I’ll update this post later.
It’s true. There are one bajillion Australianisms, and they range from flipping adorable to utterly bizarre. As someone who moved to Down Under a little over a year ago, it tickles me to hear some of these routine words and phrases. Here’s a compiled list of 9 favourites, while you grab some brekkie:
1. “No dramas”: The big brother of “no worries”, another Australian favourite, “no dramas” essentially means the same thing: not a problem, everything’s awesome. And it usually is, because Australians are, generally speaking, very nice tempered. Incidentally, “no worries” is one of the first expressions people seem to catch on upon arrival from abroad, but “no dramas” is kind of like you’ve graduated to the big leagues, and it’s harder to pull off. Take it seriously.
2. “You’re right”: When do Aussies say this? Typically, when you thank someone or when you apologise… “You’re right/all right” is another version of “all good” but it sounds so much sweeter, and I love how it’s a brilliant substitute to “you’re welcome” and “that’s fine” type equivalents….yawn.
3. “Bikkie:” My ultimate cringe word. Predictably enough, this one is short for “biscuit”, and I’ve met Australians that have a very strong affection towards this word, but… but… it makes me die inside. *shudder*
4. “I feel like…”: Boy, do Aussies love this. And it’s so innocuous you hardly notice it at first. What’s amusing is the number of people I’ve seen start a sentence with “I feel like…” and follow up with an all-too-rational, fact-based point. “I feel like” is often neutralized when you realise the subsequent part of the sentence has nothing to do with feelings. Regardless, I feel like it’s so cute.
5. “Mum”: Not Mom. Mum. Always. Reckon they’re different? No, me neither. But an Australian does.
6. “Mate”: Speaking of relationships… It’s not so much that “mate” is special, but in Australia you Don’t. Say. “Dude”.
7. “Arvo”: Ah, a classic. Surely such dramatic word tailoring is only for extra short afternoons, you ask? Nope, applies to all afternoons, because an Australian is simply not going to bother with the whole word. Better get comfy with “arvo”, stat.
8. “Shopping centre”: This one is just very mysterious. Australians, who look for ways to shorten EVERY WORD, will cheerfully make the effort with each syllable of “shopping centre.” And for crying out loud, don’t say “mall.” It slipped out of my mouth when speaking to an Aussie friend, and she looked at me like I had suggested strangling a puppy and then heading directly to lunch.
9. “Macca’s”: You will not find an Australian who says “Mc Donald’s” fully, ever. No, you will not. Oh, think you know one? Check his passport.
… Then tell me some of your favourites. And please, please say “Biscuit”.
The near-stupor that typically envelopes me as I read my Twitter feed was sort of disrupted recently by an article from Sydney Morning Herald. Why I Am Cheating on My Partner is a pretty eye-catching title, and predictably enough, the piece speaks to a series of individuals who are in extra-marital affairs sharing their motivations behind this decision.
My instinctive reaction to the article itself was fairly bland. But it reminded me of something that has often occupied my thoughts: expectation management in relationships (yes, sometimes my thoughts sound like pitiful chapters from overpriced business books).
Basically, this lifestyle piece from SMH has 3 people disclosing their stories. Person 1 is having an affair because his spouse refuses marriage counselling and he seeks intimacy. Person 2 mentions no marital discord but finds herself intensely involved in an emotional affair. What happens when you feel so strongly connected to someone who isn’t your partner? No idea. Reminds me of the stunning David Lean movie, Brief Encounter, where a married woman falls in love with a married stranger. Person 3 has had a series of affairs in search of thrills and with the hope to feel desirable again. She figures she will eventually stop cheating and “recommit” to her relationship. Erm, OK, that’ll work.
Regardless, the common thread among all of this? There’s deceit, and perhaps an undercurrent of helplessness, in all three cases.
I have not a unique but possibly a shade more of an external perspective on the notion of romantic love. I remember witnessing in India a number of “arranged” a.k.a. typically perceived as freakish, family-organised, impossibly dispassionate marriages, and often enough, they are. Some people lucked out regardless and ended up with genuinely compatible partners. Others didn’t, but they tugged along anyway. In any case, this seems a relatively alien concept to me, too, as a person of my generation. And when it comes to love, I too have opted for the heart route, and fallen, and failed. But having witnessed multiple instances of both emotion-based and contract-based relationships forces me to consider both.
