Fairytale

I was reading in the week that someone in my Twitter feed was celebrating the advantages of Discord as a networking tool. If you’re not aware, this is the programme designed for gamers which urges you to ditch Skype and TeamSpeak (both used as popular means of establishing voice communication in Warcraft, amongst other titles) and promotes ‘virtual’ communities centred around particular subjects, in game goals or even streaming ‘personalities.’ It can sit in your web browser, allowing instant communication using the Internet as a carrier. It sounds like a brilliant way of breaking barriers and encouraging friendship, and I suspect if you’re the type of person who enjoys sitting at a screen all day that would be a bonus… but for me, its the equivalent of a slow, debilitating form of poison.
If you really believe virtual voice networking is the future, I have some issues you may wish to consider first.

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I’ve spent many years online using various iterations of text based clients, and it is still a better format for me to work in than speech will ever be. Text gives a vital chance to think, to consider stuff before I dive into conversation. Voice has gotten me into so much trouble over the years, because I thought only after I spoke. It took a very long time to get comfortable with live podcasting as a result of this, but a lot of what I said would be in some way scripted to ensure I wouldn’t wander off topic, as knowing what to say really does matter rather a lot. When it’s you that’s the issue and not others, you tend to get rather adept at placing space between the question and any response, so there’s the much needed thinking time factored in. What any speech based client expects from an individual is permission to allow a large number of random people into your personal space, regardless of whether you know them or not. That’s where the real issues begin.

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A large part of my discomfort, as a woman, is that I know how certain scenarios play out when people ‘meet’ me for the first time. If I were eminently capable of dealing well with strangers in these places, of course, all of this would be unnecessary. There’s also the assumption by many people that, if they can easily and comfortably use such systems, I must be somehow at fault. That means that, if people are unprepared to be empathetic and meet me halfway, I’ll always feel on the back foot. After years of being told ‘well it is clearly you that’s the problem’ I’ve decided that really, it is just simpler not to take part. Nobody loses out, and the people who are genuinely caring and understanding will simply accept the limitation. If you want to initially communicate with me, then it starts on my terms and when I’m comfortable I’ll be far more capable of doing the same in return.

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I’m the gregarious and fearless person when she can edit before posting who can’t manage voice because of that time in a Warcraft Karazhan raid she forgot she was holding down the Push to talk button and trashed someone’s performance. She can’t escape each one of the runs she did with other Guilds whilst trying to set up alliances where she listened in other people’s voice channels and heard guys treating girls like dirt and passing it off as ‘just what happens online.’ She can’t let go of the player after player (of both sexes) who’d swear and abuse a GM for not letting them raid, or screamed in anger when they lost an item of gear. If I didn’t remember absolutely everything, it would be fine and maybe I’d move on, but I know what a rude, viscous and sanctimonious twat even the nicest person ends up when playing this particular MMO ruins their best laid plans.

When I then have to factor my own thoughts and actions on top of all this? If you know you’re mentally just not capable of the speed of reaction that others have as standard, and understand only too well the darkness that can sit in people’s hearts, you avoid situations where you’ll have a problem. If communication matters enough, people will make the effort and they’ll understand. What becomes increasingly apparent is that maybe all those people who said they meant well at the start weren’t all being totally honest. I’m not playing the game any more of just throwing myself into situations and hoping it all works out. If caution results in less drama, yes I’m completely going for that over being in everybody’s faces for popularity.

The trend of Discord for Everything might not be that popular in a years time however, especially in the US if this new law is as damning as I believe it will be. Information is becoming a more valuable currency than the dollar, personal details the key for advertisers to sell you everything online. I think maybe in the future I wouldn’t want to be spending my time chatting in places that I believe are safe but could end up as anything but, and that Virtual Private Networks will become far more significant as places to talk and play in the future. If it matters enough I can use these services: I have Slack open permanently for my current paid writing gig, after all. The fact that I’ll always choose text over voice chat, that I’d rather write a letter than take a phone call, is that I’m scared of fucking it up. Words at my speed allow the chance for the best form of communication I possess, that’s all.

I hope that never changes.

