Hear My Voice

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A lot has happened on Social media in 2017 as it becomes apparent that a small, vocal minority has made a hobby of destroying high profile personalities. This has ultimately filtered down to the lower reaches of the system: I’ve suffered ‘anonymous’ abuse from sock accounts myself. However, it does not take a genius for me to work out who is responsible for the actions. When there’s a finite pool of people you’ve upset, working out who’s targetting you as result becomes quite easy to fathom.

Twitter’s response to this has not been to target those people responsible via subtle, well-considered changes to its UI. It has used sledgehammers, again and again, to crack nuts that clearly are considered not worth time or effort to target specifically. Instead, there are large, sweeping ‘mutes’ that the high profile user can use to effectively silence those individuals that Twitter has identified as being the largest groups of troublemakers. If you don’t have a phone number registered for recovery, or you never got around to making an avatar, then these people can be made to vanish with a click.

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Except this also removes a vast number of people from the interaction equation who may simply not wish to use their phone as security, or even know how to make an avatar. Not everyone is as tech savvy as their friends, and many people aren’t interested in becoming that invested in this platform as themselves anyway. It bothers me greatly that others celebrated these changes without considering the people they were silencing could also teach them stuff about themselves.

The ‘echo chamber’ nature of Social media becomes all the more disturbing with each passing day: I’m not just talking about far-right supporters either. Anyone with a perversion or a kink, the far left’s own radical supporters… fanatical sports fans, rabid gamers… and the list goes on. If you create a space that is excluding people, for whatever reason (logical or otherwise to you) there is the potential to distort what passes as reality on any given day. By doing so, there is a chance you’ll end up warping how life is perceived.

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On the flipside, I read increasing numbers of people who realise they simply cannot cope with the level of reality presented to them: the only means by which they survive on any given day is to simply switch off and ignore the timeline completely. However, the people they have made friends with via social media remain only means to help to understand this same chaos: where do you draw the line? How much consumption is healthy? Is it realistic to live with everything and still remain sane?

It is a question I ask myself almost daily, and the answer has begun to be the same each time when I do.

This man is a hero, inspiration and benchmark combined. The fact he can tweet a phrase that inspires me to write in response, read it and then retweet it, is one of the most amazingly magical things in existence. It is unreal and perfect, showing that there are ways for random strangers to interact with each other and nurture each other’s abilities. Although half a country separates us, for a moment there is a reminder that we both sit under the same sky and can eulogise about this in our own ways. I have no pretensions of being anything other than a fan of Ian’s work, but I know that these moments have a vital significance.

By taking away people’s right to do this with blunt, blanket swipes at a platform meant as means for free communication, such beauty will eventually be lost forever. The other problem, of course, is that as the modus operandi of Twitter becomes more and more about making money and less around freedom of expression, it won’t matter about the details anyway. By then, one hopes, we’ll find a new and better way in which to talk to each other without someone else making themselves rich on the back of it.

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I cannot help but sympathise with the increasing numbers of people withdrawing from Social media altogether. I, however, have decided to try and make my living using this platform as both soapbox and advertising media, and therefore this means spending time trying to work out how I can exist within the rules whilst at the same time not go insane. Some days, it is like being beaten unconscious with treacle. However, with sensible use and an increased ability to regulate me in response, things are getting better.

I may yet get the hang of this stuff in the end.