Thursday, September 24, 2020
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Fran Thring

How Many Texts Do You Send a Day?

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Sometimes my day looks like this:

It’s 5:30pm, I’m about to leave work.

Whatsapp: “Hey Babe, how you doing? We’re going for drinks at 6, wanna join?”
Me: I could do with a glass of wine, “Yeah, where you meeting?”

Bing! Facebook messenger “Hey you, it’s been a while, remember that movie we said we were going to watch ;)?”
Me: He’s hot, yes yes yes! “Clayton? From gym? It’s been forever…”

Meanwhile on iMessage: “Waddup Roomie? Can you pick up some milk for the house, it’s getting low?”
Me: Ugh, “yes, but I’m heading out with friends first.”

Leanne’s Birthday Group Message: “Hi all, don’t forget your prezzies and a dish for Saturday.”
Me: Oh yes, “Surething, I’ll be there, party hat on.”

And as if that isn’t enough, at that moment another message hits my inbox from work chat: “Hey legends, don’t forget we are presenting to the Jo’berg team at 9am tomorrow.”
Me: Heck, I still have to prepare. Maybe I shouldn’t have wine. Sigh. “Thanks!”

To top it all off a text message from Mom: “Hi love, how has your week been?”
Me: “INSANE!”

Does this look familiar? Messaging has taken over my life. Every so often I get an overwhelming desire to a move to a cabin in the woods where local residents are bears, or abide calmly amongst a small group of people who think apple refers to a fruit not a machine. On days like the day above, I dream of throwing my phone into the blender and walking around with a do not disturb sign stuck on the bridge of my nose. Seriously. When did life get like this?

Looking back I remember how excited I was when I got my first blackberry. I sat on the couch in my lounge that first morning and sent email to my Dad. It blew my mind. I love communicating, I love writing and I work in a digital agency so you go do the maths. Blackberry and I were love at first click, or roll; and I never looked back. Until now.

My cell phone and I are glued at the hip yet, lately, I’ve begun to feel like I need to make some decisions so that messaging does not take over my whole life.

I’ve put together some texting etiquette to help those to whom, like me, life is becoming too texty.

  • Text if you’re running late. Give the person on the other side a time to help them out.
  • Respond to texts while you are waiting at the dentist, shopping queue or for a date.
  • Check your text before you press send.
  • Only send mass texts to the people who need to have them, don’t spam.
  • When you are out with someone don’t spend ages on your phone, it’s rude.
  • Avoid too many lols, rols, u, etc it looks a bit childish.
  • If you are trying to make plans with someone, call them.
  • If a situation is turning into a fight over text, rather meet in person.
  • Don’t text and drive. Don’t text and walk. Don’t text while drunk.
  • Avoid texting about death or serious illness.
  • Don’t break up with someone over text.
  • Don’t send countless messages to someone who isn’t responding.
  • Spell correctly.
  • Don’t spend more time texting someone than you do in real life.
  • If you are at work look at your phone only at tea or lunch.

Remember you are responsible for your life and your use of your time. If you don’t want to be a part of a group, leave it. Don’t let 101 texts monopolise all your free time. Don’t let your phone distract you from doing the things in life which should be your key priorities – your family, job, spiritual life and health. It is always important to keep the right things in the right place.

Here’s a question which may make you rethink how you use your phone: are you too caught up in the daily tasks, all the distractions of our modern lifestyle to take out time to consider your faith and beliefs? When was the last time you thought about God, or what happens when we die?

Often, at the end of INSANE days like the one above, I go home and put away my phone. I make myself dinner and I sit on my couch with my feet up. I turn on some music and I open my Bible and I am once again reminded that I was made for a life of peace. So were you, don’t let a device take that from you.

You Say You a Gangsta? That Don’t Impress Me None

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I grew up in a small town which had two claims to fame – a huge amount of geriatrics and a really big waterfall. Even here, amongst the pensioner specials and odd lost tourist, my school had kids who were cool and kids who were not. When I was 14 rap music hit my radar and I realised there was a thing called cool. I wasn’t it.

If you went to a school normal enough to have these two phenomena you will know what I’m talking about. The cool kids were easy to identify – they hung out in groups, showed no respect, they were fearless, they got in fights, they wore big hoodies and low slung jeans, they walked a certain way, they talked a certain way and they modelled themselves on being “gangsta.” The not cool kids, aka me, paid attention, got good grades and tried to do their homework.

