Smells Like Teen Spirit

Day 2: I need to make a phone call. I don’t wanna look too keen. Gonna write this first and then do it, yeah, that’s a good plan.

Today, we explain the difficulties with relationships via the medium of Hairdressing.

The Next Chapter Bar

A woman’s relationship with her hairdresser is both complex and incredibly subtle. You trust a (reasonably) total stranger to make you look fabulous, and not to destroy self confidence in the process. That whole thing with Samson and his locks equalling strength? Utterly spot on. When stuff does go wrong, it often means the end of your relationship. The chances you’ll hand over cash again to someone who turned your hair purple when you wanted blonde? Fairly slim.

I’d been with the same salon for a LONG time. I’d gone there before my son was born, cycled through two stylists, and the day I came home with purple hair having not asked for it was significant. When younger a lot of hairstyles happened, a few colours, but the desire to go 100% mermaid has never stuck. It isn’t me, and to have it imposed accidentally was not really as shocking as might have been the case. It made a tough decision a lot easier: it was time to leave.

When your stylist can’t get your name right… absolutely the right moment to move on.

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So, I’ve bounced between a few places in the intervening period, finding empathy in a couple of stylists, but never the desire to stay, until I took my daughter for a trim at the local hairdressers and found a young lady who is, quite frankly, welcome breath of fresh air. She’s professional and thorough but what I get most from her is the fact that there are no pretensions of anything. She is what she is, and that is what matters. For too long I was simply anonymous. Now, I feel genuinely wanted.

That’s the key in all relationships, I realise. To be a part of something where you don’t feel as if you’re doing all the work, or that you’ve been included because that’s what you think other people would do to look relevant. You shouldn’t be friends with someone  because of who they know, or what that relationship could provide. It just happens. Clicking a button then contributing no effort is not friendship. Reading about another person’s life and adding nothing of value to it is not friendship.

Just because you follow someone does not entitle you to part of their existence.

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Actual copy from a Robot-based ‘we increase your following for you’ website.

Robots continue to create an illusion of care and interest that, in many cases, will never exist. It is all about the business of ‘appearing’ popular and successful, without the genitalia-achingly tough task of talking to every person, establishing trust and belief, before moving on. Truly popular people end up that way because they focus on their desires 24/7, and keep on giving, in a way that cannot be faked or indeed replicated. Looking at my Twitter feed, more and more the genuine hard workers are abundantly apparent, putting lesser mortals in the shade.

It is a fine destination to aim for, continuing to be reassuringly inspirational.

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Not everything online has to be drama, but amazingly that doesn’t stop a lot of people aspiring towards just that. It’s not like there’s no other stress in the World right now either. I get that some of you want online to be your own safe, secure little Utopia of Calm. The reality of existence is that if you wilfully ignore one thing, it’ll happen with others, and that’s never a state of affairs that will ever end well. That lesson has been learnt the hard way. Friendship isn’t just turning up for the good stuff and ignoring the bad. That’s not how this works.

If this matters enough to you, make the effort.

Well Done

Success is an odd concept. Too often it is defined by somebody else and not you: parents, friends, colleagues. I remember as a child my main desire was to look and feel relaxed, that kid who wasn’t perennially awkward and uneasy in her own skin. I was bought a book, or maybe I bought it myself, I don’t remember: How to be Cool. It had lots of film stars on the cover, most of them in shades, because that was how you cultivated a persona that radiated confidence. In the ignorance of youth (and boy was I naive back then) all you needed was the physical tools to become famous, and that’s how it worked. Not much has changed in 40 years: all you need now is to break 1000 Followers on your online medium of choice and suddenly, BOOM, you’re the person to know. Except success shouldn’t be defined by other people’s beliefs, at least if you want to try and attain some notion of personal peace.

Only now do I begin to understand why ‘do it for yourself’ matters more than any other goal you’ll ever set.

If you don’t enjoy sport, you won’t understand why last night’s PSG v Barcelona game was such a big deal. Barcelona, effectively buried at home in the first leg of their Champion’s League tie by French opposition, did what is normally considered impossible and came back to win 6-5 away from home, with a display of determination that saw their win effectively sealed in the last five minutes of normal time plus time added on. Success sometimes means not assuming you’re beaten, that the opposition is fallible. It also helps if there’s some luck in the mix (one of Barca’s goals was the most amazing of deflections) but mostly you never give up until the game is over.

When history and your critics have condemned you to failure before the whistle is blown, there’s nothing left to lose, and here is where success is never defined by anybody else except the people playing the game. The reason I love football (and I do as a spectacle, because it is) is if a group of players believe enough in themselves and the task to be surmounted, it will happen. That was the case with Leicester City last season, and it will be again, as I’m confident that group of players will survive their relegation battle, but only now because they are fighting adversity on their terms. But I’m not here to pretend I’m a pundit, because success is knowing what you’re good at and not trying to be everything at once, and I’m straying from my own point.