The utterly dry approach to marriage I observed in India makes me throw up in my mouth. But in a bizarre way, it was functional. There was little concept of romantic love and an even smaller concept that this must be fulfilled by another. There was little expectation of romance, thrills, I-want-to-feel-desired-ness and the rest. Staying together was expected of you, and personal feelings, if they weren’t warm, were nevertheless set aside in favour of duty. If that sounds grossly unambitious from an amore point of view, it’s because it was.
So I’ll take a leap here and say the west did it better. Right from the Bible, emphasis on love and closeness between spouses has been tremendous. And love itself has been so wonderfully exalted. The freedom to choose who to be with and why to be with them, and quite simply the freedom to indulge in love—are liberties still quite particular to the west. But with great freedom comes the ability to screw up monumentally. More recent lifestyles place so much importance on romantic fulfillment that the notion of anything less seems unbearable. This especially comes to mind when the article cites a poll stating that “30 per cent [of Ashley Madison users] were ‘chasing the feeling of butterflies’”. The thing is, butterflies do feel like paradise. And it may well be unbearable to be cast out of paradise. But predicating commitment on the foundation of feelings—not only feelings of love, but feelings of joy, desire, and even that last bit of ineffable longing—is disastrous.
While I’m on a roll, I’ll say something unpopular, and something I’m afraid to admit even to myself. It’s possible there comes a time in life when butterflies are through with you. It’s also possible there comes a time when you’re done being desired, period. It’s also possible that the fulfillment of every romantic wish, in the grander scheme of things, is of little importance.
We live in a society where feeling good is touted as not as a perk but essentially a right, and I’ll give some credit to those who champion that philosophy because I believe their hearts are in the right place. But I wonder if it would work out better if we paused on the steroidal euphoria and took a more sombre approach to things. If we prized companionate love and duty more than romantic love, it just might lead to something more sustainable.
If you grew up in a relatively fuss-free home in India, there’s a good chance you weren’t told too often what a special little snowflake you are. If you had talent, it wasn’t necessarily pointed out. Perhaps on your birthday, but it’s more likely you were supposed to just know some things without anyone ever verbalising them. Then one day, when a distant aunt and uncle came to visit, out of nowhere you were asked to sing or dance or tell a joke, whatever your department. Whether you performed or left the premises in embarrassment, secretly your eyes shone and you got a little red. Maybe, just maybe you had something to offer. But then the relatives departed, and you were just you once again, more likely to be a corn flake than a snowflake.
‘Corn Flake’, by yours truly, 2017
No, this isn’t a discourse on any type of parenting philosophy. If you were lucky and had a family, chances are they loved you and took great care of you. I mean, great care. I’m merely implying that it wasn’t done for kids to be praised excessively, for fear that they would end up complacent. They had to be supported, nurtured, and raised to be responsible, decent, employable adults. There had to be structure.
Then things changed. We tried out MSN and Yahoo! chats. We dabbled in Myspace and Hi5 and Orkut, but it was all very baby and no one really cared. And then things went nuclear. FaceBook had arrived. There was no next big thing. It was the thing. More giants arrived: WordPress, Twitter, Instagram. And for some of us, structure was lost forever. The “look at me, listen to me” age had officially begun, and the volume of content was colossal. And while the amount of talent was exhilarating, the amount of almost-talent was excruciating.
For the thinning “I’ll speak when I have something to say” team, this flood of photos, statuses, hearts, comments, videos, memes, talking about my days, thumbs ups, thumbs downs…became so excessive it became vulgar. And over time, for non-participants, the consequences of trying to escape have become more than social. They are downright inconvenient. Not knowing about a job because you’re not on LinkedIn, missing out on that event because you’re not on Twitter, hell, not using Tinder because you’re not on FaceBook, not that anybody uses Tinder. Oh, wait.
But more baffling still was the outrageous success of so many participants. Scores of people were discovering opportunities on social media. Better yet, opportunities were discovering them. The madness didn’t have a method, but it was working. And however few my sympathisers, I’ll take them because at that point we looked at the world and thought the same thing:
Well… After a commendable fight, cautiously, we’ve begun to engage. You see, online identity is what it is for a reason. To choose not to do it in this day is to choose invisibility. Much of online presence is essentially a performance. As a qualitative study on Twitter searched for varying perspectives on using the platform, one that emerged was the imagined presence of a vast, engaged “audience” (Marwick & Boyd 2013). And while the idea of “audience” might sound excessive, invisibility is a void.
