Quitting Social Media

Thoughts

‘Social media’ – a selection of platforms which are intended to improve and ease our social lives. The prospect sounds great; to bring us, worldwide, closer together. However, as with all things it has its downsides and with all the news at the moment i’m beginning to realise more and more that the cons are outweighing the benefits. More and more i’m finding social media exhausting, uninspiring and like an addictive chore – and it’s not the people i’m following, I’ve always been sure to unfollow when I’ve felt like i’ve needed to, it’s just having it there, having notifications ping up all the time, using it as a ‘break’ when it never feels like one, along with many other factors.

Quitting Social Media is difficult

To quit or not to quit my social media accounts has been the question I’ve been pondering for the last few years, probably much to the annoyance if those I know. I thought if I don’t like it so much and if I find it that exhausting why not just delete it all but there were and still are some things holding me back from doing so.

The Social Media Generation

The first issue is the fact that I am part of a generation in which the majority have social media. In fact, I don’t know anyone my age who hasn’t got at least one and i’m not alone in feeling that way as only 36% of the UK population aren’t on any social media. Therefore, it concerns me that there will be certain points in conversation I wouldn’t be able to contribute to if I deleted all my accounts completely. Already, as I don’t often go on my social media and I don’t always follow the accounts most do, it can feel that way.

Social Media provides opportunity?

Second is the opportunities you can get through social media. I watched a TED talk (linked below) where Dr Cal Newport argued that this excuse didn’t matter as due to our increasingly saturated economy people value innovation and commitment over a social media presence, arguing that people will ‘come and find you’ and that ‘any 16-year old with a smartphone’ can set up a successful social media presence. However, this sounds like a great argument for a computer scientist, which Newport is. But if you want to get into other fields in which audience engagement is key then a social media presence might be more of an advantage to you. There are also more opportunities advertised for young people on social media and if your career of interest is competitive thats especially useful. There is another term for these things and its called fear of missing out or, more commonly, F.O.M.O.

So why quit?

Social currency and value

Many people can get FOMO not only with the issues I’ve described but also with friends, according to one study 7 out of 10 students would get rid of their social networking accounts if it were not for fear of being ‘left out of the loop’. People see their friends having fun without them and feel left out. People publish their carefully curated lives on social media and it’s a facade, people pick and choose what they want others to see and sometimes it doesn’t feel like the person you know. It’s also a ‘highlight reel’ of all the good bits of peoples lives usually and people can feel like they’re inadequate asking questions of ‘why don’t I look like that’ or ‘why can’t I afford that holiday’. This internal dialogue of many social media users is so damaging to peoples self confidence and self worth, and it sounds awful to think that we can’t be pleased for those friends who do look like that or who can afford it but its often a part of human nature to start comparing and thats not helped with social media use where people are curating a so called ‘perfect’ version of themselves. So it is not to say that we didn’t have this problem before social media of comparing and self deprecating but it was on a smaller scale, comparing to celebrities in the latter half of the twentieth century and before that with friends in person. Then if you bring a number of followers, likes and comments into the mix the problem is exacerbated, its quantified rather than a feeling. It creates a kind of social currency, an economy of attention, that places worth on a person rather than simply a product. There are apps now as well which tell you who specifically it is thats unfollowed you or stopped liking your photos. To summarise, social media is unauthentic, its judgemental and it creates paranoia.

Addiction

Furthermore, social media is addictive. There are attention engineers, psychologists, trained especially to advise social media companies on how to best target the points of the brain which appeal to addiction and more impulsive behaviours (which is why there can be more hate online than there is in person). Cal Newport, whom I mentioned above, referred to social media like a slot machine in your pocket, like being in Las Vegas all the time but rather than gambling money you’re gambling with the worth of your self and the content you publish. As its so addictive, it often means that our attentions are split between the task we have set ourselves and our social media. As soon as a notification appears it can be hard for people not to check it then maybe have a scroll whilst your there. This means that a lot of the time we’re not necessarily focused on the task at hand and we can feel like we’ve been less productive. Of course we can switch our phones off or put them on airplane mode, but that doesn’t mean you won’t be wanting to check and see and its likely you might check it when you have a break. But spending a break on your phone can be damaging too, you’re only temporarily diverting your attention rather than giving yourself time to relax a little. This need for a break is often why people like smoking, it gives them a chance to go outside and often be with your own thoughts or with others. But our phones mean that this break time never really happens. Your brain moves between task to social media to task to unsocial socialising with your phone again. Snapchat I think is the worst for this because it appeals to human curiosity, the fact that you can’t see what the sender has sent makes you feel a need to find out but then once you open it you have to answer it otherwise the message will disappear. And so the cycle goes, our focus is broken constantly pulled in different directions.