The Same Old Song

I made my first visit to the USA in 1994. It was arranged, I will happily admit now, using the X Files USENET group. This involved a round trip from a town near Boston to New York, via State College to Washington DC. What happened in 10 days is a story I will save for another day because it involved trusting people that, looking back on the journey, I’d have never in a million years been involved with were I planning to do this today. They were undoubtedly simpler times back then and I was naive enough in my 20’s to believe people might just want to meet me as a friend. The truth, on reflection, was anything but.

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The last seven days, for those of us who have lived online since USENET in the 1990’s, has been pretty much par for the course, all told. However, there is a whole new group of people who are discovering that if they thought modern politics was a swamp worth draining, then the Internet right now’s a nightmare they may not really be prepared to even adequately grasp.

Watching ‘normal people’ grasp 4chan, Reddit or even the depths that Twitter can sink to has only come about because the President of the United States speaks more to his elected populous here than anywhere else. Twitter has effectively become the ‘free speech’ platform used by Government (and not just the US version) in an attempt to lie, discredit and derail anyone who decides that its not doing the right thing. As a tool for good however, it is undoubtedly a massive boost to anyone who needs their message heard. This jungle may be a step up from the swamp, but remains fraught with potential pitfalls. As the adage goes, ‘what happens on the Internet stays on the Internet,’ often for decades after the fact. That means, if I so desired, I could go pull up my lame-assed attempts at early fiction, affiliation to a number of other fandoms, failed relationships with several people I hope never to see ever again… and so on.

When you live your life ‘online’ there are consequences. I’ve done a lot whilst existing here since those early days and so, I suppose, I accept that if you live a certain way, there’s just things you don’t do. Last week a friend (you’ll see his tweet a bit later) pointed out that George Takei (you know, that bloke from Star Trek) broke one of these cardinal rules last weekend and swiftly paid the price. If you ask a question and you don’t get the answer you wanted, the last thing to do is try and pretend it never happened. In fact a sane person will grasp that perhaps their view of the World isn’t as black and white as it at first appeared. In this case however, someone famous online made a mistake and instead of standing up and admitting that, they simply chose to pretend it never happened, and that’s just asking for trouble in a social network that never sleeps.

It was a tiny storm in a massive teacup, but made me stop and think. Almost 69,000 votes and in the sphere of Twitter that Takei functions within (I imagine social media as tons of overlapping circles, like a mahoosive Venn diagram with multiple points of overlap) the split was 49/51. If he wanted a landslide to confirm his opinion it wasn’t going to happen, because there’s an awful lot of very disenfranchised people online right now. Clearly expecting a different result, the poll was deleted, and that’s NEVER what you do online. Even I know that rule, but I didn’t realise there are others that not only exist, but are being handed out quite early on that you’re never going to find in any number of guides to the Internet given out by schools or even parents.

Thanks to @IrishBites, I now have a better understanding of how the Internet is altering to accommodate differing groups of people. I’m also aware that a subset of this group (who are referred to in the original article above as ‘The Deplorables’) were responsible for mobilising social media and, at least in part, can be considered a significant force behind allowing That Man to be elected as President. It occurs to me that a different subset was probably instrumental in Brexit, and when you grasp the influence Social media now has on daily lives and big decisions, it is time to sit up and take notice of the power it wields. For those wishing to cause trouble, rules should not be of significance, but amazingly they are. In fact, once you grasp how this game is played it becomes incredibly simple to grasp how those who don’t think before they act can not only be tripped up but ensnared by their own good intentions:

Remember that press conference after the Presidential Inauguration where Mr S. Spicer used pictures to prove that there were more people attending than the ‘popular’ press suggested was true? That incident could almost have been an Anonymous ‘shitpost’ following every single guideline listed here. The suggestion that arguing with trolls is pointless to begin with is the ultimate win state, of course, because you were the one stupid enough not to think of that before you posted. The true Troll knows when to pick up on weakness and to avoid the fight they will never win. That’s why you’ll see people try to attack certain figures but soon give up, because if you know your own failings and won’t allow others to exploit them, they have no power over you and never will. Ultimately, trolls win when you give them the ammo.