So I’m going to have to start trying.
It’s 2018, and it’s hard to wait till you are certain you have something to say. The world is noisy, and the quiet must evolve to survive. But perhaps the quiet can learn from this. Perhaps this is simply a new stage to get out there, learn, practice, and evolve, and hope that in the process, someone appreciates this.
Hence this blog.
Marwick, A & Boyd, D 2013, “I tweet honestly, I tweet passionately,: Twitter users, context collapse, and the imagined audience”, New Media & Society 13(1), pp. 114–133.
My mother seems to think of only one man as close to perfect. No, not my father. Her father. 26 years have passed since my grandfather’s death, and the enthusiasm in her voice as she recalls his stories has not diminished by a shade. I have the odd photograph of him, a letter or two, and plenty of stories. It’s safe to say I’m the last one in this particular link, though. As wonderful as he sounds, I must admit that his stories will likely not survive another generation.
If only he had FaceBook or something.
A strange thing to say, but not altogether unreasonable. Social media has offered man another possible arena for his legacy, and it’s important not to limit this to an estate or a brilliant, patented idea. It’s quite simply the way you are remembered. The good and bad and in-the-middle associated with your name. Your name, your legacy. The reason many families still wish to have sons, the reason Achilles went off to fight in Troy, the reason Cersei-queen-of-three-kingdoms-at-best is still hanging in there.
… But it’s common. Somewhere in our anatomy we seem to have this gene that wants our name to survive, an undying link to the physical world. For those in the digital age, this sense of immortality might in fact be more available than it was to our predecessors. …Because a cluster of web-based companies specialise in managing and/or publishing social media content for people after they die. Deadsocial and LivesOn (“when your heart stops beating, you’ll keep tweeting”) are two such brands.
In fact, one of the selling points of these services is their claim that they can mimic the customer’s style of posting and tailor the posts accordingly. I’m not quite sure how this would work if you tend to post pictures of your breakfast every morning, but in all seriousness, algorithms are becoming increasingly sophisticated, and it is estimated that it will be possible to analyse huge masses of content produced over entire lifetimes (cited in F. Messe et al. 2015, p. 414), so “impossibility” is a diminishing factor.
— Nandini (@N_Pasbola) September 3, 2017
(Clearly not for everyone though)
Regardless, social media does play a more diverse role on the subject of death.
The mourning process
M. Gibbs et al. (2015) conducted an inductive analysis of Instagram images and data surrounding death and funerals. And it’s true that there are a fair amount of outfit and appearance-related selfies (p. 260), but (hold your horses) these images weren’t generally taken at the funeral venue and were not overtly linked to the commemorative service–barring the funeral hashtag. Images taken of the funeral by and large seemed to observe propriety by not showcasing the deceased or the mourners (p. 260). Most importantly, the authors identify the helpful role of social media in finding support and a sense of “proximity” to faraway family and friends (p. 264), recognising death as a social event and social media as a valid, even convenient, platform for mourners.
Digital death management
There is another aspect of social media that correlates to one’s legacy and doesn’t include outsourcing updates to another party. Digital assets. Whether you have millions of subscribers or just your mom checking in religiously every week (the “Like” button is below, ma), your online accounts are yours and count as digital assets. And yes, it is atypical to seriously prepare for such an event, particularly among young users. But having a plan for your online belongings might be the digitally responsible thing to do. Meanwhile, I’m just surprised I crossed 600 words for this piece. Thought this topic would be such a dead end.
- Gibbs, M, Messe, J, Arnold, M, Nansen, B & Carter, M 2015, ‘# Funeral and Instagram:
death, social media, and platform vernacular’, Information, Communication & Society, vol. 18, no. 3, pp. 255–268.
- Messe, J, Nanse, B, Kohn, T, Arnold, M & Gibbs, M 2015, ‘Posthumous personhood and the affordances of digital media’, Mortality, vol. 20, no. 4, pp. 408–420.