Digital Detox

This weekend, I decided to do a wee ‘digital detox’ and take a break from social media. I had a bad day on Friday and was in STINKIN form (sorry Niamh and Amber), so I just felt like I needed to take a couple of days to myself and clear my head. Instead of looking at what everyone was having for breakfast or was doing with their day, I just wanted to focus on what I was having for breakfast, and what I was doing with my day.

The thing is, a lot of the time I’m on social media, it’s purely for the sake of it. It’s not because I particularly want to be, it’s just a wee distraction while I’m waiting on the microwave or when the ads come on. That’s why we go on social media, because we’re bored and want something to look at; we want a distraction but don’t want to have to distract ourselves. We pretty much rely on other people for entertainment when our lives aren’t entertaining enough.

It’s nothing new like, but people these days (yeah, not just us young ones) are pretty much addicted to our phones. We refresh our feeds to see what’s “new”, and if anything’s happened since we last checked 10 minutes ago. And then get a wee bit disappointed when there’s nothing to look at, like or reply to. It’s like we have this constant need to see what everyone else is doing, and show everyone what we’re doing. Or eating. Or watching. We’re obsessed. It’s almost like some sort of self-validation. Our lives aren’t enough for us, and we’re not satisfied or fulfilled by what we’re doing until we see what other people are.

That’s the thing, it’s about other people. We want to see what they’re up to and have a wee jook at what their lives are like. And then, we compare them to our own. And that’s a problem with social media, the constant comparisons. They can make you feel better about yourself, or a hell of a lot worse. We might be happy enough doing what we’re doing, eating what we’re eating, wearing what we’re wearing, but then as soon as we see someone else is doing it ‘better’, we’re not that happy anymore.

We give him a run for his money

It can be something as simple as dinner. Someone’s getting a Chinese and now you’re a bit melted because you want one but are stuck with pasta, AGAIN. Maybe other people are going out but you’re in bed, and then you think that you really should be going out but you’re not, so you must be a bore. And there’s nothing, NOTHIN like the panic you feel when you see one of your classmates has submitted their assignment and you haven’t even started yet. Help.

So, I thought “to hell with it, ya gal needs a break”.

Have I noticed anything since my detox? Well, the sky is bluer. The air is fresher. I can smell flowers. Birds are chirping. Children laugh in the distance. I am at peace.

I have absolutely no idea what is going on in the outside world or other people’s lives. And you know what? I don’t need to. I don’t care. No one knows what I’ve been doing. They don’t they need to. And they probably don’t care. Although my private stories are a GEG so I know people did miss me.

So, what did I do with all this free time that I’d usually spend on my phone you ask? I stared at the walls in my room. There are 459 bricks on next door’s extension. Nah. I didn’t do anything, because I was already doing other things. I went for wee danders, met friends for coffee, did shopping, did uni work (and ACTUALLY got stuff done?? Class), and watched First Dates Hotel. What a show.

me

So there was no real time that I needed to be on my phone. Well, I did to arrange meeting up with my friends like, but I did it retro-style and used TEXT. Yeah, people do still do that. To be fair, I did go online a few times (I’m a fraud, I know) to listen to music, check the weather (rain again, SHOCK) and check the Celtic score. Although I really wish I didn’t. The world’s revenge for me going online I guess.

But I didn’t go on social media. And I didn’t need or want to. So I didn’t miss it. I didn’t miss seeing selfies, coffee art or food. I didn’t miss seeing how people were at the gym, how drunk they were getting on Saturday and how much they were dying on Sunday. My thumbs weren’t twitching from lack of double tapping or scrolling, I didn’t get cabin fever and I didn’t start talking to inanimate objects. So, it was an overall success I’d say.

What about when the ads on iplayer came on? What I did do with all that free time? How did I distract myself from the marketing traps in front of me? Well, first set: made a cup of tea. Second set: washed my cup. Third set: Get this, I just watched the ads. *Gasp* That’s right, I watched them. Well, it was more ‘saw’ than ‘watched’ because I didn’t really pay attention like. But yeah, there actually are other things to do than sit on your phone when ads are on. Wild like. 