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Success is not what other people tell me it is. I define the parameters, from start to finish. That’s because, when all is said and done, I am the team here. Nobody else edits the Blogs or produces the graphics. There’s no writing team producing the words ever day. If an idea is created or developed, there will be input from other people, but the final production and ‘manufacture’ of the articles from those discussions falls into my lap. Effectively, when you are your own production company, PA and publicity teams? It makes satisfaction a lot easier to both quantify and gauge. There’s also far less stress because being beholden to other people in process can often be enough to send you batty. This means that creative freedom and inspiration don’t get stifled nearly as much as can be the case in collectives. It also allows me the opportunity to pick and choose what gets done and when.

The flip side to this of course is that there is often a temptation to do everything at once, because it is hard to work out what’s the most worthwhile idea in a pile of potentially great projects. That has been the hardest lesson of all to learn, but now I’ve cut things down to small, workable ‘blocks’ of time, it is becoming quite manageable and attainable. What that means in practical terms is as after this post is written, I’ll get a cuppa and a flapjack and spend a couple of hours setting up webpage frameworks for the back end of the Warcraft site, and looking to add a couple of new headers to the Writing one. What I’ve often overlooked is foundations in my projects, and without solid bases on which to build long term projects, things can have a habit of collapsing around me… but not any more.

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I am infinitely grateful for the opportunity to define my own rules going forward. It means that nothing is ever a bind, or a chore, even the stuff that seemed so before because it didn’t appear necessary. Once you realise that EVERYTHING, even the mundane shit, is a way forward, your life can shift about quite rapidly. It is, in effect, understanding that your half empty glass means you’re still not thirsty and it could be so much worse. This has taken many years to comfortably grasp, and there will still be days when I struggle to remind myself that backwards is the last resort. As long as the words keep working that’s great, but now there’s the acceptance that there needs to be more, too. That means the photography is becoming more important, alongside the exercise: a range of interests and not just an obsessive focus on one thing alone.

Fortunately for me I’ve picked a medium to work in where all my interests can effectively mesh. Now it is just up to me to make that happen.

Yeah, I can do this.

Social Media Curation after Brexit and Trump

Before we Begin: Let the record state I voted to remain in the EU and would not have voted for either of the major Presidential nominations in the US of A. I am, like it or not, an Independent. Mainstream politics gives me nothing at all, on most days, and I won’t lie to you from the get-go. I can respect those who have a strong leaning to either left or right, if they will respect me in turn. With that out of the way?

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Your social media is a mess right now.
Don’t try and pretend it’s not. I gave up Facebook a long time ago, for reasons that would probably fill several Blog posts, but I’d not do without Twitter in these days of political uncertainty and mass hysteria. It’s a vital writing tool and barometer for what’s happening in the Real World (TM) and as a result, it occurs to me I need a new curation policy. So, here’s where I’m going in the weeks ahead.

ONE:
Follow more People

Hang on, what did you say?

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This is NOT the moment when you denounce anyone who didn’t vote the way you did. It is also absolutely not the time to remove everyone from your friends list who’s ‘having a moment’ This is when you remember that others are different to you and deal with grief/anger/disbelief/orange better/worse than you depending on a bazillion factors you won’t ever truly grasp. What you really need to be doing is finding voices right now that help, not switching people off.

I am assuming that if you’ve managed to remain on Twitter to begin with, you’re coping okay. Lots of people I know who aren’t close to dealing have vanished from social media completely and you know what? I really don’t blame a single one of them. Post Brexit (which is where all this began for me) it was a struggle, even when my feed wasn’t particularly full of people discussing the issues. Broadcast news was just too painful to consume. The sensible people who know how they react to stress will be doing just that. Reacting for others is chucking out all the dead wood and redefining parameters. All these approaches are equally valid.

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However, what this is the absolute best time for is finding new people to listen to. If you wish to fill your feed with people who only say what you want to hear, who am I to dispute this choice, but this is the moment where I state that I’ve always believed that the best way to learn is through conflict [*] and that means listening to voices that advocate different viewpoints, but aren’t attacking you. What you need right now aren’t just independent thinkers either: just because someone shares an outlook that isn’t yours, doesn’t mean you’ll not learn anything from them. What I’m finding useful right now is the stuff third parties are throwing into my timeline, what other followers are reading themselves and considering useful or helpful to pass on. Curation means just that, reading and understanding the relevance of your source material.

So, maybe this is the moment to follow some people who you’d not normally read but are making you think, because right now what we need is more thought and less throwing shit at each other.

TWO:
Make Sensible Judgements

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The automatic first reaction in this immediate response is required world of ours is, for a lot of you right now, quite attractive, because if you can’t cope, just cut conflict out. I know how upsetting it can be, for instance, to watch someone do the RL equivalent of give you the finger and then vanish after you posted what you thought was a pretty good gag that helped you cope and at the same time helped others deal with the issues. I care about a lot of people on my feed a lot more than I suspect they even realise, because diversity is what keeps this planet spinning (gravity and science notwithstanding) and I’ve already done this. The parallels between the weeks post-Brexit and the US Elections made me feel last night as if I’d ended up in ‘Groundhog Day’ When the safety pin posts started popping up?

