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.

Fight the Power

When I grow up, I’d like to be a Professional Troll-Slayer.

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No, not THAT kind (though I do have the beard for this) but the type that has enough brains, clout and sheer bravado to take the Internet Troll to task: news feeds are now littered with examples of how J.K Rowling slays all who deserve it. Often Trolls don’t care about anything but the attention: their actions aren’t motivated in order to provoke a response, it’s being able to spew hate without caring over consequence. Except now, with increasing regularity, trolls are being held to task in spaces outside of social media.

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Jack Monroe’s a local lass, friends with at least one person my husband knows, and extremely capable of not taking shit from anybody. The fact she’s now suing one of the most notorious spewers of arrogant and selfish rhetoric on the Internet, Katie Hopkins, fills me with a great deal of both satisfaction and comfort. This is the same Ms Hopkins whose employers at the Daily Mail were forced to cough up a six figure sum over another libellous claim only a few months ago: sadly however, it looks unlikely that this woman will ever change or discover the importance of considering consequence before speaking. However, one assumes that if you get libel proceedings posted against you enough times then eventually people will stop employing you… but we all know that’s not true either.

However, what this case (and others like it) will hopefully highlight is that you can’t just say whatever the fuck you want on the Internet any more without there being some kind of consequence. On the other side Twitter themselves are finally beginning to respond to many complaints that there’s simply not enough ways to deal with the speech at source. There’s been a number of new features that were introduced by the Company at the beginning of February, and indicators that certain behaviour may be being blocked completely. However there’s no independently verified confirmation of this, just the muttering of various websites with quite obvious and extreme right wing political bias. So, perhaps it is best simply to concentrate on the stuff we know is truth, from the source:

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I’ve used the Abusive Tweet service on several occasions since November and it is certainly a better and more thoughtful means of targeting what should be genuine abuse or attempts to spread disinformation. However, what this doesn’t provide for is twofold: the previously normal person who ‘goes rogue’ or the professional person such as Ms Hopkins whose presence on Twitter is as important as advertising for the platform, right up until the point it becomes detrimental. As we discovered with a certain young British chap who made his name via social media, you can get away with pretty everything until sex comes up, and then it’s Game Over. Twitter may have banned him last year but by then the damage was done. If the wrong person gets upset or angry, and goes on a rampage, even deleting those Tweets won’t be enough: as we have discussed with George Takei in recent days, people have surprisingly good memories, and everything can be screen-shotted.

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However, by far and away the best tool to prevent people from taking you to court is a brain. You simply don’t post, or step away to begin with. If you do go in with your axe held high, be prepared to fight clean and clever. Rowling’s undoubted brilliance is, unsurprisingly, as a writer, and her barbs aren’t hurled at the person but at their comment. Libel, strictly defined, is a published false statement that is damaging to a person’s reputation; effectively a written defamation. None of those sick burns are ever about the person themselves, simply the words used, and as long as you understand how thin that line is? You can tread it safely, secure in the fact that this is the way to approach Trolling with Style. The moment you start threatening a person physically or calling their personality into question is when the alarm bells should ring for everybody.

In essence, social media demands people to consider their anger in a literary context when it comes to people or events they find discomforting. If you can take the time to use your words well, they are better weapons than any you might find lying about to poke others with. In fact the damage these words can and will do should never be underestimated: it isn’t the sensitive or exposed at threat here either. On any given day, the President of the United States can be made angry and annoyed by what he hears on a TV screen or on Social media. Journalists can be offended. Prime Ministers can agree or disagree. I’ve seen this all in the last week, and all of this has happened with the power of letters, connected into sentences. Your words can destroy, or liberate, and yet so many people never consider their significance until it is too late.

Time to think more, friends, and hate less.

