Reality Bites

Yesterday was one of those moments on Social media where it became apparent that my version of Reality quite seriously deviates from a lot of others. It was also a salient reminder that what gets published is never the full picture.

You need to constantly be reminded of this, especially with those who quite obviously use the platform as an advertising tool, or as means to show their friends how invested they are in their joint interests. Part of the problem for me, over time, is that my depth of obsession with a number of subjects has either drifted or ceased to exist. However, for others those feelings still remain, and it would be both churlish and unfair to prevent the enjoyment that they bring.

It’s also quite difficult to discuss the consequences of a difference in outlook without someone taking this as criticism, and that’s the bigger issue. Depending on what your piece of art (whatever it maybe) set out to do, should largely dictate the response it receives. Critical thinking asks of a reader, or viewer, or anyone participating in a group event not to just get lost in what they are given, but appoint personal relevance to the experience. That does not have to mean enjoyment.

This is where the whole fabric of Social media begins to show some basic flaws.

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280 characters is a pretty tough platform to get right first try. I ended up yesterday telling a story, getting the threading wrong (each Tweet in the right order, attached to the same header) and ended up copy/pasting the whole thing off into a work processing document before getting it right second time around. If you’re reacting instantly and don’t think your process through, the consequences should by now be quite well understood.

However, that’s not all there is to worry about. If you’re the person who is happy their mates are having fun and isn’t fussed when they flood your timeline, there is nothing to worry about. However, when you’ve had a shit day, and it’s time to not just allow people to be happy because that point needs to be made… we all know where this is going. I unfollow those who complain about Eurovision, for instance, because a) it’s a part of my timeline and b) if you don’t get it, you won’t get me.

Occasionally, these differences allow you an important insight into people’s outlooks.

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For me, all of these moments where my feelings split are carefully recalled for future reference. Occasionally however something happens (as was the case yesterday) where it’s more than simply a difference of opinion, and I think I see something that might not be there. What needs to happen then is the independent verification from others that a) I’m not insane and b) this can be interpreted in several ways. I’d like to thank therefore everybody on my timeline who made me feel that I’m not alone, and that this Reality isn’t just mine.

That matters far more than I initially realised.

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Everybody needs to recognise the reality checks when they happen. Being alone, having a difference of opinion that sets you aside from others is not a bad thing. It’s not reason to panic. It shows that, crucially, your reality is not just yours alone. Understanding why these differences occur is nearly as important as being able to accept that they have, and the whole process has potential to radically transform the way you think.

Just be careful how you react when they happen.

Closing Time

A lot of unrelated stuff is percolating through my brain this weekend, except there’s a realisation that surprising amounts of my existence are more interconnected than at first grasped. It also helps that last night I got on the bike for the first time in about a fortnight with anything approaching determination. The results were a genuine surprise.

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My FTP should be up soon if these numbers are any indicator, plus the fact a Sprint Jersey was earnt without really breaking a sweat… this illness hasn’t put me back. The arm, I’ll grant you, is still a bit stiff, and takes a while to wake up in the morning, but as long as it continues to get exercised and there’s no let up on the push forward? It won’t matter. I’m already stronger as a result of all this, that much is abundantly obvious. More crucially, tired is a state that’s being reached for the first time in a while. There’s been no lying awake unable to sleep for a while, and long may this continue.

Sunday will be gardening, buying plants for the newly-created bed, learning how to mow a lawn (don’t know how to do this so it seems a good time to start) and quite possibly painting the fence I’d planned to do a month ago. At the heart of it all is thought about how everything has changed in the last couple of weeks because it has. A sliver of fear, which held apart vital components which needed to fuse, melted away last Sunday. Forced to be on my own, there was no choice but to embrace the inevitable. Having done so, the only way is forward.

The journey ahead looks particularly exciting.

Don’t Call Me Baby

We did Friendship on Wednesday. Today is Honesty. Some of you guys don’t like this as a concept on the Internet, that much is abundantly obvious. You’d rather maintain that air of mystery that helps make you look and feel like some kind of better, more worthwhile person. I’ll be over here, calling bullshit, and sticking you on mute. For everybody else, there’s a rule-set established in lots of other places apart from here. The basics bear repeating.

