Friday, 14 June 2013

A Curtain or A Wall? - Thoughts on Online Personal Boundaries

I've been doing a lot of thinking this week following my previous post.  

Primarily about this blog and what it's for and also the wider issue of where the boundaries in your lives are, whether they are solid, moveable or exist at all. 

As a Social Media Professional (don't laugh), I have attracted a cult following (as in small and crazy) on some social media channels like Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ who expect me to post links and ideas on Social Media, new ideas, platforms, tactics etc. and how they can best use it.  I use Facebook primarily to catch up with and communicate with friends so I have already compartmentalised my social media consumption thusly. 

How have I reacted in the past when other people's boundaries start getting blurred and their real lives have intruded into their professional online persona's?  I follow a lot of social media and tech bloggers and I admit, I become more intrigued and interested when the realities of everyday life come over, because it personalises them more.  

I'm a big fan of the writer Gretchen Rubin and her Happiness projects. An attempt to lifehack and reprogram/force yourself to be happier in all aspects of your life.  Her books are an enthralling read and full of background reading, information and examples from the lives of philosophers, statesmen, spiritual leaders and other inspirational characters but the most compelling parts for me are her interactions with her husband, kids, friends and family and what happens when the rubber of her theories meets the road of reality. IE, what happens when you become a real person, not an esoteric author. 

It reassures me to know they are a real person with real life problems and not a digital avatar sat on a silicone throne pontificating on Pinterest Pages from on high, removed from the everyday digital and detritus we all have to deal with.  

Of course there are limits, WH Smiths has a tragic life story section now for horrendous memoirs so I do like them to go back on topic occasionally but the fact that they are willing to share their own experiences somehow makes them a more real writer and authentic voice than before.  

I thought about this very carefully before writing about our current immigration travails. I know the blog is different, especially this one, as it is meant to be a filtered mirror into my life back in the UK, and this problem is currently weighing me down significantly, so if I didn't make mention of it then I think I'd be doing the reader a disservice. You're here for a couple of reasons but primarily I guess, it's to hear from me.  Guy Bailey the person, not the social media enthusiast and expert, or the writer or the PR/Comms freelancer. 

I link to my blog on LinkedIn, where maybe the personal stuff should be kept to a minimum, and on Facebook where the professional stuff should be put on a leash so I apologise if I let light in on magic by lifting the corner of the curtain, but ultimately, no matter why people follow, read or connect with you on Social Media or even offline, it's because of you. 

Your knowledge, opinions, thoughts, prejudices, ideals, humour and ideas are all facets of you and while some filtering and a process of segment marketing your personality are in operation every minute you're awake, maybe it's not such a new idea. Before the internet it used to be called a conscience.

So I'm not going to make any more apologies for keepin' it real.  You're here (or on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Vine or someplace else) to hear from me, and even though I know a bunch of stuff about a bunch of stuff, none of it means anything without the filter of life and living to give it the human context.  

Monday, 10 June 2013

All the fun of the unfair

Some readers may be a little confused as to why Vince and I have moved back to the UK and Stacey remains in the US.

Basically in July 2012, new rules were brought in to curtail British people bringing their partners and family members into the country if they are non-EU citizens.  Not just folks from those funny sounding countries either, but Americans, Australians, South Africans - you know, our friends.

The upshot of which is that in order to bring your partner, you have to find a job earning a minimum amount of money (£18,600), to sponsor them for two years and an additional £2,400 for each non-EU child.  Vince is dual so doesn't count in that equation but Stacey does which is why my freelance Social Media/Consulting business is on ice and I'm working for Bloggs and Son to meet this figure so Stacey can come over.   It is ostensibly to stop her signing on the dole when she arrives, which of course is foremost in any immigrants mind but also disallows third party sponsorship, so even if I was the son of Richard Branson or Alan Sugar, this would not be taken into consideration.

The Visa processing process takes two to three months itself and costs £850 to apply. Stacey has to apply from the United States, cannot do it from the UK, and has to hand over her passport in the process to make sure there are no sneaky trips to, you know, see her son and husband in the meantime.  There is also no right of appeal if the request is turned down so you'd better make damn sure you've got all your ducks in a row.

The reason the rule was brought in is a classic example of realpolitik.  The government wants to reduce immigration so it can go to the polls in 2015 and say - "Look, we reduced immigration!".  There are several methods to do this but the one they have decided on impacts non-EU citizens immigration rules, which they can control as opposed to EU citizens free movement which they can't.  So, by erecting barriers to non-EU citizens, the number of successful applications falls, immigration goes down and it's a policy triumph. Regardless of how many families and homes are split up in the process.  Japanese and Chinese research students go to more welcoming universities in the US, taking their goodwill, money and brains with them, willing immigrants from countries that are our past and present allies linger on the sidelines whereas citizens from countries with a dubious grip on human rights, rule of law etc, yes Russia & Dubai, we're looking at you, can have the red carpet rolled out if they have £62,500 in the bank.  I should have mentioned that the Government has left a loophole for 'high value' migrants that have that amount of spare income.

A report by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Migration has been published today which reacts as any fair-minded individual would when informed of the wrong-header, cruel policy put in place as a sledgehammer to crack the walnut sized problem of non-EU/British family immigration.  The report addresses cases like us and calls for a review of the procedure - good luck with that.

As a last insult, the rule does not apply to non-British EU citizens and their non-EU partners so Jose from Ireland and his American wife or Bert from Spain with his Brazilian partner can bring them in as soon as they get to a wifi access point to submit the paperwork.

I never thought it would be easier for me to emigrate into the US than Stacey to come here but there we are. I hope this sheds some light on the frustrations and outright outrageous unfairness we face in trying to reunite our family in the UK. Expat message boards are full of heart breaking stories of families breaking up and British citizens being forced into exile just to keep their families together.

But I'm sure it's worth it to keep those darn New Zealanders out...

Update 1 - As ever, our good friends at The Northern Echo are first out of the gate

Update 2 - I also spoke to Amy Lea on BBC Tees drivetime about the issue yesterday too.