At some point, this is all going to finally fall into place.
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’?
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.
I’d like to take a moment this afternoon to thank the various people who by being mean, evil and downright rude have steered me on the course to becoming a better person. You’d think I’d want to start by accentuating the positives, but it occurred to me on the walk home from the Gym that’s not how I work. Those who care and support me do so not because I ask them to, but instead remain due to their own love, respect and brilliance… and often a combination of all three. I don’t have any say in that at all, when all is said and done, the choice is theirs. These people mercifully also understand what I am: brittle, often difficult and unfathomable. I’d like to be none of these things, if I’m honest, but that’s a conversation for another blog.
The haters (who will hate, as is accepted practice on the Internets and beyond) for any number of reasons. Maybe you used to be ‘friends’ but something changed. Perhaps you don’t agree on a contentious topic. It could be as simple as failing to accept that everyone is entitled to an opinion… and then the list goes on, and on, and we’re moving away from the basic issue. This morning a truth was accepted: I like to be confrontational sometimes as an exercise in entertainment. There, I said it, and this has happened over the years with people who, for whatever reason, have decided that I’m their role model, or heroine or maybe simply an object of desire. Because I know I’m none of these things and just a person, I really should know better, but often using humour and contention to make a point can be useful. That’s how a lot of comedy works, after all.
The problem comes, of course, when the person you upset/embarrassed ‘in public’ with your rebuttal or opinion decides you’re now worthy of destroying.
I’ve been through quite a bit on that front in the last couple of years, I realised yesterday by going back through my ‘records.’ Whether it’s the sock Twitter account to sit and fire shit from a distance, or the bitter whispers via third party messages (because you blocked them on Twitter) there are many ways to think you will destroy your enemies by making noise. Ironically a lot of this ire springs from the incredibly mistaken belief by some that I’m some kind of influencer. If I legitimately held that title I’d do my damndest never to upset anyone and probably never speak as a result, because when you know how much trouble your outlook and attitude is capable of causing, the best lesson ever learnt is to keep quiet. Self loathing is all well and good, but I have now concluded that if I really want to be happy, I have to start with myself first.
Some people have absolutely no problem with loving themselves. In fact, if I’m honest, a fair proportion of the noise I deal with on any given day is from those who don’t care about anything except themselves in the equation. Turning their hatred and stupidity therefore into something worthwhile and useful seems not only like the right thing to do, but almost a prerequisite, appropriate antidote to negativity. Those of you who think I’m confident and happy should be reminded that crippling anxiety and self doubt are never far away in my head, and there is consideration of every single thing that is said and posted, whereas in the past I’ll be honest and admit I cared far less. I was in essence, the exact same people I now star at as Haters. I’m sure as fuck never going back to that place ever again for as long as I live.
You only get to attain balance by knowing how far each side of your scales will tip.
Without the Haters however, you don’t get a chance to consider your flaws. Even if the tirade of shit that random fuckwit spewed from the sock account was utter garbage, it doesn’t mean you can’t learn from it. You don’t simply ignore the person who fucked off, you can ask why it happened, and if you believe that it was as a result of something you did, then maybe that is a point to reassess. The problem comes when your scales tip too far into introversion and uncertainty, and in SHOCK NEWS after almost 50 years I’m still crap at doing that whole ‘stop worrying, just get on‘ thing that’s supposed to happen. It is easy to see why famous people never read reviews of their stuff because honestly, I’d go throw myself off a cliff over how some people feel their ‘opinion’ matters than actually treating fellow human beings with respect.
When all is said and done, a complex set of variables have combined to allow me to become a better human being. As there is a phenomenal amount of work left to do, I would anticipate spending another 50 years trying to get my head around the details. To those of you who tried to fuck me up along the way? Nice try, twats, but all you did was make me better and stronger. Fell free to continue to hate, but if you stopped and learnt to love yourself?
Who knows what might be possible.
This is a True Story. I’m not sure of the exact day when the event transpired, but it wouldn’t be hard to pinpoint, as it clashed with a series of real life events that are well documented. It was before the Summer Holidays, that I can be certain of, so happened at least in recent memory. No names will be used either, except mine.
The reason why I’m mentioning it now will become apparent in due course.
