Silence is Easy

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When it became apparent in the week that Twitter wasn’t doing an about face on algorithmic timelines, another news story popped up that’s probably more significant in the long run than the order you read your news in. The Independent reports that ‘tailored filtering’ is already a reality for a number of Verified users: that is, the ability to ‘turn off’ tweets that aren’t relevant to the user, and effectively silence the noise that the platform generates. By noise, of course, I mean the trolls and the haters and the pornbots and the random crap that is produced by a small but significant number of users. This development comes as a result of a much publicised memo leaked from Twitter CEO Dick Costolo where he admits ‘we suck at dealing with abuse and trolls.’ Anybody who deals with the platform on a daily basis can attest and agree with the sentiment: however, is this really the way forward?

Is the means to deal with abuse simply to pretend it doesn’t exist?

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I’d like to bring Lindy West to the stand, as a witness in the defence for actually confronting abuse and not simply blanking it out. Lindy has a lot of experience of the brutal, cruel side of internet ‘life’ and how anonymity is pretty much always a curse and never a blessing:

Being harassed on the internet is such a normal, common part of my life that I’m always surprised when other people find it surprising. You’re telling me you don’t have hundreds of men popping into your cubicle in the accounting department of your mid-sized, regional dry-goods distributor to inform you that – hmm – you’re too fat to rape, but perhaps they’ll saw you up with an electric knife? No? Just me? People who don’t spend much time on the internet are invariably shocked to discover the barbarism – the eager abandonment of the social contract – that so many of us face simply for doing our jobs.

You really need to take time to digest this article on how West confronted a particular troll who decided to take on the identity of her deceased father in order to abuse her, and how she decided to deal with the consequences. If this story were the exception, then I’d not have an issue with simply cutting the noise completely, but it is anything but. I’m well aware of the people on my feed who suffer all manner of abuse, from casual posts on their blogs to full on psychopathic stalkers. The problem, of course, is that there is no consequence for these obsessives, and as long as police/law enforcement isn’t going to take the vast majority of these issues seriously because there’s not enough evidence to build a reliable case? It’s open season for the Troll population.

Twitter’s solution is, in effect, a fucking huge spam filter. It just takes the noise away, making no effort to solve the problem at source. However, the company could reasonably argue (with some measure of success) that, as a communications medium, that’s not their job anyway. All they do is give you a platform, after all, how you choose to use it isn’t their issue… until you get high profile cases where Twitter is clearly used as a weapon. Take the case of John Nimmo and Isabella Sorley, who threatened journalist Caroline Criado-Perez and were bought to court. I picked the Mail headline for a reason: the two perpetrators are described as ‘a binge-drinking college graduate’ and  ‘a jobless recluse living on benefits’ as if this somehow justifies their actions (which it absolutely doesn’t.) The thing is, perfectly normal people can be and are abusers. Just because you can turn their ‘low-quality’ tweets off doesn’t make them go away, nor does it provide any means to trace them or action them if their abuse is long-term. This is Twitter dodging a bullet that has real potential to kill many people, and only when that happens is there likely to be change. By then, however, it will be too late.

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The biggest single issue, it seems to me, for anyone under attack from an abuser is the accumulation of prosecutable evidence. Unless you can build a workable case, there’s nothing to be done, and that’s before you then have to come up with the legal muscle to prosecute… and all that costs money that many people simply won’t have. It is a sad and depressing incitement of modern life that the default for most people does become ‘well, just ignore it and hopefully they’ll go away’ which is so wrong on so many levels it beggars belief. For anyone vulnerable, and I’m looking at kids and adults alike here, by the time you realise what’s been happening with online abuse, it can often be too late. Sticking your hands over ears and just pretending that nothing’s happening might work for some things, but it won’t for others. This isn’t an answer, it is a dangerous development where Twitter practices a blanket censorship of material under the belief that all of this material is basically harmless. That might work for 95% of cases, but the 5% it doesn’t?

Pretending a problem does not exist is not the way to solve it.

30000

 

Done. I did it. It is sorted. I’m not going to give a blow-by-blow dissection of what it entailed or how I felt: all I want to say is that the walk home felt a lot longer than he trip to the Gym. But I’l be back out there tomorrow. Today, as I’ve now inherited the gastrobug that everybody else in the house has suffered, I suspect I won’t make the step total. In fact, I’m confidently predicting I’ll be in bed by the time you read this. Because even I know the value of not pushing it when you know you’re not capable.

However, in other news:

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which means my next goal is 40k and that will not happen until I am *considerably* fitter than I am now.

Needless to say, lines in the sand are good, especially when the tide required to erase them only happens once or twice a year.

Confusion the Waitress

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I almost cracked 30k steps on Monday. It was close and gave me an idea of what I need to do this morning, when I do.

