Opinions, Self-Improvement

I Miss How Facebook Used To Be! – Matthew Fam

Contributing writer Matthew Fam misses how Facebook used to be so vocal and uninhibited in its plethora of opinions. With heightened policing of our online profiles, this lack of spontaneity is killing the very purpose of social media. Bring spontaneity back, he says.

How many times have you typed a social media update, before hitting that backspace button upon consideration?

When we first started using Facebook, there was probably this much restraint in what we posted.

When we first started using Facebook, there was probably this much restraint in what we posted.

Back in my junior college days when Facebook first came out, the social media platform ran rife with angst-ridden posts and existential haikus. For crying out loud, my break-up woes were practically chronicled in cheesy song links and passive aggressive one-liners (all deleted now, thank you very much). With all that ‘poking’, owning of friends as ‘Human Pets’ and random gifting of flower pots, Facebook was THE vista of spontaneity.

These days? Not looking so great. With our professional lives thrown in the mix, we’re increasingly caught up with presenting a pristine, manicured image of ourselves online. We post knowing that we’re being watched by people we don’t know. We especially avoid speaking up in anger or derision of issues.

anigif_enhanced-buzz-31587-1380211235-39 2And it’s no surprise why: with cases in Singapore like Amy Cheong and Anton Casey, whose personal opinions have ended up in dismissals, it’s easy to understand why one would rather be safe and practice self-restraint. Sometimes when I post my views on social media, I find myself crafting my words extra carefully so it doesn’t ruffle feathers or get misconstrued by prospective employers. Where did this urge to be so restrained come from? Am I turning into a secret prude??

People often confuse speaking one’s mind with being frivolous or overly-confrontational, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. I don’t see why expressing anger- within reason- is a negative thing. I’m not saying that you have free reign to cross out-of-bound markers and rally hate. But I think we lose a sense of spontaneity when we choose to silence even the slightest contention we wish to share on social media.

Instead of letting your social media profile become a passive storage of shared links and photos, here are 3 reasons why you could use a little more spontaneity expressing views online:

This is what happens when you bottle up your emotions.

This is what happens when you bottle up your emotions.

1. It’s a good pressure release
Intermittent releases of anger act as a pressure relief valve that prevent the bottling up of frustration. These mini-releases can come in the form of a single post, for instance, voicing out why you disagree with the banning of library books. Keeping a tight lid on your thoughts may build up to an irrational outburst further down the road (think capital letters and exclamation marks) and that wouldn’t look good on your part. Moreover, while you are in a calmer state of mind, it’s easier to manage your emotions and make the pitch.

2.  It trains you to better articulate your thoughts
Enacting on spontaneity to voice opinions trains you to think through situations more carefully. It makes you more discerning of which battles are worth picking, and how you can best present your case. At the same time, you are made to be considerate towards other followers of your social media. It’s a great exercise in practicing inter-personal relations! These spoken ideas also help facilitate dialogue among various parties who may or may not agree with you. And through this exchange, we can share among us a broader world view (one point for humanity!).

3. You come across as confident, responsible and assured
One of the main reasons why people practice restraint on Facebook is because they don’t want to compromise their professional prospects. For instance, we keep our pages drunk-photo free so employers don’t get the wrong impression of our work ethic. But why not see it this way: by speaking your mind in a rational manner- even if it means expressing unpopular sentiment- you create a positive impression of being decisive and assured of your stand. This way, people who view your posts can count you as someone whose confidence in personal opinion can be translated to spearheading projects in the workplace.

Spontaneity in social media should be used as leverage for other people to get to know you as a person. I mean, isn’t that why Facebook was created in this first place? If you have something to say, think it through before posting. But say it- because self-restraint is so overrated.


About the Author: Matthew Fam is a contributing writer of Material World, and has worked at Cosmopolitan Singapore as an intern and Contributing Beauty Assistant. He writes, teaches, and performs for the stage. Matthew enjoys museum visits, Singaporean Theatre, and is thoroughly embarrassed by his teenage Facebook posts. Follow him on Instagram @mattjfam.