‘Roasting’ has become the new social benchmark for who wields real power, the ‘Thread!’ cry a means by which any idea can find an instant audience without the need to own either domain or website, and Twitter itself has somehow evolved away from what it would clearly like to be in the eyes of the business people who created it, namely Facebook only more profitable. However, I’m betting Zuckerberg would happily sell the remaining portion of his soul to have That Man using his social media platform as a means to practice Government, seemingly unrestricted on a world stage. It is no wonder that 1984’s getting a showing in US cinemas when you have a man effectively dictating what will happen in a country, via a platform with a worldwide audience.

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Except, true reality is not just online, or the ‘version’ of events you choose to consume. Reality is hard work, takes a lot of thought, and understanding that most individuals simply don’t possess. It’s not an insult, but might be if you’re easily offended by truths. The real story behind your 140 characters is a little of the shitpost, a dash of personal need, the slightest sprinkling of conspiracy theory. To understand what really goes on requires concentration and consideration, not confirmation bias. You are not right every time, and your beliefs might matter to you but not for others. In all of this, there is a space to find for each person that allows reality to present what are intractable truths, and it is those that should shape any movement forward. The Clown in the White House is like the Bad Magician in Downing Street: all smoke and mirrors, simply distraction from inescapable facts. This planet cannot sustain us at our current selfish rates of consumption. EVERYONE is equal: not under anybody’s God, but at a basic level of DNA. Race, sex and birth are irrelevant. 

Greed in all forms condemns everyone’s existence to ruin unless change happens NOW.

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I tell you what you do, Jen. Think before you post. Realise that ‘truth’ means more than a set of points on a graph. Be nicer to people, and stop assuming it is all about you, me, or anybody else. Accept fate, and let go of anger. Let nothing surprise you, and be willing to accept everything as ‘normal’ for at least somebody. In effect, that shitty set of internet rules are, like it or not, a decent way to conduct your existence, and having everyone follow a basic set that doesn’t mean that one group can profit off anybody else is, like it or not, a pretty sound way forward. Yeah, we need to make money to survive, but how about if you have more you give it to those who don’t once in a while, just to see how that goes. This is not difficult or complicated, yet it has become the hardest thing to do. Stop having an ego, and allowing it to be bruised, and just live your life as if each day were your last because you know what? At the current rate of stupidity we’re all experiencing, that might yet turn out to be the case.

I can’t change the world, but I can change myself. If we all did even a bit of that, what might that be able to achieve long term?

Look Away

One of the most important things that ever happened to me as an impressionable 20-summat was a book that I was told to read as part of my University degree. I never realised that it was also a TV show in the 1970’s:

John Berger pretty much redefined a generation’s view of themselves and everything else with Ways of Seeing. If you have never read it I cannot urge you enough to go and do so, because what this book does is redefine a basic tenet: ‘the relation between what we see and what we know is never settled.’ It is a very significant point to make, now and always, that when presented with an image, it is not a truth. It can be defined in so many different ways, depending on the context in which you present it. I have a brilliant example of this: it’s my Giant Blue Cock:

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Yes, it’s a sculpture, but in my Twitter feed it is male genitalia that I couldn’t put there but people know exist in my head, my world view and therefore they accept the interpretation of that ‘image’ into theirs. It’s like pictures of Spotted Dick and Richard Nixon, you get the joke. It is the acceptance of your audience of how visual association works. That means by definition that if you present a certain set of images in a particular fashion, you’re making a point.

I have a perfect example of this right here.

https://twitter.com/Rosie/status/796939518167384064

This came from Rosie O’Donnell’s Twitter account. This is, I assume, a Democratic, Hillary Clinton supporting woman’s conscious decision, based on a very depressing point that wants to be made, and the disbelief in my head when I saw this was considerable, as it comes from someone who should really grasp the power of image when misused… and that’s what this is. I could google Mr Trump’s wife and find many, many pictures of her looking as all those other First Ladies do, but then what was would be the point of that Tweet to begin with? Mrs Trump was a nude model before she married her husband: isn’t the USA supposed to be the place where it doesn’t matter about your past, you can still be a success? I can only assume that this was posted to make a point, that somehow posing nude in ‘public’ makes you less worthy than other women, and certainly not worthy enough to be the First Lady.

