Time for a confession. Despite being ‘thirty-something’ (OK, late thirty-something) and supposedly of the generation for whom a smart phone is an arm-extension, I am inept when it comes to all things technological. I wish I could say I was using hyperbole when I admit that it took me an embarrassing amount of time to locate the hashtag for the title of this post!
I am a fan of Facebook and can What’s App like a pro, but the worlds of Twitter, Instagram, Snap-chat and whatever else is out there, are alien climes to me. The mysterious hashtag, appearing occasionally on Facebook, bemuses me. Recently one of my Year 12 students kindly and not-at-all-condescendingly did her best to explain it all to me. I’m not sure I was left any the wiser.
One thing I had begun to notice on some Facebook posts, was the label #nofilter. Even with slightly-improved understanding of what hashtags were supposed to do, this one still perplexed me. What did it mean? I found out, on a church camping trip. Sitting in the evening sun one day, camping hair and ‘no-make-up’ face on display, a more techno-savvy friend declared it a selfie moment. “NOT one for Facebook!” I announced, knowing how terrible I looked. “Don’t worry,” she replied – “I’ll add makeup and change the lighting so we look great!” This, she explained, was a filter. I had no idea how commonly they were used, naively assuming that everyone else posting their photos was just aging considerably better than me!
Fast forward a few months and I walked the ‘Race for Life’ with my sister, to raise money for Cancer Research. A particularly unflattering photograph appeared on the local radio station website, prompting me to joke that I could do with someone inventing a “lose-a-stone” filter for people like me!
It all got me thinking about filters in our minds and the way they impact how we see the world through them. We all have them and they affect how we view and react to situations in our lives every day. Our filters are formed from our life experiences, good and bad. The things people do and say, our responses to things we read and hear, are all processed through our own sets of filters. I know, from my own experience that a rousing sermon can send me sobbing into my cup of coffee, if Ofsted have been and the children haven't slept. The same message can have me encouraged and pressing on, if I'm in a better place.
If we have been brought up in a climate of love and acceptance, missing an invite to a social event probably won’t bring forth a string of rejection-fuelled emotions. If we have never experienced the pain of sudden loss, we probably don’t wait up, fearful and anxious if our partner is inexplicably home late. If your experience is the opposite, your filters can bring you down in a negative spiral of fear and even the smallest remark can be blown out of all proportion, causing us real emotional pain.
As writers (although I am aware that I probably mean writers of non-fiction, here), I believe that we would do well to consider other people’s filters, as we write. Of course, that doesn’t mean we should suppress our own voices and opinions or try to please everyone – that will never happen! We can’t account for and anticipate every possible viewpoint as we seek to express ours. However, it is worth having a listen to how our words might sound, through others’ filters. Is what I am writing respectful, helpful, warm, empathetic? Will a broken person be encouraged and uplifted by this, or made to feel inadequate and still more unworthy? Am I being real and honest (#nofilter) or presenting an image of my life being perfect and completely together?
I know when I write from the heart, admitting my own struggles and brokenness, others connect and find inspiration that their own, unfiltered issues are acceptable to admit to - and that they can still be loved by God and others, however wild their hair or weather-beaten their faces and hearts.
Georgina Tennant is a secondary school English teacher in a Norfolk Comprehensive. She is married, with two sons, aged 9 and 6, who keep her exceptionally busy! She feels intimidated by having to provide an author-biography, when her writing only extends, currently, to attempting to blog, writing the ‘Thought for the Week’ for the local paper occasionally, and having a poem published in a book from a National Poetry Competition! Her musings about life can be found on her blog: www.somepoemsbygeorgie.blogspot.co.uk