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Infographics, Opinions, Vanessa Tai

5 Social Media Resolutions For 2014 – Vanessa Tai

Social media usage in Singapore is intense. Just take a look at the infographic below:


So, even as we make resolutions to lose weight, spend more time with our family, quit that gross habit … we should also consider making some changes to our online life. Because most of us are plugged in almost around-the-clock, it’s worthwhile examining how we can be better participants on social media. Here are some suggestions (please feel free to add your own in the Comments section below):

1. Be vigilant about your privacy settings

Yes, it can be tricky keeping on top of your many social media accounts. However, as we post more and more content online, it’s important that we regularly check our privacy settings. Not being on the ball with your privacy settings could lead to relatively innocuous situations like everyone on your Facebook knowing you have a penchant for listening to ’90s boyband hits on Spotify, to full-blown social media disasters (as exemplified by PR executive Justine Sacco). Which brings me to my next point …

2. Be more positive

While we may be tempted to fire off a string of passive-aggressive tweets about our co-workers, or rant on Facebook about the driver who cut our lane this morning, we should think about who’s going to see our posts. Everyone has their own battles to fight, and the world is angsty enough as it is. Do we really want to clog other people’s news feeds with our #firstworldproblems?

material world_social media

3. Be less hung up about numbers

Speaking of #firstworldproblems, is it really worth getting anxious over why that totally adorable picture of your pet/baby/boyfriend on Instagram isn’t getting as many Likes as it should? I know I’m not alone when it comes to incessantly refreshing my feed to see if anyone has Liked my post yet. If you do this too, please stop. One Like does not a validation make.

4. Be less of an armchair activist

Just as people Liking our posts does not equate with us being Ms. Popular, Liking a Facebook page for a social cause does not equate with social change. If we truly feel strongly about a cause, we should get off our computer chair and onto the ground to see how we can help. [Relevant: How you can keep the spirit of giving alive]

5. Be mindful that you’re talking to people, not robots

In an era where online debates are de rigueur, always remember that the person you’re arguing with is also a human being. Just like in real life, we should always aim to fight clean – that means no name-calling or personal attacks of any kind. And as much as possible, let’s avoid getting drawn into arguments with: (in this order) Internet trolls, people who are needlessly rude, and people who refuse to see another side of the argument.

What other social media resolutions should we adhere to? Tell me in the Comments section below!

About The Author: Vanessa Tai is a founder of Material World who has previously worked on magazines Simply Her and Cosmopolitan Singapore. Now a freelance writer and a full-time contributor to this website, the 26-year-old dreams of attending every single major music festival before she turns 30. She uses Hootsuite to manage her many social media accounts. Follow her on Twitter @VannTaiTweets.

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Character & Soul, Opinions, Self-Improvement, Vanessa Tai

Social Media Envy – Vanessa Tai

17-year-old fashion blogger Tavi Gevinson was only 12 when her blog shot to prominence

17-year-old fashion blogger Tavi Gevinson was only 12 when her blog shot to prominence

Mark Zuckerberg. Jennifer Lawrence. Tavi Gevinson. It seems like the world’s movers and shakers are getting younger every season. You don’t even have to look that far to meet successful young people. In Singapore, more and more young people are eschewing the traditional career path for entrepreneurship, to be a lifestyle blogger or simply to travel overseas for work. And with everyone being increasingly connected through social media, it’s almost impossible not to compare your life with those around you. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve googled somebody whose work I admire, only to be aghast – “He/she is HOW OLD?!”