I’m about to go to bed one night, and see someone on my Twitter feed post a quote from a Movie I really like, so (as often happens) I send a suitable response. This prompts me to go and take a look at their profile website, and discover they’ve moved quite a distance to start a new life. I remember being younger and wishing I had the balls to do this, but never did. I lied about the possibility to impress someone though, pretended an elaborate falsehood, and this exchange highlighted that moment. Then it prompted the desire to ensure I’m never that person again.
A couple of days later, whilst I’m prepping at breakfast to make a longer than usual car trip, the same person posts, clearly either drunk or in genuine distress. I’ve seen a lot of Twitter ‘attention’ posts in my time, and you get a sense after a while whether the person trying to attract sympathy or understanding is in genuine trouble, or angling to get someone to just talk. In this case, the alarm bells wouldn’t stop ringing, and so I pushed for more. This person was obviously unhappy, compromised and (it appeared) trapped by their own volition. I suggested that this could easily corrected, but this person wouldn’t budge.
Enter another Twitter ‘friend’ who is, it has to be said, a total heroine. She is kind, caring and understands the mindset of this individual, because it transpires they have already spoken. It then becomes apparent that the truth behind the wider narrative is not something they want to share (with very good reason) but their distress is genuine and now, at least for me several thousand miles away, increasingly alarming. Once it becomes apparent that there could be a firearm involved, I realise I am totally out of my depth.
I can still taste the fear and confusion from the car trip I made that morning, phone by my side as I followed this situation playing out, thousands of miles away, with nothing more that I could do except hope my reassurance had been enough to help the individual find a way forward. Then, I get a message: the person is safe, with someone else who has, simply out of the kindness of their heart, offered to help and offer shelter. Shortly afterwards, a single Tweet told the story, and a few days afterwards another appeared as a quiet and unassuming postscript. After that, there was nothing. I’d check, and wonder, and assume that if I heard nothing, that was enough.
Fast forward to this morning: for the first time in months I see a message from this person. I want to ask them how they are, if they struggled after what happened, but part of me knows I don’t want to post that Tweet.
Sometimes, that’s not how life works.
When you ‘live’ with people in large virtual communities, often it isn’t just about the good stuff. I’ve watched some genuinely frightening abuse in the time I’ve used Twitter, and in some cases that has escalated to real life over spill which isn’t just mortifying, but frankly unbelievable. That old adage that ‘it always happens to someone else’ is true right up to the point when you’re the one in the spotlight: then, it becomes a case of putting money where mouth is and being the decent person, not just pretending you are. With the exception of two close friends and the other person involved in this? Nobody else knew about that morning until now. Having seen this person moving on with their life, I just want to wish them well, but if I contact them again what could easily happen is that I’ll just drag up all the hurt and bad feelings from that point, and that just wouldn’t be fair.
If it were me, I’d just pretend that nothing ever happened and move on.
So, here I am, feeling the need to remind the World that you can be strong enough. Life does go on, you do cope, and things will get better. Often the way that happens is through the random kindness of strangers, who it doesn’t matter that you’ll never know. That’s what makes Life worth living, and why if you’re ever in a position to help someone stuck in a corner, you should absolutely and totally do everything you can to do just that.
One day, that person might be you.
I have begun to understand a few things about how my life must seem to those who aren’t me. Once upon a time, a morning of gaming and inactivity would have been perfectly normal and totally acceptable, but having it happen today has sent me into a temper. Nothing has been done, and I shouldn’t really be sitting here writing, there should be laundry hung and washing up cleared well before I get down to the business of writing… except this time, there’s points to accept first. No, you cannot live life like this any more, when other people rely on you for basics like food and support. More importantly, you ought to bloody well apologise to those who you would weigh down with the ‘oh it is so unfair, nobody understands’ tirades when it became apparent that I was the problem to begin with. Yes, I have my fair share of issues to deal with, but you don’t need to tell everyone else how fucking woeful that is.
Getting on with life is a performance for many, and now I begin to understand why.
