Games Without Frontiers

I’m getting tired of this. It happens everywhere. People are lazy, and especially when online if you want attention, honestly doesn’t work.Β The way to get your Tweet noticed is to make it more controversial than it really is. As it happens, this article’s quite interesting: people are challenging convention. You don’t need to have all your limbs or look like an athlete to be a personal trainer. It doesn’t matter about your religion or your dress size. That’s far less dehumanising than leading with ‘fat people’ but hey, whoever was scheduling the weekend tweets for The Guardian’s clearly past caring.

This shit should matter, and it never does.

Last night, someone tweeted this into my timeline. Now it’s been deleted, I have to tell you that the person running the I L0VE the 80’s account clearly got a bit annoyed about last night’s Doctor Who (which was set during the partition of India in the 1940’s) and decided to make his own comment using a picture of Tom Baker. ‘His’ Doctor, he told us, would fight Cybermen and Daleks, and not social justice issues.Β The responses that followed were, it must be said, not unsurprising, and came from both sides of the current spectrum of reaction to a woman, doing a traditionally man’s job.

This however, wasn’t controversy. I genuinely believe this was anger in response to the alteration of an institution that’s remained staunchly male for over 50 years. This wasn’t in an attempt to generate interest for the account either, it was using a platform that has 196k followers to make a political statement.Β  I suspect the reactions that were garnered were enough to make him delete the tweet. They were certainly enough for him to block a number of respondees. It is perfectly acceptable to hold a differing opinion to others, but if you choose to share it? Yes, there will be consequences.

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Everybody posts stuff they regret, it is a symptom of modern life, and I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve done the same. However, that doesn’t happen now (except for the occasional typo correction when I’m using a Tweet to start a Thread or as a daily entry to a Thread.)Β I will no longer get involved in arguments before there’s been at least one cup of tea consumed, and often I just won’t bother at all. Undoubtedly, the best lesson ever learnt in the last seven years is knowing when to keep my mouth shut.Β Both of these things yesterday were commented on, because this is the kind of shit nobody needs and is of no help long term.

Most of the problems in the World could be solved with better communication, and yet people still don’t think beyond the sensational or confrontational to make their points. It’s not hard to be smart.

Really, you don’t have to show the World how you feel all the time.

Civilization

One of the great advantages of sticking with Social media whilst many people simply won’t take part is the continual reassessment of ground rules. Those people who are so far above the petty and incestuous self-consumption that seems quite rife of late are undoubtedly the winners: you don’t let the bastards get you down, the entitled whiners are effectively tuned out and the conspiracy theorists… well, they’re never gonna stop regardless of what anybody says.

Ploughing your own furrow is undoubtedly the way forward.

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Except, along the way, there’s a very real chance your real self can get lost.Β I’ve watched it with a few people whose ‘career’ has effectively been launched via this platform. It becomes impossible to keep everybody happy and eventually, you become a mirror of yourself, almost identical copy except… everybody is held at a distance. Sure, you’ll have conversations with others and happily contribute to dialogue but something has changed. The rants are a bit more rantier. Your obsessions become more pronounced and often quite repetitive.

You have become a stylised version of the person who began here.

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Of course, for many people this is an ideal state of affairs, because that allows Twitter to maintain the illusion of actual conversation and community whilst giving you a way to detach from all that bad shit that makes the entire process so much more difficult. Except, as we discussed yesterday, this is a fallacy.Β However great it is to have everybody liking you, and for that state to be maintained as long as possible, there will come a point where it all falls down. When that happens, you need to be ready.

Building mental strength in all areas of existence is vitally important. If you take the time and force yourself to look back on what is said and done online, there is an awful lot that can be taken from the experience. I know some people who do this with every Tweet they write, whose stuff can often vanish without warning or seeming justification because, undoubtedly, they’re doing that job too well.Β You can overthink everything too, or needlessly obsess over details nobody else considers as significant. That used to be my hill, but now I choose to die over far worthier causes.

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The point today, as we start a new week, is simple. Even the smart people are stupid sometimes. Everybody fucks up, however hard we try… and over-trying is a fantastic way to make a bad situation worse. Listening to how you deal with other people in virtual environments has a massive amount of benefit long-term. It’s a great way to assess and address issues that probably also present themselves in the Real World but without having to deal with the (far messier) real life emotions that present. Looking at your output, and simply deleting what you don’t like won’t address the bigger issues either.

What you write in immediacy and passion is simply a mirror of your true self. You might not like that person very much in the cold light of day, but they can teach a great deal about what you really are. Plus, if your employer gets a tip off over that anonymous account, or a lover discovers your secret double life… Nothing is hidden on the Internet. It remembers everything, and can be brutally unforgiving as a result. If you really want to improve your quality of life everywhere?

Start by listening to yourself in here.

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.Β 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 tweetedΒ  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.Β 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.Β 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.

