Hellosie, it’s Maisie. Men can’t stop online abuse. Women can.

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How do I respond to creeps on social media?

Last month I received a Facebook message from a man twice my age with whom I had not had any contact since we worked together some years ago. In it he praised my physical attributes.

I sort of felt like crying. Instead I cast it back into the hellfire of my message requests inbox – but not before taking a screenshot and sharing it with our former mutual colleagues. Disgust shared is disgust halved, like smelling something so awful you have no option but to press it upon others.

Men, I’m afraid this blog may have little to offer you, given that you are less likely to be sent the kind of messages women receive with some regularity, from strangers and acquaintances alike.

You may think it sounds flattering or desirable. It isn’t.

This particular missive made me aware that not only had I been objectified during a professional relationship.

Why do men send messages like this?

A psychology professor at Harvard University attempted to unpick the threads of the practice in a blog post. He said it could be motivated by exhibitionism, or cognitive biases evolved to help with reproduction.

But “the most likely explanation”, he wrote, “is that men are simply misperceiving women’s interest in receiving photos of their junk”.

A girlfriend has one Snapchat correspondent who sends her only dick pics. She hasn’t blocked him so she has a quick retort to people who doubt that “they’re even a thing”.

One such conversation prompted her to reply to the sender with a clip almost cinematic in its execution: an opening shot of what appeared to be her reciprocating with a sexy selfie, before panning to show a long line of her workmates, each making a lascivious gesture.

Of course, there are other strategies – like block, mute, report – but when they are in most cases woefully inadequate, you can forgive women for getting creative.

Naming and shaming is a popular tactic which I’ve done, but it can easily get out of hand if the man in question decides to retaliate, or if he is taken on as a martyr by the not-insignificant share of the internet nobly battling against “feminazis”. I’m not telling you to pull your head in, but you should know this kind of response can open you up to more abuse.

For serious instances, such as threats of rape and violence, publishing the messages with their author attributed can actually jeopardise your chances of getting action through the courts – still the best system we have for dealing with online abusers.

None of it is acceptable, of course, but there are varying degrees of harm. To me, the occasional unsolicited dick pic doesn’t feel like abuse, it just feels a bit weird. Especially when you’re in line at a cafe, on the bus, or mid-meeting. To someone else, it might feel much worse.

If you feel like simply moving on from the episode, I suggest “muting” or “hiding” – blocking can give the sender a sense of achievement (for some, the bar really is that low). Reporting to the platform may not seem like it achieves much, but it at least flags the problem and hopefully puts pressure on the moderators to take it seriously.

But if you are like me at my pettiest, you’ll be tempted to enact some kind of justice yourself. Some women like to fight fire with fire by sending a generic dick pic back – they don’t like that! – but I prefer the non-sequitur effect of emoji.

Why not respond to your correspondent with a flurry of the most pathetic Trash Dove stickers, or a patronising thumbs-up? You’ll wind them up, and it might make the whole thing easier for you to laugh at. Maybe.

Hellosie, it’s Maisie. Every girl needs a best friend to help her laugh every now and again, but should you date her?

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The dilemma this morning is I am a woman in my early 20s hoping at some point in the future is to have a long-term relationship and then eventually to get married. I have been single for a little while, but recently I was surprised by a good friend’s admission that she was “in love with” me and has been for some time.

However, I’m inclined to follow my feelings and let her down, but should I give it a chance to see if deeper feelings follow the considered rationale?

I appreciate there are many who think it’s highly sophisticated to be able to pull out their smart phone and find a partner for passion in the vicinity within moments. Phone apps like Tinder, Grindr, Happn, Findhrr and other vowel-eschewing online destinations have taken the legwork out of our sexual liaisons but have they in any way improved the quality of the encounter?

Putting sex on a Google Map for those in the mood for love is one thing, but it’s curious, isn’t it, that when we’re looking for a partner for more than an instant fix we tend to employ the same criteria? Top of our list of essential components is whether or not we are overcome by desire: a state of being that has nothing to do with reason and thought and much to do with base instinct of sex. However, sex (though on the “to do” list) slips down the list of priorities for daily harmony pretty soon.

It’s definitely important to be able to countenance coupling with the person you select, but long-term passion will dwindle and if you haven’t got respect, friendship and a genuine interest in the person you’re with there’s not a chance of the relationship surviving. That’s why unions embarked on in the haste of desire and sustained on little else, more often in teen years, tend to be the first to crumble.

I’m not usually one to advocate alcohol, but imbibing something that might briefly liberate me from rational decision-making could be the key to figuring out my options. Or a night out with no holds barred could mark the beginning of a new life, and, dealt with decently, doesn’t need to end my friendship if not.

 

Hellosie, it’s Maisie. If you’re unhappy. Days are long, weeks are short. But can you measure happiness?