Bad to the Bone

People don’t like being told they’re wrong. Speaking as ‘people’ as my own example, I’m terrible when I make mistakes. Traditionally my brain and mouth run at differing speeds when flustered or frustrated, and so typing gives me the vital time required to think before I ‘speak’ and that’s probably why I prefer this medium now to communicate over everything else. It is my own self-woven safety net. I’ve learnt a lesson this week in how not only I use the words but on directing intent, and grasped that sometimes, like it or not, you’re just better off not talking to some people at all. You’d think I’d learn after each time I interact with certain individuals, they treat me like the shit they just scraped off their shoe. You hope that maybe it’s a bad day and perhaps they’ll be nicer, but nope, still a total twatcanoe. Then, I end up asking the same question.

Is it me that’s the problem here, or is it you?

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The reality, of course, is that it’s a bit of both, and unless parties involved are prepared to reconsider terms and engagement, it will always be this way. I like to give people the benefit of the doubt, and eventually a point is reached where if it matters enough to everyone involved, you will find a way. That’s the key: however, the reality is more often that one party’s completely unaware of what a twat they are until someone informs them of this whom they trust. Again, this is personal experience speaking, and I can be completely clueless sometimes. I’m therefore extremely grateful for everybody I know who chips in or points out I might have made a misstep along the way. Nobody said that communication was ever going to be simple or without potential misinterpretation.

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I’ll make an effort with difficult people, but there comes a point where I just stop listening. This isn’t because I’m unwilling to communicate, anything but. It is inevitably because I feel that, like it or not, what I’m saying isn’t being given the respect I’m being careful to demonstrate with the other person. After a while you shouldn’t need to be formal, it should just be a relaxed and comfortable relationship where dispute or conflict is dealt with sympathetically. However, if the other person refuses to allow you that intimate access (and I mean that in terms of emotional trust, not physical closeness) there will never be the opportunity to forge a real and meaningful relationship. Ironically I’ve seen people claim that I’ve done this with them, that by the action of simply talking to them we are somehow fast friends. That’s not how this works, guys.

It takes two people to build a friendship, especially on the Internet.

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As I become more political and less personable on Twitter, I have noticed people drifting away with whom I had decent bouts of communication in the past. These people showed me respect and understanding, but when it becomes apparent that my reaction to the Real World events at present is… well, volatile, they choose to step away, and I find myself amazed that this is a surprise. If you claim to know me as well as I suspect you believed was the case, this should not come as unexpected… yet it does, and ironically that lack of tolerance is the problem more people are having with social media. The ultimate tool to bring people together is in danger of disintegration because individuals are now realising that maybe they don’t want the whole World in their inbox. Many can’t form meaningful relationships in real life, and ultimately that matters far more than your virtual accomplishments.

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I’m not alone in thinking this either: Mark Zuckerberg spoke to the BBC yesterday and vocalised many of the concerns that the more open-minded of us hold that creating a global community is being threatened by xenophobia, fear and distrust of our fellow man:

There are people around the world that feel left behind by globalisation and the rapid changes that have happened, and there are movements as a result to withdraw from some of that global connection.

Getting high profile personalities to mention specifics is, of course, never going to happen because the moment you do, that’s all that anybody else talks about for months (you just need to look at the US President for ample demonstration of that.) When Zuckerberg refers to ‘movements’ I find myself thinking about the F-word. That’s fascism, people, but by thinking thus I also excludes a whole spectrum of other extremist viewpoints, which are just as dangerous and exist on the far left of a political spectrum that doesn’t currently know it’s arse from a hole in the ground. Wherever you pitch your tent, these are difficult times we live in, and being able to communicate successfully is absolutely crucial going forward. Pretending all this isn’t happening is a coping strategy, I’ll grant you, but not the one I’m going to work with.

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What bothers me most of all, at the end of all this, is people being honest. Not with me, although I’d love you to possess the balls to admit you left because I make too much noise, or that you don’t care, or that you think I’m wrong. That at least gives me an opportunity to say thank you, or argue to keep you around, or express disappointment that yet again, when presented with two options, you took the easy way. With the chaos around us all, and considering this is only the Internet, I don’t blame you for making a run for it, on reflection. The arsebiscuits have a reason for believing everybody is out to get them too, because in certain cases that’s spot on. If it’s easier to deflect attention away from yourself by being rude, but you don’t want to rock the boat or cause too much trouble because you’ll be labelled difficult? Newsflash, you’ll get caught out eventually. When you do, it might be time to ask the question: is it always other people who are the problem, or am I contributing?