Put the fake disbelief away before you begin.

You’re a Brand, Charlie Brown.

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Please, enough with the indignation already. EVERYBODY on Social media who are using the platform to promote themselves COUNTS AS A BRAND. By far the fastest way to make yourself look like a total tool is to start a fight over ‘brand loyalty,’ and yet I watch people do it almost daily. Bait is surprisingly easy to spot once you’ve been here long enough… and the ‘well it’s my feed, I can post what I want’ excuse only works to a point. Learning your lessons on Social media means understanding when you stop selling, or start listening.

Most importantly, if you start a conversation with only one thing in mind and then get upset that your intent isn’t grasped? You weren’t clear enough, it’s your problem to solve. If someone else decides to hijack you and it all goes horribly Pete Tong? Mute + block if it gets messy, and just mark it down to experience. Or, you might get lucky and your nemesis vanishes because they finally got a life away from the Internet. Anything is possible.

Talking of bait…

Asking for Trouble has Consequences.

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I see you, dangling your controversial shit in my timeline. Yes, I’m pretty certain this is 100% brutal honesty here, but this is the moment to remind the room we don’t think alike, you and I. In fact, no two people do cognitive awareness in quite the same fashion. You may see that guy as a political extremist, I consider this the efforts of an attention-seeking twenty-summat desperate to be liked. Until they actually post summat I consider flagrant or fucking stupid, they can stay. The key here is to have people on your feed you don’t agree with. It makes stuff interesting.

There’s a point of course where honesty is fine until you decide to challenge it. Twice now in recent memory, someone’s made a comment about what I’ve posted and my response alone has been enough to trigger an unfollow. No, I will not do what you tell me to do. No, I’m not going to play along with games. I’m not a big fan of people making it about them when all I did was post what I felt, and yet it will keep happening because of those people’s perceptions of their feed. Every single thing I post is there for a reason. If I’m self-deprecating, there’s a reason too.

The ‘All About Me’ Party is No Fun.

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Twitter is not where you should do therapy, I have decided. This in itself is a fairly controversial opinion, for a generation who feel the desire to share everything both pictorially and aurally. I do realise that for some people Social media has become their escape and often the alternate reality required to survive the real world they are uncomfortable and nervous within. The fact remains, however, that to remain a functional member of society, solving all your problems via anonymity will only work to a point.

I have accounts that are periodically muted for this reason, but I don’t unfollow, and here is why. I have my own, complex issues, which on some days I struggle to deal with. When there’s enough strength to feel I could be helpful to others like me, I listen to everyone. When the days are darker or there’s a struggle, these people are quietly moved away from. It doesn’t mean I care any less, I’m just a shit listener and don’t feel I have anything helpful or useful to add. History has shown I’ve done the most damage previously when I don’t curate noise out.

I think some of you shouldn’t say half the stuff you do in public.


My honesty continues to get me into trouble. I doubt that will ever change: that’s best for everybody, even when the whole thing falls down on me with a thump. Now you know this is a brand, and this content is all part of a process of awareness not simply for peace of mind, we can all just carry on.

Lucky Number

Today, my Blog is seven years old. I got up early, went to the Gym, and will ride 55km on my bike later. That’s the diary bit of this project done, now to the point.


Once upon a time, that was pretty much all I blogged about. Now, I have a life that is often worth sharing. There’s places to go and things to see. I have goals and dreams and things to attain, but most important of all there’s a self-awareness that simply did not exist before. Mentally and physically, 2011 is a world away. Make that several worlds.

This is the life I wanted when the Journey began, but now I have it there’s a realisation that it is not enough. There needs to be more work, and better planning, but most importantly a constant challenge to what counts as ‘enough.’ Pushing, challenging, questioning and reassessing… these were things that were too frightening or difficult. Not anymore, and that is brilliant. Long may this continue.

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There are other changes too. I’ve managed to persuade others to look at their lives in a different way. I can (and do) make people think. Slowly, surely, evolution is happening. It is seen and heard, and that is what gives each new day the impetus to be better than the one that came before. This is how real change can take place. This is not about having my name on a plinth or a legion of adoring fans. In fact, if you’re obsessing about me and what I do that’s the exact opposite of what should be happening. The plan remains to be anonymous but useful.