Occupy Your Mind

Knowledge is power. We all know this, in many cases based on a simple understanding: the more informed a choice, the greater the freedom attached. If you want to scare someone, a page of dry commentary on an oncoming water-fuelled Armageddon is not the answer. You want pictures, and if there were ever a more compelling demonstration of why you get the fuck out of the way of a Hurricane, then this video is it.Β 

My daughter this morning prompted a conversation around honesty, and how learning when to use it can become a useful tool when dealing with confrontational situations. Allowing both kids a freedom with information which is clearly not the norm around their peers has bought consequences, but a parental decision remains sound. Discussing issues that cause anxiety or fear, dealing with concerns… all these allow a mind to find optimal means by which knowledge can be processed.

Yup, I’ll admit I never grasped that Red and Yellow Peppers were just Green Peppers that had been ripened until VERY recently. Why would this need to be something I knew? It is a perfect example of how new knowledge is applied to old experience, showing that if those two concepts aren’t forced to interface from time to time, mind can end up almost wilfully ignorant… typifying an attitude that means that no good music was ever recorded after the death of Elvis, or that the only good car is the one with the biggest engine.

Knowledge, however, is as only as good as your ability to process it effectively.

More’s been learnt about myself in the last two years than ever happened in the previous twenty. Not only must there be a desire to learn, but comprehension of how others perceive the same process, because undoubtedly you will encounter those for whom the journey isn’t about self-improvement. Often, those simply managing to stay stable won’t want or need your outlook, or indeed take kindly to any assertion they could do more.

Education of any kind is often a state many people simply never want to return to, because of bad memories from childhood, but remaining in a place where your knowledge never grows or is added to seems… well, an awful waste of life. I’m not advocating that everybody goes back to school, but even an occasional push out of comfort zones to look at bigger pictures could have massive long-term benefits to mental longevity.

However, you have to want this, and it is apparent many people are simply happier not knowing.

Games People Play

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Occasionally, there are days (like yesterday) when you have to accept loss. Like it or not, everybody screws up. Sitting crying in the Gym car park helps nobody: sure, it makes you feel better, but a logical mind can grasp that if you’re the one at least in part who started the fight, then you have a responsibility for the argument. As long as the days going backwards don’t exceed your forward momentum, everything is golden. That’s why I’m here to remind myself this morning, ahead of all the other stuff that has to happen, that how I conduct relationships is really important. This week, therefore, has been significant in terms of how that takes place online.

Everything I ever needed to know about life I learnt from James Bond.

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Okay, hang on a minute there Bald Eagle, how does the sexist, misogynist 007 start handing me life lessons, exactly? Well, quite apart from ensuring I don’t end up living my life in the manner of a Bond movie (with the inevitable big red reset button at the end) I find myself thinking about what James is good at, and how (amazingly) that provides lessons for me. He’s the best poker player in the British Secret Service, for starters, and that’s because he never plays his own hand, but always that of the person opposite. He’s also taught me how to deal with being poisoned and betrayed, but that’s not important right now. Let’s apply the Poker metaphor in a slightly different fashion, shall we?

When you move into new online relationships, the temptation is often to go overboard in explaining yourself: motivation, ideas, goals… all this in the first flush of ‘getting to know each other.’ I realised this week that this is not the most sensible approach, because it can often isolate people who are not easily comfortable with coming forward or opening up to strangers. It can make you look pushy and domineering. What I ought to be doing is letting the other person come forward first. In effect, I have to become them. Instead of playing my own ‘hand’, if I play the person’s I’m speaking to and effectively imagine what it must be like to be them, there’s a chance of better understanding and empathy from the word go.

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This has worked at least once in practice since the revelation hit, and going forward seems like a really logical means of finding a middle ground with relative strangers. When someone asks you how you are, don’t spend 15 minutes explaining the details. Summarise quickly, effectively and then ask about them. This is probably common sense to large proportions of the rest of the world, I realise, but I’m coming to the world of interpersonal relationships with strangers quite late in the game. If nobody bothers to take the time to explain this shit to you and you have to work it out on your own… well, here’s how it pans out.

Start new relationships by looking at other people first and not yourself.

It is a fine line we all tread in the modern World when it comes to interactions, especially when kids are being taught social niceties via YouTube. I realise now that it is all well and good to believe you have all the tools required to be a decent human being, but that is never always the truth. Every part of your personality needs constant reassessment and balance: you don’t have to do it daily, not even weekly, but every so often sitting down and asking yourself ‘am I doing enough?’ should be a prerequisite for every human being. My son might laugh at my attempts to reduce food waste in the house and increase recycling, because he can see no discernable change in the issues via a wider stage. However, if everybody does these things, the World can and will change. Believing you have no direct influence on the environment around you is a lie.

If you desire change enough, you can and will make it happen.

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My daughter will tell me that she hates my inspirational speeches, but I won’t stop giving them, because if even a scintilla of that belief gets through to her, it is progress. Nobody bothered with me, arrogance assuming that I’d just work it out for myself. Well, I didn’t, and after decades of nobody pointing this out finally, blissfully, people did. Only when other people cared enough to break the shell of my own ignorance, unwillingness and despair was I able to move forward. I entirely understand how horrendous and soul destroying depression remains, but in my case at least, it is my task to deal with and nobody else’s problem but mine. Learning to ask for help was the hardest thing of all, and it still is. However, now I get the formula that works. There’s understanding of what needs to be done. I stopped playing my own hand, and looked outside myself to move forward.

