I am awesome, and so are you!

In our day-to-day lives, we are bombarded with the images of “perfect” people who we will never be. People who look a certain way, act a certain way, have their lives seemingly sorted – all the things you think you’re not. It’s easy for the world to beat you down and tell you you’re shit, so who doesn’t need encouragement every now and again?

Inspired by GoKaleo’s blog, I put a call out for people to contribute to our own version of “I am awesome and so are you!” – thank you to these brave people who sent me their photos and messages. I hope they touch you as much as they did me.




iamawesome1 0001GQ

LatteJunkie tara




Sexism and [Social] Media

Why are so many women practitioners of social media in New Zealand, but so few willing to be the face of it at events and in the media?

Let me start by telling you a story about one of the last social media events I went to. It was a night where two men and a woman were sharing their thoughts on social media in New Zealand. It was the usual setup, with the audience encouraged to tweet their thoughts to the big screen via a hashtag.

The first speaker was nondescript – I don’t remember anything about his talk. The second was a fairly unusual looking guy, but all the feedback for him was around the points he was making. The third was a high-profile woman who was making many excellent points and offered the most insight of the three.

But the comments on the big screen were about her legs, and her knee-high boots – and they were coming from high-profile male social media personalities. In fact, one gentleman went so far as to comment about her good looks during question time, which the female speaker awkwardly laughed off.

Women aren’t featuring at New Zealand social media conferences

I looked at several large social media-themed conferences in New Zealand. 84% of all speakers and 90% of key note speakers were men. Women made up just 14% of “quickfire” sessions, and only 25% of panels.


Who knows! But there are a few of things at play: Are women being asked to participate? If they are, is the Imposter Syndrome, which is supposedly more likely to affect successful women, causing them to decline? Is the additional abuse women get when they represent the voice of authority stopping them from repeat performances?

Wait – what was that third one?

Are women more likely to be called names for putting themselves in the public space?

Claire Robinson is a professor of Communication Design and a political comms and marketing commentator in Wellington. She wrote an excellent post about sexism in media, and related her own story of being called names after appearing on TV, whereas the gentleman who appeared alongside her received very little vitriol.

“In the previous three elections I never received one piece of criticism. That changed in 2011, with the social media revolution,” she wrote. “During the election campaign I received and read what I considered unpleasant personal criticism in the social media.”

She lists the names she was called. It’s not pleasant. People attacked her personally, her job, even her children. A parody account was started on Twitter.

She goes on to write that, “I searched the internet at the time to see if fellow political scientist Jon Johannson was receiving similar personal attacks. Aside from the odd accusation of him being a lefty, there were none.”

I had my own experience of this. About a year ago, after appearing on the news to comment about social media and the election, I was called ugly, fat, a “self-proclaimed guru”, and someone tweeted something along the lines of “what would she know”. You learn pretty quickly to never search your own name on Twitter.

Once I sourced another social media person to speak on camera about a technology issue; A women who had recently moved to the country but who had a distinguished career overseas in the online space. The outrage poured on her by the Twitter community was astonishing. How dare this unknown women comment on NZ technology! Who did she think she was?!

And yet unknown men sometimes feature, and no one comments. Men appear in print, radio or TV, whose backgrounds in the social space are, in my opinion, chequered or unproven, and people don’t seem to question them, and certainly never comment on their looks.

When I mentioned I was writing this, Jacky Braid kindly pointed me to this article about Cambridge professor Mary Beard, which is worth a read.

So in a nutshell, there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence that women putting themselves in the public eye are more likely to get abused – is there any research?

The research is bleak.

There’s plenty of international studies out there, I don’t need to regurgitate them here.

In her post, Ms Robinson noted that Corin Higgs completed local research that found that on blogs, social media and other outlets, criticism of female pundits tended to be more personalised than criticism of male pundits.

I’ll end up quoting her entire article soon if I’m not careful. Please go and read it.

I am all for getting the best person, regardless of gender, into the media and at conferences to talk about social media, or any other area. But I do think there are issues around getting women connected to the conference creators and media producers, around dispelling myths about women’s opinions not being as valid as men’s, and dealing with all the nasty crap on social media that happens afterwards.

So leave me a comment, share your thoughts… Just don’t write this off because I’m a woman.

When good internet warriors go bad

By now you will have heard the terrible news about the shooting at the Connecticut primary school.

Not everyone online treated it with the respect the situation deserved. Among those were a handful of Justin Bieber fans, who took to Twitter to express their angst that extended shooting coverage meant that the Biebs would probably not be on the Ellen show that day as planned.