Social Media, Data and Information sharing

I have seen some research suggest that social media can be helpful to people at this time during lockdown to help stay in contact with others and the world. But for me I think it makes things more confusing. Social media platforms allows information to be published online to mass consumers in seconds whether it is fact checked or not, and information can be published by anyone. This spreads what Trump has coined ‘fake news’, journalists biting at the bit to get out the latest story in a competitive news race or manipulating information to fuel the latest speculation. In times like these that can spread fear where it may or may not be founded. I follow many different news outlets and each one publishes different data to the next with seemingly no information on why they are different. I still find this to be the case when the information is sent via email but the rapidity increases the likelihood that the information will be edited later.

Information protection is another reason many choose to not have social media accounts or to be wary. I don’t like that I cannot protect my own identity because of the fact that it is not tangible, you cannot see a hacker coming to take your information or exploiting it in any way or you aren’t told explicitly how your information is used or sold. I don’t like the fact that my identity feels like its out of my hands online; it can be taken, manipulated or sold and theres nothing you can do about it once its online. This isn’t only an issue of social media but of technology and the internet in general but social sites are the ones in which you input the most of your personal information. We actively participate in trends, memes, viral challenges that may all help companies collect data. Often social media sites have access to many more sites you visit too. I was thinking of deleting my Facebook account and then I thought of all the websites I signed up to that I still visit which I signed in to through facebook, I began to realise just how much control this website was having on my internet life.

Im not saying that Social media is wholly bad, it has connected us as a human race globally in so may ways, it has allowed us to contact people more easily and its given voices to those who otherwise might not have had one. But I have come to the conclusion that my real friends would still phone me and that ultimately I would be better off in my life without using it, personally and widely anyway, when I can work my way off of it – wish me luck.

What has your relationship been like with social media? Do you find it to be more of a source for good? How do you think some of these issues with social media could be solved?

Sources/ more information:

Reading in lockdown: 5 hopeful books

books, Reviews, Thoughts

Reading has long been a pastime to help us get through times of crisis, whether personally or globally. Reading is also a great thing to do now that we have a bit more time on our hands! Sometimes, when this all gets a bit too much, a more hopeful read is better to turn to, so these are my top five (they are not in any particular order because I can’t decide which is better!) Each one is a reminder of how wonderful the world can be, some are novels, others poetry but each are hopeful and mostly escapist.

  1. How to Stop Time By Matt Haig.

Matt Haig is renowned for his writings around mental health and positivity. This book is one of his few fictional works which centres around a man who ages much slower than the average human being so has seen considerably more of the past. Haig takes the reader compellingly from the time of witch burnings to Shakespeare to the present day. If you are struggling during these times you may wish also to check out Notes on a Nervous planet (for anxiety) or Reasons to stay alive (for depression). We are all finding our way through these uncertain and changing times in different ways, and some are coping better than others. But know that you are not alone if you are struggling. Scarlett Curtis’ book ‘Its not okay to feel blue and other lies’ also might be useful.

2. The Lord of The Rings By J. R. R. Tolkien

A book centred around companionship and unity, as well as myth, wizards, elves and hobbits, Tolkien wrote the book based on his friendships as well as with his love of medieval mythology.

“The World is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater”

J. R. R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

3. The Poetry Pharmacy, William Sieghart

Poetry is often a source of solace during difficult times, and through these books Sieghart seeks to console the emotions with a suitable poem. Simply flick to the feeling of your choosing and have a read. Emilia Clarke is also currently doing readings of these poems on her instagram, along with other actors such as Stephen Fry and Andrew Scott which you can check out to get a taster, and when you buy the book all profits go to her charity ‘Same You’.

4. A Pair of Silver Wings By James Holland

Sometimes a reminder of a past crisis that people got through can bring hope for current ones. This is a really endearing book about friendship and love during the war as well as focusing on some mental health issues.