In fact, it occurs to me that this performance is part of the point. I remember the lovely lady with whom I bonded on Twitter over photography, but turned out to be so politically active I simply had to stop listening because she’d make me too angry. Now, if that ‘friendship’ had really mattered, I could have DM-d and asked for her to tone it down. However, you know sometimes when someone’s ‘persona’ is there to make a point and not appease your sensibilities. That is the moment when you quietly unfollow and chalk the experience down to the understanding that this medium isn’t a substitute for meeting people in the Real World. Yes, OF COURSE you can have great, bonded internet friends, but those (for me) would be the ones who’d DM you and ask if they were being too noisy to begin with. Friendship, like it or not, takes two people to make it work. However much you might think you’re close with someone? Ask the serious questions, and you may get a surprise.
If stuff matters, you’re polite and can make a decent fist of approachability. However when it becomes apparent that someone’s not listening, or you simply never really connected, what do you do? I’ve been quietly unfollowing people to push my FL down to an approachable level of interactivity, and when this happens I haven’t made a fuss about it, mostly because there are always those with a guilt complex who assume they’re a problem, when often they’re the nicest people of all. If it takes you over a week to notice I’ve done this and then you complain that ‘but we were friends for years’? We weren’t. A couple of DM’s and some retweets do not forge and maintain long lasting bonds. DM-ing me to complain that I’m not responding to you before assuming that you’re blocked is another way for me to just walk away, without a fight. Your perception of me is vastly different to the truth, and I know this because I’ve been in the position where the situations were reversed. Yeah, I’ve done Twitter crushes, and it ain’t healthy.
Now, I’m faced with the understanding that certain people on my FL aren’t coping very well at present, or are so active in other subjects that my timeline gets filled and I miss relevant stuff. ‘Make a List,’ people tell me, but this isn’t about having all the numbers any more and pretending I care or that I follow everybody. I’m coming to the conclusion that if someone wants to be my ‘friend’ from now on? Twitter isn’t the answer. This is a place where I won’t endorse people because that’s what others do. I will support causes only if they prove their worth objectively. I can’t reasonably expect anyone to follow all my new stuff by pummelling the same group over and again, it either happens or it doesn’t. That also means that some people will undoubtedly be sad in the weeks that follow when they realise that our ‘relationship’ was very little to do with me and an awful lot more to do with them. Of course, if they’re able to look past this? I’ve clearly done them a disservice, but the fact remains a friendship is not where we are heading.
This should also be the point where I state, for the record, that getting better at shit isn’t easy. In the end, all the support in the world means nothing if you are not prepared to make effort alone. Wanting to do that means surrounding yourself not with people who understand or those who sympathise, but those who can be cruel. I don’t take this as mean, violent or unhelpful individuals, just those who love you enough sometimes to ignore the emotional and just focus on the facts, as they stand. You don’t need sympathy, and often understanding is irrelevant. What matters most is those people who’ll say it like it is and not worry if your feelings get hurt, because amazingly that has to happen sometimes for change to be affected.
The truth is dangerous, and sometimes it is up to you to stop being a fucking twat and accept your shortcomings.
I have an awful lot I want to talk about, but do not possess the ability at this point to translate it into something workable. For now, I’m happy in the knowledge that my daughter’s pretty much kitted for Grammar School, my son seems the most relaxed I’ve ever seen him and the next six weeks of Summer Holiday are gonna be great.
They bloody are.
Come back and see me tomorrow when I’m actually articulate.
There will now be a brief pause in the wailing to acknowledge the brilliant people in my life, who have kept me sane in the last ten days. Those who contacted me last Friday with sympathy and understanding, and who have stood by me ever since. The friends who understand why I don’t want to talk to them because I was still too angry about what had happened, and get this because they’re feeling the exact same way.
You are all brilliant beyond words, and I thank you.
Then, there’s the Welsh Football Team.
My husband reliably informs me that at one point in the game the Possession was 48/52 for Belgium, and that the Universe loves a sense of irony. Brexit metaphors are everywhere, still, but it is unlikely you will find a better summation of the last week than you can from Buzzfeed. Forget the mainstream press, you want the website that uses Twitter to write news stories. In the meantime, the football’s provided a much needed ray of sunshine, and a bunch of actual, genuine heroes.
This country really needs heroes.
There’s also a better than average chance this woman will be Prime Minister. You heard it here first.
Then, there’s the possibility I made a new friend. I let quite a lot slip, early on, and I’m not sure whether that was the right idea or not, but it is done now. I’m actually more nervous about this than I have been for anything else in a while. We will see how it all pans out soon enough.