Yeah. Pretty thoughtless, eh?

The People of the Internet tend to be pretty good at sorting this level of herpderpery out – tweets came thick and fast, telling the offenders what was going on, how bad it really was, and giving them a little perspective.

However, it wasn’t long before this started to happen [NSFW]:

abuse1 abuse2 abuse3 abuse4 abuse5 abuse6 abuse7 abuse8 abuse9 abuse10

It’s actually part of a wider trend I’ve been noticing lately: Someone is a bit of a dick online, or just says something someone else doesn’t like, and as part of the ‘community service’ of correcting that person, a line is crossed.

In my opinion, in this kind of situation it’s never okay to tell someone you wish they’d get shot, or that they should kill themselves.

I’m reminded of the recent Charlotte Dawson situ – regardless if you felt she was being a jerk or not, there’s no place for telling someone to “neck yourself”. Some of the recent tweets at The Oatmeal after his pathetic rape joke aren’t winning anyone over to the good side. The Pike River memorial Facebook page I help the Grey District Council manage has receiving end of some of the most disgusting stuff you can imagine, from trolls who see a page like that as “grief porn”. A fair number of those trolls genuinely believe they’re correcting a wrong. Some are just dicks.

In the last two days, I’ve seen people tweet to another user that they should drink bleach, get shot in the face, be mutilated to death, and be beaten to a pulp. Just mocking someone can be bad enough without adding threats and inciting to suicide.

I’m not the moral police, I know that. I’m not saying telling people off online is wrong. I’m not even saying that I think swearing at people is wrong. The shooting, in particular, was a highly emotionally-charged situation, and it’s only human to get ragey, upset, frustrated, scared, annoyed. But as humans, I believe we’re called to something bigger than expressing every unfiltered emotion we ever have at a 13-year-old who is being a bit selfish or thoughtless.

Not everyone treats terrible situations with the respect and care they deserve, we can’t control that. But what we can control is how we act towards those people.

Lets not be a part of making a horrible situation worse.

The worst Facebook updates of 2012

So many people and brands are now gaming for Facebook “engagement” that it’s ruining the platform for a lot of people.

Luckily, not too many of my friends fall for this stuff, but plenty of people have friends who do, so here’s a selection of the more desperate attempts to raise page awareness.

Lets start with this one.

No, I’m going to let my mum die. She knows it, too.


Because spamming your mates with crap always makes you lots of money, right? And cos magic.


Well played.


I liked this four times. It was heaps of fun. Changed my life.


The old “vote with a like or a comment” spam. Also if you don’t vote you obviously hate your country and won’t get any pavlova, which totally puts a dampener on my plans to finish an entire one by myself on Christmas day.


Not pictured: The “one like=one dollar donated” spam, and the “leave your password in the comments to see what happens!” spam.


theoatmeal.com knows


Dear 20-year-old Me

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about all the time I wasted when I was younger. I wish I could go back ten years and tell myself all the things I know now.

It seems I’m not alone in that.

I put a call out on Twitter, explaining I was writing this blog and was there anything you’d say to 20-year-old you? I got about 50 replies in a matter of minutes! I’m sorry I couldn’t put them all up here – there were many beautiful thoughts, and a few themes emerged. See if you can pick them…

