Love Hurts

Something I’ve been stressing over for about a fortnight is now done. The relief, especially in my shoulders, is palpable. I’m also beyond tired all of a sudden and yesterday’s lifts/squats are manifesting in hips and knees. It’s amazing how these things become physical issues when enough time elapses. Stress kills, kids, don’t let anybody convince you otherwise. Try and find ways to relax.

This morning, my mind is full of the lies I tell myself to keep focused.

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Like it or not, I’m part of a problem that manifests all over social media. Success is the goal, key to changing existence, icing on your metaphorical Life Cake (TM) and only through a tortuous, painful journey of exploration and discovery will we all find a particular flavour of Nirvana that is so desperately sought. To allow this to happen, an awful lot gets compromised along the way, including integrity.

It means, like it or not, everything that isn’t abject failure gets celebrated. This includes such moments as ‘hey I made the Longlist of Award X let’s stick that in my Bio’ and ‘you can utterly tweet about how I almost won this thing because there were 600 entries and to make it to the final 25 is progress…’ and the list goes on… and on. I may laugh at the nerd yesterday inventing his own hype to justify existence, but he’s no different than me.

Like it or not, we’re both fooling ourselves to a point.

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Sometimes, I wish there were a magic button to press allowing me to move forward the writing part of my journey. If only everything were like exercise, where amount of effort inserted becomes directly equal to progress made in fitness. Yes, padewan, you have laboured for ten years on the Plains of Blogging, passed the Trial of Being Paid for Content, and now are eligible to One Minor Literary Achievement Per Year.

Why is this not enough for you?

That’s a really good question: can there not be enough satisfaction gained from just having a published book in your hands? Apparently not, according to the woman who managed this at the writing event I attended last month and pretty much complained non-stop that because she wasn’t with a major publisher, it wasn’t enough. I realise, that if the positions were reversed, I’d be unhappy too. Making something out of thin air once sets a benchmark you’re then forced to better.

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My PT asked me yesterday morning whether I need a goal to work towards in terms of training: maybe doing Ride London again, perhaps a marathon, maybe working towards the Nuclear races so many Gym attendees seem to love so much. I asked for notice of the question, and sitting here now, there is real understanding that if you gave me a goal to work at in my hobby, I’d stop exercising tomorrow. I lift weights and run now as relaxation as writing’s now the job, and goals only exist here now, not anywhere else.

It’s why the news of my favourite video game going back to it’s original iteration this month is enough to tempt me back to the fold, until I remember the kind of people who would be playing, and the real possibility I’d want to be really good at it like I was before. It would stop being a hobby and become something else. It was others that finally ruined that for me, plus the realisation those who bankroll said game are here to turn a profit, and won’t ever share my world views as a result.

Winning isn’t everything.

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Some days, it’s tough to know what matters most. Right now, all that’s really important is being aware that lots of things are changing. Let them happen, digest consequences, make informed decisions based on what you know. If you can learn to trust yourself, answers will eventually become clear, as they have in the last few months. Most importantly of all, success will not define you. How you deal with change will.

What matters most is to be true to your soul.

Lies

This is a scheduled announcement that when you’ve been on the Internet as long as I have, you’ve seen an awful lot of stupid shit. In some cases, you were there the first time someone was dumb enough to try something, it got totally forgotten, and now the same old rubbish is being recycled again (and again and again).

Example: I’ve seen the ‘I forced a bot to watch X’ meme a few times now, each with a different subject matter. It’s a great means by which a comedy writer can eke out exposure and flex their social media skills. Good luck to them all, I say, this is a good use of the medium. It’s only the equivalent of that picture of the guy with the pretty girl, staring at another (clearly prettier) girl and the dichotomy that creates in our subconsciousnesses. It’s known as the DISTRACTED BOYFRIEND meme.

Memes are what makes the Internet tolerable. They are the distraction many of us crave in these dark, ugly times. It is also by far the best means to make information stick. It is no wonder therefore that certain commentators, who are incapable of altering the collision course this country appears to have adopted with it’s own self destruction, are using similar tactics to create a picture which is, like it or not, utterly false.

I’m seeing a lot of stuff like this of late: high-profile personalities ‘bigging up’ the fact that once upon a time, this country was fantastic, and it clearly isn’t that way any more, and really, it’s beginning to piss me right off. There are two reasons for this. The first one, perhaps unsurprisingly is that it’s just not true. The Olympics did not somehow make this country a better place to live in. Yeah they were great, and the legacy’s been awesome, but truth remains the UK was shit beforehand too. 

The second one’s more insidious: this isn’t meant as a means to get people encouraged to do anything about the situation, it’s just for views, to create an illusion of participation and interest. The fact that other people don’t get this remains a mystery to me, until I look at a certain type of user on my own feed. They’re the one’s who don’t ever contribute anything of value to any conversation, but try and make you react in order to feed their own attention-seeking status.

If you go look at your feed, you’ll know who I’m talking about.

