The Lost Art of Keeping a Secret

Earlier this month, the third Twitter account I run was ‘rebranded.’

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That centre graphic need re-positioning…

When it was apparent that this blog would end up being my business front, there was a brief but important moment of concern. As an artist, in the broadest sense of the world, there needs to be a third place. I have Home (personal blog and Twitter) and now Work (IoW ‘branding’) where the vast majority of output that is fiddled with lives quite happily. However, as is becoming increasingly apparent, there needs to be something else which allows bizarre and unexpected stuff space to exist.

In community building, the third place is the social surroundings separate from the two usual social environments of home (“first place”) and the workplace (“second place”). Examples of third places would be environments such as churches, cafes, clubs, public libraries, or parks. In his influential book The Great Good Place, Ray Oldenburg (1989, 1991) argues that third places are important for civil society, democracy, civic engagement, and establishing feelings of a sense of place.

Wikipedia states the significance of third places, citing spaces that are communal as being vital to the means by which individuals develop a sense of self. Spending a great deal of time in virtual third spaces myself, it made sense to give the more esoteric parts of my existence the ability to breathe outside of the conventional, and not just leave them on hard drives or a ‘To Do’ list. Ultimately, I’d like to make real copies of some and maybe sell them for cash. I hear that’s how business works.

Already Grown

This is the place where the suppressed artist within me will retreat next year, when it’s too scary to either do it to an audience or while people are watching. I’ll also use it for experimental faffing, wibbling, and an inordinate amount of other gubbins. These are parts of the subconscious that don’t receive nearly enough airtime. All that will change in 2019, for to ensure the soul of myself is suitably assuaged, that’s what needs to happen.

Everybody needs a place they can truly be themselves, after all.

Welcome to the Cheap Seats

Those of you paying attention will notice that the website looks a bit different to the way it did on Wednesday. I’m quite pleased not only with the layout, but that it also allows room for expansion and addition going forward. Now, it is time to fill it with suitable content.

The Posts

#Blogmas is planned and (as I’ll be out tomorrow at the first of two Christmas dinners in the next two weeks) the first post will appear by the wonder of scheduling sometime tomorrow (probably about 5-ish as that’s a good time to maximise traffic.) All the other bits of my December plan are well into production, which includes a vital couple of hours editing a novel so it is complete and to my satisfaction.

I can do this all leading up to Christmas, right?

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A large majority of content can be knocked off beforehand, which means Sunday will be a bit hectic, but it will be worthwhile for the free time that will then be produced. After that? Just gotta remember to sleep and not scoff all my Advent Calendar Chocolates at once, that’s eminently doable. There’s even the possibility of some unscheduled poetry seeing the light of day: there’s a couple of pieces from rejected submissions earlier in the year that can be spruced up and shoved out again for a second try…

From Me To You 2018

Oh, and that reminds me, I have one more placeholder to stick on Twitter before I start writing my personal blog… the first dozen haiku are written. Now it is time to pick the backgrounds and get started with artwork…

Down Among the Dead Men

I’ve taken the opportunity, in the last week, to streamline just about everything I do online. If the plan is working there will be no discernible change to the landscape that is immediately apparent, and in this regard things appear to be moving quite well. Next month’s planning’s already in an advanced state, and we will be pursuing the project that was going to happen in October with a few tweaks.

Symphony

In simple terms, that means the following:

  • Daily Haiku on Twitter is replaced by 30 Haiku with an overarching, cohesive theme (Symphony). The entire project will then be archived in a new area on the website.
  • Daily Micropoetry continues as normal on Twitter.
  • #Narrating2018 and #Soundtracking2018 will both run in tandem with the Symphony theme: more details are coming next week
  • November’s Short Story (Piper) is not part of this project, and also continues as normal

Also, EX/WHI will be back up to date starting on Friday and will run in tandem with my NaNoWriMo updates, which will be taking over from all other content until November’s done. There’s then going to be a soft relaunch of the Internet of Words with new graphics and sections for December 1st.

Following so far? Good stuff.

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This is becoming both enjoyable and exciting again, and not like a job, which was the entire point of the Project to begin with. This is a place where my creativity dictates progress, and not the other way around. Allowing that to grow and expand’s been a tough ask across the last few months, but Symphony as reawakened the creative synapses, plus having taken a break from mass-producing submissions has been a great help. There’s still four more poems that need to be completed in last-pass editing polish Hell right now, but that’s not a problem.

I’m all over the faffing, and it is GOOD.