It was a short detox, but that’s all I needed. And sure, people only stick at those weird tea detoxes for like a day anyway so I didn’t do too bad like. I just needed a few wee days to myself. I was still busy, I still went out and I still met friends. I didn’t miss out on anything and it actually did help me clear my head. PLUS, did you know that I got uni work done? Unreal. Go me.

Now, I’m not trying to be condescending and tell everyone they should boycott social media and “live in the moment, man”. Because social media isn’t a bad thing. You can talk to your friends, stalk your exes and just have a wee nosey at what other people are doing. You can see where’s nice to go for coffee, or get dinner inspo. And that’s fine. It’s a good wee distraction for when we need one and it can give us a few minutes to just take a break from our lives. I just needed to focus on mine and take a break from other people’s.

So, yes, use social media, but make sure you give it all a rest as well. Just to take a wee bit of time for yourself and forget about everything else. We spend so much time focusing on what other people are doing, when we really should be focusing on ourselves.

Fakebook – Our Fake Lives Online

Let’s be real, the “us” we portray on social media, isn’t the same “us” that danders around tesco in their jammies or watches Netflix for 8 hours straight. Everything we post has been polished, filtered and approved by 3 friends in the group chat. You don’t just post “whatever”, you make a conscious decision to upload something specific. Out of 56 selfies, you chose to upload that one – even though you might delete it later but you “felt cute” at the time. Out of a million memes, you chose to post that one (which isn’t even funny). And out of all of the giveaways for a free trip to Malibu for you and 4 friends, you chose to share that one – oh but I’m sure this ones definitely real.

Why? Why do we make such an effort to control what gets posted? Because everyone wants to have friends and followers. The aim of the game is give the people what they want so they decide to follow you. So you post what you think people want to see and what you think will get you the most likes and follows; there’s a constant desire to impress. You try 6 different filters, 13 captions and debate with yourself whether or not to post that selfie. People creep their own profiles and do a “detox”, deleting the photos or statuses that they don’t like anymore. They check notifications, count their likes and comments and panic if there’s less than 11 in 5 minutes, because sadly, we live in a society where self esteem and value is determined by this. We let how many strangers like our photo effect how we feel about ourselves. It doesn’t matter if it’s edited beyond recognition, it gets more likes. Do you ever wonder why people don’t look like themselves in their Instagram photos? Because they get more likes on these, so they’re basically told that they’re prettier and more popular this way. It gives people a chance to change their appearance to one that they’re happier with – the way they wished they looked. The way they’re told they should look.

In real life, you decide to be friends with someone based on what they’re like, and online is no different. Your friends, family and anyone who actually knows you, well, knows you – so they know that they like you. But strangers need to gauge who you are and what you’re like based on what you post on your accounts to see if you’re the sort of person that they want to “add” or “follow”. They don’t know you, so they don’t know your flaws, your personality traits or what you look like without makeup. You get a clean slate. You choose what they see and what they know about you. Don’t like the photo? They don’t have to see it. Don’t post it, delete it, remove the tag. Don’t want people to know something about you? Then simply don’t mention it. No one needs to know about your Goth phase in 2008. Thank God.

So, it isn’t always a bad thing to hide some things or be a bit ‘fake’ online, and not just with photos. In private conversations, you can say what you want and openly express how you feel, especially with controversial topics. But on social media, you have to be a bit more cautious. Say something out loud and there’s no real “proof” unless someone’s recording, but put something online and there it is, a lil digital paper trail. As we all know from FILM, once something’s been uploaded, it’s up forever. You can delete it if you want, but how many people already saw it? And who knows how many screenshots have been taken by then?

Obviously, everyone has an opinion and the right to express it too, but there’s certain things which are probably better left un-typed. You wouldn’t walk down the street shouting racist or homophobic comments, so why do the equivalent on your ‘wall’?