One of the coolest kids in my school was Justin. Justin was a celebrity because he was huge and everyone was too scared to do anything but admire him. I’ll admit, Justin terrified me. He had white eyes which popped out of his brown skin like a cartoon cobra and you would find them watching you across the hallways at uncomfortable intervals. Justin’s school career didn’t last long – he stole Mr Payne’s cellphone. He got caught, Mr Payne on a rare stroke of genius decided to call his stolen phone. It rang in his classroom, not on his desk as he had left it, but in Justin’s bag. Justin got suspended, then he brought alcohol to the school Valentine’s Dance and got expelled. Of course, his celebrity status went through the roof with all this, but he couldn’t really enjoy it as he was longer allowed on the school property.

When I think about school or popular culture I realise we have made being gangster or rebellious look cool. Teenagers don’t try be Mark the accountant – most of them are wear their caps backwards, give attitude and try to be “cool”. Rappers glamourise life “in the hood” and people follow them.

A part of me understands it; there’s something about the gangster lifestyle that is attractive. I think it’s the friends and community they have. We all want people who are loyal to us, willing to fight for us, support us and be there when we need it. This different kind of life is intriguing because it’s outside of the conventional mainstream life a lot of us feel is our inevitable end.

There’s a problem with this whole thing though – while we drop our gangster lines and save hip hop songs on our phones in an attempt to be cool, we create a false allusion of a life which in reality looks a lot more like this:

– Always looking over your shoulder wherever you go.
– Never being able to show weaknesses and often feeling paranoid because someone may be after you.
– Throwing up while waiting for a rival gang to show up, knowing a fight is inevitable, and it could be fatal.
– Knowing you could be thrown in jail anytime.
– Feeling afraid of what you say because the wrong thing at the wrong time could get you a bullet in your head.
– Living everyday knowing that the people you love are not safe.

The gangster life isn’t cool, a joke or something to admire. It’s dark, it’s heavy and it’s very difficult cycle to break out.  2Pac in his famous song ghetto gospel says:
“Before we find world peace
We gotta find peace and end the war in the streets.”

Maybe it’s time to stop making gangster cool and instead think about the life style it promotes?

I don’t know what happened to Justin and I shudder to think about how many people’s futures are affected because they get caught up in being cool or the wrong crowd. Hey, for me, I’m all for making my own cool. This version is based on good values and smart decisions. It’s based on eternal promises and being the best you can. You say you a gangsta? That don’t impress me none.

Wish You Were Someone Else? Not Anymore!

Some words make me sad. It was a Saturday morning, I sat in my regular coffee shop in town with a friend making patterns in my cappuccino froth while she slurped the end of a smoothie through a chewed straw. Halfway through our conversation a cute girl we know, I forget her name, walked past us with an impressive entourage of well-dressed people in tow. My friend watched the girl as she waltzed past us. She turned and whispered to me, “Wow, I wish I was her.” Yes, my beautiful and down to earth friend seated in front of me said uttered those words, and they made me sad.

“I wish I was her.”

Why do we always want to trade in our lives for somebody else’s? Why do we look at what someone else has and want it so badly we can’t even like the person who has it? Why do we spend hours in front of the TV watching other people’s lives and intensely desire them. Why do we look at the neighbour’s car and imagine how successful we would feel if we drove it?

Bet this has happened- it’s a Friday night, you log onto Facebook and see an old friend at a party and think- “I wish I had friends like that.” Or maybe, you go to the beach, notice your colleague has lost a lot of weight and comment “I wish I was thin like you.” Perhaps your brother gets a promotion and you don’t, doesn’t something inside you say, “Hmm, I deserved it more.”

Come clean, this is what caused my friend to make that comment, and we all struggle with it- it’s the twisted cousin of the green monster, and its name is envy.

Envy is sneaky, it’s like a student who tells himself everyone bunks lectures so it’s ok. It isn’t. Envy has become such a common part of our vocabulary and our culture that we see it as permissible, expected, even humorous.

Here’s the truth: nobody has a perfect career, body, partner, child or life.