Strange Days

I completed the first of two bike events yesterday: 56 miles as a warm-up to 45 might seem a bit excessive, but having never done endurance before a lot of lessons were learnt. Also, the county in which I live’s reputation as being a little bit hipster, a little bit posh but an awful lot of self-obsessed, selfish idiocy remains 100% unopposed. Yesterday’s random poke was just that, and it would be easy to just dismiss it as such, except there’s anger at the fact this kind of behaviour isn’t going away, and is becoming increasingly ‘normal.’

I know I’m supposed to do no harm, but some days it is really a tough ask.

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I’m gonna work hard to get the £500 total donation to Mind for Sunday’s ride covered, and after that I’m wondering how to start making a tangible difference when there are days I have trouble with motivation. The obvious answer is to do something creative, because then the timetable is mine to dictate and cope with. I have a month to think up something suitable, and the idea situation would be to ask people to donate to a mental health charity as a result.

This is something that doesn’t go away, and I need to keep raising money. Not because I might one day need it, or because this is somehow a worthy cause to make my own self look decent and fair. This should just be something people do without thinking, like reading a newspaper or buying a burger. Giving people money to be able to help those in pain express how they feel, when they’re struggling, to find the means by which they can explain what is wrong and how that needs to be treated is an absolutely massive issue.

Some days, I can’t even explain what is wrong, and writing is what I do as a living.

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The trick, I suppose, is to just keep plugging away and to ignore the haters, which is how my life online has taken place since the start.

The Universal

The Internet, depending on who you believe, is either the Best or Worst place on Earth. You can find instructions on how to make almost anything, the history of the Planet, what words mean in hundreds of languages. It is teeming with brilliance and productivity, or is a cesspool of anger, resentment and danger. How you view online existence will undoubtedly be tempered by experiences within the Real World. It’s no less dangerous, and can be manipulated in the same ways that transpire everywhere else.

So, why do so many people feel they’re above consequence and can exist anonymously without recrimination?

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Our Twitter short story this month deals with such an individual, whose existence in fiction is very simple to realise, based on the evidence that surrounds me every day. When I’ve personally been attacked online, it’s taken about thirty minutes to track and trace the individuals responsible. If you don’t disable location services from your phone, for instance, anonymity is the biggest joke going. Many people will argue that the future isn’t anonymous anyway: everybody needs to know who you are.

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Read the BBC Article here

That article is well worth your time, but doesn’t consider one of the main reasons why being a dick online is the new ‘knocking on your neighbours’ door and running away:’ who’s going to chase after you and demand an arrest for harassment?  Everybody’s Internet use works on the concept that being anonymous allows a certain freedom, which was for some time almost sacrosanct. At least, it was until that Facebook thing happened: then, people began to realise just how fucking cavalier they’d been with their personal information whilst under the impression a ‘fun online quiz’ wasn’t a subtle means to intellectually profile:

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Except if you’d been here since the 1990’s and paid attention you’d know just how dangerous this place can be when you allow anyone to use it without there being some kind of consequence attached. As a parent, I now know only too well just how damaging unsupervised access can be, and how clamping down on said access has similarly disastrous outcomes. You are damned at either end of the spectrum, and just removing yourself from a platform is no indicator you’ll be safe or in control. There is no real answer to remaining out of the loop: however, if you’re still stupid enough to think you’re smart enough to have it all your own way? Think again.

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Having dealt with some fairly devious behaviour in the last few months, it is clear that nothing is beyond some individuals in an attempt to manipulate and control others. Perhaps it is time to stop hoping that people will simply be decent or there’s some supernatural force available to save us all, and just start thinking more about our actions.

The Internet, after all, is not going anywhere.

Oh, Joy

As a writer, there are days when knowing what to write is a tough ask. I can remember weeks when I was paid to produce words about one subject where finding an angle to cover was nigh-on impossible, and there’d be lots of frustrated staring at a blank screen, hoping inspiration would be forthcoming. Then there are the days when, like today, I wake up to find some random hooligan’s dropped into my Social media mentions with an inflammatory comment, clearly hoping to start a fight. Part of you dearly just wants to respond and to hell with it, when the sensible course of action is to ignore and block.

I reported him as spam too, for the record, because twats like that deserve all they get.

Giving everybody a voice will, inevitably, have its shortcomings. The people you’d like to speak won’t (because sensibly they understand the consequences when they do) and those who are unable to cope with the pressure of expectation inevitably fail to cope and implode. There’s also a thousand points in between: the wannabee Internet celebrities, the Experts, people writing books (or selling them) and then there’s the advertisers desperately trying to jump on everybody’s coat-tails.

Making sense of the Social media quagmire used to be a problem, but that’s really no longer the biggest challenge. Reality, such as it is, now accommodates shortcomings in the platforms: no edit function on Twitter means that stupid remains, often with a prophetic ability to return from the past to taunt the present (see American Presidents) The nerdier of my Nethead buddies will tell you that if you do fuck up, the Internet never forgets, which is often enough of a threat to prevent someone like me from even starting the post I’d like to write.

