Before I took the youngest on the School Run this morning I sat down at my Twitter settings page and removed every mute I’ve placed since the start of the year. I then went to Tweetdeck and took off every filter. Having pronounced last night that my feed was becoming too unwieldy (yet again) to act as a writing tool this might seem the wrong way to go, but as I got ready at 6.30 am an important truth finally registered in my brain. People should always be allowed to speak, regardless of my individual capacity to hear them.
This year will see a number of ‘alternative future’ literary works get a viewing as cinema and TV, with especial relevance to the current state of the world we live in. I’d lie if I said I wasn’t hugely excited to see a TV adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale with Elizabeth Moss as the titular ‘heroine’ and this morning I saw this trailer for ‘The Circle’, based on what is a fairly generic novel by Dave Eggers, but which has parallels that call to mind both Brave New World and 1984. Both of these pieces, with strong women at their helms, consider what might happen if society diverges from its current path, showing vastly differing versions of the same concept: control. One shows how the collapse of society brings about the subjugation of fertile women as reproductive slaves, the other considers the consequences of letting everybody know everything you are, all the time. They might seem poles apart in terms of subject matter but in truth, both are mirrors of each other.
It is not surprising, considering the turmoil of modern society, that humanity constantly questions what is right and wrong, and how we might stray from a path of common sense. Pretty much every holy scripture from the vast range of religions available as ‘salvation’ pushes the aspiration of living a ‘good’ life: treat others well, be thoughtful, show the means to be penitent. Except somewhere along the way, individualising every experience is somehow removing people from their own morality, is creating minds that cannot grasp the significance of being part of a whole that works effectively. Judging someone because you find them ‘annoying’ or ‘stupid’ is not far away from proclaiming them as wrong or dysfunctional. Judging full stop should never be a norm, and yet this is now standard for so many people in all manner of places. It doesn’t matter if you know everything or nothing about a person, what is more significant in the end is how you deal with that data on a personal level.
The irony of this Tweet turning up in my timeline as a result of all of this pontification is therefore almost prophetic. The most damning form of control, ultimately, is your own inability to think. Accepting your world for what it is remains the most difficult part of any existence. Trying to rationalise anybody else’s motivation, frankly, will put you on a hiding to nothing and blindly following those who somehow claim to have all the answers? Expect disaster and chaos the moment they lose their way and it all goes Pete Tong. In this age of Hashtag Evangelism (not my phrase but my mate @MethodDarrie’s) I understand now that the answer isn’t to shut out all the noise, but simply choose who to listen to. Pretending the stuff you don’t like doesn’t exist might make it feel like it goes away, but that’s never the case. You are not obliged to explain your reasoning either, it’s okay. This is also your scheduled reminder that there also doesn’t need to be a massive session of internet therapy every time someone walks away.
The reason all my mutes are off is simple. People can speak as they wish, and as long as they don’t cause conflict or harm in my timeline? That’s utterly fine. If I find myself looking at someone and deciding that they do not seem to have an interest in what I am doing, or that when they do communicate I can no longer identify with their point of view or what they are saying? I will just unfollow.
This is my 500th post, and I think I’d like the next 500 to cover subjects that really matter, which challenge both you and I in both writing and reading. I really don’t care if people like me or not any more, this was never a popularity contest, because if it were I’d have driven off a bridge a long time ago. To exist in the Modern World is hard work, and often painful. Yes, it hurts to be alive as a reminder that you are. Kindness, I am beginning to realise, is not simply the process of being understanding. Often it means the exact opposite.
To live life well means not being afraid of being alone.