Saturday, 14 November 2015


I wonder what it feels like to be genuinely extraordinary. The kind that makes people stop and stare, the kind of extraordinary that justifies the definition in the dictionary: very unusual, remarkable.

 I simply wonder for I am quite normal, just like the woman who gave me my Time Out magazine this morning is (or at least seemed), just like my housemate eating his lunch next to me is. We conform to a standard, that which is usual, typical and expected of us: that which is normal.

 But we have been given a means to change the way the world sees us: social media. It has become a powerful weapon of choice for many self-made modern-day celebrities. Many would say it is not a power-giving weapon however but that it is, or will be, our downfall. Alice, a self-confessed social media avoider, pointed out: “If you’re on social media, you don’t have to meet people. You just have to stand out.” It is a way for people to capture their world, filtering it if they like but always documenting, supposedly, every single aspect of it.

It can, however, lead to the ultimate deception. Who’s to say that the Time Out seller doesn’t lead a fantastic double life? On the one hand fooling us all into assuming that handing out a free magazine is all she does and on the other fooling her online devotees into ignorance about her less than glamorous day job. Through my Instagram, I know I filter my life in a way that I’d like the rest of the world to see me. I also know that many of my friends, and many of the people I ‘follow’ online who I don’t know, probably do the same.

Creating Your Own Extraordinary

People have built entire careers through manufacturing and developing their normality to a point where it becomes extraordinary - see the Kardashian clan and their never-ending list of achievements. They create an ideal form of being extraordinary that we can all convince ourselves we both believe and may even one day try to emulate.

 Last week I spent an evening at an event at J Crew hosted by LucyWilliams of the blog Fashion Me Now (current Instagram follower count is at 109,000), someone I have been following for years. But being face-to-face with her suddenly made me acutely aware of her normality. The Internet had led me to believe one reality but her physical presence showed me another.

As I slowly made my way up the stairs, I could see Lucy in front of me. I passed her slowly, smiling briefly but not brave enough to stop. I felt like an excited teenager arriving at a blind date, palms sweaty and unable to pluck up the courage to speak. I was acutely aware of my own ridiculousness but I knew I couldn’t help it. I felt like I could step into her life, if only for the moment.

 But then I realised, I couldn't. Because she was normal, just like me; just like the hordes of other fashion desperados piling in through the door; just like I imagine she sees herself.

 Except that is not really how everyone else can possibly see her anymore. For which ‘normal’ person hosts a sold-out evening in a top American clothes store? Which ‘normal’ person has the kind of media reach that can fill a store on a depressingly cold and windy mid-week evening?

 So there I found myself: a recent university graduate; a current journalism student; a temp receptionist and an occasional bar girl. I was holding, or rather clasping clothes that I could never begin to justify spending my money on, a sad realization of my normality.

 But then I thought that this is actually quite astonishing.

A girl who is, or rather was, as normal as I, was hosting an evening that hundreds of other people had desperately signed up for, without having ever met her or really knowing her. The Internet had manufactured a bond between Lucy and her readers that formed a solidarity that not even she could probably explain. 

The Power of the Internet

Pandora Sykes, Fashion Features editor and current Wardrobe Mistress at the Sunday Times Style magazine (with an Instagram following of almost 72,000), started out on her journey away from normality with her self-titled blog. It covers everything you could want to know, from the rise of lamé clothing to the empowerment of a bikini wax to how to stylishly wear a pencil skirt. She is hilarious, incredibly rude and fantastically self-deprecating.

 And yet she still sees herself as normal: “I am totally normal and have built something which I feel proud of but wouldn’t call extraordinary.” The career that Sykes has forged for herself is without a doubt extraordinary. It resembles no one else’s, and she is the perfect example of utilising the Internet for instant and challenging communication.

 The power of the Internet, in reality is that it has made normality extraordinary, or at least for the most part, seem it. The stars of the portable screen were once like you and I, writers and readers of what other people were doing with their lives. Then they created their fame. They created their own extraordinary. But as Sykes believes: “I’ve just worked hard at my job!”

 What social media has managed to do is give people a place to express their normality in a seemingly extraordinary way, thus generating a feeling of sincerity. As a budding and fiercely outspoken lawyer friend of mine pointed out: “It is precisely the presentation of something ‘extraordinary’ as ‘ordinary’ that is the secret to a social media star’s success.”


The Nature of Being Extraordinary

The word ‘extraordinary’ seems to fill people with fear, as they feel unable to describe themselves using such a seemingly powerful term. The word is to be feared because of what it has come to denote, those people who change the world for instance, in one way or another.

 As I pulled my coat back on and grabbed my rucksack, I caught Lucy’s eye across the room and smiled. For in that moment I realised my mistake. The idea of being extraordinary does not need to be on a pedestal. It is simply that which is very unusual or remarkable.

 And doesn’t that describe us all? No two of us are alike after all. My normal is not the same as yours. Nevertheless our normality is extraordinary by its very nature.

Pic shot with Sony x55

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