#PickMyBrain - QnA December 2016

Time to answer some of the juicy questions you asked this month. A lot of them were redundant so if you feel that your question wasn't answered, please do check out the previous QnA as I'm sure I've answered it there. Also, some of you asked very similar questions so I've had to reword them in order to answer all of them in one go. Many thanks to everyone who sent in questions. Some of them were very difficult to answer and you'll see why. I picked 10 of the best questions and hope that everyone will have something to take away from this post :)

  1. I consistently follow you on social media and enjoy watching all of your Instagram stories. You could say I'm your stalker but in a good way. In reference to a conversation between Susan and her daughter Julie in Desperate Housewives, I would say I am adorable crazy (excuse this pls). But some weirdos out there are rampage crazy. How do you feel when some random guy (read creepy!) takes your picture and makes a weird collage and coins a new term "Amankita". I mean, what the hell is that (assuming he is not your friend but then again, friends don't do this)? How can people take for granted the stuff that other people post?
    Do you feel offended when things like this happen or do you not take this into account and let it bother you?

    I get what you mean. You're right, some people out there are "rampage crazy". This is not the kind of behavior that should be excused, but I guess this is something that I have just gotten used to ignoring.
    Let me give you some perspective. Google Plus allows for a maximum of 500 comments per post as far as I know. And there have been multiple occasions when I haven't been able to reply to a genuine comment because the 500 limit was reached by strangers commenting their phone numbers and photographs while asking for my WhatsApp number. I've had to delete comments to reply to the constructive ones until it became unmanageable. Now, I've been forced to disable comments there in order to avoid missing out (and hence ignoring) the great constructive comments I get. It's starting to look a lot like that on Instagram as well, with strangers harassing my genuine followers. I've always tried to moderate the comments to ensure a healthy community but it's getting difficult as I grow. So after all this, a guy on twitter creating a collage and coining the term 'Amankita' is the least of my worries. What's more important to me is the community that I build for my audience.

  2. Chechi, I need advice on how to control my emotions and tendency to over-react when I'm on my periods. I'm very sad that this behavior affections my relationship with my boyfriend in a bad way. I end up acting this way every month and am aware that I can't take back my words once they're spoken. Just last night, I told him that I want to break up with him and today, I regret that. How do I keep my emotions in check during hormonal fluctuations?
    I perfectly understand what you're talking about. It's quite natural for some of us to feel a little extra emotional and grumpy around the time of our periods. Personally, that's one of my only indications that I'm going to get my period soon. However, it's important to put in the effort to avoid unnecessary conflict with our loved ones, simply because we're having a bad day. If you think of it, it's incredibly unfair to them. I've written a post about dealing with relationships that you might find interesting.
    Also, I would advise you to identify your triggers and either learn to deal with them or completely avoid them. This is something that has helped me immensely. If there's a particular conversation, person, social media update, or even TV show that triggers bad emotions in me, I try to avoid it at all costs. Sometimes when I don't have a choice, I constantly expose myself to those triggers in order to normalize them in my life. If you had such an extreme reaction to the extent that you even decided to end your relationship, I think there might have been some specific trigger that caused you to react in that way. It's best if you identify it and determine the optimal way for you to deal with it. I hope that helped :)

  3. I just created a Facebook Page for my new blog and noticed how there's an option to "promote" my page and posts to get more likes. I see that you have close to 5K followers on Facebook. Have you ever paid money to get followers on any social platform? Is it at all effective? Would you advise others to get paid likes?
    Like you, I was also intrigued by this option on Facebook when I first saw it. When you start a blog or an enterprise of your own and really want it to succeed, you tend to believe that these social media numbers are what will help you get there. I did too. So as soon as I started making money out of my blog, I set aside a portion of it to run ad campaigns that I thought would help my blog grow. I remember creating a Facebook ad which generated close to a 1000 page likes and being ecstatic about it. But I never did it again. Biggest waste of £30 imaginable. Because these followers that I gained through this campaign didn't add any value to the community that I was trying to build. All I was left with at the end of the day were strangers asking me for my WhatsApp number. If I got at least one reader out of this campaign, then do let me know because that would mean that this was not the biggest waste of money in my adult life.
    I'm aware that there are ad campaigns you can run on Instagram and other social media platforms as well. I haven't tried it even once so I couldn't comment on whether they're useful to your brand or not. But I can say that I tried the Facebook ad campaign once and regret it.
    I know you didn't ask, but I just wanted to add that I've noticed that most of my readers landed on my blog through word of mouth. If I could have a penny for every time I heard from a reader that they came here because a friend or family member recommended it to them, I could run month-long ad campaigns on Facebook :D But seriously, give it time and please don't waste your money on ads. Organic growth is truly worth it and there's no better publicity than the one that happens through word of mouth.
    Shameless plug: if you enjoy my content, please do recommend this blog to your friends and family :)

