Truth or Dare

Unless you have been living under a rock the last couple of years, it is abundantly apparent that ‘freedom’ has become a hill that many millions of people are still willing to die on. Of course, we don’t have World Wars any more that liberate the oppressed from tyranny. The Internet is our battlefield, enemy an interesting juxtaposition of a past where the bad guys were a lot easier to identify. Let’s agree that liberals hate the conservatives, and that same is true on the other side: progress stifles monopolies, multi-faceted freedoms makes policing an increasing challenge In the middle, the Judicial System have their work cut out keeping everything balanced.

Really, very little has changed since Roman times.

The key variable in all of this is us. Us lowly peons are suddenly party to government decision making on a daily basis. We have the opportunity to challenge experts and those in authority in a manner that is, quite frankly unprecedented. Of course there’s still a group of people who make dick jokes and fuck about because me me me I’m the most important thing on the Internet AAAAAAAAAAAA. This proves, if it were needed, that even when presented on a plate with salad an opportunity to change the world, some people would rather wank in public and not care.

I’m hearing the word curation a lot more lately, as platforms open themselves up to everybody’s input without making a simple, and quite logical assumption based on how Humanity has always functioned. There is ALWAYS someone who turns up to ruin it for everybody. Unless you make your social media platform a closed entity, that requires people to log in and register and then abide by a set of rules which you will robustly enforce on an equal level regardless of infraction, there’s going to be trouble. Facebook’s inability to be either consistent or transparent in this regard is going to dog them in the Western world for some time, but until that indignation is truly worldwide, it won’t matter one iota.

The problem with having curated content however is that you need to believe those in charge are truly looking after your interests. I still have reservations over Blizzard’s handling of women and minority groups in their games, but it is apparent we’re light years ahead of what was true a decade ago (you’ll need to read the Blizzard Watch article I linked in the tweet for context to this). Your annoyance with rate of change will vary, of course, and listening to people with mental illness over the last week berating those who don’t have a fucking clue what it feels like to live in darkness is a case in point. You may not like the way people are talking, but it is a start. Sometimes, you don’t get the beautiful, well-lit and brilliantly narrated explanation that’s craved, it’s a brick to the face instead.

Curation is something I’ve practised on Twitter for years, and it becomes increasingly easier over time to spot the wankers almost instantly. However, now there’s a new area of the landscape that never needed tending to which is beginning to require attention: the Entitled. The demographic you might believe that inhabits this space isn’t nearly as white and male as news articles would have you believe either. There’s a lot of people, of either sex, who could do with a reality check. However, the biggest single issue remains undimmed: what about me? Why am I not important, or special, or taking your attention away from other people who are clearly not as smart, clever or hardworking as I CLEARLY AM.

Arrogance is a dangerous emotion. Assumption is even worse, because your existence, like it or not, is VERY small compared with the bigger picture. On most days, you’ll just get by but if you’re dumb enough to post without thinking it through, or get obsessed or fixated with one subject and nothing else? Social media shows up the flaws in us all, often without realisation. If the smart people can watch you for months and realise that you’ve got them muted, don’t be surprised if they leave. However, you might want to think about why it happened, because those revelations can be really helpful long-term.

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What worries me most is that we’ll all be looking back on this decade ten years from now and wishing that lessons had been learnt far sooner than is currently the case. Freedom has consequences, and if individuals continue to fight so passionately to maintain their versions thereof, there’s a war coming that could make the ones before look quite simple and pedestrian. I keep reading about the historians and economists predicting the fall of current Civilisation, but I’d argue it’s already taking place.

What will then rise in its ashes is what should be concerning everyone.

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There has never been a better time to have an opinion than RIGHT NOW. Social media allows everybody the opportunity to not only hold a point of view but be able to express it, regardless of any ability to do so either well or politely. Once upon a time, if you disagreed with a review of a play or film, the only means to ensure that the writer was aware was a green pen and some A4 lined paper (if you were a certain type of complainant) or Basildon Bond and a fountain pen, at the other end of my cliched, stereotypical scale (for effect only.) Now, if you don’t like what’s been said, it is simply one click to make sure that your opinion is registered. If you’re lucky and that burst of righteous fervour catches the right wave of popular algorithmic indignation, you’ll be viral just before tea.

A lot has changed in a very short space of time, and language is struggling to keep pace with this evolution.

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It is apparent that the issues in most of these short lived, inflammatory discussions is how one person uses language and how that is subsequently interpreted by others. I am reminded of a fervent debate over quest text in my favourite MMO as a perfect example: one person saw casual racism, whilst I understood a historical reference that was based in definition from hundreds of years previously with no relevance to an insult. Then there was that time where I used the word ‘inclusion’ to someone who decided I meant their grasp of a related concept and not the strict dictionary definition… and the list goes on. It is one of the main reasons why the Internet of Words was born as a concept, that how we use language online is often vastly different to the manner in which we both communicate and exist in the Real World. When all you had before was paper and a pen, you had to make every word matter, and interpretation was perhaps even more of an issue.

Now you can delete your words, except the smart Internet users will happily inform you that never happens. This place remembers everything. If you don’t want your awful tirade to be remembered, never type it to begin with. In twenty years, a huge swathe of early internet content might have supposedly been lost to time, but you’ll be amazed what remains, or what others will keep ‘just in case.’ Then there’s the increasing trade in image manipulation, how a basic understanding of how webpage markup can be accessed and then altered can make it look like the President actually said that. The bigger irony, of course, is that certain people’s comments remain ridiculous and hugely ill-conceived regardless of the ability to paint them otherwise.

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There is a wonderfully simple answer to all of this, why suddenly the opportunity to have more than five seconds of fame matters so much to so many. The Internet is not a place to game or play, is so large as to make it virtually impossible to control outright. Many companies may like to think they can do just that, but the sheer nature of this beast means that anyone still can be the hero, or the overnight sensation. There is a chance for everybody, regardless of their sex, race or anything else to become the Next Big Thing. If you are to be remembered on your brief and often painful stay upon the Planet, this is as good a place as any to start. However, there’s no guarantee that it will work but at least while you are alive you’ll be known as the person who topped 10 million subs of You Tube or who condemned civilisation to robot servitude in the 22nd Century as the inventor of Facebook.

Mostly, you’re here for the validation. I totally understand that feeling.

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I have written my fair share of complaint blogs in my time, and I stand by pretty much every one of them. At that moment my indignation was enough to temper a response I wouldn’t have written if it didn’t matter. That’s my mantra for all of these things: if it’s important enough to spend time on a blog, then press send. There is an important caveat now to those rants, and that is if I cross a line drawn only recently, as a result of my adventures on Social media. I’ve learnt the important lesson of personal involvement only too well. You can never plan for the stalker, anybody has the potential to become that obsessive individual, but there are certainly means by which you can a) not make things worse or b) inflame already confrontational situations. Very rarely now will I get into discussions with total strangers on contentious subjects. Far easier to write a blog post on the subject and stay friends with everybody, than risk losing someone over a difference of opinion.

This is where people end up mattering more than principles.

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I need my opinions heard because it is the way I can judge whether what I think is worthwhile. I’m not here to be right, or to win. I’ll leave that to other people to control and dictate. For now, I’ll simply continue to say what I feel, without attempting to antagonise too many people, and see what happens. For the record, my complaint letter would have been created using a typewriter. I would have handwritten it several times first, then redrafted until I was happy, before the blue A4 paper would ever have been stuck in the machine. Because I wasn’t using white paper, correction fluid would have been a safety net I didn’t have. It would have taken HOURS, a letter at a time.

That’s probably why it’s taken me so long to find a public voice.