This is, like it or not, the reality of my existence. It’s not just the images either: I doubt this article on the potential horrors that climate change could be bringing wouldn’t have ended up in my feed were Trump not now President-elect. If your job is to sell advertising and not educate people, how can you really tell what’s truth or what’s well-placed scaremongering? How do you make a distinction, when even the people you know will put their particular spin on your world view?

Everybody colours the World in their own way to survive. You gravitate towards people who you feel safe with and can trust. You view ‘the enemy’ with revulsion and terror, but if you were on the other side of the fence…? That’s exactly what you’d still be doing. My mate Vitt just took me at my word when I asked: here’s five First Ladies, all together, without a prejudicial bias. That’s just what they are. If you have no desire to make a point, and all you want is to help, does it really matter one iota which side of the fence you happen to be on? Nope, you just help each other. If all you’re here to do is be angry and cause trouble?

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However much you hate the Orange Man right now, for whatever reason, the fact remains he is only one part of a far more complex set of variables, a lot of which you really can do something about. Sitting there and throwing shit at those who won because you think this will make you feel better? Well, it might, but if you choose to do that in public, it is likely to do you far more harm than good. I’ve lost respect for someone today who I thought would know better, and am grateful to someone else for being a decent person. Your experience of life may vary, but one thing remains: we are all the same. Deep down, our basic DNA structures mean that, like it or not, everybody is human.

How you choose to demonstrate that is, of course, entirely up to you.

China Girl

I went out with my husband and some friends of his a while back, to a concert at our town’s main venue. In conversation, my relationship with Twitter came up, especially in reference to the number of people I follow. My husband then was asked why he wasn’t nearly as prolific, and his answer was wonderfully simple: it was asking for trouble. The rationale is really simple: when (for instance) you know there’s a fundamental differing of opinion between people you follow on the platform, a mental check goes on whenever Mr Alt decides he wants to respond to an issue. Will this offend someone I know? If he’s at least in some way that it could, he just doesn’t bother. Confident enough in his own understanding of the place he lives and works in, it is not worth the effort if the result will be negative.

That’s the mental check every single person ought to do AS STANDARD.

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Yesterday, someone quite prominent in the place I ‘work’ said something utterly inappropriate to a woman on a livestream. I know for damn sure that similar things have been said to women on TV, in interviews and on dance floors across the planet, and to men too, regardless of either gender assignment or sexual preference. In fact, at any point where someone has found someone else attractive and considered sexytimes with them in their heads? This thought process will have taken place. Talking about this at a Film première for a movie aimed (at least in part) at a teenage market may not be considered a totally appropriate place for this context. Saying it whilst representing an organisation that markets a bunch of T for Teen games and are about to bring out a YT set of novels is probably a bit iffy to boot. However, for me at least, these are the least of the issues. Considering how stringent this organisation normally is for vetting questions from the public? To allow a host to be that crass and inappropriate just shows that sections of Nerd Culture are indeed still wanking in dark corners after several decades, and that someone failed to reinforce the point that professionalism beats edgy buffoonery, pretty much every single damn time.

Look, everybody does it, but nobody cares. That is of course until you mention women masturbate too and then everyone gets all flustered and doesn’t know where to look. But, I digress.

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Once we get past all the moral indignation and hand-wringing, plus the casual sexism, misogyny and cisgender backlash, the fact remains that if you’d thought first and kept your fucking mouth shut, none of this would be a problem. Every issue, on every subject, will be solved by just keeping quiet. Someone told me this morning in all seriousness that this isn’t the way forward because it means life will be boring and they’d then have to be productive, rather than trying to start an argument with anyone who wants one on social media, which is clearly far more entertaining. The bigger problem is when people’s bigotry starts showing, over everything and anything, the moral indignation that social media amplifies and exacerbates. If you’d only be like my husband and temper your responses: would the world be boring? Would an increase in productivity and general harmony REALLY be a bad thing?

Of course it wouldn’t, but then you’d have nobody to mock, and THEN WHAT?