It goes for anywhere, but especially here in the north of Ireland, you have to be really careful about what you post in relation to politics or religion. You pretty much have to accept that you’ll be judged on what soccer team you support, what passport you have, what you call the artificial state that you live in and what you do on the 12th of July. It’s the same in the UK with who voted ‘leave’ and who voted ‘remain’, and in America with who voted for Trump (and more importantly, why?). If people know where we stand on these sort of things, they’ll judge us and it will effect their opinion of us; but online, if we don’t post about it, then they won’t know and so will judge us based on other things like what we’re like, not what we believe in.

Let’s be real, we’ve all googled our own names to see what comes up. And most of the time, it’s nothing bar old Bebo accounts or other people with the same name (shoutout to the 134,000 other Niamh Murrays rolling about). But what else comes up are our social media accounts. So, if someone’s doing a lil dig on you like Joe from ‘You’ checking up on your woman Beck, that’s all they really have to find out about us, that and the primary school photos from the Andytown News website. Yikes.

Aside from stalkers, potential employers are going to be doing a little snooping on you too, to see what you’re really like. Even they know that you can’t really gauge what someone’s like from applications or CVs, and no one’s their true self in interviews. They want to see if you’re the sort of person they want working for them and representing the company, so what they see can affect whether or not you get a shortlisted, an interview, or the job even. If something negative or offensive gets broadcasted on social media, it’s going to put off employers and customers too. I mean, footage of a company executive singing a sectarian song doesn’t exactly scream “professional and trustworthy source”. But that’s hypothetical, of course…

I reckon that’s why a lot of people are getting and using LinkedIn. Having a social media especially for networking and professional use means people don’t have to worry as much about what they post or hide hide on other accounts. It gives employers a first port of call too, they can see your LinkedIn and think “hmm, doesn’t seem like a bad spud” and give up, rather than keep digging and finding your drunk alter ego’s Instagram account (yeah, you know who you are). See, there’s sort of an unspoken hierarchy of how “behind the scenes” your social media accounts are:

  • LinkedIn is professional, so you post about achievements and current affairs.
  • Instagram is basically where you post photos of yourself and your friends to show off your contour and social life, it’s basically all for show, like a polished version of you.
  • Facebook is mostly used for memes, but this is where people feel most free to post what they want. They’re not afraid to say how they feel on current affairs and political matters, or when they’re drunk.
  • Snapchat is where you can be your true self and send ugly selfies where you look like a thumb, super behind the scenes.

Saying all this, how ‘fake’ you are depends how much you care what other people think about you; some people really don’t care and still post statuses and photos which are pretty questionable. But, they’re doing what they want on their accounts. Don’t like it? Unfollow. Unfriend. If you don’t like what they do, say or are like, then you wouldn’t be friends with them in real life, so why be online?

My Week Without Wifi

Well, here I am; sitting on my bed and typing away on my notepad. No music on, no videos or programmes on the background, nothing but the soothing sound of the motorway to listen to. No, I’m not an emo or going through a tough breakup, we just have no wifi (hence the lack of my usual HILARIOUS gifs and photos in this post)

Last Tuesday, we cancelled our wifi because BT the supplier which shall remain nameless was costing an arm and a leg and offered pretty bad service, so we decided to move to another company. The new wifi doesn’t come until this Tuesday, which lead to the event mentioned in the creative title.

When I heard we’d have no wifi for a week, I wasn’t gurning or anything. It’s a bit melting, yes – but I thought, ya know what? This mightn’t be too bad. I’ve always wanted to do a digital detox and cut off all social media for a wee bit. I do think we’re too reliant and addicted to our phones, and if it wasn’t for my Snapchat streaks (yes, I’m ashamed to still have them but we’re on 954 days, COME ON) I’d have done it a long time ago. This week gave me a chance and excuse to be on my phone less, use social media less, and send ugly double chin photos to my friends less (how lucky are they?).