5. Silas Marner by George Eliot

This is quite a short novel based around someone who feels like an outsider in a new town slowly learning how to love life again. It’s a lovely read that demands its reader to look for hope in new, simple places.

Other honourable mentions:

‘Inferno’ by Dan Brown. This may not be overly hopeful but it is topical. There have been a few religious conspiracy theories around this time about this being about the revelations coming true. This book subtly deals with that through the issue of human overpopulation. It is a really thought provoking book, you can read my review here. It isn’t one for escapism out of the issues we are having today, but if you fancy diving deeper into the implications of scientific discovery and disease this is a compelling fictionalisation of it.

Frankenstein’ by Mary Shelley. This is one of my all time favourite books, it focuses around two characters mainly, Dr Victor Frankenstein and his creature, scrutinising what it means to be good or bad. Shelley brilliantly plays with the readers idea of what a monster is and how we define it. If you haven’t read it, it is a classic that is worth reading.

Poems you can read online:

Hope is the thing with feathers‘ by Emily Dickinson. A poem about hope as a bird coming and going that is always there even if you don’t notice it. This is a great poem for when hope is needed most.

This poem is interesting too although i’m not sure who the author is or where the source of this poem comes from.

Another book that sounds hopeful, as it is in the name, is Humankind: A hopeful history by Rutgar Bregman which is published tomorrow. I can’t wait to have a read and find out what it is like, apparently it’s a bit like ‘Sapiens’.

That was quite a lot more books than five but I hope at least one of them sparked your interest. This is a difficult time for people all over the world, but I hope you are well and finding ways to find some kind of normality. If there are any other books that have helped you to do so please let me know in the comments, I’d love to find more hopeful books to read!

  • If you are considering purchasing any books during lockdown and want to continue to support small hughstreet bookshops please consider buying them from Hive, an online retailer of books that supports small businesses.
  • For more on how books have helped in the past, this is a fascinating article from The Conversation about how books helped people keep calm during WW2.

Do we & Should we have Freedom Of Speech?

accaliasmith.com, Thoughts

Scrolling through Twitter earlier this month I saw this tweet from Stig Abell which Comedian Ricky Gervais replied to, and after having seen the video of the ‘nazi’ comments being shouted at to one of our MP’s, It really got me thinking about freedom of speech. Gervais, in this scenario, seems to be an advocate for this freedom whereas Abell does not. And this situation with this MP certainly does add to the argument of the latter, as it is awful that someone can be bombarded with such insults on live TV or on Social media.

This is a topic which is widely debated, freedom of speech means that we are free to make any comments we like without there being any sort of punishment if we go against the consensus; in short, it allows us to openly share our opinions.

So do we have Freedom of Speech now?

I don’t think we do. Yes, we have this freedom to a certain extent, however, increasingly there are campaigns for certain topics or phrases to be banned. Such as talking about ‘Hitler’ as Abell mentioned or racist words, parts of history that we can reflect on and learn from the past.

Should we have freedom of Speech?

I think we should. Being able to express our own individual opinions is part of it and weather we think someones opinion is right or wrong it is completely subjective and so we can either have the freedom or not have the freedom. Personally, I cannot think of a world worse than one in which we cannot express what we think.

In my opinion, banning words and phrases – even if they have negative connotations should never be banned as otherwise we are banning certain aspects of history, it is a respect which we should be trying to cultivate so that this kind of bullying does not occur. For example with the Hitler comments, there will always be other ways to insult somebody – if talking about Hitler and Nazi regime is banned then there will only be another person that they will be compared to. In other words, it should not be freedom of speech which is restricted but freedom of individuality which needs to be accepted.

One of the campaigns I have seen recently is to get phrases like ‘Bringing home the bacon’ banned – a vegan perspective that meat should not be used in our language like this. But these kinds of phrases have been used for such a long time, they should not be simply banned with people needing to consciously remember which common phrases are not allowed to be used anymore. And this particular phrase is not hurting anybody. To me, when I hear of these kinds of campaigns, It makes me think of ‘Newspeak’ in Orwell’s ‘Nineteen Eighty-four’ which was used by ‘the party’ to constrict peoples thoughts by making it impossible for people to have the words to articulate their thoughts and feelings.