Occasionally, you have to assume some of the stuff spouted online is stated in total ignorance of what actually takes place online, this tweet being a case in point. I know that this definition has become a slogan and is being used quite extensively by a group of trans-exclusionary radical feminists. I can only assume that someone in Government would do their homework when receiving a gift such as this… that’s how this works, right?

On Social media, a lot of very stupid stuff happens. Most is easily corrected with retraction and apology… except that rarely ever happens. If you’re using your account to talk AT people and not TO them, you are part of the problem. Just being online, posting things, or talking to yourself in the hope people respond… what are you contributing? What’s even worse, of course, is when people respond and you don’t. You’re not in a conversation when that happens. You’re lecturing.

No good comes of discourse that is ultimately one-sided.

Making Your Mind Up

It is odd how your brain imagines the world sometimes: I’ve read articles on how we self-sabotage, that normal events are blown out of all proportion to help brains reinforce the sanctity of their world views. Speaking as someone who thought, quite seriously, someone had moved house just so they could avoid instigating a friendship with me, it’s amazing what you’ll believe when view is always faced inward.

Looking outwards changes absolutely everything, I realise now. Not only does everything taste better, or feel more comfortable, but the way other people perceive themselves and the world comes under fresh scrutiny. The scales really do fall from your eyes: suddenly variables shift; all it takes is a slight move from yourself to see same situations from a completely different angle.

Asking other people to restructure their world views is a mugs game in the modern world. Even the suggestion directly that they might be the problem and not the thing being so vociferously complained about will be met with derision, anger and often abuse. I am reminded of the guy who lost all this marbles when we fell out over, of all things, Pink Floyd.

That resulted in a phenomenal amount of abuse, a great measure of it anonymous. You often have no idea how obsessed other people get about you and your life. The creepier it gets, the more the desire grows to just cut these people out for good, because explaining their behaviour is unpleasant for you only makes things worse. It’s why the block works, as a final, decisive means of saying ‘stop it.’

Except, of course, if the person is obsessed enough, it never will.

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I have the confidence now to push the people I truly care about to think again about their choices, to chastise myself in public when my own actions are not up to scratch. If I’m gonna spend an hour yesterday justifying my motivation to an anonymous stranger with 100% confidence, summat most definitely has changed. I’m no longer here for drama, that’s for damn sure, and if you’re doing it to attract attention?

Expect me to stop listening pretty damn fast.

We are the World

The more I look at the news, the more comes a sense we are close to a crossroads. Twitter announced profits this week, with the revelation that millions of accounts had been removed or deleted which were being driven by AI. I’ve spoken before on how ‘robot accounts’ can create wonderfully diverse works of poetry and prose. Those same architectures, when loaded with hate speech or abuse and driven by those determined to wreck lives, can (and are) getting high-profile individuals tossed from their jobs. It is easy to see why those who use Twitter to sell themselves want this kind of stuff removed and silenced.

Except, as I have found to my cost, removing what you think is bad has unforeseen consequences.

Manufacturing a place where people can’t say bad things about you is a dangerous game to play. As a writer, criticism is an absolutely vital part of the playbook; you need people to point out what they think doesn’t work. Except, of course, many actors and creatives won’t even read reviews or consider a contrary viewpoint. I’m seeing increasing numbers of online individuals either embracing the abuse head on or, as seems to be the case for certain individuals, remaining online but curating their feeds to a point where ‘bad stuff’ is not sorted or even filtered. If you aren’t nice, regardless of who you are, you get blocked.

This is where I sit right now: people never spoken to, or interacted with, block me because a) an awful lot gets tweeted  and b) a lot of that output is retweeted into other people’s feeds, something others don’t want. I am curated out because these individuals don’t care what is said. This seems harsh, but fair on initial examination but as people start dictating to others what they think is bad and good and others don’t think and blithely just copy and import block lists… this is no longer a public forum. If you place yourself here and have an opinion, there are always consequences.

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I spend a lot of time getting annoyed at how easy some people expect their lives to be. In fact, there are days when there’s genuine disbelief at the narrow mindedness and arrogance of individuals who clearly think that unless it is all done for their benefit, then what’s the point to begin with? We’ve had the absolute pleasure of a house guest for the last five days, who has taught me enough stuff in his brief presence to keep brain busy for weeks. Under normal circumstances, I would never have interacted with this individual (a friend of my son’s) and to do so is the constant, unerring reminder that the unexpected brings reward. Opening yourself to new views and attitudes is a vital part of existence.

Those who malign far right (and far left) as being the enemy yet block out all noise that doesn’t suit them seem not to grasp that the only way to truly be free is to embrace everything as an intractable and inevitable consequence of humanity. Ignoring anything, like it or not, remains a form of wilful ignorance. How we deal with such noise as society moving forward will become almost as important as what is said in ‘public’ places where, perhaps stupidly, we believe ourselves free of criticism or consequence. You might think nobody listens or cares that you too are restricting your online existence, until contention arises, by which time it may already be too late.

Everything you say and do online has the potential to alter your life.