The Bible speaks about issues of the human heart, and in the book of Psalms 73:1-5 it says: “No doubt about it! God is good— good to good people, good to the good-hearted. But I nearly missed it, missed seeing his goodness. I was looking the other way, looking up to the people at the top, envying…”

The Bible may be onto a few things there:

1. When you are good hearted, God is able to bless you with more good things.
2. You can miss all the good things in your life because you are not paying attention to them.
3. We have a choice- either we can look to God and his goodness or look to people and feel envious and inadequate.

Us humans, often we get so busy feeling sorry for ourselves and whining about what we don’t have that we don’t notice the envy growing in our hearts. When we allow envy to become a habit in our life it pulls us apart in a constant game of comparison. The victims of its clutches lose their confidence and joy. It can be very difficult for all those who are close to you if you are always unsatisfied with your life, and this habit will affect your relationships. One of the worst consequences of envy is we stop being an inspirational and encouraging person. Surely, nobody wants that!

Envy is stupid. God has made each and every one of us quirky, cute and a one of a kind. There is no reason why anyone should look at what other people have and let it make us feel not as good. No ways, don’t let this get hold of you! God has a plan for our lives which is more exciting than the Never Ending Story and more adventurous than Star Wars.

You know what I did in that coffee shop? I stopped my friend and asked, “Do you actually mean that?” The question made her think. “You’ve got loads going for you…” She hesitated. “Plus, we wouldn’t be friends if you were someone else.”
She agreed, “Yeah, you’re right, I guess I don’t really wish that. I’ll keep what I’ve got!” I laughed and smiled, those words make me happy.

Would You Survive On Mars?

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“It’s from Ridley Scott,” my geeky film friend said. “The guy who did Aliens and Prometheus.” His comment may as well have been alien, my knowledge of film makers is very limited. “Uh, I dunno,” I replied. Persistent, he tried again: “Just come, ok? It’s got Matt Damon and it’s in 3D.” Matt Damon – that was something I could work with, “Ok, ok, I’ll go. But if it’s not good, it’s on you.”

Turns out my geeky film friend was onto something and the movie I was taken to was both good and thought provoking. It was called the Martian and all about survival on Mars. The storyline centres around botanist Mark Watney (Matt Damon), who is hit by flying debris, thrown out of sight of his aircraft and fellow team mates, and left for dead. His team mates, poor guys had no choice, leave Watney and start their 140 million mile commute back to Earth.

The movie shows Watney, stuck on the red planet without any hope of rescue, having to figure out how to survive in this predicament. Luckily, in his words, he is the “best botanist on the planet” and if he wants to find a way to survive he knows he has to “science the bleep” out of his situation. Which he does – planting potatoes, using faeces for fertiliser, figuring out how to communicate with earth, problem solving and making his rations last.

I learned all about the planets when I was 13. I had the rhyme and the order nailed – you could wake me up at 12am and I’d tell you the order of the planets in our solar system perfectly, no pauses or prompts required. Thing is, with the exception of my junior school classes and the odd packet of Astro chocolates, I haven’t found myself thinking about anything regarding planets or life on other planets in a very long time.

Until I was dragged to watch a movie about it.

Mark’s remarkable (if slightly unrealistic) ability to survive in film The Martian, made me think: would I survive on Mars? Would you?

Before you answer take these few things into consideration:

1. It takes between 3 and 22 minutes to get information to Earth from Mars, so a quick Skype call to your buddies back home is out of the question.

2. Say goodbye to your taste buds. Cheat day ain’t happening, it’s only plants grown in space – think sweet potatoes, spinach, lettuce or soya beans. You’ll never eat chocolate cake again.

3. Once you’ve adapted to Martian gravity you won’t be able to come back to Earth. Ever.

4. The atmosphere on Mars is 96% carbon dioxide, with only a trace of oxygen. There will be no casual afternoon walks. Your oxygen mask will become your new favourite accessory.

5. The average temperature on Mars is -60 degrees and they have dust storms.

I think it’s safe to say I wouldn’t survive on Mars despite my ability to name the planets in our solar system. Watching Watney try and slug his way across a barren landscape, portion the meagre rations left from the crew and attempt to entertain himself with disco music left me with a huge sense of appreciation for our green planet, running water, friends and family and the oxygen in my lunges.

This talk of survival and life on Mars reminded me that at times we aren’t grateful for what we have. We believe answers are found somewhere else – another place or planet or a grand adventure. In my life, I’ve found the answers are found right where you are – in knowing my purpose, the one who made me and in learning to be content.

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