By banning parts of our language we are essentially restricting it, yes, many phrases are offensive to people – no matter who you are, we all often experience bullying, whether that is for your race, your gender, your hair colour or anything else, unless we are all identical bullying is likely to always exist – bullies pick the part of you that makes you unique and different and spin that quality on its head. Bullying is difficult to prevent, it has always been around and restricting our language will only make it worse.

People come up with new phrases all the time to express something they want to say, sometimes it’s a different meaning of a word, sometimes it’s a new word entirely – expanding language is an amazing thing, if Shakespeare never made up all those new words and phrases, imagine how different our world would be now, Restricting language is restricting our freedom.

What do you think? Should we have freedom of speech? Do you feel as though you have freedom of speech? Are the issues we are talking about with freedom of speech actually about bullying in general?

A Chat about Resolutions…

Thoughts

To make or not to make resolutions, that is the question!

I believe that it is good to set goals and why not make new ones each year? You can set out your calendar for the new year and plan how you are going to achieve the goals you want to accomplish and how you can better yourself. I don’t, however, believe in the saying New Year, New You. I used to because I used to think it was useful to think of each year like turning over a new leaf, a fresh start but now I have realised that you are the same you – just like when your grandma asked you how it felt to be a new age, there was no immediate difference, no change but as the year began to go on and you got tasked with new responsibilities you began to feel older. That is how I think of the New Year, setting goals and plans in place to better myself because I am still ‘me’ even though the year has changed. I also believe reflection of the past year is good, the end of a year makes sense to use as a way to judge your own personal success on how much you have worked on being the ‘you’ you want to become.

So what are my ‘resolutions’?

  • To learn how to cook (I kinda know the basics but if I am going to university next year, I think I need to live on more than tomato pasta or beans on toast alone)
  • To be more consistent with my blogging – I love that I have got the opportunity to post my opinions on this platform and I would love to make the time to fit writing into my schedule.
  • To revise! I have got A levels this year and I really would love to get the best grades I can to get into the university of my choice.

As a student, and no ‘real’ career plan I’m really just basing my goals on my studies and doing what I love and hoping that that might bring me to where I want to be. I also have my yearly ‘reading goals’ to read more books outside of my lessons.

My top tips when making your goals / resolutions (whatever we are calling them!)

  1. Make a plan of how you are going to stick to it. If you are thinking of giving up smoking, begin by saying, ‘I’ll have 1 cigarette a day for a week’ then the week after that by saying, ‘i’ll have one every other day’, then ‘one a week’ etc. If you make a plan you are more likely to achieve your goal.
  2. Be realistic about what you can achieve in that year – if you have never really read for pleasure before and set yourself the goal of reading 20 books you are unlikely to achieve it (but set long term, so called ‘unrealistic’, plans too as Walt Disney once said, ‘If your dreams don’t scare you, they are not big enough!’)
  3. Reward yourself. Every time you reach a milestone, no matter how small, be proud of yourself and give yourself a reward – perhaps your favourite food, or a break somewhere.

I asked some friends and family about what they thought about resolutions…

They consensus was that it is stupid to think that that a new year is the only time that you can change things in your life, if you can’t achieve them any other time of the year why will you now? Many feel fed up of making resolutions only to give them all up mid January.

Thank you so much for reading, I hope you have an amazing new year and that you achieve all your goals! Spend New Year’s Eve happy about what you have achieved thus far, be proud of yourself!

See you for my 2018 review and what I am looking forward to next year up at midnight tonight!

 

The Dangers of a Social Media ‘Overdose’

Thoughts

Social media, created for social network and for users to share and create content – to keep people in contact with each-other. The idea was an incredible one, we can now have friends all over the world and keep in contact with them, however as with all things it has its downsides particularly when it becomes over used. So I ask you – How often do you use social media? And are you aware of how much time you may be spending on it?

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The problem:

You may be wondering why I refer to a social media ‘overdose’ in the title of this post, this is because using social media and mobile phones has been proven to be really addictive. When you get messages or likes on your recent post a hormone is released, the same hormone that is released when drinking alcohol or smoking. It’s this ‘happy’ hormone that makes all of these things so addictive. So just like you can overdose on these things you can overdose on social media.