  4. What is the best piece of advice you received recently?
    It was more a general musing than a piece of advice but I think it's a perfect answer to this question.
    Recently, Meenal got attacked about the content of our podcast by someone who was close to her. At first, she was understandably upset for a few hours. Then, followed the questions. She rang me up and bombarded me with questions, asking me if that phrase was demeaning or if this word was insulting. She asked me to repeat our ground values to her in order to confirm that we'd actually started out on this path to help people, and not to propagate hate. Then, she explained to me that the reason she was asking all these questions and repeating our values was not because she needed my shoulder to cry on, or because she expected me to pet her through her pain, but to reflect and introspect. She told me how it's human nature to go through multiple emotions when we're attacked and mostly, these emotions are the same for all people - sadness, bitterness, anger, defensiveness, self-pity etc. It's just the order in which we go through them that varies from person to person. But the one key thing most of us tend to forget under these circumstances is the opportunity to introspect. If something we did or created caused enough of an impact on another human being to attack us, then we need to understand that their reaction didn't come from nowhere. Something we did triggered it. What was it? Was it something we had control over? Was there a better way of handling the situation? Is there a way to avoid it in the future?
    Most of us tend to immediately become defensive and refuse to look into ourselves. It's in times of adversity that we should be paying close attention to our own reactions and trying to make ourselves better. We will never have any control over how someone else perceives us, but we have full control over how we put ourselves out there. And we need to remember to introspect and reflect each time there's a conflict, in order to improve this version of ourselves that we put out there.
    Pretty cool, huh?

  5. Do you prefer to air dry or blow dry your hair?
    Air dry. Not because I feel there's anything wrong with blow drying my hair. It's just that I tend to take really long showers and especially on the days that I wash my hair, all I want to do after stepping out of the shower is relax and give my body some rest. Even the thought of giving myself an arm workout by holding a hair dryer and a hair brush on either hand tires me.

  6. Do you believe in soulmates? If so, how did you recognise that Shane was your soulmate?
    I feel that it's pretty sad to believe that everyone on the planet has only one right person for them. It's too limiting and guilt inducing when things don't work out. Also, I don't get how you're expected to meet the right one from a population of 7 billion people. And what's sadder is that Indian parents tend to limit things further sometimes by only letting you choose a partner from a list that they deem "fit" for you.
    It's just easier if people are as practical about relationships as they are about their food. Stick to what will a) not kill you b) satisfy you c) make you happy every time you see/think of it/them.
    Shane is like dumplings to me. Healthy, tasty, and brings me joy.

  7. I'm in a very happy relationship with my boyfriend. He understands and supports me in all my endeavors. We've gotten along perfectly in the two years that we've been together. However, we recently started talking about marriage and ever since he discussed the matter with his parents, he supports their claim to demand dowry from my family. He argues that it's a part of our tradition and culture and that my family shouldn't have an issue with it considering how they're business owners and already "well-off". I simply cannot agree with this viewpoint. But I don't know if this is a big enough deal to let go of a relationship I am happy in.
    I have put in a lot of thought into the answer I want to craft for this particular question. It's a difficult one to answer and I'm not sure you'll like what I have to say. But I'm going to try and choose my words carefully in order convey my true regard for you and your situation through this answer.
    In every relationship, I find it essential to establish certain core values in order to make its foundation strong. It's important to discuss your feelings and opinions on things both concerning your future as well as that of the society you wish to live in. When there's a clash of these core values, unfortunately, the relationship suffers a great deal. For example, in my relationship with Shane, if one of us was either a racist or a homophobe, we would have never lasted because we both weigh those values very heavily. I hope I've made sense so far.
    From what I understand, the issue of dowry seems to be very important to you (as it should be because it's a crippling social phenomenon that generations of Indians have suffered under). Because your values are clashing with those of your partner in this regard, you need to have a conversation with him, explaining clearly why it's important to you. If it becomes obvious to you that there are irreconcilable differences, then it would be wise to re-think your entire relationship. If on the other hand, you can come to an agreement by clearly understanding each others' viewpoints, that would definitely strengthen the foundation of your relationship. I wish you all the very best.