Dear 20-year-old Tara, save some money. even if its just a little.
Dear 20-year-old Aimee, don’t rush into a serious relationship – enjoy being single!
Dear 20-year-old Anna, say thank you. And AVOID DEBT.
Dear 20-year-old Amy, don’t quit uni.
Dear 20-year-old Steve, your 20’s will be gone in a flash. Enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think.
Dear 20-year-old Chris, stay up all night. When you’re older you won’t be able to do it and recover.
Dear 20-year-old Kimi, don’t be afraid to fuck it up, just make sure you learn from it.
Dear 20-year-old J, don’t get a credit card, let alone three.
Dear 20-year-old Allen, plan for the future, then toss out those plans and enjoy the now. Life flies by too quickly!
Dear 20-year-old Kevin, the next 10 years are really going to suck – try to make the most of it, but don’t marry the lesbian. Also, buy shares in Apple.
Dear 20-year-old Orchid, don’t get credit cards or loans because they hold you back.
Dear 20-year-old Matt, take your guns to town, son, don’t leave your guns at home
Dear 20-year-old Nick, don’t propose.
Dear 20-year-old Kat, your flatmate is bad news. Move out before she ruins you. Punch her in the ovaries first.
Dear 20-year-old Josh, get a girlfriend, loser.
Dear 20-year-old Simon, get your act together and don’t miss opportunities.
Dear 20-year-old Stu, listen to your parents. They have lived life and know what’s in store.
Dear 20-year-old Vince, You can be indecisive about ‘work’. DON’T be indecisive about relationships. Work less, holiday more.
Dear 20-year-old Keith, don’t get pissed on your 21st.
Dear 20-year-old Lorne, no credits cards.
Dear 20-year-old Nick, don’t forget to floss. Teeth are expensive.
Dear 20-year-old NF, it’s going to get worse, but then it’s going to get much, much better. Then worse again, but that’ll be okay.
Dear 20-year-old Janine, PLEASE go see as much of the world as you can – broaden your horizons. Being RESPECTFUL of the cultures and the places you visit.
Dear 20-year-old Katherine, uni will always be there. Take the chances you’re given and explore… the world… other employment opps.
Dear 20-year-old Becs, life is not supposed to be shit. Seek professional help.
Dear 20-year-old Alexandra, buy more shares now, don’t be afraid to tell people you love them & wear sunscreen.
Dear 20-year-old Andrea, no one is judging you except you
Dear 20-year-old Sam, you shouldn’t have given any fucks.
Dear 20-year-old Danielle, you’re 20, so you are obviously totally cute. Stop worrying about it.
Dear 20-year-old Stacey, you are a fucking rockstar. stop apologising and stop letting other people tell you what you should be.

If you’re not picking up what we’re putting down: Here it is…

Respect yourself and others. Don’t be a dick with your heart, or with money. Listen to your gut. Be kind to yourself.

And as for 20-year-old Cate? All of the above, plus she needs to know that things really will be okay.

Cos they will be.

Feeling brave? Please add your “Dear 20-year-old me” to the comments. x

My Bucket List

When I turned 30, I got my arm inked. It’s something I wanted to do for years, but wasn’t brave enough. Now it’s 80% done, I’m so pleased and proud that I did it!

It’s made me think though, what else is on the to-do list? Why don’t I get stuck in?

So here it is: My unfinished, ever-growing Bucket List.

  • Buy a piece of art that makes my toes curl with happiness.
  • Go on a cruise through the Mediterranean.
  • New York needs it’s own list: Enjoy a bagel in Central Park, re-enact Sleepless In Seattle up the Empire State, visit Tiffany’s, see the Statue of Liberty, get my photo taken with bad-ass homies, eat New York pizza, catch a Broadway show, NYE in Times Square.
  • Wee on the Hollywood sign.
  • Meet Midget Elvis in Vegas.
  • Mardi Gras in New Orleans, yo!
  • Marry my best friend.
  • Learn to play guitar. Properly. Rock out.
  • Befriend an old person. Make their life magical.
  • Sort my fingernails out.
  • Introduce a child to Pop Rocks. Video them. Put it on YouTube. Get 100,000 views.
  • Pompeii.
  • Ride a mechanical bull.
  • Shave my head.
  • Help to make someone else’s dream come true.
  • Acquire a set of Crown Lynn pink polkadot plates like my grandmother had.
  • Send a postsecret in to postsecret

Some awesome things I’ve already done:

  • Drunk a pint in a tiny Irish pub, goaded on by tiny Irish men.
  • Made it into The Sun for ‘stalking’ a pop singer. Long story.
  • Visited [the outside of] Anne Frank’s house.
  • Reverse bungy. Didn’t lose my lunch.
  • Taken a rickshaw through Singapore.
  • Loved and lost.
  • Full arm tattooooooooooo!
  • Gone 230km/h in a car.
  • Been on TV in at least four countries.
  • Ridden the London Eye.
  • Pole danced while eating fried chicken.

So… Suggestions for what I might add?

Do you make social media managers despair?

I’ve been talking to a lot of community managers of high-profile New Zealand companies, and there’s a trend to what they have been saying lately: They are getting worn out from trying to deal with unreasonably emotional people. People who say they are upset about changes to products they get for free, having a go at marketing campaigns for products they would never use, angry that a service isn’t 100% perfect.

It has been a hard couple of years in New Zealand. We’ve had Pike River, the hideous and ongoing situation in Canterbury, a really bad summer, the financial crisis, an election, and although we won it, the World Cup came at a cost. It’s no wonder we’re all a little short-tempered.

Adding to that, in general people have a burning desire to feel innocent; to feel not guilty for our actions. We justify horrible behaviour by saying we are righting a wrong, fighting injustice, protecting others. We convince ourselves that tweeting or Facebooking our thoughts, no matter how rude, is justifiable.