Some apps such as Snapchat deliberately make using it addictive. In this case it’s the use of ‘streaks’, having to send a photo to your contacts every day that becomes really addictive; people using the app have to add sending ‘streaks’ into their daily routines, often making it a priority first thing in the morning. I was at a party recently in a place with no signal and no wifi and in the morning it was like a meltdown because they had a ‘timer’ meaning they were going to lose their ‘streak’ unless they sent a photo right away. I know so many people who get like this with Snapchat and I used to feel it too until I realised what I was doing and how pointless it really was to get so caught up in a number next to a name. So I deleted snapchat for a while and only re downloaded it so I could keep in contact with the friends who have been trying to contact me on there. When I deleted it so many people messaged me, so annoyed that we had lost our streak and I was so relieved to rid myself of that pressure, to not have to think first thing in the morning that I need to go on Snapchat.

Having a social media addiction is not a mental health disorder in itself but being addicted to it can cause many other mental health problems such as anxiety and depression because you’re counting the number of likes and having people unfollow and unfriend you. Many people also spend more time on their phones than spending it with people face to face, this lack of true social interaction can make people feel lonely, anxious and upset.

The health secretary is urging tech firms to enforce minimum age rules and I do think that this has got to be a really great thing to happen, I never had a phone until I was 11 and even then it was a little pay as you go phone but I loved growing up playing outside with friends, dressing up and doing role play; so many kids now just play games on their devices instead of getting dirty outside.  Many of the tech giants don’t even allow their kids to have mobile phones or social media platforms.

However this is not just an issue for kids, I often see parents picking up their kids from school and their child is trying to tell them about their day yet more often than not that parent is looking down at their phone. The misconception of social media use, I think, is that its just the young generations that use it but it affects all age groups because in the modern day they have to use it in work.

How can we reduce our social media use? 

In the new update for iPhones, Apple have added a feature where you can put a time limit on using certain apps so you can truly see just how long you are spending on instagram or snapchat or Pinterest. You can then tailor your social media use to your life.

The best way, however, to reduce our time spent on social media is simply to be wary of when we are using it. For example; when out to dinner with friends, put your phone away and turn it on silent. Sometimes we all need time without the distractions of our mobile phones; to simply be with your own thoughts, it’s in these time that we can be innovative and come up with new ideas.

To summarise, as the saying goes ‘everything in moderation’, using social media can be a positive way to spread messages and create content but using it too much and letting the likes and follow count get to you can cause a problem. Talk to people and take time for yourself to do things you love and use social media only when you’ve done these things; don’t let social media control your life.

I hope you enjoyed this post, I found it really fascinating researching the impact social media has on our lives in the modern day – if you want to find out some more here are a few links to some books and websites you might find interesting….

I have also done a post about the impact technology and social media has had on ways we get information and its contribution to creating ‘fake news’. Have a read here —– Fact Or Fiction

 

 

 

 

Fact Or Fiction

Thoughts

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‘Fake news’. I by no means mean to quote Trump here, but certainly much of the ‘truth’ has been contorted by journalists and social media in recent years.

We have, now, got most information at our finger tips. With thanks to the internet we can find out the breaking news and the height of your favourite celebrity; any kind of information that will satisfy your curiosity and allow you to figure out how to build that Ikea coffee table. The internet has been an incredible invention that I doubt many of us can imagine life without. However, as with all things, it has its downsides. We can get brand new information quicker then ever before which means journalists are biting at the bit to get out the next news story; this often means that much of the information has not been backed up and that it could, in fact, be just a rumour. And it’s not just the information we are given, it’s the information that news broadcasters can choose not to give us. After all, as Sir Francis Bacon once said ‘ipsa scientia potestas est’ – Knowledge itself is power.

I recently read an article from a couple of years ago by Katherine Viner (editor in chief at The Guardian) entitled ‘how technology disrupted the truth’ it was a fascinating read and really got me thinking about the society we live in now and our dependance on technology.

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Viner talked about how “In the digital age, it is easier than ever to publish false information, which is quickly shared and taken to be true”. Not only does this mean that some of the information is censored but that rumours can be quickly spread just like in high school movies. She is referring to the use of social media. It is easy for anyone to read a post and share it to let everyone they know about this information, or for anyone to make up information and share it without any evidence. And with our busy lives we tend not to have the time to check the facts, we just assume and trust that the information we are provided with is true.