Today, for instance, is a case in point.

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When I look back on the moments which have defined my journey online, 99% of the issues stemmed from other people’s drama. If you take a breath, consider the consequences and then don’t say what you think so many of the issues would just go away. I’m getting better at not vague tweeting, and my subtweet GIF’s are beginning to gather dust. More importantly, when I look at all the people who have been removed from my online experience in the last year, none of them is missed at all.

It’s great these people are popular and liked by others. I get how important they are in the Community, or the community or even the community. You don’t have to like everybody. Yes, you can respect them, and understand them, plus you can occasionally be a wee bit jealous. All these emotions are perfectly acceptable, and very human. The fact remains, if you are friends with everybody, I’m going to look for a catch. Genuinely good and decent people can be so without everybody being their besties.

Adults get how Social media is only a version of reality.

As I become more comfortable with my own voice on contentious subjects, there are undoubtedly casualties. I’m not interested in NSFW sexualisation of computer game characters, or women who decide to use their bodies as means to forward their careers. Neither of these preferences has changed over decades, it is just that with Social media shoving stuff in my face 24/7 I need to impose my preferences on it, and not the other way around. It all comes back to curation: if you don’t like what you’re given, it is your job to alter that, not other people’s.

Spending more time making online life more bearable is an effort worth making.

Only Myself to Blame

When I saw the Cambridge Analytica story break on Saturday night, ahead of the expose in the Guardian on Sunday, I made the point to my husband that by this time in the week ahead, it would be all anyone was talking about. Last night, he came and congratulated me for my foresight. I’ve not had a serious Facebook presence for many years, and the only reason name is not deleted completely from the platform is that it is a requirement when one advertises using a Facebook page. There are no illusions when it comes to my presence on the platform. I’m there to build a brand.

The platform, however, isn’t interested in my needs, only its own.

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I only have two ‘friends’ linked to my main Facebook page, and sometimes five or six times a day the algorithm attempts to get me to follow somebody they know. I’ve spent an hour some days clicking ‘remove’ until the list is clear, to come back the next day and find everybody is back. This ‘social network’ does not take no for an answer. Saying you are not interested is insufficient. It continues to hassle you until you either give in or stop listening. Those people now wanting to blame the people behind the application for the damage it has caused fail to grasp that it is not just drug dealers who are culpable for addiction issues. Facebook is our fault too.

What continues to strike me with amazement, is the willingness some people accept the virtual world as being fact. It isn’t just fake news either: yesterday, someone popped up in my Twitter mentions, assuming I was an artist because a news article about said individual was linked in relevance to an item I was promoting. The leap in logic that took place was, frankly, staggering, but it also demonstrated an arrogance of perception that should be giving many people cause for considerable concern. Social media makes us believe that major World events are ours to influence, whilst sitting in front of a screen or holding a mobile device.

The truth, of course, is anything but.

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The arrogance of many people is now even more apparent than ever before: watching key players in the row trying to blame each other is almost comical when the truth remains that if we as users hadn’t have insisted we all needed this platform, none of it would have happened. If individuals organised themselves better, didn’t think success equated to huge follower numbers and stopped believing the future exists in a cloud and not in front of them… The Internet is a brilliant place when it’s just a library, or a repository for knowledge. It’s totally fine with small groups of people who organise their own rulesets. The problem comes when someone turns up and wants to make money from your ignorance and fear.

This has always been the way the World has worked, people who seem to think this manipulation is somehow new. Religion has used these tactics to subjugate populations and keep the rabble in check for thousands of years. Don’t worry, people of faith, I’m not about to diss your omnipotent overseers. I’m looking at a Catholic Church that would tell people there was no way they’d get into heaven without a payment plan. I’m remembering the Snake Oil sellers and the guy who convinced you he could make it rain simply by doing a dance. Playing on basic individuals needs to be loved, popular and not alone… happened since the Human race came out of the caves. Sure, there needs to be better regulation of such things, but honestly?

Only ourselves to blame here.

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Today, I’ll be removing my Facebook presence for good using this Guide. On considered reflection, if it matters that much, then someone can start a fan page for me. Other people can post my links to their pages. If they want me, I’m here, in a place that I regulate under my own terms and conditions. This way there is no need to then get frustrated at the daily efforts to make me be ‘social’ which are nothing more than beating me up and hoping finally I give in to make it stop. That’s not how you make people care, and it is certainly not a future that is either desired or preferable.

Sometimes, the only way you make things better isn’t to hope somebody else solves the issue, but to attack it for yourself.

[EDIT:

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There. That’s sorted now.]