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The only way things change is when the people who crave the oxygen are starved of it, and as soon as a fight breaks out all that happens is that certain people come along with cannisters full of O2. You can try and temper stupid, but when even the most morally strong are temptable, it ain’t happening. Then it’s damage control and the polls and the dissection of guilt, but mostly nobody cares, unless the person’s so morally repugnant they’re not considered worth saving. What does matter however, is if anyone changes as a result of the event. Can you learn lessons and move on? Will this incident make you a better person? If that happens then maybe, just maybe there will be progress. However, that’s often a very big if.

Remember kids, every day is a school day, even if you refuse to be educated.

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Of course, tomorrow nobody will care. However, those of us with long memories will stand, shake our heads and realise that however much some organisations might claim they’ve changed, nothing’s really moved forward at all in 20 years. That’s the bigger issue that still remains to be addressed.

Sort yourselves out, Dudebros ^^

 

Fear

Sometimes I find myself wondering what possesses people to fixate on others. Then I remember I know, that I’ve not only been there but stalked in my youth. It takes a particular kind of intelligence to understand and grasp the capacity to be stupidly obsessive to the point that you’ll actually cause yourself physical harm and justify it as acceptable if it means you get the person you want. So, when someone tries to play the psychology card on me, it’s pretty much a lost cause. Except it happens, every damn day, and I’m still surprised that people can be this stupid. To want to manipulate others to the point you can’t even see how dumb you’re being? To genuinely think you’ve got the ability to bend someone else to your will at a distance? That takes a special variety of delusional.

It does make me think however that maybe a late life degree in psychology would be a really interesting diversion.

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/golfclap

The trick, of course, is to blend your desire with a clever use of observation. It’s roughly akin to all those ‘how to be a hit with the opposite sex’ guides that ultimately appear in both women’s and men’s magazines, for those without the basic understanding of interaction with their sexual preference of choice. I sent my target of desire various gifts, all carefully chosen to appeal to their own particular interests, but nothing will ever actually make an impression if you are not in the least attractive to the person concerned. You may think they are the centre of YOUR Universe, but the truth is very often that they’ll not even realise affection or desire exists. That should be the wakeup call, of course, but often it takes something desperate to alert your psyche to the damage being wrought. When I look back I think the physical damage for me was that moment, but it took until a long time afterwards (and with help) to grasp that ultimately I was the problem. Then there’s the understanding that if you did this before, it could happen again. That gives you the ability to keep yourself in check, but more importantly pushes for a long term understanding of circumstance to teach you never to start that cycle again.

When you understand that your own naivety is the issue, an awful lot of other stuff makes sense.

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The attention card is what all the cool kids play on the Internet: look at me, I’m big and clever, see how much noise I can make. The more subtle abusers turn this around, and ask their targets whether they are actually worthwhile or useful. It still remains however entry level psychology, and won’t stop anyone with understanding of the technique in their tracks from doing anything. Once you are aware of the basic stupidity in someone’s actions, it becomes remarkably easy to wrench all power from them. Ironically, it also give people like me brilliant material for building villains in fiction. Frankly this stuff is so ridiculous you couldn’t make it up, and when you read it there’s your classic Bond bad guy: desperate to be the centre of everybody’s Universe, bitter yet respectful of his nemesis, looking for the ultimate line to throw back as 007 thwarts his evil schemes. I have read and been told that absolutely the best research you can ever do is by perming your own life story as reference. Looking at it now, I’ve got an awful lot of potential for fiction in the future.

That’s how you pull the positive from your negatives.

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There’s an old adage that states that if people are attacking you, you must be doing something right. Mostly, what this should tell you is that your own actions have caused a consequence, and that it is probably a good idea to look at yourself first before automatically assuming that the person with the rock had no reason to throw it. Once you’ve done that and can be comfortable that your actions are acceptable? Then, off you go. The best piece of advice I was ever given in this regard, and I think it remains sound, is that you either shut all the bad out or have the strength of character to let it all in. For some people, the former is essential. It’s the equivalent of never reading a bad review as an artist: you just carry on regardless, and dismiss all criticism the same way. As a writer, I actually get a lot from criticism now I’ve learnt how to deal with it objectively. That’s certainly not the way for many people to go. Iron constitution and buns of steel are a prerequisite.

However, once you can do it, it becomes almost sadistically enjoyable.