There’s also the commonly-used argument that you shouldn’t be in the public arena if you can’t handle a bit of fire. That’s an okay point, until you start using it to justify swearing at company employees, constantly slagging off celebrities, or hacking websites.

It’s never okay to wish a company’s employees would get breast cancer so they would know suffering. It’s never okay to tell anyone that you want them to commit suicide. It’s never okay to say a product is so terrible it makes you want to kill yourself. It’s never okay to post images of aborted foetuses to a Facebook page, saying you wish this had happened to the product’s makers.

Believe it or not, these are real examples of recent New Zealand abuse on high-profile Facebook pages.

You can, however, have a bad experience and take to social media to offer constructive feedback in an adult manner. I believe that this kind of feedback is welcomed, as it’s incredibly helpful, doesn’t make the community manager think you’re a knob end, and can be presented verbatim to decision-makers for resolution.

Just take a minute and ask yourself if you are being a jerk, but justifying it and absolving yourself with lame excuses.

We’ve had a hard go of it lately, but here’s a way we can start to make the world a tiny bit nicer.

Stop trying to be fancy on Social Media

I have a message for marketers, social media managers, advertising whiz-kids and anyone else who thinks social media needs to be flashy: Quiet in the cheap seats. There’s a rant coming, and it’s got your name on it.

I see a trend hitting New Zealand Facebook pages (although it’s not limited to that medium alone): Big, fancypants apps and huge ad spends that your target audience doesn’t actually care about. Multiple posts pushing to said app or competition or marketing ploy. LIKE or SHARE this post to spam all your friends in the hope that maybe, just maybe you’ll win something.

You know what research shows your audience does care about? Special offers and rewards. Insider intel. Having fun with your brand. Staying on-topic. Not being spammed. So why are you trying to convert people with songs-and-dances that are so off-brand that you know you’re not getting genuine fans?

(via ExactTarget)

But the long term goals are being ignored, and probably because someone’s KPIs are measured by how many ‘likes’ a page gets during the campaign.


*by children, I mean customers. You know, those people who actually fork over their money to use the brands services?

Please, for the love of all that is holy, stop the gimmicks. People will unlike/hide your page as soon as they see they aren’t getting any real value, or because they only liked to win something, and then it’s so much harder to get them back again.

If you want a strong, long-term social strategy, don’t wage it all in a hook. But if you only want good-looking but virtually meaningless stats to sit on a spreadsheet that no one truly understands, go for gold.

Top 40 hits that make me facepalm

It’s always amusing – and facepalmy – when a song with stupid lyrics makes it to the Top 40.

What’s worse is when the lyrics are in equal parts stupid and disrespectful. It’s as if the lyricists don’t have two braincells to rub together.

What if we swapped the genders – make the women the singers and the men featured in the lyrics – would we see them for what they really are? Here’s a sample of upended lyrics from some fine tunes that hit the top of the charts this year – that’s 2012, not 1962.

Whistle – by Flo Rida
I’m betting you love creep mode, and I’m betting you like boys that give love to boys, and stroke your little ego

The moral: Men like boys that give love to boys. It strokes their egos, hard.

Turn All The Lights On – by T Pain
This must be his song, dancing like ain’t nobody else in here, Sexy as he wanna be and he dancing so close to me. I said ‘please excuse you steppin’ on expensive shoes’. He is a perfect ten, this angelic body made you sin. I love the way you get it in, come over here and shake it for a lady – cause you want it

The moral: It turns out men actually really WANT to dance in front of leering women! And true ladies want men to “shake it”. Just mind my shoes, pet. They be pricey.

Sorry For Party Rocking – LMFAO
When I’m in the club, sippin bub, really drunk, and I see a guys ass, gotta have it. I’ma grab it.

The moral: If you’re drunk, just grab some random ass. No one minds.

International Love – Pitbull
I’ve been to countries and cities I can’t pronounce, and places on the globe I didn’t know existed. In Romania, he pulled me to the side and told me “Pit, you can have me, and my brother.”

The moral: Pitbull should have stayed in school, and these lyrics are actually fucking creepy… Even when the genders aren’t reversed.

The Motto – Drake
Some Spanish boys love me like I’m on Aventura… Clubbing hard, fucking men, ain’t much to do.

The moral: When bored, get busy. It makes you look cool.

Leave You Alone – Young Jeezy
[Dear boyfriend:] keep your stomach, inner thighs, and your legs right, while I’m out here focus getting this bread right.

