Lies

With the virtual world awash with fake news and unconfirmed rumour, navigating the Internet’s never been more fraught. How can we tell what’s real and what isn’t? In most cases, I use more than one ‘impartial’ news sources for a confirmation on big stories: Reuters, the Associated Press and the BBC News sites may not be everybody’s providers of choice, but if all three are simultaneously flagging up breaking news, that’s normally a good indicator of actual validity… if it happens in a country that is not mine (as was the case with the US pipe bomber story) then national news in that country is the way to follow things as they develop.

However, accepting that nothing read online as fact is becoming the far more sensible default state. Yes, you’ll encounter experts in your travels, and I’m not belittling anything such people say, but honestly you should start fact checking. Wikipedia isn’t bulletproof, but there are third part sites that can help separate wheat from chaff. There has been a story circulating on Facebook (for instance) suggesting a supervolcano under Yellowstone National Park is ready to erupt (a la the movie 2012) for… well, a long time. It’s all complete bollocks, part of a slew of urban myths and legends buried ‘in the cloud.’

However, there are more insidious lies being told of late that I find increasingly disturbing.

Twitter thinks it can fool me, but I know better. It doesn’t help that I run three separate accounts through my phone, and that on one there’s a lot more followers than the other two. This means that the phone thinks when I’ve read something the night before, I might want to follow that person the next day via the other accounts… that’s not how this works, and you know it isn’t. It’s like telling me 126 people I am friends with retweeted this picture and therefore why don’t I want to do the same? This is not organic engagement, algorithm. I see through your ploy. GO AWAY.

I knew that inbuilt paranoia would finally have some use.

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There’s a bigger issue here, of course: laziness. You wanna look like you’re up with news and current events, so you like all that stuff, and retweet those things… and after a while it is easier to let the AI think for you. Except, we all know how that ends up working out. Writers create dystopia for a reason, and a lot of it is wrapped up in those for whom fake news is easier to swallow, whose opinions don’t seem to mesh with the majority. For every individual shocked at the depths of depravity others can sink to, there’ll be someone seeing how much worse they can manage and still get away with it.

Welcome to human nature, which is only as restricted as the information that gets crammed into the average brain. With the Internet as our playground and AI the arbiters of space, time and knowledge…

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This is also where those of us who have mental shortcomings need to get quite tough, and the more sensitive or vulnerable to suggestion end up as prime vehicles for exploitation. It should not be a surprise that it is AI driving negative rhetoric either, it is a perfect vehicle for such dissemination. If you cannot distinguish noise from imitation, blocking out everything is just easier and less stressful, yet along the way a vital level of rationalisation simply withers up and dies. The truth can (and will) set you free but only if you are capable of distinguishing it from everything else that’s masquerading as the exact same thing.

When trustworthy companies intentionally blur the lines of truth to improve their third quarter figures and throw shade at their competition, we should be up in arms, but time and again, it never happens. There is a reckoning coming, like it or not, and it will end up with large groups of people happily sending themselves into wilful oblivion, probably based on a Facebook Poll which secretly took their assent by making them click on pictures of cute animals. As we stand in the smoking, dystopian remains of the planet, yet again, we will only have ourselves to blame.

Stop letting the Internet lie to you, because it is.

Why

This month, we’re doing stuff differently.

I’ve been blogging in various forms for nearly a decade. Just writing that down sends a shiver through the soul: ten years. I’ve been out here for all that time and still, most days, my family doesn’t have a clue what I’m talking about. The number of people who enquire about stuff which is clearly recorded here and on other blogs, via social media and elsewhere remains staggering. All these words, and stories, and now poems that most people who say they know me don’t have the first clue about, or comprehension of.

It’s all here, but honestly, who is really listening?

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A survey conducted by the BBC and which forms the basis of a Radio 4 series on Loneliness is fairly damning in the understanding that many of us feel as if nobody is there and supportive when it matters. It’s a constant source of amazement to me that after so long pouring out my heart online, people will still say they have no idea of how I think or feel. The problem, in essence, is complexity: most of us only cope with the basics on any given day, and emotional depth can often be difficult when you’re struggling yourself.