  8. I look at you and often catch myself thinking that you're lucky and privileged. Do you feel the same way too? Do you believe in luck?
    I often look at my life and feel amazed by the fact that if even one little thing had been different, I wouldn't have had the life I have now. If my parents had decided to settle in a different city, or if I'd switched schools like I'd intended to, or if Shane had switched schools when his parents suggested it, or if I'd not been having a crappy day when he decided to ask me if I'd be attending a school reunion, we would not have been together and our lives would look nothing like this. So, yes. I do believe in luck and fate. I don't fully understand it, but I find it hard to believe that it was all just a coincidence. Also, privilege is a big thing. If I hadn't been born into the home that I did, there are any number of ways in which things could have turned out.
    That said, I want to point out that a lot of what I have is the result of constant work and improvement. I have a happy relationship with my spouse because we both worked at hard at it from the time we were living in two different time zones. We always valued each other a lot and even now, we never take our time together for granted. If I have managed to turn my hobby into my full-time job, it's only because I worked hard at it every single day for months. I slept late, woke up early, forced myself to show up and do what I do, and kept at it for months without making even a single penny. So a lot of lucky breaks did contribute to everything I have, but you know what they say. When life gives you lemons... ;)

  9. This is something you asked Meenal in the previous Braindump. Who is the last person you blocked on social media?
    I haven't blocked anyone on social media since 2011 if I remember correctly. I just find "blocking" to be incredibly silly and juvenile. It's definitely a useful tool if someone poses a threat to your safety but the whole concept of blocking someone just 'cos you hold a grudge against them is...meh.
    If you really think about it, when you block someone, you're basically ensuring that they don't see any of your updates anymore. It doesn't necessarily stem from the need to avoid seeing another person's updates but more to hide yours. And doesn't that seem like something only a person who has things to hide would do?
    If the updates by an individual annoy me in any way, I simply "unfollow" or "mute" them, which are both options available on all social media platforms. I really don't care if they continue seeing my updates because I don't have anything to hide. So coming back to your question, I haven't "blocked" anyone in a while but I recently unfollowed a friend who kept posting homophobic rants on Facebook as I didn't want them to pop up on my newsfeed anymore.

  10. Another one you asked Meenal - what's your biggest pet-peeve?
    My biggest pet-peeve is a copy cat. It's always been that way. People say that imitation is the best form of flattery but for some reason, I've never felt flattered when a person imitated me! Or worse, when they tried to believe that I couldn't see what they were doing. I simply cannot respect a copycat, especially in the creative field.
    But there's a specific breed of copycats that I loathe. This is something I'm guessing my Indian readers will understand. From the time we were young, we were given templates to follow in school and later in college. If there was a project or assignment due, in most cases, we were shown the work of our previous batches and even encouraged to copy that template and change out the words here and there. College students are known to have opened up Wikipedia pages and copied the content paragraph for paragraph, changing just a few words, sentences or punctuation marks. And when they submitted these assignments, they were given acceptable grades which encouraged them to continue doing this.
    Unfortunately, a lot of these kids grew up into adults and continued this tendency into every aspect of their lives. They lift templates, ideas and sometimes even content and try to take credit for the creativity behind their enterprise. There's a difference between "taking inspiration" from someone and "stealing" their ideas without giving credit where it's due. For example, I love Jess Lively's podcast. If I were to find out that she took vocal training classes to speak more efficiently in her episodes, and if I were to decide to undergo the same kind of training to enhance my own performance on my podcast, that would mean that I was taking "inspiration" from Jess. However, if I went over to her website and built mine to exactly replicate hers, having exactly the same categories, tags, theme and even told her story in my 'About' Page after changing a few key elements and words, I would be copying her. If I were to structure my podcast episodes the way she does with a fixed pre-recorded intro for every episode followed by a guest interview without bringing any element of my creativity into it, I would simply be a cheap Jess Lively knockoff. That would ultimately show that I had no individuality or the capacity to come up with my own shit. At the end of the day, there's no difference between that and changing out words from a Wikipedia page to update your assignment, which I find pathetic.

Hope you enjoyed this post! If you have a question that you want me to include in the next QnA, you can share them with me either in the comments section or via direct messages on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. You could also mail them to me.

See you tomorrow!