The moral: Women won’t support a man with a beer gut. Get it sorted, guys.

I’m actually sick of this stuff. It’s awful. Why do we buy into it, and let it lace itself into our culture?!

To finish, I’ll paraphrase the worst of them all: Faded, by Tyga and Lil Wayne. These men are class and I hope their families are proud.

  • Women are dogs, so sexual partners get the nickname “Lassie”.
  • During sex, put your thumb in a woman’s anus, and then make her smell it, in the hopes that she vomits.
  • “Pregnant bitch titties” are bad because you can milk them.
  • Have sex with a woman while playing your own music, then break “a bitch heart” once you’re done.

Stay classy, gentlemen.

Things a Twitter addict learned while on holiday

This holiday, I went on a social media fast. No Twitter. No Facebook. I wasn’t allowing myself to see anything remotely work-related. I was having a Proper Break.

Sounded good in theory, but I didn’t realise just how much I used Twitter to keep up with news, and find alternative perspectives from the ones in my head, in the paper, or on the TV.

I Googled "Twitter Troll" and this came up. Pretty much exactly what I look like.

I’ll cheerfully admit, I’m sometimes a Twitter troll*. I’ll make a big, bold, topical statement, and then watch for fireworks. It’s interesting, the reactions you get: From the earnest to the angry, people on either side of the coin will either call you out or triumph their hurrahs!

Luckily, there’s truth mixed in there somewhere. The answer is never black-or-white, and opinion trolling – although must be used with caution – usually starts a fantastic discussion where we can all learn something, gain perspective, or feel grounded.

Another thing I didn’t do this week was share stuff I was reading or watching to Facebook or Twitter. It made me feel very disconnected – it turns out I’ve been using Twitter almost as a bookmark: A place where I can go back later, find the link, and share again. Not to mention the enjoyment my friends get from the good oil. I didn’t get to read their comments. I didn’t get to see what they were sharing.

No, this week, I haven’t been on Twitter. I haven’t seen the 140-character vox pops of people’s take on news and current affairs. I haven’t seen the trending topics. I had FOMO. It makes me feel out of touch, and I don’t like feeling out of touch.

The flip side is, I didn’t facepalm. Not once.

During my holiday, I never felt misunderstood (a misunderstood sometimes-troll? Who would have thought!). I didn’t get frustrated. I didn’t have to adopt the fetal position at all! I didn’t feel scrutinised – that at any moment something I tweet may get twisted and end up in the paper. No stress that a tweet – oopsie! – could come from an account it shouldn’t have. I did not see any of the mob-mentality, angry, angry tweets about something that doesn’t even matter in the scheme of things. I know, I know. Us “professionals” are supposed to wax lyrical about how we’re all amazingly thick skinned, and you shouldn’t be working near flames if you can’t handle heat etc. Wah, wah, wah. But let me tell you: This week, muting Twitter was bliss.

Well, it was very nearly bliss.

I missed seeing my friend’s streams of consciousness. I did miss taking advantage of “anyone free for a drink” tweets. I missed the warm humour and the pithy one liners.  I missed knowing the news when it happened. I missed BexieLady’s amusing pregnant oversharer tweets and TroyRFs ragey bus tweets.


It’s tweets like these that make Twitter what it is


It was also hard to not share my own random thoughts – having a really funny untweeted thought was almost like putting a note in a bottle and then never releasing it to the ocean to see what will happen.

Gawd, I did just write that.

Oh the things I could have tweeted! There was the half-hour phone call with my older brother, explaining why he couldn’t just use his first name as his Skype login, and then working out that he didn’t have an internet connection in first place. That would have been awesome to live tweet.  There was the time my flatmate a random person I was hanging out with,  upon seeing a happy child skipping along the street remarked, “bet that’s a weird little kid… I mean, ‘unique’ little kid. Whatever we’re supposed to call it these days.”

So Tweet-worthy.

But I digress.

The NZ Twitter crowd really is one big whanau. There’s the younger siblings, who bring us Bieber and Gaga and Shore Girls news. There’s the mums who make sure we’re all doing okay and eating our veges. There’s the angry uncles getting drunk and arguing the Demise Of Everything in the corner. There’s the older sisters who say “fuck it” and wear leopard print jeans with tie-died hoodies even though they look a bit mad. There’s the grandparents who are mostly graceful and amazing but turn out to be batshit crazy enough to hang out with the rest of us.

I missed you, tweeple.


*Trolling. Not to make people uncomfortable, or to show a company what a dick I am, but just to get people talking. And thinking, hopefully.