So Here We Are

Whenever two or three people I know and follow, on Twitter, get together and have a conversation, Twitter actively attempts to involve me. Even on Tweetdeck, that interaction appears unavoidable. With my tech hat on there are clearly very good reasons why doing this is a good idea for the growth of the platform overall. Talking is, after all, the point.

However, it’s a lie, clear falsehood. It’s the equivalent of what used to happen in the playground at secondary school when someone wanted gossip to make them the centre of attention. I am well aware of the level of interaction at play on any given day, and these people would not, do not include me. It is an attempt to drive passive engagement, and I detest it.

It also drags me into issues I am often already trying to avoid.

This is, I will freely admit, the reason why some people I really like are at present muted. Mutes don’t stop the direct @ when someone talks to you with your username. Crucially it doesn’t remove likes or retweets being visible on Tweetdeck, at least initially. It allows me to acknowledge those who are my more enthusiastic supporters, who refuse to engage directly (for whatever reason).

However, of late, it means that certain discussions and arguments are unavoidable, however hard I attempt to curate. Part of this journey is realising I cannot fix everything, and I would be foolish to try, because the energy expended by doing so does and has deflected me from my path. Many people have commented on the downsides. I am going to take their advice too, because they care about me personally.

I know this not through here say, but through personal interaction.

It is apparent to most now how important virtual interactions are in modern life, and being able to place a measure of control on what takes place is as important as keeping your real life manageable. Watching other people make the same mistakes you have does make you want to wade in and point out the hypocrisy. It is not worth the effort.

Asking people if they need help is a better way forward. It requires far less assumptive reasoning: if someone says they are struggling, then that’s your cue. Again, it can’t (and won’t) help you save everybody. That remains the impossibility that it takes a lifetime to shake and will, if you are that person, wrack you with guilt when it becomes apparent you missed someone else’s cry for help.

All you will ever do is your best.

What bothers me the most right now are those people who depend on the Internet for their livelihood, who know what good can (and does) happen here yet continue to malign it because it gets them attention. We all know someone like this, and I watch people do this daily, in the hope it might illicit some sympathy. That’s not how this works. We see right through you.

By far the most successful people on Twitter are ignoring the fact they’re not being successful and just doing what needs to be done. When your creativity and enthusiasm shines through, amazing things happen. I’ve only just discovered this revelation, and it is still sometimes a bit hard to balance with everything else but the results are, it must be said, transformative.

Stop talking a rubbish game, and start changing your outlook.

Monday, Monday

My hairdresser and I have formed a relationship away from work. It means that she feels comfortable to share little titbits of data with me: one that was a particular surprise is that she had trouble with depth perception. That means, if someone was to hit a tennis ball at her from distance, she’d be unable to judge where it landed. I’ve tried to imagine what this must be like to have to cope with mentally, and suspect it is a bit stressful.

Occasionally, when online, people will share memes that make me realise a) just how young they must be and b) just how old I am. It’s not a problem insofar as gauging how far into the past or future other people are related to me. I like to not judge at all, if I can help it, rather assess each person met on merit. It is up to them to show me who they are.

Grasping how people operate online however can be a little more difficult.

There have always been people who think that ‘online’ is the real danger, ever since Usenet allowed people to communicate without external regulation. There will always be outliers, and despite what Malcolm Gladwell might want to tell you their success is often defined by not being the person who is easy to profile, quantify or indeed locate.

Ironically, in these days when enemies are in plain sight and have no need to hide, highlighting those pedalling the low level dopamine hits to the masses is very easy. You don’t need to see either in front or behind to grasp the dangers: one could argue it is why government won’t regulate institutions it knows have at least some nominal value to them in keeping control.

The bigger enemy to freedom right now, ironically, is information.

My family love to mock my paranoia over tracking: yesterday, the world will know I did a virtual bike ride in my shed and then a real life one down the Thames Estuary. In the latter case, it will be obvious I navigated a portion of sea wall that has been ‘nominally’ closed due to being unsafe. There were no laws broken, but there’s enough private property in that area that had I strayed into it, Strava would have recorded it.

The ignorance most people hold over exactly what they wear and how it tracks them remains eye-wateringly painful. Seasoned protestors know how to disappear, which is why facial recognition software has become as big a topic of discussion as it undoubtedly is. The irony of having to wear masks in a place such as shopping centres where retailers employ such devices to prevent theft will not have passed many people by.

How far you can see entirely depends on what you’re capable of focussing on at any one time.

The longer COVID goes on (and no, Boris, this won’t be over in time for your no-Deal Brexit) the easier it is to see those people who are adapting, and those who face extinction. The latter won’t go quietly, or without a lot of noise and mess. Letting them go would be a lot easier if influencers stop pointing and laughing at the death throes.

Real cancel culture ought to mean silence: you just stop talking about people, ignore their desperate pleas to be relevant, and then watch them tank off their metaphorical cliffs without any more need for propulsion. That’s my plan going forward: lift up the voices that I feel matter, amplify the people who deserve to be heard. Seeing everything is sometimes disadvantageous, but not right now.

Accurate depth perception has become a part of my arsenal.

The Departure

Modern life right now is pretty hard work. It is easy to see why so many people really can’t be bothered, would rather be out shopping, pooping on a beach or getting off their faces with their mates. It’s easier than dealing with the consequences of what is going to destroy us all in the end: ourselves. After months of being forced to confront our demons, everybody just wants to run away.

It’s not just race either, a lot of subjects that weren’t really up for discussion before Lockdown are now on the table. Attitudes are shifting faster than most extremists can keep up with. Being tech-savvy has never been more important: could YOU tell a real tweet from a fake…? Oh, and truth. Yeah, the reality of modern life is coming at some people extremely fast indeed.

Knowing you are part of the problem, that you have contributed to it before, but will never do so again is an extremely significant step forward in my life. I don’t recall at any point ever being this comfortable with a process, either: I have to change. This isn’t up for discussion or negotiation either. The ONLY way the world alters is when I am there, making sure it does.

I know where to go to do this too, that was previously not immediately clear to me. The paths which before were unmarked and overgrown are amazingly beginning to beckon me, in directions that would not previously have been considered. Next week will be a watershed. I have an important email to write tomorrow, with my big business trousers on.

You are the arbiter of the journey. Nobody else. Just you.

Intellectual superiority is an insidious, disturbing thing. It extends into so much of my life that to point out when people are being self-absorbed, arrogant wankers has, in the last couple of weeks, pretty much become a full-time job. Exposing smart people who think they are somehow above all of this, or better, is beginning to reap some tangible alteration on a wider stage.

It also shows, as bunches of right wing activists take their narrow-mindedness off to Parler that many won’t ever listen. That’s fine, because if they carry on sacrificing themselves to the Twitter Gods, it proves they really don’t understand the wider changes at play. The future is not your white bread, class-based ecosystem. A Revolution really is on its way.

The Planet itself has decided we don’t get to dictate terms any more.