Because today, I won’t be writing until lunchtime, I’ll be walking/elliptical-ing my way to a new Fitbit badge. When I was Googling for a suitable image, I discovered this article on how Fitbit is quite addictive. Yes, I know this, and speaking from the addiction standpoint? I know where I need to get to. Once I make it there? Then we’ll see where we are. Like my gaming? It’s all about knowing when things become a problem and right now? Not a problem, just a goal.

So, if you’ll excuse me, I need to get kids to school and walk to my new destination.

Comfortably Numb

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Sometimes, all you see is darkness.

If you’ve never suffered from depression, I don’t expect you to grasp just how dark the lightest of situations can become. You have to experience the terror for yourself, that horrendous feeling when you close your eyes and reality stretches away, out of your reach. I always used to be exposed, stuck in the middle, unable to move and powerless to act as the frames of reference just extended out of a grasp desperate to pull you back to the reality you suddenly want to avoid. It makes me uncomfortable writing this, shoulders and back prickling, a shudder that often accompanies, of all things, arousal. There’s a lot to be said for understanding every emotion you experience, so you can link them together or try and explain to people what’s going on in your head.

Mostly, you spend the dark days fighting a permanent tide trying to pull you under.

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Yes, its like walking into the wind, or listening to the same song over and over again until you want to break things. It can become wearing, damaging and ultimately frustrating, but ultimately talking about it does help, and that’s why I’m here. Last night I knew the drop was coming and so I went and pre-empted it: removing myself from all the things that would make things worse, taking an early night and leaving it to my subconscious plus fatigue to take the battle elsewhere. I dreamt of making an exhibition of modern art for a particularly picky and critical muse, a man from my past who was always hateful and dismissive of my issues. Then, when a potential white knight appeared to ‘save’ me, my subconscious helpfully prevented him from doing so, forcing me to become the heroine.

I woke up feeling considerably less stressed. I think maybe I’m beginning to work out how I manage this effectively. The fear and anxiety has subsided and actually, I’m just feeling ‘normal’ which I’m going to take. I don’t need to be happy, but I most certainly am not nearly as ‘sad’ as I was yesterday evening so that’s what we’ll start with today.

Small steps.

 

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I’ve never responded well to change, and I realise that that is at least in part responsible for my emotional shifts in the last couple of months. What I could really use right now is both emotional and intellectual comfort food, chicken and bread sauce for the soul. I have to keep checking myself, every step I take, to ensure I’m actually going in the direction I want to be, and with weeks like the last one to contend with, often it can feel like you’re just going backwards. Then I look at the physical changes to myself and realise that actually? I’m not as badly off as I thought.

When it was suggested the reason I might not have lost any weight for as long as I have could be because I’d exchanged so much fat this time around for muscle? I’ll admit I initially scoffed. However, yesterday I actually took a quite serious look at my body and actually? Yup, there are muscles in places I don’t remember, especially the upper half of my body. This has galvanised me into spending the week before Half Term getting a bit focussed on sticking some miles under my belt. That includes making a concerted effort on Wednesday to break the 30k step barrier and earn my Fitbit badge. Because life is nothing without Achievements.

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This week therefore is about balancing words, actions and deeds. I have THREE interviews planned, a relaunch of a serialised story and the Novel to knock into shape on top of all of this too, and actually having so much to do is great, because it gives me a direct focus on where to go and what can be achieved. Mostly, I realise now I work best when I have a plan. All of this is written down, and now its time to cut the talk and get on with it. Once the School Run is done? I’ll be off for the morning.

See you on the other side.

Coming Around Again

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In the revolving door of on-line relationships, people leave as well as arrive. If you care about such things, then you’ll notice the downs as well as the ups. People who take this shit seriously will inform you that you shouldn’t worry about numbers, because down that road madness lies. Except, if you take part in friendships with care, noticing when people leave can give you an indicator of potential issues, and point out mistakes you have made. In many ways, knowing what went wrong is as important as what you did right. Because ultimately, if you make enough mistakes, there is often a bigger price to pay.

Yesterday, I lost someone who I will admit I’ll miss quite a bit, but it’s not as if I can’t find them on the Internet if it mattered. I went to their website and left a quick note there, saying I’d noticed they’d gone and wishing them the best. I tend to do this whenever someone I’ve had a decent or overly positive interaction with departs, mostly because I think that kind of decency requires an acknowledgement. People don’t need to be in your social media feed to be friends, after all, this is not some kind of pre-requisite to be relevant in the digital age. What matters to them, when there are degrees of separation that are both geographical and metaphorical, may never be adequately explained.

