You’re So Vain

Starting tomorrow, for a whole week, I’m going to bore you shitless about what happens in my head. My problem with all the times this happens with other people (normally sponsored by the charities who all need to promote that message or newspapers trying to cash in on Time to Talk Day) is the inevitably sanitised version of events that is presented, because you don’t want to scare normal people into being too frightened to help.

Throughout my entire life I have experienced first hand what happens when ‘normal’ gets involved in the equation, and honestly it’s like living the same day, over and again, before everybody else forgets how horrible everything was except you. You are trapped in your own Groundhog Day, except there’s no cute large ground squirrel for company or the opportunity to fall in love with Andie MacDowell.

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The choices presented therefore are often difficult, painful and ultimately hurtful. If I had to sum up the overriding emotion felt right now, undoubtedly is is sadness. Trying to get other people to understand when the world generally right now does not have a fucking clue what’s going on, mired in uncertainty and often anger. With so many other things taking up the precious free time others possess, why bother helping other people?

Mindfulness has, at least for me, opened a door to better mental places, spaces that only I inhabit away from the noise and fuss of the rest of reality’s demands, which allows the opportunity to deal with sadness, anger and resentment quite effectively. It gives the means by which obstacles can be circumnavigated, and wisdom slowly distilled from the journey thus far. What have I learnt, in all of this? Fear is what underpins everything.

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We’re not talking being afraid of spiders, or not succeeding in my new career path, because both of those are now happily rationalised. We need to treat all the world’s creatures far better than is currently the case, and I have already succeeded, and will continue to do so going forward, because these paths are not hampered by my own inability. Sure, there are days when mentally below par that they become problematic, because nobody is perfect every day. You do what you can to survive.

Fear stops my brain from pushing my body, or at least it used to. Yesterday, in the gym, all those people who can just run without the nagging fear they’ll run out of breath, that their legs will stop working, that the treadmill will dump them face first on the floor in a comedy moment. Each one of those fears has been removed, rationalised and dismissed. Yesterday, I just ran. The most difficult thing ever became the most normal thing. That’s my brain at work, and why everything makes me so fucking tired.

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In the end, of course, those people who stop listening to other people’s issues are often those with their own demons to face, with no desire or ability to start that process. Reaching into computers to tell them this is, I realised quite early on, a mug’s game. Many are here to play the martyr because it suits their agenda. If you have spent a lifetime without the means to deal with the world around you, the Internet’s a perfect platform to find like minded souls who do the same and HEY then you’re not alone any more.

Except it’s all a big, fat lie. Dealing with your issues will vastly improve quality of life not just for you, but those around you. That’s the key: this isn’t just about taking care of yourself. It is the benefits your new outlook will grant in the wider world of work, social interaction and all places in between. Most crucially, at least for me, it grants you the means to communicate to others like yourself that yes, this is worth the pain.

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Trying to work out who is listening can be a fairly hit or miss affair, of course, and wading into people’s lives as some kind of white knight bringing salvation is not the kind of thing to be recommended, especially in the current political climate. So, start small. Cake .GIFs, the occasional hug. Ask a question in your timeline that might promote some discussion, but don’t think that because nobody answers, this doesn’t work. Helping people is not a means by which you gain followers or increase reach.

Genuinely helping others is not a clever Tweet with an inspirational photo sent at 5pm because that’s when the most people will see it. That’s opportunism, appealing to the widest audience and although it might work for some, its now unlikely to be even noticed by the people who need it most. True support is learning to listen, understanding the land and then presenting people with the tools they need to grow, encouraging whilst they do so. The true heroes are the ones who never get the accolades.

You have to ask for help and mean it to move forward, staring past the rhetoric of others and the belief that nobody understands except you.

Amazingly, you really are not alone.

Fairytale

I was reading in the week that someone in my Twitter feed was celebrating the advantages of Discord as a networking tool. If you’re not aware, this is the programme designed for gamers which urges you to ditch Skype and TeamSpeak (both used as popular means of establishing voice communication in Warcraft, amongst other titles) and promotes ‘virtual’ communities centred around particular subjects, in game goals or even streaming ‘personalities.’ It can sit in your web browser, allowing instant communication using the Internet as a carrier. It sounds like a brilliant way of breaking barriers and encouraging friendship, and I suspect if you’re the type of person who enjoys sitting at a screen all day that would be a bonus… but for me, its the equivalent of a slow, debilitating form of poison.
If you really believe virtual voice networking is the future, I have some issues you may wish to consider first.

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I’ve spent many years online using various iterations of text based clients, and it is still a better format for me to work in than speech will ever be. Text gives a vital chance to think, to consider stuff before I dive into conversation. Voice has gotten me into so much trouble over the years, because I thought only after I spoke. It took a very long time to get comfortable with live podcasting as a result of this, but a lot of what I said would be in some way scripted to ensure I wouldn’t wander off topic, as knowing what to say really does matter rather a lot. When it’s you that’s the issue and not others, you tend to get rather adept at placing space between the question and any response, so there’s the much needed thinking time factored in. What any speech based client expects from an individual is permission to allow a large number of random people into your personal space, regardless of whether you know them or not. That’s where the real issues begin.

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A large part of my discomfort, as a woman, is that I know how certain scenarios play out when people ‘meet’ me for the first time. If I were eminently capable of dealing well with strangers in these places, of course, all of this would be unnecessary. There’s also the assumption by many people that, if they can easily and comfortably use such systems, I must be somehow at fault. That means that, if people are unprepared to be empathetic and meet me halfway, I’ll always feel on the back foot. After years of being told ‘well it is clearly you that’s the problem’ I’ve decided that really, it is just simpler not to take part. Nobody loses out, and the people who are genuinely caring and understanding will simply accept the limitation. If you want to initially communicate with me, then it starts on my terms and when I’m comfortable I’ll be far more capable of doing the same in return.

