Look At Me

I don’t like the way some people on my Social media feed are being influenced by large companies. There’s nothing I can do about it, of course, and by pointing it out I’ll simply be accused of not understanding their feelings. The fact remains, I watch daily as people are far too easily manipulated. No, I’m not imagining this. There is no tinfoil involved. In the Wild West of Social media, the law is not fast enough to keep up with offences. It is the moral turpitude of people involved in making fake news, ‘innocently’ promoting their brand using cheap emotional hooks or simply wanting to draw attention to themselves BECAUSE THEY MATTER DAMMIT that stands between here and social disintegration. Therefore, EVERYBODY has a responsibility, yet very few are prepared to even think about consequence

If you cannot clearly discern reality from the invented, everybody is in trouble.

There are too many problems effectively to solve if you go and stare at the negative for too long. If I have to isolate one that seems to be endemic to all the issues I personally experience, it would be emotional blackmail. I’ve watched this used by the alt-right against Florida schoolkids who simply want to live without fear. I watch politicians use it as a means to justify Brexit, not Brexit and all points in between. The most depressing form, however, is undoubtedly the format that seems to afflict everybody, from nobody to celebrity, which is beautifully encompassed by the desire to be noticed, but at the same time not ending up looking like an idiot.

Considering Social media as a ‘game’ must be done with a great deal of care.

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It seems to me that by far the best means by which you survive in this lawless land at present is to keep everything at arm’s length. It works, to a point, until someone appears with their Emotional Blackmail Joker and shoves it in your face. We’ve been ‘friends’ for X years, you can’t do X, Y or Z because I will take this as a personal affront and you will back down. Except for the problem, inevitably, is that you aren’t friends, and never really were. Unless the definition of friendship is quite clear, in this modern world, NOTHING is to be expected or anticipated. NOTHING AT ALL.

If it matters enough that someone is friends with you, then you tell them. That’s why I spent a month last year doing just that. It is why the people I care about have time taken to read their tweets, or blogs, or consider what it is they have to say. I can support people I do not know well, and help them, but this does not make us friends. That only happens when both parties agree to the transaction, and never before. If you believe, whilst reading this that we are friends and that’s something that matters to you, yet we have never discussed whether we are or not? It is time to reassess your definition.

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I refuse to use Social media as emotional blackmail any more. I have followers, of whom a VERY small number (probably less than 70) are people I talk to regularly, of which maybe 25-30 are friends. Of that, less than ten are good friends. I communicate with one person with whom I share a genuine friendship on a daily basis. Just the one. There are three others I’d consider as close or comparable, so that’s four people. Everybody else, let’s be honest, I don’t have a clue about. Some people obviously think we are friends because they talk at me on a daily basis, but many of these ‘conversations’ make me feel uncomfortable. The emotional attachment others have to me is undoubtedly weighted in their favour.

If I cannot accurately discern intent, what chance does anybody else have?

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Smart people don’t have these conversations in public, but I’m getting to a point where there has to be some disconnect between the people who believe I’m their friend and the truth, which is I’m not, they’re just a follower. In the end, it is easier to just remove these people from my followers’ list and hope they get the point. The last time that happened, however, it ended in tears because the person concerned believed they deserved to be my friend and that I should return the favour. I don’t need toxic attitudes like that in my life, and to be fair to everybody else here, you shouldn’t be getting attached like that to me, to begin with. It’s unhealthy and ultimately self-destructive.

Sometimes the truth is what everybody needs and deserves.

Sunrise

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Stuff has changed. You’ve not seen all of it yet, but trust me when I say to you that it has. The depth of that shift will slowly begin to show.

Let’s begin.


There’s been much excitement in this house over Christmas thanks to Netflix, and the Amazon Fire stick we’ve had for a year and hardly ever used. I have a fair amount of Netflix content I wanna work through (and I will) but for now, you need to have the Amazon service enabled to truly appreciate the horror I am about to share. Well, that’s not strictly fair, because… well, you’ll see.

Welcome, one and all, to Kitten TV.