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Sometimes you get lucky and the person concerned give indicators on their feed and you can put two and two together. If that happens? I’d argue you’re probably better off pressing unfollow and moving on anyway, because if they’re going to do this when you fuck up? You may have been in real trouble had the transgression been really serious. However, if YOU DO GENUINELY fuck up, I think its important to acknowledge there’s fault to be addressed. Yes, you can apologise after the fact, of course this is possible. I’ve done it quite a few times now, realising I took the wrong path. It doesn’t take anything other than an understanding how human you are, and that nobody is ever 100% correct, all the time. No, you’re not, don’t even go there.

Using everything you know about somebody, there are plenty of opportunities to be a decent human being if things go wrong. However, so many people seem to think that because this is the Internet, it is somehow devolved from those rules of common decency. Mostly because, in most cases, you have no idea who somebody really is. That’s utter bollocks, of course: anybody with a bit of rudimentary knowledge of research can discover a phenomenal amount about you from your online habits. However, that’s a blog post for another time, and if the point here is being civil, stalking is not a great idea.

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Mostly, you need a sense of your own place in the Internet world. That means best practices, common decency and more than the normal measure of sensitivity. I may joke from time to time on the nature of the fragile male ego, but I know full well what happens when you scorn a woman. Mostly, everyone deserves decency and grace, right up to the point where you’re blocked and left wondering what the fuck just happened. If it really *is* a surprise to you? Time to pay more attention. If you look, ruefully smile and say to yourself ‘yeah, that was coming’, then you’re probably best moving on.

For everything else? Be a decent human being.

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In what shouldn’t be as huge a surprise to as many as it clearly is, Twitter have announced your feed will change forever starting next week. Gone will be the reverse chronological order, so you can simply scroll up and see what everybody said.

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Oh don’t be so fucking precious.

Now, Twitter will decide what you read, based on use and (undoubtedly) how much money you can throw at the service to ensure you get seen. For many, this will undoubtedly signal The End of All Things, based on the understanding that this was the last truly organic and ‘free’ means by which billions of people could communicate without consequence.

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No, really, just stop now.

I’m laughing so much I can’t write any more, just give me a minute, will you?

/exhale

Sorry, where was I?

I’m pretty confident I’ve been reading an algorithmic feed on my iPad for months: seeded with ‘relevant’ and much-read articles from my timeline when I wake up overnight, forcing me to chase people’s timelines to pick up the subtlety. It’s why I use a range of devices to consume: Tweetdeck for the 9-5, the App for travelling. What stuns me in this sudden and indignant burst of anger and amazement is that people are genuinely surprised that a company whose sole existence is to make money would implement something to do just that. That’s how business works, folks. The algorithm allows the company to tailor people’s experiences. Yes, you could argue it’s censorship via activity, but you could argue that black is white on this platform without consequence until now, and guarantee at least one conspiracy theorist would retweet you. Now you’ll have to hope they take the time to actually find your Bio and follow.

Yes, there will be casualties. If you’re not there to live-tweet, that whole experience changes forever. For the people who couldn’t be bothered to find a computer and you know, actually be outside living their life for real, they’ll simply be presented with some highlights of what happened and just move on. News organisations will need to be on the ball too, no more trawling timelines 72 hours after the fact and desperately attempting to keep making news. Twitter will decide what’s relevant, and if that means advertisers get the upper hand? Well, guess what? THAT’S THE BALL-GAME. If you genuinely feel that leaving will make Twitter change their mind? Off you go. Just let me know where you’re going if I give a damn about you, because until there’s at least a financial quarter’s worth of evidence that this fucked everybody royally, there’ll be no change.

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A while ago, in the game I play and write about for a living, the company took away a key part of the experience. The fallout from that is still being felt, coming up for a year after the event, and what the change ended up doing was effectively polarising a section of the community who relied on that ability (flying in game) to function in the manner in which they were comfortable. Well, I think I can confidently predict that this will have much the same effect on the World who uses Twitter to harass, to speak without consequence, and conversely tell the world what’s happening the moment it does. Suddenly, your ‘rights’ have been altered, and you’re going to be mad as fuck. There will be introspection, reflection and oh so much hand-wringing and lamentation. There’ll be public exits, massive outpourings of vitriol and anger, and people will be held to blame.

Meanwhile the real truth is damning. I know of the nearly 3000 people who follow me on a daily basis, less than a quarter actually communicate with me regularly, and even fewer actually read my work. This change will, in essence, allow me to actually reach more people if I can play the Twitter system and win. It will give me a chance to stack my deck and improve my visibility, and (hopefully) allow more people who don’t know who the fuck I am to read my work, based solely on my ability to get the people that do follow me to do the same. You know, by true freedom of speech using blogging. Those who will lament the loss of chronology will no longer be able to attack people on a global stage. They’ll need to learn to play the game too. Curating a feed will suddenly become the most sensible use of your time as a social media manager. Lists will rise in popularity. People will choose to either adapt or die, and until someone invents a true successor to the platform?

You’ll still be here. Stop making fucking drama out of nothing.