5 min read

Conformity

Did I start this newsletter to be on trend or to help?
The hair on a blond haired woman glows against the morning sunrise light as they walk down the ferry bridge.

hello camera

This week’s photo are from a morning trip on the Mersey ferry as the sun comes up.

You can get prints of the photos in this weeks newsletter on my print store or you can tip me on Ko-Fi so I can buy film for my camera.

A woman uses her phone while the morning ferry sails into Liverpool

Conforming

I’m a non-conformist. Actually I’m part of a group of non-conformists. Well, I was but we couldn’t confirm how best to conform non-comformily so it collapsed.

This week I have been worrying about whether this newsletter is a product of my desire to help and make things easier for those behind me or whether I’m following a crowd by making a trendy mental health newsletter. It can be both. Newsletters have been normalised and proven to be a way to build an audience to connect with like minded folk. While being trendy they are also useful. I guess it is ok to use a trendy medium to help. So why am I worried?

I watched an episode of the BBC show ‘Secrets of the Museum’ looking at the stories behind the objects at the V&A Museum in London. Great show. Go watch. One episode looked at arsenic in Victorian clothing. Arsenic was a poison with a green colour that became fashionable. Textile and wallpaper manufacturers used the arsenic poison in their products because people loved the colour. People loved the colour of poison so much they wore it and put it on their walls. “Oh but different times! Maybe they didn’t know?” They knew it was poison. They knew people were dying. They saw the poison have an effect on their own health and they kept using it. They only stopped using it when it went out of fashion.

What did we learn from this? People are fascinating, quite stupid at times and all this has happened before and will happen again. It’s 2022 and people are pointing their bums at the sun to get a vitamin D boost. You didn’t hear it from me but if you stick a carrot in there while you do it then it’s like having 50 of your 5 a day. Please don’t. All you’re going to do is get sun burnt, skin cancer or back ache. People are painting their tongues blue with fish tank cleaner because it supposedly treats Alzheimers. Others give their kids bleach in an attempt to cure autism. Bleach.

These are of course extremes but following trends is part of the human experience. As babies we mimmic our small echo chamber, our family, to grow up. At some point in our teens we rebel and try to find our own voice. It’s perfectly natural. We consciously / unconsciously go with the flow of our echo chambers on social media. I saw ads on Instagram for Star Wars rugs and a few weeks I heard an American on a podcast discussing his new rugs. We are influenced by ideas and trends. Even those non-conforming people are conforming to the ideas of perhaps a smaller group. I am gender non-conforming by conforming to the ideas of non-binary identity.

If trends are part of the normal social experience, communal ideas that hopefully benefit us rather than harm, why am I worried about by doing a newsletter about trending topics like autism, mental illness and gender? Can I trust my reasons for doing this or are they unconscious ideas generated by what’s trendy? Did I chose to do this to help or because others are doing it? Did I want a yellow backpack because I thought it was cool and different or did I unconsciously want it because I hadn’t yet noticed that everyone had them?

Wait, what?

Back in 2016 my wife and I were in New York and about a week into the trip I had a desire to buy a bold yellow backpack because I had seen one (every 10 minutes but my brain hadn’t realised that). The backpack in question was of course a Fjall Raven one. I researched it online and bought into the story of how they were made. It felt authentic and real not like some mass produced made in country far away nonsense. Upon trying the bag I decided it wasn’t actually for me. A few months later and I noticed these bags were everywhere and had probably been everywhere for years. I had unconsciously been noticing them all this time. A cumulative build up of seeing something led me to desire it but from the perspective of believing I was acting independent of a group idea. I had never seen it advertised so I wasn’t being influenced. I was though. The simple act of the bag trending in meat space was enough to get my attention and make me want to follow that trend. Yay?

Following trends is normal. I’m aware of my own susceptibleness to them and so I have to ask myself, “Is this newsletter a way to help or because I wanted consciously or unconsciously to have a newsletter?” Honestly I’m not sure which. I would like to say I’m doing this because I want to help.

Maybe I did start this newsletter because it was / is a trendy medium to utilise right now but that doesn’t take away the fact that I’ve been openly discussing mental illness, anxiety, and depression for over 7 years now. I am susceptible to trends also maybe a bit of a trend setter? I started a blog in 2000 and contemplated a podcast in 2007. Are they only trends set from the perspective of a group where that trend doesn’t exist yet but are based on ideas from a group where they have been trending for a while? Hmmm. I’m going to leave that for someone else to figure out. For now I have to hope that I’m doing this newsletter for the right reasons which is by being open about myself others may find connection.

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