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Plus, any excuse for a bunch of Bond .GIFs is never a bad thing. Next time you start a conversation with a stranger? Ask them how they are, and be prepared to listen.

Learn about yourself by listening to others.

The Best Thing

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‘There will come a moment,’ my PT told me, quite early on in training, ‘when your body will start telling you things. Maybe it will be a pain that’s not normal, or a reaction to an exercise that you don’t like. When this happens, you need to learn to listen, and act appropriately.’

Yesterday afternoon I got back from picking up the youngest from School, came to sit down here to work and my body waved at me. The conversation then went something like this:

– Hi there! You remember that time when your PT told you I’d start talking to you?

– Yeah, I do as it happens…

– Well, this is the moment when I tell you that running 2k yesterday plus the anxiety of both going to the Dentist and your son’s school today has compounded to a situation where I’m forcibly shutting down higher brain functions for the evening. No more thinking for you, Missy!

– But, hang on, I planned to write tonight!

– Nope, if you do that you’ll get frustrated, angry and everybody will just go backwards and there is NO WAY that this is happening. Sorry. You have to believe the flesh on this one. Go play Warcraft all night, switch mind and body RIGHT OFF and we’ll come back to it tomorrow and you know what? You’ll not only feel better, but we’ll get more done. TRUST ME.

– I’m supposed to trust a body that wakes me up at 5am every morning with a hot flush???

– Look, M8, I can’t fight millions of years of evolutionary process, but how about I let you sleep through to 6am coz it’s Saturday… sound fair?

– Okay, dun. Someone needs to order me Chinese takeaway now…

– If you hang about I bet you can persuade Mr Alt to do that… ^^

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That, everybody, is what a decent night’s sleep and a lie in should look like and that’s not just my body talking. Also, the final iteration of my husband’s blog artwork has now become his logo, and I don’t thing he did it just to be nice. I feel it was used because it shows I understand what bike porn is and why my husband is so enamoured with it. Don’t look at me like that, fixating on inanimate objects is perfectly normal, or else consumerism wouldn’t be destroying society. So neurgh.

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I suspect, as has been the case a lot of late, I’ll look back on this week and know it was when a piece of the puzzle finally fitted and made sense. No more need to push the point.

It just keeps getting better.

Question

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This popped up yesterday and has subsequently created something of a moral dilemma. The Original Poster (OP) is a game developer (according to their bio) and I don’t follow them, but this got Tweeted into my feed and therefore attracted attention.

Now, I know immediately what these people are referring to.Β There is sufficient explanation in each of the comments to support a logical conclusion: cats have done this for centuries. It is not a new phenomena. Therefore, a word already exists in language to support it:

This is the first time I’ve encountered the situation where more than one person has hoped the Internet can provide them with an answer, where that solution is a word they never have been taught.Β Part of my brain supposes that maybe these people never had a cat or were close to one growing up, or simply don’t realise that certain things that particular animals have specific language associated with them. After all, this level of literary sophistication is no longer required to live or exist, especially with the presence of the Internet itself, particularly AI such as Siri.

Imagine, if you will, asking your mobile phone: ‘Why is my cat vibrating?’

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One assumes that if your phone ‘assistant’ can locate at least one other person who has asked this question, and it is ranked high enough in a search engine to be picked up by an AI, then suddenly vibrating cats gain a measure of legitimacy. What should happen with AI, of course, is that it/they look at this question and thinkΒ ‘look, human, that’s not vibrating, it’s called purring, so let me provide you with the correct word and move on’Β except the day artificial intelligence can do that one assumes that humanity will also have become surplus to requirements, and we’re into Terminator ‘no fate but what we make’ territory. Also, one assumes that synthetic brains wouldn’t have pedantry programmed in as standard, and would understand that ignorance can be easily addressed with education.

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Just so we are clear: people are not more stupid than they were.Β This cannot be solely blamed on educational failure, however ‘funny’ that might be. The key difference between twenty years ago and now is that individuals are exposed to far more information than was ever the case before, but have not yet fully grasped how to absorb it effectively. People are more willing to ask questions anonymously when they are confident their question will not be met with immediate ridicule or contempt. Most importantly of all however, you as a person are interacting with far more people than was ever the case for your ancestors.

Everybody has questions, but not everyone has the answers.

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The key here, it seems to me, is not to use other people’s ignorance for entertainment: however, when entities such as the Darwin Awards exist to do just that, curiosity may well be the bigger casualty. We all like to point and laugh at other people’s stupid, ad programmes like Jackass exist purely to prove that we, as a race, are often as dumb as rocks. In my ideal world, I’d now make a video explaining this blog post with some funny GIFs and a genuine earnest conclusion: sometimes, shouting your question into the void is not the answer.Β When the only things that might be listening are AI, this has the potential to turn a bright future into a place where ignorance is derided.

The future should be education and not entertainment at others expense.

[PS: Yes, I’m overthinking this. What of it? ^^]