How Many of These Social Media Stereotypes Do You Know?

Category: Author Post

by Angela Clarke, the author of Follow Me

51U5fVAiqeLAll hail our internet overlords: social media: slayer of boredom, font of friendships, route of Repetitive Strain Injury. Can you get through the day without tweeting, checking Facebook, or Instagraming a sunset? No? Then you’re my kind of person. Join me in spotting how many of these social media stereotypes you follow. I’m such an ENTHUSIASTIC SHOUTER…

The Kitty Kisser
The Kitty Kisser has two British Shorthairs Mr Pickles and Archduke Leopold the Third – Leo-Babycakes for short. Their profile picture is of a cat. They post photos of their cat sat on their bed, sat on their computer, sat on their dinner, sat on their face. In every shot Mr Pickles looks like he’s planning to kill and eat his besotted owner.

The Keyboard Warrior
Did you know there are amoebas being starved in Micronesia? And they’re banned from driving?! Or getting married?! Or eating in McDonalds?!? It’s a crime against humanity. Here’s an article about it. Here’s a Youtube video. Here’s the same Youtube video with a sentimental Disney song laid over it. Here’s a vine. Here’s a blog I wrote about it. Here’s a Change.org petition. Here’s another Change.org petition. How can you tweet about the Kardashians when the amoebas are still being starved?!!? Pls RT.

The Pass Agg Cynic
The Pass Agg Cynic is only online in an ironic manner. All their tweets sound like they’ve been written by a trying-too-hard to be cool teenager. No emojis. No exclamation marks. They never ‘like’ anything. Hard liquor features frequently in moody shots. Selfies are satirical, with a filter of contempt. When they finally fall in love/quit the job they hate/emigrate they start posting pictures of sunsets with smiley faces.

The Racist Relative
Isn’t Facebook great? Without it we’d never know which members of our extended family are racist, homophobic, sexist idiots. Sigh. Time to demand a DNA test.

The Over Sharer
The Over Sharer shares everything that makes them laugh, cry, or RAGE. Which is apparently everything in the world. Ever. Their favourite acronym is TMI – Too Much Information. Social media is their therapy. With added exclamation marks. Live without it? They can’t even…!!! All their friends have them on mute.

#FirstWorldProblems
This righteous angel thinks all your posts are facile, immature, and other words they’ve looked up in a thesaurus. Don’t you read the news? Don’t you care about what’s really happening out there? How dare you tweet jokes when people are dying, they type from their moral mountaintop (on a £1,200 MacBook, in their central heated, tastefully decorated suburban detached home).

The Hashtagger
#TheHashtaggerOnlyWritesInHashtags #Funny #Lols #Lolcat #NailedIt #SlightlyAmusingIn2008 #ThisIsTiresome

The ENTHUSIASTIC SHOUTER
The ENTHUSIASTIC SHOUTER puts EMPHASIS on EVERYTHING of IMPORTANCE by writing in capitals. Like an overexcited barking puppy, they seem cute at first, but will soon give you a headache.

The Pedant
The Pedant loves pointing out the grammatical error in the post your phone autocorrected, after you typed it with one thumb, while running to a meeting juggling shopping bags for tonight’s dinner, and generally having a life. There/their/they’re a prick.

The White Saviour
Not be confused with #FirstWorldProblems, the White Saviour just wants to help those less fortunate than themselves. E.g. anyone who is not white. Their privilege makes them uniquely placed to comprehend and address any issues surrounding ethnicity. After all, haven’t we got everything completely right in ‘our’ country? Some of their best friends are black. Which they’ll tell you. In every single tweet.

Emoji Ninja
JI*(LMNCCCK

The Serial Selfie Shooter
It’s a wonder this poster ever gets anything done, as they pause every five minutes to duck pout. Here’s a Selfie in front of their bedroom mirror! Here’s a Selfie of them on the bus! Here’s a Selfie of them on the loo! You end up wishing they’d shoot themselves, the other way.

Full house! Bingo! What social media stereotypes did I miss? And which one are you?

Obsession is like a runaway train…

Category: Author Post

Catherine Hunt photoCatherine Hunt, author of Someone Out There, outlines some of the inspiration behind her debut thriller novel.

As a journalist, I’d come across a lot of real life stories about people with an obsession which had made them do appalling things, and it always seemed like a good subject for a book.

Things got a bit closer to home when someone I knew became the target of another person’s obsession. Bit by bit, the problem escalated, until it reached a violent climax.

Everyone was stunned that things could get so out of control and, afterwards, we all tended to dismiss it as a one off – ‘the actions of a nutter’ and ‘a set of really unlucky circumstances’. Maybe it made us feel more comfortable to think it was a rare occurrence.

It was around the same time that a friend told me how she was chased along a country lane in the dark by a driver she had annoyed. The car chasing her had music blaring and tinted windows so she couldn’t see who was driving it.

It was from those two incidents that Someone Out There started out.

Psychiatrists say that when it strikes, obsession is like a runaway train. It begins at ten miles an hour, speeds up to sixty, then ninety and it just can’t stop or slow down. Obsessional minds become uncontrollable as, eventually, compulsion overthrows all reason.

Many things trigger obsession and many people suffer from it: the rejected lover, the resentful employee, the infatuated loner or the jealous colleague. And sometimes lives get shattered without any provocation.

What happens to Laura, the central character in my novel, is random bad luck. She gets in the way of a deranged obsessive – and I think that could happen to anyone. Most people probably know someone a little like that, though hopefully not so extreme! Laura is forced to fight for her life through no fault of her own, because she is caught up in circumstances that are totally beyond her control.

As well as the nature of obsession, the book is about how we think we are more in control of our world than we actually are; it’s about how quickly – and unexpectedly – life can unravel, just by being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Out 21st May.
Pre-order now.