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If you are familiar with the movie Scrooged, you’ll know there’s a point where rodents appear in Bill Murray’s seasonal adaptation of Dickens’ TV adaptation in attempt to get dogs and cats to engage. Well, this series of six shows does the about face, using kittens as a means to hook a generation of people (presumably) addicted to cute kitten videos and GIFs via the Internets. The concept’s ridiculously simple: build a set with a perspex fourth wall, drop a load of kittens into it, comedy ensues. There’s a Minecraft set, and an entire episode dedicated to cats in hats. I kid you not.

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Back in the 1990’s, in the early years of satellite TV in the UK, there was a TV channel up in the 300’s that showed nothing but a roaring fire overnight. There was another channel that just showed beaches and boardwalks. This is no different, in effect, to the years when TV didn’t happen 24/7 and there’d be Public Information films to fill the gaps. Back when BBC2 tested colour movies, I can remember watching slices of history that are now so jaded and bizarre they feel like a dream, or part of the past that simply never existed. Fortunately, the Internet’s beginning to fill in these gaps, and the movies of my past can still be a part of the present.

Having found a list of the BBC2 colour test movies, I’ll be spending the next month sharing with you guys (via the @internetofWords Twitter feed) the joy of a world I was shown on screen during my formative years. Like my 12 year old daughter will undoubtedly remember the happy evening she spent watching kittens get bored and roam Godzilla-like across cheap cardboard sets, these memories are an essential part of the process of learning and understanding. Yes, kittens are relevant.

TV does not just have to be about the depressing things in life.

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My thought train begins today with this Tweet:

It is the first time that the idea of ‘social media as a mirror’ has registered in my brain. This, as it transpires, is a remarkably apposite description of how many people use it, confirmation bias included. I’ve not yet seen The Last Jedi, but the divisive nature of reviews says very much in my mind that this is going one of two ways. There are those people watching the film and considering it as entertainment, and then those whose perception of the Star Wars Universe is so personally warped to begin with that this  narrative will inevitably end up as an affront. It doesn’t matter if you believe that the whole thing’s simply a rehash of The Empire Strikes Back or not. You didn’t write the script. That’s how fiction works.

You accept the concept you are given, or you don’t.

However, and this is important, denigration of the older generation is now a thing. This is, like it or not, the inevitable consequence of dozens of sex scandals and the disparaging of both women and minorities, which remained acceptable until this year [*] and now is the metaphor du jour. If you look beyond the vanity mirror of Twitter, and grasp the wider social issues, however, the young have always held a love/hate relationship with their elders. Go back to the 1920’s if you want to see it beginning, and you can argue that youth v experience has been a force majeure in literary terms since time in memorial.

The problem now, undoubtedly, is that there’s a lot more older people dictating the life of those younger than them. The life expectancy of the average American might be beginning to drop, but there’s still a phenomenal number of people who’ll argue that their voice matters, and their opinions should be heard. Looking at Twitter bots over the Christmas period, the assumption is they’re either run by a) under 25’s or b) Moscow. The truth, as played out in the United States, is that old white people are a force to be reckoned with. Piss them off, and everybody suffers, especially the minorities. You only have to look at the oldest kid in Washington DC to grasp what then happens as consequence.

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Except on Christmas Day I saw a number of Dr Who fans quietly frustrated at the nature of certain aspects of the Christmas Special script, using 1960’s ‘mentality’ as means by which to garner some cheap laughs. It’s the situation that happens when you look at a Carry On film with modern sensibilities and realise that certain jokes just won’t wear in the current climate. The key here is that you accept both are appropriate in the context of their own time-frame: Who’s about to cross into territory that’s as alien for a lot of its audience as the planets they’ll happily visit if there’s a man in charge. It is time to be sympathetic over the audience you’re dealing with, as well as accepting a past that, despite the ability to travel in time, cannot really be changed.

Many people are afraid of letting power away from themselves and having to trust others with decision making. Movies, TV and books allow those people the opportunity to safely experience these situations without the reality ever taking place, but social media has now empowered some to erroneously grasp that if they don’t like what they read, hear or see, it can be altered. You don’t get to do this with what other people make. They stand and fall by their own choices, and art is not theirs to recreate, but to look at and consider before deciding to like it or not. It is perfectly okay to not enjoy something, but telling a company to remove it from canon because it upsets your own world view?