Social media is not only a place to spread information but according to many articles the companies can censor what information we are presented with online. So unless we are actively searching for a piece of information, it won’t be shown on our social media feeds. Viner writes about how “Algorithms such as the one that powers Facebook’s news feed are designed to give us more of what they think we want – which means that the version of the world we encounter every day in our own personal stream has been invisibly curated to reinforce our pre-existing beliefs.” This can be particularly an issue in Politics. If we are given information about a campaign or about someone running for prime minister then that information may sway our decisions about what or who we vote for, if after the decisions have been made and we find out that that information was in fact false then we may look back on our vote and regret it – then we have the issue of whether there needs to be a revote. (Just like we are having now on the Brexit ‘vote leave’ allegations.)

Facebook has pledged to begin to do something about this ‘filter bubble’ (as Eli Pariser, the co-founder of Upworthy, coins it). Although some think even this is ‘Fake news’ too. (Facebook ‘fake news’ article here)

Many people now rely on social media to gain information on current affairs and to help construct opinions but how can we do that if that information may just be a rumour? We are unlikely to check these ‘facts’ and just regard them as the truth without any further investigation, after all the news should be something we can trust in.

Many writers in the past have talked about issues with misinformation, the most famous of all being George Orwell in his novel ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’. The phrase Orwell uses to sum this up is “Freedom is the freedom to say 2 plus 2 equals four” in other words, freedom only exists if all the information we are given is actually true. He comments on how easy it is for those in power or those we trust to say that “two plus two equals 5”. The sales of his best selling novel he wrote in 1948 shot up when Trump ran for president, with people making links between society now and the dystopian world Orwell presents for us.

Also in Margaret Atwood’s ‘A Handmaid’s Tale’ she writes that ‘there are 2 kinds of freedom, Freedom to and freedom from’.

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Im not saying that all the information we are told is false only that perhaps we need to be wary of what allegations being made by the media are true. This can only be done by checking on the sources and by reading around – To ask ourselves if the information we are being provided with is Fact or Fiction?

Who Run The World?

Thoughts

Happy International Women’s Day! A day for us to recognise incredible women from the past and inspiring women now. Life for women has changed so much in the last century, women now having the opportunity to vote, be independent and, in the words of Beyonce, run the world.

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There are so many influential women out there from Malala and other advocates to all the leaders in the UK; the Prime minister, the head of Met police, the Queen etc to talented actresses to inspiring artists. All reminding us, that as women now, we can achieve anything.  But this isn’t the case for many places around the world. I feel so lucky to live in a part of the world where we are almost at gender equality, and its awful to think that in so many places women are still being discriminated against and abused. There are many charities dealing with this issue such as the Malala fund, and I think it is so important that on this day we think about those that are worse off than us and you can donate, to help all these women who are deprived of educations and prejudiced, on their website.

Something closer to home though that we can all do, Is to empower each other! I think it is awful when there are still so many people tearing each other down when we should be raising each other up. Encourage everyone to be the best person they can be and achieve their aspirations. I bet all those women throughout history had some close friends helping them achieve what they thought would be the impossible. Just think about the suffragettes, they all worked together to get the medias attention to be allowed to vote. That wouldn’t have happened if they hadn’t empowered each other.

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There are many movies about some incredible women, here are my favourites if you fancy watching something with some seriously strong female leads on this international women day …

  1. The suffragette
  2. Wonder woman
  3. Hidden figures
  4. The iron lady
  5. Sex and the city
  6. Brave
  7. Sense and sensibility
  8. Alice in wonderland
  9. The Devil wears Prada

Or if reading is more you’re thing here are some equally inspiring books…

  1. Jane eyre
  2. Hidden figures
  3. I am Malala
  4. The diary of Anne Frank
  5. The colour Purple
  6. Yes please

I’d love to know your favourite books, movies or even songs that are about strong women in the comments! Go out and empower each other this Women’s day, you’ve got this.

Thank you so much for reading and thank you to all my girl friends and family who constantly inspire and encourage me, you know who you are! ❤

Who are the women in your life who inspire you? xxx