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How do we measure happiness?

Do we measure happiness based on how many true friends we have? On how much time we spend with family? On whether we have found true love, and what we did with that discovery? On whether we’re chasing dreams or just living one day after the other? Is happiness measured on how many times a day we feel scared and face that fear, or how many times contempt takes over? How can we say we are truly happy, or happier than another, if measuring happiness can be so… difficult?

When I was young — not just young, but at the specific age of 5 — I thought happiness could be measured by how much people loved you. That theory proved to be wrong as soon as I was old enough to understand love can’t be easily measured, either. Then, I remember thinking — at the age of 13 — that happiness was measured by success. If I had the job I wanted, I would be happy. If I was studying in the college I wanted, I would be happy. If I was at any level walking towards professional success, surely that would mean absolute happiness.

I don’t know how to measure happiness, exactly. I just know when it’s there. It’s when we breathe in and it isn’t only air that we bring to our lungs, but a sparkle of something very close to life itself, which is obviously ridiculous and absurd and a bit redundant. That’s what I feel happiness is — being ridiculous and absurd and a bit redundant.

In my honest opinion, happiness crawls under your skin the same unexpected way sadness does. It piles up but you don’t see it, and then all of sudden it’s there, and you can’t even plan an escape. You’re happy. You don’t know how much — if you ever learn how to measure happiness, do tell; I’ll be forever curious — but you know it’s there. You’re breathing in life, and yet breathing out love. I’ve never been especially good with biology, as I don’t understand the mechanisms of life, but I’m not clueless enough to ignore it when it happens.

I can only hope you’re not clueless, either.

Hellosie, it’s Maisie. My goal is to help media savvy women to pursue a happy life in this media mad world.

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Is timing everything when it comes to social media posting?

No. Timing is not everything when it comes to social media posts.

Would it really matter what time you got that knock at your front door by that good Samaritan? The one with the treasure map for you! I doubt it.

The growth of social media provides an invaluable opportunity for entrepreneurs to interact with their audience. But are you listening to what they’re telling you?

Here are my tips and tricks to social media posting.

Be patient.

Don’t get stuck in bad habits.

Test material and listen to the feedback loop.

Post different posts and be open to what feedback you get in the loop.

If you are committed to optimising your social media channels, finding the right tone of voice is probably a great place to start. Generally, it is a more casual form of communication – with short replies, rather than lengthy explanations that may be suitable for email. How to speak to your audience, should largely be dictated by how your audience naturally speak to and respond to you.

I have quite a relaxed tone of voice, but it’s something I’ve really been able to hone over time by watching and listening how people respond. It’s about making people feel comfortable. It’s about people trusting your voice. I’m quite an everywoman and a little bit cheeky.

There are benefits with developing a genuine tone of voice that go beyond social media channels. Elevated levels of responses are largely based on the fact that people know what to expect.

I’ve had negative comments like us all, but put that in the feedback loop, and you’ll have loads of rave reviews in the future.

Convey personality and I think that’s how we stand out from the heard.

Hellosie, it’s Maisie. What should women do to boost confidence and get ahead at work? Here’s three tips women can use in the workplace.

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Focus on what you’re good at

“Follow your passion” is a cliché, but for women it might be better to choose a career that uses their best skills – instead of their passion. Success can come from refining the skills that you already possess, rather than worrying if your job is right for you. Focusing on your best skills and drawing confidence from knowing that you are good at your job can help you thrive at work.

We know we can’t be good at everything, so it is still a good idea to practise doing things you lack confidence in. But when it comes to putting yourself forward for an opportunity, whether you are negotiating a promotion, training or more responsibility – lead with your best skills and then talk about the skills you are developing. You will naturally have more confidence in discussing the areas that you know you are good at, and those you have repeatedly practised.

Recognise the value of your soft skills

Research shows that women are likely to be better listeners and collaborators – so you should make the most of these skills in the workplace. Being welcoming and sociable is essential to sustain strong business relationships, so focus on building a social network at work to highlight these skills.

Likewise, when it comes to interviews and appraisals, focus on emphasising your soft skills such as being a strong communicator, or a good team player – and make sure you are able to explain why they are valuable to the business.

Life skills count for a lot and an employer will not necessarily just be looking for someone who can get the job done, but will also fit in with their culture and gel with work colleagues. So, draw confidence from emphasising social skills to show you are a well-rounded individual.

Put yourself forward

In the workplace, women are less likely to put themselves forward for opportunities, as they doubt their capability more so than men. When it comes to appraisals, this can mean that they are overlooked for progression.

To counter this, it’s a good idea to consciously put yourself forward for opportunities – whether it is leading on a new project, attending an event or organising the office party. Doing this means you are more likely to be noticed, and it will give you tangible examples to draw on during job interviews and appraisals, meaning you’re more likely to stand out and succeed.

