Hear My Voice

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A lot has happened on Social media in 2017 as it becomes apparent that a small, vocal minority has made a hobby of destroying high profile personalities. This has ultimately filtered down to the lower reaches of the system: I’ve suffered ‘anonymous’ abuse from sock accounts myself. However, it does not take a genius for me to work out who is responsible for the actions. When there’s a finite pool of people you’ve upset, working out who’s targetting you as result becomes quite easy to fathom.

Twitter’s response to this has not been to target those people responsible via subtle, well-considered changes to its UI. It has used sledgehammers, again and again, to crack nuts that clearly are considered not worth time or effort to target specifically. Instead, there are large, sweeping ‘mutes’ that the high profile user can use to effectively silence those individuals that Twitter has identified as being the largest groups of troublemakers. If you don’t have a phone number registered for recovery, or you never got around to making an avatar, then these people can be made to vanish with a click.

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Except this also removes a vast number of people from the interaction equation who may simply not wish to use their phone as security, or even know how to make an avatar. Not everyone is as tech savvy as their friends, and many people aren’t interested in becoming that invested in this platform as themselves anyway. It bothers me greatly that others celebrated these changes without considering the people they were silencing could also teach them stuff about themselves.

The ‘echo chamber’ nature of Social media becomes all the more disturbing with each passing day: I’m not just talking about far-right supporters either. Anyone with a perversion or a kink, the far left’s own radical supporters… fanatical sports fans, rabid gamers… and the list goes on. If you create a space that is excluding people, for whatever reason (logical or otherwise to you) there is the potential to distort what passes as reality on any given day. By doing so, there is a chance you’ll end up warping how life is perceived.

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On the flipside, I read increasing numbers of people who realise they simply cannot cope with the level of reality presented to them: the only means by which they survive on any given day is to simply switch off and ignore the timeline completely. However, the people they have made friends with via social media remain only means to help to understand this same chaos: where do you draw the line? How much consumption is healthy? Is it realistic to live with everything and still remain sane?

It is a question I ask myself almost daily, and the answer has begun to be the same each time when I do.

This man is a hero, inspiration and benchmark combined. The fact he can tweet a phrase that inspires me to write in response, read it and then retweet it, is one of the most amazingly magical things in existence. It is unreal and perfect, showing that there are ways for random strangers to interact with each other and nurture each other’s abilities. Although half a country separates us, for a moment there is a reminder that we both sit under the same sky and can eulogise about this in our own ways. I have no pretensions of being anything other than a fan of Ian’s work, but I know that these moments have a vital significance.

By taking away people’s right to do this with blunt, blanket swipes at a platform meant as means for free communication, such beauty will eventually be lost forever. The other problem, of course, is that as the modus operandi of Twitter becomes more and more about making money and less around freedom of expression, it won’t matter about the details anyway. By then, one hopes, we’ll find a new and better way in which to talk to each other without someone else making themselves rich on the back of it.

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I cannot help but sympathise with the increasing numbers of people withdrawing from Social media altogether. I, however, have decided to try and make my living using this platform as both soapbox and advertising media, and therefore this means spending time trying to work out how I can exist within the rules whilst at the same time not go insane. Some days, it is like being beaten unconscious with treacle. However, with sensible use and an increased ability to regulate me in response, things are getting better.

I may yet get the hang of this stuff in the end.

Never Tear us Apart

When I started talking about mental health on Social media, I was messaged almost immediately by someone who wanted to make sure I was genuine. There were, I was informed, a lot of people on Twitter pretending to have mental issues to draw attention to themselves. This person also decided to inform me of who they considered ‘genuine’ in that department and who could be trusted. I will admit I read that first DM and laughed: then I knew this person had the potential to be quite serious trouble. I’d invaded their patch, as it were, and the first order of business was to come sniff my butt and then lay down terms.