Still here millions of us are, carrying on, in the vain hope that someone might comment with agreement, or at least register the notional understanding of how soul-destroying being alive can be when existence is lived largely internally. It is no wonder that so many 16-24 year olds are feeling exposed: their entire world is laid bare for all to see via Social media. When nobody notices that you exist on that stage, it is understandable why such emotions will be generated.

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I look to more high profile people on how they address such issues, and am continually left wanting. Take the famous author I unfollowed this weekend, whose fortune is being made on challenging people’s notion of self. This man complains that he gets grief on Twitter and so prefers Instagram, because there’s less emotion to deal with, yet this is what he writes about in his self-help books. Watching his Twitter exchanges, he receives abuse for his ideas which in many cases appear to be intentionally fuelled.

Trying to manipulate your environment is what many writers love to do as a means to continue interest, and it works: we’d all far rather enjoy other people’s drama than keep recycling our own. The irony of watching American women argue amongst themselves this weekend over what is the best way of protesting injustice is a perfect example of how, by not actually listening to each other, things never improve. Life slowly degenerates into echo chambers, and everyone believing they’re ‘the only one who feels like this.’

You’re not, really.

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I am a terrible listener. My family’s quite right in this regard, and my aim this month is to not be that person. It’s tough sometimes: my son is 18 in two weeks time and I still remember him on my lap as a baby. It is not the other person who is solely to blame for a communication problem, both of you can do better. I’m also going to do my damnedest to listen to other people too, which is why there’s some hashtags in my post not normally used.

Changing circumstances can be hard, but speaking from experience, the rewards from doing so are considerable. You’ll be amazed at how much in common you can have with other people if the time is taken simply to sit and listen. If you’re reading this and have never commented before, I’d appreciate therefore knowing you’re here, because that alone is the impetus to keep writing and continuing to be motivated. It appears self-serving because, as of today, it is.

Time to start asking questions of the people who I live with, to see what answers come in response.

Hello Hello

This week has become rather important for a lot of reasons. A number of these cannot be spoken about (as yet) but once the processes are complete, that will change. For today, however, I have daughter here after an extremely torrid week abroad and husband after a weekend where he couldn’t walk more than about six steps without someone admiring his bike. I’ve almost managed to clear the largest pile of washing that’s ever existed in the house, and (once my writing duties are done) the Gym is already calling.

Having comprehensively established there is no such thing as a body detox, my regime when starting a new exercise programme is lots of water and religious calorie counting. I’ll be taking the RideLondon46 training quite seriously too starting today, with at least five days a week involving some time on a bike.I am rather looking forward to a focus on exercise and not much else, with the free time dedicated to writing and preparing written stuff for awards, bursary’s and contests.

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It is going to be a bit me-focused this week as a result, for which I apologise in advance.

Rise Up

So yeah, hi there, I’m back. I never really went away, when all is said and done, but there was some time spent not engaging brain cells. There have also been some quite important and significant changes to how everything is organised around these parts. You won’t see any of it, but the hope is that it will improve the flow of work long-term. You can also expect to see far more pictures than was previously the case, and a return to some old favourites.

Mostly, getting life organised better is the key.

It helps a great deal that the weather’s been brilliant and my chest issues have now virtually vanished. There are still restrictions on my arm, but they will improve as I’m able to exercise more and put the body back to proper use. There’s no point complaining, it just needs effort and application.

Time to get back to work.

Crying

What a weekend.

I’m on five hours sleep right now, and maybe this isn’t the time to be starting something quite complex and potentially life-changing, but that’s how this works. Today begins a sixteen-week Cycling training course, which is how long before I go on holiday. An awful lot could and might happen between now and then, but this is how major change takes place.

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It’s meant for Ride London athletes, but the whole thing is organised around Zwift’s workout mode, and is linked to your FTP, so (ideally) it only pushes you as far as your body itself is capable. It is a change from just doing a weekly goal and has the potential to fundamentally alter me physically. I have no idea how long I can keep it going, and what the consequences of doing it might be, but this is my plan going forward. I have my starting weight as a guide, and I’ll be able to judge physical fitness by the end in terms not simply of my FTP, but endurance and stamina.

They say everything should have a goal, right?

If all else fails, that’s four month’s worth of content taken care of.

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