Read the first chapter here.

Cults and Mind Control, insight from author C. L. Taylor #TheLie

Category: Author Post

C.L. Taylor, author of the Sunday Times bestseller The Lie, gives us a fascinating, and terrifying, insight into the world of cults . . .

When I was in my twenties I went on a meditation retreat with a friend of mine. We were stressed and, whilst not particularly spiritual, we thought that a long weekend away from the hustle and bustle of Brighton life might help clear our minds and chill us out. The reality was an experience that was exhausting, intense and somewhat bewildering.

We were woken at 5am every day and marched off to the meditation building. Breakfast, eaten in silence and with meagre portions, was next. There were a series of seminars throughout the day and we were encouraged to open up about any traumas that had occurred in our lives. Neither of us did but we heard some pretty harrowing stories from the other people who were attending the retreat. Often the seminars went on past midnight which meant we hardly had any sleep before we were woken for meditation again. When we tried to skive a meditation session we were approached by members of the retreat, separated, and asked ‘if everything was ok’ and encouraged to continue visiting the group in their Brighton home after we returned home from the retreat.

After a couple of days of this we were both exhausted from lack of sleep, hungry from lack of food and overwhelmed by all the traumatic revelations, advice and suggestions. I suggested, only half-jokingly, that we were being recruited for a cult and my friend agreed that something very weird, and very wrong, was going on. We skived a seminar, got in my friend’s car and drove off before anyone could stop us. We headed straight for Brighton and the nearest pub and had a good laugh about our ‘lucky escape’, but not everyone who is lured into a cult is so easily able to get away.

I’m fascinated by cults and the way in which they lure in vulnerable people and then convince them to stay. Before I wrote THE LIE I did a lot of research into the subject and the two books I found the most helpful were Combatting Cult Mind Control: The Number 1 Best-selling Guide to Protection, Rescue and Recovery from Destructive Cults by Steven Hassan and Brainwashing: The Science of Thought Control by Kathleen Taylor.

Hassan says there are four components of mind control:

Control of behaviour
Control of thoughts
Control of emotions
Control of information

Control of behaviour

Once part of a cult an individual’s behaviour is regulated. This includes where she lives, what she wears, what she eats and how much sleep she gets as well as what jobs and rituals she has to perform. In most cults there is always something to do. Behaviour is controlled by forcing everyone to act as a group. Individualism is discouraged and everyone must eat together, work together, have group meetings and often sleep together in the same room. A cult leader cannot control someone’s innermost thoughts but if they can control their behaviour, hearts and minds will follow.

Control of thoughts

Thought control involves indoctrinating the new member. The cult may have a special language it uses that helps members feel special and separates them from the general public. Members are trained to disbelieve criticism from outside the cult and are encouraged to use ‘thought stopping’ techniques to stop bad thoughts and drown out negativity. Concentrated praying, chanting aloud, meditating, singing or humming can aid this. This becomes automatic after a while and can even become addictive.

Control of emotions

Guilt and fear keep people under control. Members are kept off balance. One minute they are praised, the next they’re criticized. This fosters a feeling of dependency and helplessness. Members are encouraged to confess their past sins but this is often used against them. Sexual relationships are controlled – members of the cult can only have sex according to the rules of the cult. Phobia indoctrination is used to induce a sense of fear about leaving the cult. Members are made to have panic attacks at the thought of leaving – sweating, rapid heartbeats and an intense desire to avoid the possibility. They fear that, if they do leave the cult, they’ll go insane, become drug addicts or be killed.

Information control

There is no access to the outside world in a cult – no TV, radios, newspapers, just cult propaganda. Members are not allowed to talk to each other critically about the leader, doctrine or organisation. They are encouraged to spy on each other and report improper activities.

 

So how do cults achieve mind control?

There are three stages according to Hassan:

Unfreezing

The new member is disorientated physiologically i.e. they are deprived of sleep, are introduced to a new diet and a new schedule for meal times. They are bombarded with emotionally charged material so they feel overwhelmed. This forces the mind to go into neutral where it ceases to evaluate the information pouring in. New members are encouraged to talk about the problems and issues they have in their lives. These issues are then blown out of proportion to prove how messed up the new member is and how much they need help. They are offered guided meditations, personal confessions and prayer sessions. They are told, ‘If you admit there are things in your life that aren’t working then, by not taking the seminar you are giving those things power to control your life’ thereby forcing them to attend the seminars that will further increase the emotional bombardment needed to break them down. Once this has happened they are ready for…

Changing

Changing involves giving the new member a new set of behaviours, thoughts and emotions to fill the void left by the breakdown of their old self. This new way of being is fed to them in a repetitious, monotonous way. They are told how bad the world is, how the leader is their only hope of lasting happiness and how their old self is stopping them from experiencing this new truth. If the member is having doubts other members of the cult will approach them and repeat the new doctrine. ‘Sharing sessions’ with members of the cult take place where past evils are confessed, present success stories are shared and a sense of community is fostered. Anyone who asks too many questions will be isolated from the group.

Refreezing

Once change has taken place the new member will be built up again into a ‘new man’ or ‘new woman’. They will be paired with an older member of the cult who’ll show them the ropes and they’ll be given a new name, clothing style, haircut etc. Anything that reminds them of the past will be eradicated and the new member will begin to speak the ‘jargon’ of the group.

 

Looking back now I can certainly see elements of the cult mindset in the meditation retreat I attended may years ago. They may have been a totally innocuous group of people with the best of intentions but I’m still relieved I didn’t stick around to find out. So how does all this tie in with what happens to Emma, Daisy, Leanne and Al in my new psychological thriller THE LIE? I guess you’ll have to read it to find out!