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I’m the gregarious and fearless person when she can edit before posting who can’t manage voice because of that time in a Warcraft Karazhan raid she forgot she was holding down the Push to talk button and trashed someone’s performance. She can’t escape each one of the runs she did with other Guilds whilst trying to set up alliances where she listened in other people’s voice channels and heard guys treating girls like dirt and passing it off as ‘just what happens online.’ She can’t let go of the player after player (of both sexes) who’d swear and abuse a GM for not letting them raid, or screamed in anger when they lost an item of gear. If I didn’t remember absolutely everything, it would be fine and maybe I’d move on, but I know what a rude, viscous and sanctimonious twat even the nicest person ends up when playing this particular MMO ruins their best laid plans.

When I then have to factor my own thoughts and actions on top of all this? If you know you’re mentally just not capable of the speed of reaction that others have as standard, and understand only too well the darkness that can sit in people’s hearts, you avoid situations where you’ll have a problem. If communication matters enough, people will make the effort and they’ll understand. What becomes increasingly apparent is that maybe all those people who said they meant well at the start weren’t all being totally honest. I’m not playing the game any more of just throwing myself into situations and hoping it all works out. If caution results in less drama, yes I’m completely going for that over being in everybody’s faces for popularity.

The trend of Discord for Everything might not be that popular in a years time however, especially in the US if this new law is as damning as I believe it will be. Information is becoming a more valuable currency than the dollar, personal details the key for advertisers to sell you everything online. I think maybe in the future I wouldn’t want to be spending my time chatting in places that I believe are safe but could end up as anything but, and that Virtual Private Networks will become far more significant as places to talk and play in the future. If it matters enough I can use these services: I have Slack open permanently for my current paid writing gig, after all. The fact that I’ll always choose text over voice chat, that I’d rather write a letter than take a phone call, is that I’m scared of fucking it up. Words at my speed allow the chance for the best form of communication I possess, that’s all.

I hope that never changes.

Gett Off

This is not the post I was going to write today.

I made a conscious decision early in the week to reduce the number of people I’m following. It appears that between 800-900 follows is the limit of what I can cope with, if everybody is polite and I’m capable of assimilating what I’m reading with a dispassionate air. However, if people start getting bolshy, this is hard work. I’m well aware that my mindset isn’t the same as a number of other people right now, but assuming everyone is civil and pleasant, it doesn’t matter. When that changes, and I get grief for refusing to engage, not agreeing with an outlook or generally feel uncomfortable talking to someone? Stuff needs to be done. In the interests of transparency, I will share my deselection process, and then explain why.

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First, a follower gets muted on the screens I use for daily work, but not on phone or tablet, so I can still see interaction if/when it happens. If I’m having a particular issue with someone I will keep half an eye on their feed too, as a lot of stuff gets said ‘out of earshot’ that can often be an indicator to someone’s current mood. Yes, I check up on people when I care about them, so what? Then, if when I take that mute off and it appears nothing has changed, I’ll quietly unfollow. Once upon a time I’d tell people, but now with 3k of them in the mix it becomes largely unhelpful, especially for the drama that creates. Occasionally, as has been the case today, I’ll know full well there’s trouble coming, which is all the more reason for not making a big deal about what you’re about to do.

The problem, and it is always this, is that people form unreasonable attachments to other people online. Over time, if you’ve done this with someone, I can guarantee it will go one of two ways. You’re either adults about it, or you’re not. Sadly, it doesn’t work if one person tries to be a grown up and the other one has a massive meltdown. However, if that makes you feel better in your feed, go right ahead, but there’s a good chance if that’s directed at me that I will read it and one of two things will happen. It will either mean a) that my decision to stop following you was completely justified or b) I’m glad I got out when I did. Of course, that subtweet saltfest could have been at someone else and I’m just assuming its directed at me, but if you’re going to do this to anyone who leaves quietly without trying to highlight this whole sorry episode to begin with… I still made the right choice.

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However, and this is directed at anyone whom I’ve unfollowed, if you feel that there’s merit in talking to me directly and trying to sort the problem, I’m all ears. No, seriously, if you wanna talk, you know where I am. I’ve made some Class A howlers in my life over the years with good people I’d love to still be talking to, and I have been responsible for quite a few horrendous personal choices in my time. If it matters enough to you then maybe we can sit down and talk the whole thing out. I will admit I wish I could do this still with a few people that have long since departed my sphere, but life isn’t just what I want. It remains a complex set of interactive variables which you can choose to try and grasp or just use for your own ends. The choice is yours.

Everybody needs an occasional reality check from themselves. I absolutely count myself in this process, and that’s why I’ve written this post. I believe I know people well enough on Twitter now to grasp who is likely to respond well to being unfollowed, who I can expect to leave eventually of their own accord and who’s here for the long haul. Setting a 900 figure on interaction right now is doable and acceptable, but if that changes you can rest assured I will let everyone know ahead of time that stuff will alter. This is my writing tool, after all, and without a level of comfortable interaction it becomes really hard to do the tasks I have set myself up to attempt to execute. That means trust as a two way process. Needless to say, if you think I take any of these decisions lightly or without considerable thought, you really don’t know me at all, because I am well aware of the consequences of pissing people off on the Internet.

I’ve been abused, Twitter stalked, belittled and attacked before. This is no longer going to hold me back from what I want to do. If you want to discuss choices like an adult, I’m happy to do so, but for everything else my life is too short and there’s better people here who seem to be able to meet me halfway. In the end, I don’t make the decisions to leave, in many cases other people do that for me when it becomes clear that communication has stopped being what matters. 

It’s a tough job to do well, after all.