This is a Journey I’m enjoying, and I hope you’ll join me at some point to keep me company :D

Can’t Do

I am aware sometimes my demeanour might seem quite angry and intractable. Neither of those things is true. I am passionate, and principled. Both these things are in short supply in the modern world, and the more that happens around me gives strength to the belief that this is the right path to be travelling. I’ve lost count of the number of individuals who’ll consider this arrogance, or insouciance. It is convenient to try and use those terms as means to start an argument, except to do so requires two people involved.

I’ve stopped taking the bait.

Occasionally you’ll see someone innocently say something that is a window into their true character, the one away from Social media. Nobody’s perfect, after all, we all have our moments of WTF were you thinking by saying that. I now spend more time thinking about what I say in the Real World, far more than was ever the case in my youth. There comes the realisation too that my family had a significant effect on what was considered acceptable behaviour, and their belief that certain mindsets and attitudes were simply wrong and not spoken about is partly why I was a fucking mess for a while. Sorting through the detritus of my past, comes the understanding that nurture can be very damaging if your personality via nature is at odds with the people who birth you.

Evolution creates variance. The constant reproduction of people will highlight issues in one generation that did not exist in another, or when combined with the DNA of a different strand of human being. Every so often there’s a ‘black sheep’ in your family of white, middle class humanity. The troublemaker. The gay kid. The autistic boy or the bisexual girl… it doesn’t matter, these things happen in households where those things are not understood, or frightening. Nature produces a variance and it is up to nurture to deal with the consequences. If you’re lucky, you get a great family who cares and your variance becomes part of a bigger whole. If you aren’t, you’re not on your own, but it is a fucking horrible task to survive. Many people give up.

It shouldn’t be like that, especially when variance could hold the key to Humanity’s future.

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The key, of course, is not getting angry. Learning to take bad emotions away and focus only on positive can be the most difficult of asks, too, and when you become passionate it is amazing how many people simply mistake this as anger, because on a basic level they share so many of the same characteristics. It is the subtlety lost on Social media which makes such a task virtually impossible. That then means as an individual, every interaction has the potential to be misinterpreted if the person at the other end of the conversation is unable to judge your sincerity. With friends, people you’ve interacted with over time, it is easier. With total strangers however? You know what’s coming.

If you don’t bother to do the work, you’ll get nothing out of the process.

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It is why I cherish so much the people who will come out and state they didn’t like me when we first ‘met’ virtually, but now understand it was worth the effort to become friends. It isn’t just me in these situations: two of you need to work at the process, and if you don’t want to embrace variance, it will never happen. That also means that the two ‘friends’ I have on Facebook are as important as those on Twitter, but I won’t ever start adding any more on a platform that does not embrace anything other than what it considers to be ‘right’ and ‘fair’ across the widest possible spectrum. Keeping ‘everybody’ happy undoubtedly means a set of rules that ignore variance unless it becomes societally acceptable. I do not want to share my life with certain people because of this, and this is never going to change.

I wonder, is that my own intractability causing an issue…?

Better Days

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A couple of months ago I wrote a letter to my Gym/Health Club, where weekly PT sessions take place, to try and help out my Trainer. I feel she and the other people at the organisation are criminally underused, and the Club itself is not doing enough to educate people generally on how exercise doesn’t have to be a chore. This was also during the quiet Summer period where the impetus for many people to get active is quite low to begin with. I sent off the letter and heard nothing more, assuming (as is often the case) that feedback was simply acknowledged and that was it.

Yesterday afternoon I was getting ready to leave after a long session (more running than ever before, lots of lifting) in the Ladies Changing Room, the (female) Centre Manager approached me. I’m not good in situations like this, gentle reader, and anxiety flared like a fire when I saw her heading my way. In fact, I may have attempted to avoid her. However, I was cornered, and unable to escape became a willing audience.

It is also quite possible I literally ran away after that conversation, made a right mess of certain sections of communicating with the Boss and generally looked like a complete idiot. However, the fact remains that the written feedback did the business. That is all that really mattered, in the end: if I write down something in a structured, sensible fashion and make salient, significant points to back it up, people will listen.