Admitting you’re wrong is often the first step towards redemption.

Burning Heart

I am not an Expert.

I’ll grant you, sometimes I probably sound like I’m trying to be one. For the record, this is ABSOLUTELY NOT the intention. If you asked me what I’m really good at, I’d struggle to give you a representative answer. I can do a decent fist of writing, if the wind’s in my favour. I take an okay photograph. I’m awful at domestic chores, fail consistently at being both prompt and in remembering significant dates, and my cookery skills remain woeful at best (MUST FIX THAT.) I also fail at being empathetic, sympathetic, understanding and generally spend a lot of time fighting emotional states to maintain a decent illusion of coping. I am singularly, definitely, positively NOT an expert at ANYTHING.

I’m brilliant however at reacting: someone yesterday called me a ‘take no prisoners’ kind of personality and yeah, I will often not really care about how you feel if I think you’re being a Class A Twatface, I’ll just point out the stupid and move on.  However, because I know that empathy is often one of my failings (unless we know each other, then you get double) I do now attempt not to sound like anything at all when I see someone on Social media struggling with a bad time. Then, I watch other people pile in with ‘expertise’ that often makes me want to throw pot plants at them, because in my mind there is NOTHING WORSE than when you say summat like this for a bunch of people to pile in with their own ‘interpretation’ of what appears to have transpired.

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This is the virtual equivalent of ‘if you don’t have anything useful to say, don’t say anything at all.’ I know my Grandma used to replace ‘useful’ with ‘nice’ but in the Modern world, that’s not happening on the Internet to begin with. When I watch someone say summat on their feed which is clearly meant as a explanation of their actions and nothing else, to watch other people dive in to ‘interpret’ that is, I have to say, depressing beyond belief. This, for me, is where the GIF has become a way of me being able to show interest, but not dig a hole for myself, which would often happen previously when I’d have only words to fall back on. That whole adage of ‘a picture speaks a thousand words’ is absolutely spot on: that’s why, when I’m done here, I should go find more hug GIFs because that’s what I and others need most right now. That and artistically-photographed cake, beverages, lovely serene landscapes and Mini Dogs. Lots of lovely, fluffy and perky canines to keep me sane when it all goes Pete Tong on my feed.

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I also sense, behind a number of Avatars, a slow realisation that appearing not to care about anything but your own agenda is part of a larger issue that will start affecting more people than just Governments and large corporations. I may appear to operate a fairly 1/0 approach to caring about Randoms on certain days, but I can guarantee that’s not the case. I am passionate about everything, to the point where some days it is mentally exhausting. I’m now reining in the urge to go HAM on your Feed because I can see the difference between something that needs to be commented on and summat the person just needed to say for their own sanity. Just because someone says summat on Social media does not mean you need to respond, and just because nobody answers you does not mean nobody is listening. This vital point has somewhere been lost, and everybody is an expert at everything.

Oh, and as a reminder I’m not claiming to be an expert here.

I’m just pointing out the fucking obvious.

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Because everybody is watching everybody else, all the time, potentially nothing is missed, but we all know the truth is a long way from that reality. Some of you will get hugely aggrieved that there’s no response to what you want to talk about, or that when you need help there’s ‘nobody around’ when in reality that often equates to a few people or even a single person of interest. It is the ‘Notice me Senpai’ approach to life that assumes that at any given time, like it or not, you are the centre of the Universe. Well, of course you are, because that’s how Social media works. You make a space, you carve out a niche, and then you sell it (if you’re wanting to make a name) or you find a soapbox and stand on it (if you’re orating to the crowd) and so on, ad infinitum with all the things this platform can be used for. However, how you perceive that space is far more important than the area itself. Unless you clearly define that to other people, or make that obvious via your own actions? You will only have yourself to blame if the wheels come off, and they always will when there’s not an acceptance that definition could ever be an issue.