It’s hard to shrug off that nagging sense of inadequacy when you scroll through your friends’ humblebrag status updates or receive LinkedIn notifications of an ex-schoolmate’s promotion (again.) Unsurprisingly, several studies have indicated that browsing through Facebook can actually make us feel bad about ourselves or dissatisfied with our lives. According to social psychologists at the University of Michigan who conducted a recent study on the co-relation between Facebook usage and self-satisfaction, there are several reasons why we could be feeling this way. One, it could be because you’re engaging in unhealthy levels of social comparisons. Or two, cooping yourself up at home surfing social networks means you’re not engaging in other healthier activities such as exercising or face-to-face interaction.

Of course, it would be unrealistic to completely unsubscribe from all forms of social networking. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn are all great tools to stay on top of current affairs and connected to your friends’ lives. You’ll just need to find a way to beat that sinking feeling of inadequacy. Here are some ways I personally find very helpful in keeping the green-eyed monster at bay.

1. Adjust Your News Feed Settings

Just an example. I would never unfollow Hugh!

Just an example. I would never unfollow Hugh!

Sounds simple, but a surprisingly large group of people don’t make use of this function. There are several people on my Facebook friend list whose achievements never fail to make me feel bad about myself. But because they didn’t really do anything to offend me, I can’t quite cull them from my friend list … so I do the next best thing. I click the “I don’t want to see this” option and voilà! Problem solved.

2. List Out Your Achievements

It may sound contrived, but I’ve found that writing a list of things that I’ve achieved can be a real confidence booster. It doesn’t even have to be major achievements either; some of the things I have on my list include things like “Spent a day alone in a foreign city” or “Volunteered at an overseas film festival.” Whenever you feel down, it helps to re-visit the list for a shot of self-assurance.

3. Constantly Seek To Improve Yourself

We may never be able to stop comparing ourselves to others, but we can always try to better ourselves. Yes, there will always be somebody smarter, richer, prettier or more successful than us, but that’s no reason to resign ourselves to our “station in life.” Nor is it worth it to get resentful either. Instead, always ask yourself, “How can I improve?” As Winston Churchill said, “To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.

What are some ways you cope with social media envy? Tell us in the Comments section below!

About The Author: Vanessa Tai is a founder of Material World who has previously worked on magazines Simply Her and Cosmopolitan Singapore. Now a freelance writer and a full-time contributor to this website, the 26-year-old dreams of attending every single major music festival before she turns 30. Follow her on Twitter @VannTaiTweets.

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Share this story "Social Media Envy" on Facebook and stand a chance to win this prize!

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Friends, Relationships

At What Point Does A Friendship Die? – Deborah Tan

It is one of the hardest things to face up to: the death of a friendship.

We would like to believe that friends are for forever, right? But, more often than not, friends outgrow each other. When one person falls in love and starts spending time with their new boyfriend/girlfriend, when one person starts a family, when one person begins a new job … there are so many things in life that lead to the demise of a friendship. No matter how strong the bond may be, how much time you used to spend in the company of one another … friendships are fragile and, in many cases, fleeting.

While many do an extremely good job at keeping their friendships alive, some of us struggle with it. I belong to the latter group.

In my 30 plus years on this planet, I’ve had several “best friends”, each marking a specific phase of my life. And each time a phase ended, so too would my friendship with a certain best friend. It’s not so much like a break up; neither of us went, “Right, I guess this is it, eh?” We just slowly drifted apart until one day, we no longer saw it necessary to hang out.

friendsexcludedI do keep in touch with some of my “best friends” but we only meet up for special occasions like birthdays, weddings, and maybe at the occasional funeral.

Some times, you accept the death of a friendship. Some times, you see it happening right in front of you and a sense of helplessness begins to overwhelm you – like seeing a beloved pet drowning in a sea so choppy you can’t wade out to rescue it. It is dying in front of you and no matter how much you try to reach out to it, you can’t save it.