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The point here is simple. There are tools to make choices on Twitter: this may not be the moment just to reach for the block, but it could well be the time to go Private. If you want to just rant and not care, a lock is great but please bear in mind that it might not have the effect you wanted. To the person I force unfollowed because of just this? I love you’re passionate about your politics, but I’m sorry, I am not. As we no longer have a meaningful discussion about anything, and you don’t really interact with me at all any more? I don’t think this will be a terrible loss for either of us. If you’re not prepared to share yourself publicly at a time when I feel that’s more important than anything else? It is time for us to go our separate ways.

That brings us nicely to the other side of this particular coin.

THREE:
Pick your Platform

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I would have left Twitter a very long time ago if I’d not found Tweetdeck. This will be familiar to Mac users as a stand alone programme (and there is a PC version) but I run mine in a browser and have done for quite some time. The ‘official’ software provided on both web and phone are optimised to sell you shit and take liberties with the way you consume content, in the hope it will make the company money. Sorry, Twitter, but not ever gonna happen, and so I curate with software at entry. That means Tweetdeck (and ColorDeck) in Chrome (DON’T JUDGE ME) and Tweetbot on my Fruitphone/Tablet because I’d rather pay money for someone to remove ads than allow people to throw them at me.

Both these platforms allow me to mute on multiple levels, and this has become important in the way I deal with both noise and aggravation. It’s akin to having a time out, the Naughty Step or Boarding School to discipline your kids with, and knowing the appropriate use for them all. I can mute someone as a precursor to deciding whether I unfollow or not, or simply mute them and walk away. For the trolls and the violent the block exists, though I will admit that I took all of my blocks off a month or so ago. Tweetdeck allows muting on both keywords and users, so this then allows me to filter specific noise until I’m able to cope… so yes, you could just filter out Trump or Brexit and leave everything else as it was.

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A block now for me is the equivalent of turning my back, and putting fingers in my ears. I don’t want to hear you. If I just have a mute operating there’s a good chance I’m still listening, I just cut out the top level treble because it’s making my ears ring, but for some people I feel that spending the rest of my life mad with them for just being what they are isn’t really doing anybody any favours, including myself. So now, I practice Safe Blocks to stop me going insane, contracting stupid and ending up with unwanted friendships where I know that it’s more about them than it will ever be me. That means that the software I use matters almost as much as the words that get written.

FOUR
Make It Count

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All the tools in the world are pretty much pointless if you don’t learn how to use them. However, and this is more important, you gotta grasp how much it matters to even bother. I can poach an egg, but to create a beautiful and delicious Eggs Benedict takes practice, skill and application, and all of those things ultimately matter because any idiot can poach an egg. If you are determined to not accept the World as a vast, diverse and often frightening place? That’s an issue no amount of consumption of facts with whatever bias will ever solve, and places the responsibility squarely in your lap. Not your parents, or your Pastor or even your spouse… but YOU.

I’ve watched the people in my timeline who’ve quite rightly posted retweets from people who are now beginning to wake up to the fact that there may be colour lines, or political leanings, but if you’re angry and start lashing out that’s wrong, whatever side you support. Yes, anger is a part of the grief process, but if you’re choosing to do that on social media? You’re using this platform to make a point, with an audience. Don’t get surprised if people don’t react the way you expect or hope as a result, because this isn’t about you, and ultimately if you’re projecting anger on Twitter right now, you’re absolutely making it just about yourself.

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If you need help to deal with things, find people that you know care, and ask them.

FIVE
Let it Go

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I know it hurts that you lost. Trust me, I absolutely know how devastating it is to watch a bunch of liars and con artists win a vote [**] They didn’t however do this, people did. The vote was won by people who aren’t you. That’s the biggest thing to grasp in all of this, that however much you hate everybody else and the people who seem to have ruined your world? Those people were there yesterday. They existed before the vote happened. Most importantly of all, they’d been around YOUR ENTIRE LIFE, but you only just grasped they’ll be running your Country.

Social media curation will never prepare you for the horror of grasping your own mortal existence. I’m afraid for that, you are on your own. However, what it does afford you is the opportunity to shape the world around you in a manner so you can adequately cope with what is thrown at you and for that I cannot make this last point enough. All the curation in the World is utterly pointless if you don’t learn. Don’t carry around anger and hate. Love is really very important right now, for so many reasons, and especially if you are a parent. Teach the next generation well. Never use the Boarding School option, because after that you’ve got nowhere else to go.

Right now, everybody needs to learn more tolerance and understanding.

BOTH SIDES, not just theirs.


Mostly, in all of this chaos, try and find yourself a place of peace, at least once a day. I have exercise, you could read a book or listen to music. Effectively the World is exactly the same as it was last Saturday, except we all drive ourselves a little closer to death in more painful and pointless ways. Take a moment, and just remember the good amongst the bad.

Me, I’ll be off for a cuppa before I head for the Gym <3


[*] Other learning methods are available. Please choose carefully.
[**] Other outlooks are available, yet not nearly as derogatory for humorous purposes.