We know the world needs more female managers, leaders and chief executives. However, we also know that not everyone wants a top job. The point is, regardless of what people’s aspirations are, we need to help women of all ages reach their goals, and I believe the key to that is by building career confidence.

Hellosie, it’s Maisie. I want to help you be your best. This is something you should know.

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There’s been such a change in the tide of how businesses do business, I think if there are two of the same product in the market place and one brand has a social impact aspect people will pay much more for that product because of the social impact it has.

People have become so much more aware of changes that need to be made in the world, and there have been so many successful examples of companies that have done that. Roma Boots for example; people will buy that boot instead of others because it gives away a free boot to someone in need. We live in a global community where everyone wants to help each other. It’s not only a new trend, it’s probably the only way your business can be sustainable.

And these days, work has become more than a job. But a guide. A mentor. Is how you can fast track in life, and how you can be a powerful motivator to drive you to success.

When I think back to key moments in my life, I was fortunate enough to have supportive mentors who helped provide me with guidance, ideas and confidence, to achieve my goals at different points in time. I think back to a teacher at my school who recognised my interest in writing and helped me consider a foreign student exchange. I also think of the encouragement from my boss during my first job after college to pursue a part-time degree. As recent as two years ago, it was dinner with a friend (successful woman) who suggested I start my own business – an idea that hadn’t even crossed my mind prior to her suggesting it.

I am very grateful for the mentorship I’ve received. The guidance and support of these important people helped (and to this day continue to help) shape my path. Mentors are invaluable to provide a sounding board during times of important decisions. They provided tough love when I need an extra push, an encouraging voice during times of failure and a way to stay grounded during times of success. I believe having trusted and supportive mentors are pivotal for everyone through all stages of their life. Mentoring fills a gap that you may not be receiving from friends, family, teachers or colleagues.

I have also considered being a mentor myself which would be an extremely fulfilling and fun thing to do. I am constantly learning from the people who mentor me. These relationships have helped to enrich my life and I love being able to work through my challenges in this way. I’m motivated by their passion and extremely committed to their success.

And I think mentorship is one of the best things we can do.

You can’t be what you can’t see.

Hellosie, it’s Maisie. These are books you should know about and read.

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It’s nearly three months since my first novel went on to Amazon

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Golden-Bridge-Adventures-Maisie-Brown/dp/1520953291  and I confess publicity is a daunting task, so as a well-read copy sits on my desk here are 8 of the most mentioned authors generally, and in no particular order.

1. Doris Lessing (born 1919)

The two landmarks, for me, are Shikasta, her monumental portrait of humanity, and The Four-Gated City (part of the Children of Violence series), Lessing’s visionary mapping of London and the no-man’s-land between psychosis and sanity – this book opened doors for me. Her understanding of resilience and transformation in the midst of upheaval is profound.

2. Toni Morrison (born 1931)

Start with: Beloved – Beloved represents a terrible pain and suffering of a people whose very mother-love is warped by torture into murder.

3. Ursula K Le Guin (born 1929)

The Earthsea trilogy is absolutely magnificent: poetry, wisdom, sadness, satisfaction, fantasy, realism. Far better dragons than Tolkien’s or George RR Martin’s, far better written – the whole shebang, except for humour. But then, Tolstoy didn’t go in for jokes much either. She taught me that there is nothing wrong with life or with death: the one is to be delighted in, the other accepted.

4. Virginia Woolf (born 1882)

To The Lighthouse, it had a huge impact on me when I first read it. It really made me consider and reconsider how I think and find direction. I loved Lily Briscoe and that devastatingly matter-of-fact middle chapter/section that splits the novel. There are so many books by women that I love, but TTL is a favourite.

5. Clarice Lispector (born 1920)

If a writer such as Clarice Lispector is to be considered significant from a feminist point of view, then it would probably be due to the absence of anything in her work or life which could be said to resemble the stereotype of the “Lady Novelist”. As well as living like a sort of secular hermit, her writing is elusive and mystical, being much less concerned with plot and character than with abstract ideas, such as The Apple in the Dark’s consideration of the nature of artistic creation or Agua Viva’s obsessive focus on trying to isolate single moments in time.

6. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (born 1977)

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah has moved me like no other in recent memory. I would describe it as transformational because it provided an insight into the reality of what it means to be a young, ambitious, highly intelligent, sometimes single black woman in contemporary America. It’s an honest book about race, identity and the constant longing and nostalgia one feels for this metaphorical place called home.

 7. Margaret Atwood (born 1939)

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. She predicted all that is happening today in that book.

8. Zadie Smith (born 1975)

White Teeth, by Zadie Smith. Could read it over and over again.