I’m not a heartless or a callous person. In fact, I do think back of my days with my best friends. Like how I used to call my secondary school best friend so often that I’d write her phone number down as my IC number (they both begin with “79”), like how my university best friend and I used to go clubbing almost every day of the week … so many memories, and each so painful in their own way.

facebooksadI think the prevalence of Facebook has made it even more painful for us to deal with a dying (or a dead) friendship. Facebook makes it possible for you to witness your very own friendship-death in untold number of ways. Alienation – like how the group you used to be close to no longer invites you to their gatherings; exclusion – like how the marrieds and the mothers no longer have time for the single you; division – the group has split, which side are you on …

When your old best friends declare to the world that they now have new best friends, the feeling is much like reading about an ex finding a new love before you could. It’s not so much that I see friendship as a competition but it’s more because no one wants to be the one left behind.

The ironic thing about Facebook is that while it is suppose to bring people closer, it tends to amplify the feeling of loneliness instead. Just when you think you are now privy to your friends’ every thought and everyday life, you are also subjected to the cruel reality of exclusion and isolation. We can’t be part of everyone’s everyday life but we still want to be included, to be thought about, to be sought after. We can’t possibly be at every party but we want to be invited, asked, and given the option to decline. We can’t be everyone’s best friend but we feel hurt when we are not asked to be someone’s newborn’s godmother, someone’s bridesmaid, and someone’s workout buddy.

Friendships die every day but with Facebook, it feels as if these deaths are so much harder to accept. And, unless you unfriend your friends, Facebook makes it harder for you to move on too.

At what point does a friendship die? I would say that when a friend’s status updates start to hurt more than they give you joy, that’s when a friendship is ready to be buried and forgotten.

About The Author: Deborah Tan is a founder of Material World. After 10 years of working in magazines Cleo and Cosmopolitan Singapore, she is now a freelance writer/editor who works on this website full-time. She likes liquid eyeliners, bright red lipsticks, tattoos, rock & roll, Mad Men, and Suits. She would like all her former best friends to know that she still thinks of them every now and then. Follow her on Twitter @DebTanTweets.


Tweet us your thoughts about this story with the hashtag #deadfriendship. Click on the picture to get to our account!

Deborah Tan, Opinions

The Fear Of Letting People Down – Deborah Tan

A while back, the boyfriend brought this observation up in a conversation, “Singaporeans seem to be very afraid of playing up their qualities. And when you compliment them, they tend to just shrug it off. Why?”

He reasoned it’s due to a lack of confidence that leads us to not want to play up our strengths.

I told him he was wrong.

I think Singaporeans have the fear of letting people down. Whenever we are asked what we’re good at, we tend to be unwilling to give an answer, as if we are afraid that if we were to say we are good at something, people would come to expect more of us. With the expectations come the burden of performance. And we are afraid of giving them a disappointing performance.

No expectation, no pressure. If we do well, it’s a surprise. If we don’t do well, it’s okay.

And this attitude – I feel – has infiltrated into the way we interact with other people as well.

"Maybe" means "Yes" or "No"? I don't know who to trust anymore

“Maybe” means “Yes” or “No”? I don’t know who to trust anymore

What do I mean?

For about two weeks, we’ve been posting up shout-outs about a party we are throwing. Despite the constant reminders, ticket sales were slow. Yes, we sold tickets but we were expecting a more enthusiastic response – particularly from those who have already RSVPed. This weekend, we were hoping that our event partner would be able to churn out a more encouraging result but unfortunately, internal issues led to them not being able to sell any tickets.

We don’t want to risk throwing a party that is poorly attended – being people who love good parties, we would hate for you to show up at a place with a crowd thinner than Kate Moss. So, it is with much regret that we have decided to call it off.

I think what happened after the event was cancelled on Facebook made me even more frustrated. No sooner had Denise taken it off, messages from friends and associates about how they were actually looking forward to the party started coming in. I don’t know if we were wrong to not place any confidence in our contacts but, I’m sorry … we needed to see good ol’ solid proof and at the point when we decided to cancel the party, we simply didn’t have enough to stand on.