I had pictures in my head of me becoming more wholesome and at one with the world, “I’m going to live in the moment more, talk to people face to face more, spend my time more productively” etcetc. I really prepared myself for some good old family bonding, maybe play some ‘go fish’ or ‘donkey’.

The reality was actually a lot less exciting. I was in work all day Wednesday and Thursday so wouldn’t use the internet anyway (did somebody say ’employee of the month’?), got the glider in and home so had wifi there (see? Definitely worth the £90 million of tax payer money!!!!), met my friends for coffee so had wifi while I waited for them in the café, and of course had the option of using my 3g at any time. So yes, I was on my phone less than I would’ve been, and it did mean I wasn’t mindlessly scrolling or just picking up my phone every 10 minutes. I still snapped my friends, replied to group chats and had a wee creep on Instagram (you know who you are). But, I’m still as wholesome as I was before, am as (un)productive as before, and everyone else in my family has a lot more data than I do so they were on their phones anyway so no card games were played.

The biggest realisation was how bad terrestrial TV is. Why is there nothing but NCIS on every night? Like what do people under 65 watch? We couldn’t (legally 🙂 ) download anything but it’s okay because we got to watch Mulan, one of the 2 DVDs we have – I was not watching 6th sense, oh, honey no.

But, aside from the TV issue, I quite liked having no wifi. It was nice to actually be aware of how much I was on my phone, how much time and data I was using. I found myself going online when I actually needed or wanted to, not just to fill the 3 minute gap of my porridge heating in the microwave. I used social media for what it’s actually for – talking to people, not just scrolling through news feeds double tapping and screenshotting cringey statuses.

I don’t feel cut off from the world, not knowing what’s going on or what the latest meme is. I genuinely don’t miss the wifi that much, apart from being able to watch programmes – I only have 2 episodes of Russian Dolls left and I really want to know what the “twist” is. Not having wifi made me realise just how much I’m on my phone pointlessly, just to avoid watching ads and kill time. Obviously, working full time and meeting people after work meant that I was only actually home for like 2 hours before going to bed, and having to make dinner and shower etc in that time meant I’d even less time to notice not having it.

I do want to use my phone less, and actively try to do so and do things like read books more instead (actually having a book I haven’t read might help a bit) and this week gave me good practice. I’ve tried doing a wee detox before, but when the wifi’s there, it’s hard not to just go on and scroll away when you’re bored. At least this time, I was forced to make the conscious decision to go online. Even though I’m not on my phone LOADS because of work and meeting friends (social butterfly, I’m telling ye), it’s nice to use it less and actually USE it for a reason. So, this week’s been grand, no streaks have died and no one’s missed out on seeing my chins – it’s all good.

So from Tuesday, I’m not really gonna act much differently; I’m not going to go on and watch a week’s worth or stories and memes, the only thing that’ll change is watching shows (again, legally 🙂 ) online. And even at that, I only watch about an hour or max two a night anyway before it hits 10pm and I crash. What a wild life I lead.

In short, I don’t miss the wifi – I just hate freeview.

Toddler to Teen (with Nothing in Between)

Okay, I may be having a concerned middle aged mother moment here, but what’s happening to children? Why do they seem to go from nursery to nightclubs, avoiding the whole phase called, you know, childhood?

When I was a child (still am according to the Translink bus drivers, half price fare thankU), I came home from school, played with my cheap knockoff Tamagotchi, went outside and played the ultimate sport that is Kirby and rang my mates on their landline. We all knew each other’s home numbers off by heart and would sit and talk until our fish fingers were ready, or our ma needed to use the internet – shoutout to dial-up.

These bad boys were the OG Nintendogs

I used to call for my friends, “is Sarah coming out?”; “The street’s playing rounders do you wanna come?” and we’d run about, play ‘rap a door run away’, ride Flickrs and be home by 9 o’clock. We went out in the street nearly every day, except when we weren’t allowed out because we had to do our homework, or were grounded. Yeah, grounding was still a thing.

