re patient and open.  (Wish it were that easy....)
- Leave the country (For good? Wish I was brave enough!)
- Build your own igloo (Opportunity hasn’t arisen just yet.....)
- Go to a nightclub on your own and make some new friends (That’s called ‘creeping’ where I come from.... Never have, never will!)
- Watch the sunrise (Does walking up Harcourt Street at sunrise count? Just kidding, last day of Kilimanjaro trek, witnessed sunrise at plus 5000m)
- Run with the bulls (Does dancing with them in Coppers count?)
- Write your own book (Does a 2nd class story entitled ‘The secret in the basement’ count? It never did make the school library let alone the NY Times best sellers list!)
- Let go of your past (Wish I could... maybe one day!)
- Make a donation (Raised over €1000 this year for ICS running the Belfast marathon in the meantime...crossed the finish line, and haven’t ran since!)
- Kiss someone I love in the rain (Sounds like someone’s trying to recreate the Notebook – don’t have an emotional bone in my body.... don’t do fairytales.... so won’t be partaking, unless of course Tommy Bowe is asking?!)
- Travel the world (Seen a little, a lot more of it to see!)
- Cross a country by bicycle (With or without stabilizers?!)
- Attend the Olympics (If I conquer the fear of swimming, I might try for Rio 2016, you can wear armbands right?)
- Attend a music festival (Yet to do....)
- Go Skinny dipping (No one needs to see that....ever!)
- Take belly dancing classes (As above!)
- Get a tattoo (Like dogs, they aren’t just for no, not yet)  
- Win the Lottery (Still trying...)
- Visit the Taj Mahal (Marked my 24thbirthday with a visit!)
- Accept yourself for who you are (I’ve accepted that my unique sarcastic wit is not understood by many.... the serious stuff, not so sure, you can’t accept who you are until you’re truly happy in yourself right?! In that case, I’ve got a little bit more to go, but firmly believe I’m on my way.... after 25 years I’m still hungry, and still foolish!)

On the grand scale of things, I’ve spent the last 25 years enjoying life maybe that’s why the big 25 has crept up so fast. But surely life isn’t about ticking off a list of things society expects you to do (or Google for that matter), it’s that mental list of things only you know you want to do, things that will truly make you happy.

So as I write this, my Mid Mid Life Crisis has taken a firm grip of my life, extremely tacky music bellows from my laptop – Fun ‘We are Young’ and 1D’s ‘Live While We’re Young’ (Please excuse my poor taste in music, The Boss would not be impressed).... I’ve decided acceptance is key; and as Theodore Roosevelt said ‘Old age is like everything else. To make a success of it, you’ve got to start young’..... and that I intend to do!

If I’m crying in a corner on my 25th.... someone please stop me!

The Forgotten (and Aging) Irish Graduate
6th October 2012