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You need to be made of strong stuff to stand ‘in public’, when all is said and done. As you get older, vanity and substance should give way to acceptance and understanding, but more often than not you just get more sensitive and less capable. If I am to become an expert at anything in my life, it should be to just being what I am without allowing anyone else to dictate those limits to me. If you don’t like my attitude at first glance, maybe it isn’t just my problem to address but ours to jointly negotiate. Everybody doesn’t need to come down to your level or act as you see fit. Put the expertise on hold for a minute and don’t just think you’re capable of solving all the issues in the World, because you can’t and won’t. If someone refuses to listen? Don’t take it as an insult, and try and understand why. That’s what’s missing more than anything else right now, from every aspect of my life. People don’t want to, or they’re too tired to, or it isn’t what matters any more. That’s a big fat fucking lie.

Understanding is EVERYTHING.

Stop pretending you’re an expert, because you’re not.

Your Game

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If all you care about are numbers, success can be easily devolved down to a 1/0 equation. I mean LOOK AT MY INFOGRAPHIC PEOPLE I have a 30% increase in mentions from last month! But that is frankly nothing compared with the WHOPPING 50% rise in engagements! What is my secret? I’ll tell you, it’s the fact that I’ve only picked up 11 followers in the last month. I don’t give a flying fuck about who wants to follow me, but if they meet a certain criteria I will pretty much automatically turn them away at the door. If you’re here to play the ‘only way to win at Twitter is with a six figure audience’ card and you’re NOT Stephen Fry?

Don’t waste my time, amateurs.

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The thing is, however, that some of these people clearly aren’t fucking about on Twitter and have worked quite hard to get the numbers to work for them. Once upon a time, they were simply robot accounts with minimal if not no actual human content attached. However, once Twitter got wind of the fact their game could be botted and people could rack up enormous high scores and never actually engage their users? These accounts are no longer simply regurgitated monthly links to blog posts. There’s a complex game involving monetising and SEO via websites that some people play with as much commitment and dedication as you follow your favourite team. It’s not exactly going to make you a hit with the ladies, but becoming a smart marketeer clearly makes ends meet. Except if you looked closely at the 596k followers attached to my sample account above, there’s likely to be a fair proportion of not real people in that total.

I however, strive to seek out real people as a matter of priority.

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While some might obsess over popularity, I crave reality wherever possible. That means that yes, I go look at people’s feeds and read their biographies long before I press ‘Follow’. I keep a pretty close eye on what is being said or referenced too, and that means when someone leaves I’ll pretty much always go back and check why. You can consider it the equivalent of running a busy entertainment complex and constantly doing customer feedback to ensure the people who come to talk, eat and enjoy themselves are getting the maximum experience for their time spent. Yes, this does mean I listen to criticism too: I’ve cut back on stuff that won’t make sense to you if there’s not appropriate context. When I get cross at something, when before I would have done a bit of leery subtweeting, I now instead throw pot plants. This has helped me cut the drama in my feed down to an absolute minimum.

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When success is now defined as a man in the White House who has billions of dollars earned but not one ounce of decency or compassion to his name, that concept holds no thrill for me. If being bigger and better than anybody else is your definition of achievement, I’m not interested. This, for me, is a slow and brilliant story that doesn’t rely on my ability to fool a robot and everything on my skill as a writer. As I refine the process of replying to Tweets in both concise and increasingly creative ways, I want less and less to do with anyone who seems to think they know what I want without asking. If your version of ‘interacting’ is simply throwing anything you believe I want on my feed in the vain hope I’ll be grateful, without taking the time to both talk and interact? This is not respect, it is simply lip service, and in the end you will never truly succeed at anything without being able to care beyond a basic set of variables. You might be happy with the size of your referrals, but I honestly don’t care. That’s not what I’m here for.