That’s not how entertainment has ever worked.

[*] It’s been a thing since Adam and Eve if you’re the one on the receiving end. Now, because the practice has become socially unacceptable, it’s news.

It’s still happening though :(

I’ll be There for You

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Yesterday, my Husband sent me a text message, cheerfully informing me that he’d registered a WordPress domain. I will admit, there was a measure of surprise over this. I’ve been suggesting that, for about three years now, he might like to write about his passion for cycling: he creates a very good blog on company time, is my #1 Proof Reader of Awesome, and is the purveyor of good stories (although he does tend to ramble, but it is endearing.)

Then, things got serious.

The first batch of output last night was initially liked and then summarily rejected. A discussion was had over the brief, what this particular logo should really be like, and what it was my husband wanted to achieve from the exercise, and suddenly I was back at my first job, designing stuff for people. I’ve now sent him a selection of ‘new ‘ content, and am awaiting word on whether I’ll have to try again again. Between you and me, I think I like this one the most:

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(If you want to go see what’s going on, the blog is here.)

Normally, doing work for family would be a fraught, uncomfortable affair. This time around that is not the case: I’m even considering offering my writing services to Mr. Alt to talk about cycling from a ‘this is fucking scary’ PoV. Mostly, it is me pushing him to share some of the amazing stories he has gathered (especially when he went to Italy last month) and the frankly amazing work he’s done to restore a bunch of metal frames with wheels.

If you have a passion, I think it is your duty to share it with as many people as possible.

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.

Sabotage

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The Internet is a great place, we all know this. However, like any massive playground where mob rule will undoubtedly apply if you screw up, there is NEVER a guarantee that people will play nicely, follow rules or indeed do what you want them to. That means that, if you’re trying to exploit any section within that playground, you need to do your homework REALLY carefully. Twitter’s been making new strides into ‘selling’ their marketplace this year, after disappointing previous attempts to find consistent ways of making money from the platform. Their latest adventure, on paper, looked like it might have some merit.

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For most ‘normal’ users, bots are annoying and frustrating things in your timeline, but now they’ve being used to ‘sell’ products through the wonders of interactivity. The concept’s sound enough: create a personal enough experience and people will engage with your campaign, and might end up buying the product as a result. What’s far more likely however, is that people will find a way to exploit your bot and make the company (and your lack of thought plus understanding of the marketplace) appear enormously stupid. This is exactly what happened to a multinational last week. On reflection, they really should have seen the issue coming.

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Sabotage is not the right word here, NetImperative. I really doubt this was individuals approaching a promotion with the agenda of conscious destruction. Walkers allowed people to upload photographs, assuming people would only want to use their own image as a ‘selfie.’ There were no checks and balances that pictures being provided were suitable. Using images of convicted criminals is what will happen when people grasp you didn’t think through the consequences as a company, and the Internet decides to show up your stupidity.

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I find it increasingly frustrating how the Internet is portrayed as the enemy by people who don’t grasp the first clue about how it works. Politicians assuming that this is where extremism happens don’t grasp that terrorism isn’t just undertaken by one easily identifiable group of individuals. If all you see is isolated, unrelated problems having single solutions, that the only way to fight to be right is to defeat those that are wrong… it is like the arguments I have with my kids. They don’t do subtle: I either told them to do it or I didn’t, asking them to consider subtlety is largely lost. However, on platforms such as the Internet, reality is no longer about one thing at a time. If you can’t multi-task, or consider that some people will be doing four or five things simultaneously whilst at the same time looking for ways to exploit your lack of foresight? You’re going to get burnt, just like Walkers.

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Ironically, talking to friends on Twitter, we saw this coming. Maybe there is money to be made in the future being a Freelance Provocatrix, driving my three wheeled tricycle from company to organisation, warning them of the dangers of not thinking your marketing strategy through online. However well you think you know the Internet?