We’d go into town on a Saturday. That was literally the outing. We’d go in, paddle about, go to New Look to try on high heels, take photos in clothes we were never gonna buy, do peace signs non-ironically and go to KFC.

Us getting our photos taken in River Island

But now, things are so different. Children don’t seem to act like children anymore. Primary school children are using iPhones and social media – 8 year olds are following me on Instagram. 8 YEAR OLDS. Children don’t go through horrible fringe, “nobody understands me” or experimental eyeliner phases anymore. They do makeup better than I do (not that that’s hard), have actual relationships – not fake boyfriends you met on Omegle – and go to playgrounds to drink, rather than “play“. Rather than children and teenagers, it seems to be teenagers and like, shorter teenagers.

This is why I’m so glad I grew up when I did, had the childhood that I had and acted my age. Looking back at my behaviour until I was about 15 actually makes me cringe and question why I had friends. I was a weirdo. But we were all ‘weirdos’. Us being weird was us acting normal. We have scundering photographic evidence that we use for blackmail, and sit laughing and shuddering at the way we got on. Do I regret the way I was? Yeah. Would I do it again if I had a do-over? Definitely.

Me after receiving said blackmail material

I wouldn’t want to look back as an adult and not be able to identify when I actually became one. 13 year olds shouldn’t be acting 18. They shouldn’t want to. Being an adult isn’t fun – we have to pay tax. TAX. (Unless you’re rich of course, and then apparently you don’t have to). And pay twice as much for transport and cinema tickets. Ew.

Yes, I always wanted to be 18, and to be honest, I still do – if I could stop aging that would be GREAT. But I always failed (and still do) to act and look like an 18 year old. But now, 12 year olds actually do pull off being 18. They look older than me, are taller than me (there’s definitely something in the water) and are more active online than me.

But I’m glad I didn’t grow up in a time when smartphones, likes and appearance were my priorities. They weren’t even in my radar. I ran about with friends, literally ran about. Outside. The only social media I had was Bebo and I wasn’t even allowed it so had to make it on my friend’s laptop and could only use it at her house. I joined the school computer club purely so I could use MSN to talk to my friends. We literally emailed each other. But in pink text. That was the extent of my online activity – that and a weird internal school “social media” called SuperClubs which NOBODY ELSE seems to remember but I definitely didn’t make up. Someone please back me up on this.

The OG Facebook messenger

I had 0 cares or worries, besides that boy finding out I fancied him or how my side fringe looked. I lived in a bubble, with no exposure to the scary thing that is the real world. Children these days are able to see so much online, stuff they shouldn’t be seeing – stuff no one should really be seeing. The internet’s full of harmful and dangerous things that children can easily stumble upon. Things that are affecting how they see themselves and the “real” world. They’re comparing themselves to Instagram lifestyles and models, because that’s what they see. So that must be what life’s meant to be like, right? But it’s filtered, fake and 90% of the time, it’s paid for.

Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s not children’s fault, they can’t help it. It’s the world they’re growing up in. What are they meant to do, stop using their phones and isolate themselves from their friends? Play outside alone? Rebirth themselves 10 years earlier? Ugh, imagine.

I don’t know if it’ll change. I don’t really see how it could. And that’s sad. We seem to be living in a world with just babies, adults and the elderly. More and more people are born every year, but we seem to have less and less children with each of them.

Children should be children. They should want to be children. Childhood is the best experience of your life. And it’s not fair if they don’t get to experience it.

Has Social Media Made Us Anti-Social?

We’ve all heard older generations saying that nowadays, young people are anti-social and “nobody talks to each other anymore” or “they’re always on their phones”. True, we do use phones and the internet a lot more; especially for social media. But is social media really, well, ‘social’?

Yes, and no -agreeing to both means I can’t be wrong, right?

phones

People don’t talk to strangers on buses or trains as much as they used to. Yes, there’s the occasional chat about the weather or how bad the transport system is and how pointless the new Gliders are- they don’t even glide? They just roll slowly. Anyway, if I’m using my phone on public transport, I’m normally on social media, talking to people (how popular am I?!). So yes, I may not be speaking, but I’m still talking. If there’s no one I know beside me, then how much would I really be socialising otherwise?