As time has gone on, my suspicions have been confirmed. This person’s crossed swords with an awful lot of people to get to the point where their number of followers has somehow become a metaphor for how capable they are at maintaining this persona online. The stories I’ve seen play out, that people have kindly shared, often with a sense of genuine fear, each confirm that first interaction and subsequently solidifies my belief. Then, when people ask me why I still continue to interact? I have to laugh again: never at them or the incidents, but at the belief that somehow the only way life works is when you make a big thing of who the bad guys are.

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It helps being able to have a villain in order to place everyone in a basic context. It’s nether productive or safe however to start throwing around accusations that only come from other people. The only 100% safe means of burning somebody’s fakeness to the ground is when they directly challenge you and then you then push back with 110%’s worth of irrefutable evidence. Surmise and hearsay is never going to cut it, and once you’ve done that? Well, it’s then a case of how far you want to bury the body. When it comes to being accused of being a fake?  I have no axe to grind. I don’t need to prove to other people that I’m committed to them by burning bridges. Nobody’s forced a ‘it’s me or them’ standoff for some time.

When I think of the drama I’ve directly caused in the past, I don’t regret one iota of it. It wasn’t my mental issues that caused those problem, quite the opposite. It was my inability to make good on promises, or often general laziness. I will happily use these as a stick to beat myself with, but never anybody else. All the flashpoints have resulted from knowing that people stopped acting as decent human beings. They expected too much, or they assumed, or in at least one case took pretty much total advantage of a generous offer. If I were a perfect human being, I could easily hold these up as issues, but as I am so much less than perfect, you don’t start slinging mud. The reason why I am so vague and refuse to name names is that all of this is pointless to begin with. This isn’t REAL drama, and never will be.

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I know how many people matter to me in this virtual safe space. I am also aware that unless I choose it, these people never become anything more than simply at arms length. When they are allowed past the barriers, they know it has happened. It’s not imagined, or staged. I don’t fake friendships for the lulz or the views. I don’t give away shit to increase my followers. I do this stuff because I can, have the money to spare, and because other people derive pleasure from the process. I don’t need the attention, and I sure as fuck know people will survive long after I’ve gone. I’m not indispensable or unique. I’m the Girl who Might, and nothing else right now.

Yet still remains this issue, to be somehow quantified by others’ actions. I have to be honest, I can’t pretend to have a problem. Other people pursue these fruitless attempts to create distorted views of those who seem to oppose them. Everything is a game, and nobody is to be trusted and on some days I laugh when I see what passes for ‘help’ and ‘support.’ I shudder at what some people choose to share and wish they thought more about the consequences. I want to ask some to say more, that their wisdom and common sense is what this platform craves, but these people are the sensible ones who stay away. The clever people know that Social media is dangerous. They are the smart ones who already have a plan to leave.

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All of this often happens in a fifteen minute window, and I wonder why some days Twitter’s such a fucking destructive waste of my time.

This is an odd period for me: I realise that I could be successful without ever needing a single follower on social media, by just doing what I already am. There is absolutely no requirement to equate success with followers, and yet this is what people continue to do, day in and out. Not everyone who appears in your life is there to steal your stuff and make life difficult, so maybe next time someone appears the default setting should not be ‘Threat.’ However, undoubtedly, there are those who must be undisputed owners of whatever spot they find themselves shoved into. I’ve never felt the need to be in charge, yet that’s where I often end up from necessity, because nobody else is prepared to do the work.

Mental illness is a constant and often precarious balancing act. To keep yourself sane, so much else must be weighed and considered. Sometimes, if other people decide they know you better than you do, there’s a temptation to let them do the work, but it will always end in tears. You are the ONLY person who understands your brain. Other people simply live a version of your reality. However, there is no doubt that existing alone is a sure fire method to madness. Ask all the questions, and don’t take the first answer you get as gospel. Be confident in your own mind, and don’t let other people tell you who’s the bad guy.

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Make these decisions for yourself.