They’ll always have the capacity to surprise you.

Stronger

Rupert Murdoch’s been around a long time. He’s a shrewd businessman and his media empire is, like it or not, as much a part of my ongoing existence as the three times weekly milk delivery and today’s trip to the supermarket. However, I don’t have to like that, and I am now especially dismayed that of all the people that could have been picked to speak on a major US network behalf of London, his organisation decided to choose the woman who, as we have spoken of before in this Parish, is hardly an ambassador for anything. In the interests of balance therefore, and because I hold a public platform, let me put a few things straight.

Some people MIGHT be cowed, but many others are defiant, confident and reassured at the actions of both the Police, NHS and counter-terrorism services. Many people believe that Tobias Ellwood (born in the USA) is an absolute hero, and hope that if we were the one stabbed in a public place, someone as selfless and brilliant as him would be the person who would come to our rescue. However shoddy and underhand Teresa May might have been in Prime Minister’s Question Time mere hours previously, she did a better job of sounding like she was in charge than Cameron ever did in his entire tenure, and her speeches both last night and this morning have a genuine ring of determination. Yeah, she could be a credible actress, but maybe giving her the benefit of the doubt at this moment is acceptable.

Admittedly, there could be those who are afraid this morning too, but not of terrorism. The guy who did this didn’t check his laptop into the hold of a flight from the Middle East to get here. This isn’t someone who appeared out of left field either: the security services knew who he was. This wasn’t terrorism so much as opportunism from someone who will now be remembered for years to come as the man who killed a policeman in the Houses of Parliament. As far as making a name for yourself goes, that’s a pretty terminal approach. PC Keith Palmer was 48, slightly older than my brother. He’d been an officer for 15 years and was part of the Metropolitan Police’s parliamentary and diplomatic protection command. Palmer and Ellwood will be the lasting takeaway for me in all of this: two heroes, in differing guises, who should never have had to have suffered any of what they have and now will as a result of another British born man’s actions.

Oh, and I’m absolutely determined, galvanised and totally united this morning, over quite a few issues. People like Ms Hopkins don’t ever speak for me, at any point ever. Networks like Fox News in the US run sensationalist, often borderline fictional reporting to maintain a reputation for journalism long upheld by Murdoch’s other newspapers and media outlets, and I’m even more determined never to allow that form of ‘news’ to be taken seriously. I’m pretty convinced that if Donald Trump’s son thinks tweeting the Mayor of London over ANYTHING counts as diplomacy in the current climate, he needs to go back to being a male model (or is that not the one who’s NOT sitting on a tree stump in all those memes, I get confused.) Mostly this morning the position is simple: stop doing stupid shit so that people pay you attention.

Nobody speaks for anyone at a distance. Those with a proven record of exploiting situations will continue to do so as long as they’re allowed to get away with it. The only sure fire way to ensure people are held accountable is to do that yourself. Yes, you can be kind and understanding, but if somebody says something without thinking and is clearly talking only to deflect interest towards themselves? CALL THEM OUT. You can do this without resorting to libel. You don’t have to threaten anybody ever, either, because if you do that ends up making your actions no more noble than the person you’re throwing rocks at. Everybody has a voice on Social media, so let’s start using those for good and not evil, shall we?

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This is your daily reminder not to believe everything you see on Twitter or are told on the news, and to verify your reports from trusted and approved sources before deciding the Sky is falling. It is a reality check that tells you that home born nationals are just as likely to be as dangerous as anyone who arrived here from overseas. Most importantly, in the era when everybody can speak for themselves, that’s what more people should really be doing. If you don’t think your version of the Truth is being taken seriously, write it down and get it seen. If you don’t like how Netflix has taken Asian manga and turned it into middle class entertainment? Bitching about it on Twitter might get you noticed, but you’re far more likely to gain traction with a blog or Tumblr post that can be read and retweeted in the right places. Let us not forget that the successful challenge to Article 50’s triggering, which resulted in Parliament’s involvement, came about as a result of a blog post.

If you don’t think somebody is speaking for you? Time to do that for yourself.