Finally, I managed to get something out of a video game I’ve been trying to obtain, on and off, for nearly six years. I realise this might make me more insane than I first realised. However, now I have it, I feel a sense of satisfaction I cannot remember experiencing for quite some time. I slept uninterrupted, and that’s not happened for some months. It could be that the hormonal stuff is finally coming under control, or there’s the possibility I’m finally letting shit go.
Your diagnosis may vary.
I don’t read your newspaper, but my parents do, and I’m sure they’d have garnered much amusement this morning at your (quite blatant) April Fool’s Joke that Olivia Coleman will be the next James Bond. Please note that I have no desire to promote any more click-throughs of this story by giving you even one from my tiny, insignificant backwater site, but I did get out the green text especially for you, because it seemed quite apposite. I realise, with a sense of disbelief and dread, I have become the very indignant, mouthy dissenter that used to be laughed at in my youth when they complained about some ‘modern’ thing that would ruin society and everything it stood for. In this case, it is the presumption that that this most British of institutions could consider a woman at its helm.
I know why you think this is funny, and for such a large proportion of your readership it will undoubtedly be just that. You don’t destroy the sanctity of a British staple just because times are changing. That’s why this country needs to leave Europe with all swiftness, after all: we’re an island, bastion in the World sea of stupidity and violence that is so much better if things never change and everyone just pretends this is the 1950’s. Nothing good ever came of giving women the vote or allowing people to be openly homosexual: that’s what you do behind closed doors where nobody talks about it. I hate to break it to you, but there’s always been that radical in the village. You can burn them as a witch or enslave them or spend your life finding ways to keep them out of power or downtrodden, but without these people you’d all be dead now. The human race would be buried, consigned to history, and there’d be another species walking the Earth (probably cats if I think about it) because without the indignant voice and the free speakers and the revolutionaries?
There is no progress.
The man who split the Catholic Church was a revolutionary. That bloke who suggested the Earth wasn’t flat, he was too. MEN did all this, not women. Men began to grasp and understand the World around them as being something more than just themselves. I’m in no way suggesting that women are exempt from the problem in this equation, because we’re not. I’m looking at blokes here, those who thought it would be clever to make this gag to begin with. You’ll respect your Mum and bend over backwards to keep her happy and safe and you’ll love your wife but as soon as anyone suggests that you want a woman in charge then someone decides that what matters most is how they look and what they wear and whether their skin care routine is as important as their choice of breakfast food AND JUST STOP IT. Having a woman Bond is obviously not how the author envisaged his world in the 50’s. I wonder, if Fleming had written Bond now, how would that change his outlook? You guys with the 50 year old backwards facing attitudes on everything don’t grasp the basic issue here: it isn’t about times changing. It is about you changing with the times.
Personally, as a woman, I’d rather have Idris Elba as Bond, but as I find Ms Coleman very attractive both physically and mentally, I’m not that fussed. I’d also be quite happy with an openly homosexual 007, but that’s going to mean that the ‘Bond Girl’ role will need some extensive reconsideration. My point here is simple: what you consider a joke is actually a quite savage indictment of the world we now live in, and how institutions such as yourselves dictate the pace of change. Of course, you don’t want that, because you’ll be partying like it’s 1959 right up until this country sinks slowly into the rising waters from the polar ice caps melting due to Global warming that was never your fault to begin with.
I’ve never felt the need to write a letter to a newspaper before, because there was never a moment up to this point where I read something that was just so utterly and monumentally stupid. Of course, I could be wrong. Maybe that bad photoshopping’s meant to be post-ironic, and those quotes about emotion behind the hard shell are genuine. Perhaps I’m the fool here, that could become so indignant about something that clearly is a shoe in in this modern world where you can have female US Presidential candidates and political leaders. The thing is, I know that on the day when I should be enjoying the happiness and sheer joy of bonkers news stories, I became what I fear most on the Internet. I have evolved into the reactionary, knee-jerk idiot who is the perfect audience for what passes for news on your Website.
Congratulations on what is probably the best subversive conversion technique I’ve ever seen. If this is how the the older generation recruit their converts? I want nothing to do with ageism or your stupid rhetoric now, or at any point in the future. If you’ll excuse me I’m off to reinvent myself and forget that I ever wanted to be a grown up.
– Name Withheld
49, Mother of Two.