I can understand why my friends had not bought the tickets. I don’t blame them for not buying the tickets yet. But I couldn’t help but wonder why the show of support from everyone came in only after we called things off.

I read a story two years ago about how Facebook has made “Maybe Going” an acceptable RSVP.

It’s not. You are either a “Yes” or a “No”. And, I miss the good ol’ days when “Yes” means “Come rain or shine, I’ll be there.” These days, the number of friends I can count on to honour their promises … I can count on one hand.

I think people are afraid to commit because they are afraid they’d let you down. I understand this line of logic but it doesn’t mean I can’t be frustrated by it.

Our business is at a stage where every decision we make is a gamble. We can’t afford to do things badly. We can’t afford to “Let’s hope a miracle will happen on the day itself”. You don’t want to let us down by committing yourself to this event, same here; we don’t want to let you down by going ahead with a half-ass event.

And … on hindsight, if all the people who said they were coming for the party really showed up next Wednesday, it would have been a great party. I just wished I could be as certain of the attendance as I am with death and taxes.

Let’s hope we can really make a party happen real soon.


Denise Li, Love, Opinions, Relationships

Are You Using THIS Quote In the Right Context? – Denise Li


I’ve seen this Marilyn Monroe quote ever so often under the “About” section of my Facebook friends’ pages. The people who love quoting this are usually women.

Now, I take issue with this (mis-)quote. On the one hand, it could mean, “Look at me, I’m flawed, but I deserve to be loved all the same”. I would argue, on the other hand, that it can also be exploited to excuse bad behaviour, if someone were to take it to mean, “I’m going to act like a bitch, and if you love me, you would just sit there and take it.”

Worse still is if someone were to adopt the second attitude and call it girl power!

I’m annoyed because Marilyn Monroe had used that quote in the context of her mental illness, which was depression. She was “hard to handle” and “out of control” because, due to her illness, she couldn’t be always held accountable for her thoughts, feelings and actions.

Barring any mental illness, however, no one should assume that this quote is a free pass for bad behaviour. That, after all, is in direct opposition to that other famous (more sensible) quote: “Do unto others what you’d want them to do to you.”

Unless your partner is a saint (but I’m assuming he has as much potential to be as selfish, impatient and insecure as you do), deliberately being wilful is only going to be breed a terribly unhealthy relationship. One that thrives not on love and mutual trust, but on suspicion, jealousy and paranoia.

Put simply, this quote – when taken to its logical extreme – can have very dangerous consequences. If this philosophy is something you abide by, does that mean you’re willing to put up with your partner’s bad behaviour as well? You may think that true love is about accepting each and every single one of your partner’s flaws and mistakes. But what if that extends to name-calling, emotional abuse … even domestic violence?

It’s one thing to say, “My partner recognises me for my flaws, and accepts me for them.” Congrats, you landed yourself a great guy. But that’s just one aspect of love. How well your relationship will thrive over the long term is also predicated on whether you’re self-aware enough to recognise YOUR OWN flaws, and work on improving on them.

Love is NOT about being unapologetic about selfish behaviour, or “testing” your partner by dishing out shit to him and seeing for how long he’ll take it for. And it’s DEFINITELY not about sticking it out no matter how emotionally or physically abusive your partner becomes.

A healthy long-term relationship is only possible when there’s mutual respect and understanding. It’s only possible when you both bring out the best in each other.

And, it’s only possible when you can find it yourself to say, “I’m sorry I was selfish/impatient/insecure.”

About the Author: Denise Li is a founder of Material World and a freelance writer-editor. Before that, she spent a few years in the Features section of CLEO and Cosmopolitan Singapore. She considers Chiang Mai her spiritual home and makes it a point to head there for a yearly pilgrimage. She’s also a fitness buff and enjoys boxing, running and the occasional yoga session. Lastly, she believes that everyone should make it a point to travel solo at least once in their lives.