That’s a journey that I’m only just beginning.

New Life

I tell my kids, quite a lot, that until they’re both 18 I get the rap if they screw up. The truth of course is that that’s not 100% accurate, but close enough if I can’t get them out of bed to attend full-time education, or they wanna bring the sass when I need them co-operating. Choice is a Harsh Mistress [TM] and yeah, absolutely a woman. Male choice is black or white, DUH, and we get all the shades of grey, and there are considerably more than 50 of those fuckers. A lot of people I come into contact to seem to think that, as a result of the events of the last 6-8 months, that their choice is no longer their own to dictate. Newsflash, Kids: it never was yours to begin with. You can never have everything your way, however hard you try. You could have all the money in the world, the most desirable person on the planet on your arm, but there’s always a But. The Orange Man is learning this lesson, whilst at the same time trying to deflect interest away from the fact he’s been a twat for decades, and now EVERYBODY is suddenly all over his business.

If you want true control of your life, stop interacting with EVERYBODY else.

There is a PHENOMENAL amount of stupid about, ALL THE TIME. The current climate has not suddenly created all this, it existed long before the US Elections, years before Brexit. All these people telling you how fascism is suddenly everywhere and the press can’t call people Nazis even when they obviously are is as much of a deflection of reality as that bloke getting schooled in a Theatre or those Arctic Ice values. The reality is this moment, that second, and then the next one, and the moment you find yourself within. You cannot control anything, at all, except probably a 10 foot circle around you. That is where your only real notion of control exists, and as more people register this and unfriend everyone on Facebook, this makes a bad situation worse. Shutting down isn’t how this gets fixed. However, the truth remains that this is the only way you will remain on top.

Knowing this, it is time to be tough over just about everything.

Balance is never easy, but right now it is something that more people could do with considering. Yes, you can curate your timelines, nobody is telling you to listen to hatred. What you have to balance that with is the understanding that if you shut out everything negative, you won’t get an accurate picture of reality. Yes, you’re completely within your rights to pretend that half of your country does not exist, but by doing so you will eventually become the exact thing you have sworn to hate. Intolerance does not have an affiliation, or a colour. It is everywhere, if you allow it a foothold, and thinking you are somehow beyond all this? You’re really utterly not.

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From the Independent Online

The reality of this existence, right now, is that everyone is narrating your timeline. EVERYBODY suddenly has a relevant, significant voice, more so than at any point in the last decade. It does not matter these people may be unreliable, if enough of them get together you’re fucked or saved, often simultaneously. Yes, the Republicans are secretly celebrating you’re all up in arms over that thing in the Theatre because then nobody notices the Orange Man paid out 25 MILLION DOLLAR to sweep a problem under a rug which is gonna have quite a lump under it, even before the year is out. For every panicky, OMG THIS IS BAD message being broadcast there’s a billion other people not giving a fuck coz they’re tweeting in a language your phone keyboard won’t support without a reboot. It is not just your Planet, until it’s beyond fucked, and then everybody will look for someone else to blame except themselves. Yup, this is gonna be hard times ahead. You can cope. You just need to remember that you can make a difference.

Yeah, little old you.

Before you RT stuff, check validity for yourself. Make an effort to read something other than the same newspaper every day. Expand your mind by occasionally letting people you disagree with argue around you. Work out what you think is right and wrong and then amend that every day you wake up. Don’t stay stuck in the same mindset, even if that’s the only way you’re surviving, because in the end you will simply become a version of the thing you already detest. YES THERE ARE BAD THINGS HERE. Nobody is trying to claim otherwise. What you need to take from all of this is that the truth is never just what you think it is. There’s always a basement door, a jail cell or an escape route with guns blazing. Some days, hiding is an an answer, but it’s not going to help in the long term. Trust someone who did that for years, and now grasps that however much you’d like someone else to help, the only person who solves your problems is you.

Do what you need to survive, and if you can help yourself in the process? So much the better.