The Test

I’ve spent three days this week exploring facets of how mental health exists online for me. I’m part of a community where there are a number of genuine people suffering with their own selections of shortcomings and medical issues. It’s not an exercise in attention seeking for the vast majority either: I saw a Tweet a while back referring to those on Social media as someone’s ‘pocket friends’ who were able to care and listen when nobody else in the ‘Real’ World understood the issues. This is undoubtedly all well and good right up to the point when the Internet fucks you over, which it does with almost depressing regularity. Then it’s a balance, the ultimate test of your ability to separate the Truth (such as it is) and the Con. That would be a good book title, if I’m honest: two sides of the online existence that constantly flip flop through Twitter and Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp.

My daughter’s app of choice is SnapChat, and she freely admits loving the ability to use filters as amusement. None of them ever make it to the wider web, because she’s done the homework on that. Her WebFu is strong, from the generation who already wield this weapon with a fluidity and confidence that never existed in my youth. Today’s discussion on the School Run was around Meitu, which has been doing the rounds on my feed in the past few days. This app, that makes you look like an Anime character, asks quite a lot of your phone when you install it:

I was a Sysadmin for a small company before my kids were born, in the days when a Mobile was the size and thickness of a brick, and where the biggest thing in messaging was ICQ. I’ll grant you that I’ve also watched a lot of X Files in my time, and have two rolls of tinfoil in the house, and that I’m a little sensitive to anything asking unreasonable amounts of access to anything. However, as my daughter pointed out this morning, how do you know these screen grabs are real? Someone could easily have gone into a web browser and faked the details in order to discredit this company. When your 11 year old’s already looking at the hacks behind the hacks? Is it possible to keep up, and should I even be trying?

When you’re sometimes unable to rely on your own competence, how does that relate to the rest of the World and those that you ‘trust’?

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I would be far less of a person were it not for those I have discovered via Twitter. For one thing I’d not have the job I get paid for, the voluntary job I’m now avoiding completing by writing a blog post and the job application for of all things a writing apprenticeship sitting on my diary over there /points. Without this window to the world there’d have been eight years worth of diary entries this February that nobody would have ever read. The benefits from being part of a wider Universe are reinforced pretty much on a minute by minute basis right now. Then come the days when I just want to punch everybody and this blessing becomes the most horrendous and inescapable of curses. I know I’m not alone: I watch people get angry and attack others, without using their names. People who sit in the same room, more or less, decide to threaten each other and think it is acceptable because they don’t directly address their victims. Seriously, what kind of fucked up existence do we now exist in?

This is the reality of existence for so many people. Not just women, those with ‘differences’, people who aren’t fitting into the proper compartments. Anyone who doesn’t look/sound/smell as the ‘norm’ is potentially in the firing line. Ashley Judd’s an actress who understands exactly what it means to be virtually destroyed, and yet us willing and able to stand and tell the tale. I find it interesting too that she tailors content with curation (or in her case ‘scrubbing the feed’) so that she can use the platform in the way her abusers do but she can’t. It’s not done to attack them in turn, it’s simply a basic human right. Being able to talk, and to be believed, takes phenomenal bravery and strength. It shouldn’t be necessary to say any of this, but the true reality of the next 4 years from many of my US friends is a man who doesn’t see a problem in this objectification.

It is no wonder there’s an outpouring of love today that is needed more than ever before.

With all this around you, it is a tough ask some days to remain confident and capable. With everything else that people exist with, to have the places you consider safe so potentially dangerous? It’s wrong, and bad, and absolutely it becomes acceptable to not only live in an echo chamber but maybe not to be here at all. However, for me at least, the last seven months has taught one vital lesson: you can be stronger when you reflect the negativity back. Even in the darkest depths of depression you can find hope and belief in the hearts and minds of others. The people I have met, the brilliance they bring to my existence, can never and will never be forgotten until my last breath. I am proud and grateful for those who call me a friend, who would drop everything for a beer and a sandwich, for the opportunity to be in the same space. I know you all, and I will never forget these kindnesses. Thank you. For those who will see past their own desires and selfish needs, for those with light and love to spare for those in need?

You are the true heroes in the World. Thank you for being what you are.