Twenty makes me realise that yes, all these years of constructive criticism over a computer game might have had some actual relevance. In the end the money paid for a service is largely forgotten, I did this to try and help my Trainer get the recognition she deserves and rarely receives. If the amount of praise that the Manager heaped on her in front of me is a genuine indicator of her worth, then the letter was worth the effort for that alone.

It is good to know you can make a difference. I wonder what else I could do with these words going forward…

Night Boat to Cairo

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It is almost August. How did that happen?

I am now down to my outstanding Patreon list fitting on a Post It note. This means that I’ll be up to date August 1st, when the process has to start again: however, I have adapted a very great deal in the last four weeks. It is a learning process that has thrown up more than a few surprises, and an understanding that, with thought and effort, anything really is possible. That is the biggest takeout: these tasks are no less relevant or significant than  anything else done before. The fact people now give me money to ‘work’ is just the way it always is in the early days of establishing a business. The difference here is that I’m just coming to the whole experience later than maybe would be normal. That’s great however because it allows an awful lot more experience to accompany me to the table.

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However what is most satisfying right now is the understanding that what is written doesn’t matter as much as what that allows other people to get from the experience. This appears to be the case with the growing use of Twitter Polls in my feed as a writing tool: I make no bones about using the service primarily as a basis to spark unprompted conversation. When opinion is not the reason why something happens, just facts reduced to a simple choice, it allows people the ability to discuss and explain their own feelings and experience. Currently, the Internet is mostly opinions clashing, points of view in dissonance. Sharing a common ground yet allowing diversity to thrive within is, in my mind at least, a far better way of promoting discussion.

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There’s also been communication in a manner I’ve not seen since I began this journey. People are spontaneously (and unprompted) suggesting new topics, and thanking me for the discourse. Normally, when I start a conversation on the Internet like this, it has ended in tears. However, I realise that a lot of that historical trauma was as much about how I dealt with the responses than anything else. Also, my ‘don’t tweet to anyone for the first hour of the day or until you are fully awake’ rule really is beginning to make a tangible difference in how contention pans out. It is the understanding that yeah, I have my part to play in all this, but only to a point. That whole ‘two people to argue’ thing is absolutely true. If someone ignores you, there’s normally a lesson to be learnt.

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However, the Internet doesn’t change. The dicksplashes remain, because their own Community ‘bubble’ allows that toxicity to continue unchallenged. Very few people are either willing or bothered to vilify such behaviour, because in most cases these people are normally functioning members of society. In fact, as long as the current President of the United States can utilise Twitter as a policy tool to push forward intentionally divisive and damaging administrative choices, nothing will change. Legions of white men will be encouraged to be utter morons and treat everybody else who disagrees with them like dirt, women to assert only the impression of independence guided by often fundamentally floored visual prompts which further act as restriction. If you don’t fit those two gender groups or their traditional notions of sexuality? You’re on your own.

So, how do you ever make progress?

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However many times I tell my daughter I love her regardless of what she wears, the spots on her face or the thickness of her thighs, it’s never 100% certain she understands or believes me. That’s the benchmark, in my mind: you do it one person at a time. Start with yourself, and then try and make other people understand what you’re trying to say. Make sure that, when you do, it is accompanied by an openness and honesty that allows you to be clear and concise. Effectively, it means opening yourself to ridicule and scorn, and for those of us who are sensitive to personal attack, that can be a tough ask. However, to survive in the Real World, that’s what it takes. If you decide to put yourself out there, the consequences are just this. You want to make a difference? You will get hurt. Then you have to decide if that’s worth the effort or not.

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If there is one consistent takeaway from all of this, it is that you can forgive others if you wish. However, there are situations and relationships where it is absolutely, positively the best thing for both parties that you never see each other again. Blocks are what they are, court orders and everything else exist because one day, you will encounter the person for whom reason, common sense and decency simply do not exist. There are all the shades in between, but just because your mate’s now great friends with their ex does not mean you are the same. Life works for everyone in a different way, and the trick it seems to me is how you manage to accommodate everything, rather than excluding all the stuff you hate.

I doubt I’ll ever work it out, either.