Friends-on-Phones.png

Here’s where I draw the line. There’s few things I hate more than when you’re out with someone and they just sit on their phone instead of talking to you. I personally think choosing virtual social interaction over personal social interaction is rude and antisocial, like am I not enough craic for you? Who could POSSIBLY be more entertaining and funny than me? Give me attention, damn. Unless you’re about to show me your new boo or a funny meme, put the phone away with you’re with me, cheers.

giphy

Some people may choose to be ‘antisocial’ because they aren’t comfortable in social situations, or don’t have the confidence to speak to others, and so dodge social interaction instead. Sort of like the way you do everything you can to avoid phone calls, but with actual talking. Others may find themselves being accidentally ‘antisocial’ because although they’d like to make friends and socialise, they don’t really have the social skills or know how to or. Social media has enabled these people to talk and socialise without having to experience the personal interaction. It’s also meant that they don’t have to reply instantly, they can sit and think about what to say next if they find themselves unsure. They’re able to practise having conversations, so that they’re more comfortable when they do have face-to-face interactions. So I think social media is really good at helping improve some people’s social skills and enabling them to build relationships that they may never have had in the ‘real world’.

Although, this is only well and good if people take these skills and put them to use in the ‘real world’ to build personal relationships. But some people become reliant on online relationships and choose these over personal ones can then isolate themselves further, because they think “I have friends online, so I don’t need friends in person”. This leads to people becoming recluses, and so they don’t experience many human or social interactions. Which means that they’re more uncomfortable and awkward when they do have these interactions. So they avoid them. And this goes on and on and on.

Do you see why I said “Yes, and no” at the start now?

index
What a lucky gal

Social media gives us access to people we’d otherwise never meet- admittedly, some we’d rather we didn’t (@ 90% of people on Tinder), but that’s not the point. People are less restricted to who or how many people they can talk to. I mean why would you want to deprive anyone of having the chance to talk to me? It just doesn’t seem fair that people should have to miss out on this.

A lot of relationships now start online. Be it reconnecting with old friends on Facebook, sliding in someone’s DMs on Instagram, or the gift that just keeps on giving that is online dating apps like Tinder. Brilliant. People are meeting and falling in love with people they wouldn’t have met in a bar, or sat beside on a plane (one day this will happen me, just wait and see) or in a department store when reaching for the exact same pair of gloves. So I watch a lot of romcoms? Sue me. Dare you.

So yeah, social media is actually pretty damn good in my opinion at meeting new people and potential baes, if of course you ignore all the weirdos and catfish and bad experiences. But sure, they just make for great stories, eh? Eh?

I couldn’t choose which photo was funnier so I had to include all 3. Stock photos are so tragic sometimes.

We can keep in touch with family and friends abroad or on holidays. My sister lived in Korea for a year (I will never forgive you, Aoife) and if it wasn’t for social media, my parents wouldn’t be able to make sure she didn’t end up like Liam Neeson’s daughter in Taken, and I’d have no way of telling her what face masks to post me over. So many of my friends also ditched me to go to England for university (I’ll never forgive youse either), but that doesn’t mean that I’m not able to talk to them everyday and make them feel guilty for leaving me behind. You think moving countries is gonna get rid of me? Nice try. Buzz, buzz girl. Me again.

phone-check-1.gif

So yes, people do seem to use phones more and speak less; but a lot of the time we’re on our phones talking to people, it’d be physically impossible (or unhandy) to be with them in person. I’m not exactly going to dander over to my friend’s house at 9am on a Sunday or at 11pm at night – that’d be a wee bit weird don’t you think?

Yes, there are phone calls, but once that call’s over, so is the interaction. I’d personally rather be able to talk to people throughout the day, than be limited to one certain time (I’m so clingy, damn). Not to mention trying to find a time when you and someone else are actually free at the same time; you can just quickly reply when you’ve a few minutes to spare. Basically, you’re able to fit your socialising into your schedule.

And yes, there are carrier pigeons, but I mean come on guys, animal rights? And they fly into a lot of windows. R.I.P Gary.

gh

I know not everyone’s the same, people use social media for different things. Some use it more than others. I use social media to talk to people when I’m not able to talk to them any other way, but I meet them in person whenever I can because I’m a social butterfly who needs constant attention and interaction. 🙂

So I think social media is social, and antisocial at the same time; depending on how, how much and when it’s used. I do think that society as a whole is becoming scarily dependent on technology (@ creepy Alexa), but sadly, I doubt this will change. So I’m using social media in a way that suits me and that I’m comfortable with. That’s the beauty of it. It’s so diverse that it can be used in so many different ways, so everyone can find what works for them. Yeah it’s changed how much we interact with each other, how and when. But is it necessarily a bad thing?

How Coffee Shops Saved My (Social) Life

This morning as I was on my way to get my daily coffee before work, my brother said something so outrageous that shocked me to my very core. “There’s too many coffee shops in Belfast.” It pains me to even type the words.

Once I had a chance to gather myself, I replied “Ammm, ain’t no such thing” (I’m very street like that).

He then went on to list some: Caffe Nero, Hotel Chocolat, Tim Horton’s, Bob & Bert’s, Pearl’s, Clements, Costa, Starbucks (all of which I’ve got loyalty cards for) as if that was too many?

It got me thinking, where would I be without all of these coffee shops? A lot better off financially yes. But also a LOT more tired, and a lot less social.

I’m a placement student, which means that my schedule doesn’t really sync up with any of my friends who are still at uni. They’re free during the day and out at night, I’m in work all day then in bed by 10pm most nights.

But there’s that glimmering, cappuccino coloured window between 5 and 7pm, after I’ve finished work and before they’ve to go home and start preing.

I mean, what can you do at 5pm? No one under the age of around 60 (no offence) has dinner that early, and going for “a drink” isn’t really an option.

Coffee. That’s what you do.

What do you do at 8am, when the shops are all still closed and you can’t exactly sit at your desk for an hour before work?

Coffee. That’s what you do.

After lectures and seminars to procrastinate actually doing uni work?

You guessed it- el caffe. (See how I’m mixing things up?)

Don’t get me wrong, I do love coffee. But for me its not about the drink; I go for coffee because I want to go somewhere nice and sit and catch up with my friends. Even those who hate coffee love going for coffee; there’s steamers, tea, weird flavoured lattes and those ridiculous drinks in Starbucks with a mountain of cream on top and another mountain of sugar inside.

I must admit, Belfast doesn’t have much when it comes to nightlife, everything sort of closes in the city centre at around 7pm (except the glorious night that is Thursday). But there’s always a light on in that Starbucks opposite Europa, or Tim Horton’s (yeah, we’ve got one of those now). Well, until 10pm when they close, but you know what I mean.

All of these coffee shops have actually really shaped my (and Belfast’s) social life.  They don’t just provide us with my daily dose of caffeine and free wifi (yay), they give us a place to sit with our friends and catch up on everything going on each other’s lives.

 

And it’s not just big multi-national chains, it’s wee small independent coffee shops and chains throughout the north of Ireland like Clements and Bob & Bert’s. I always try to go the local shops and give them a turn instead. If you think about, I’m basically a caffeine-fuelled modern-day Robin Hood.

I’m helping support the local high street -which God knows it needs all the help it can get after the Primark fire reduced footfall by 30%. And with amount of money I spend a week on a coffee, I’m probably single-handedly sustaining the local coffee industry.

Coffee shops are so important to Belfast. We need somewhere to sit have a good chat- and God knows we need caffeine. Coffee’s what we drink, it’s what we do, it’s who we are.

So, I’ll raise my skinny cappuccino and toast to the coffee shops of Belfast, “thank you”.