Is It Worth It?

Today is a ‘ponder your existence’ day.

I’ve formed a lot of personal relationships over the years with people who, it must be said, seem to have little or no interest in me. The associations have, for the most part, come about from moments of brief brilliance: a chance meeting in a game, or maybe a glorious exchange via Social media. After that moment, one of two things tends to happen. That person either a) gets bored and simply vanishes or b) has a massive, almost nuclear meltdown, flounces off and is never seen again.

I seem to fall in love with the hopeless cases.

For me, the Internet is a second home. This is sometimes a bit unhealthy (and, of late, I am attempting to curb my time on Twitter because there are no longer enough hours in the day to get everything done otherwise) and is historically cyclical. Once the weather gets better I’ll be outside anyway, but for now, we’re using Social media as a means to sell ourselves. However, not a day goes by when I watch someone who used to be active and enjoyable on the platform drift into the past without a goodbye.

It can get quite depressing if one allows this romantic association to consume the rational, sensible part of brain that gets how anonymity works. Now my real name is attached to my Twitter accounts, there’s no escaping the truth of what I am, but as I’m unlikely to have to worry about being employed in a massive multinational anytime soon, having my Boss turn up to read Tweets is not a major concern. Still, honesty does matter. Today I’ve been lied to and that hurts.

know_nothing.gif

Having a long memory on the Internet is useful. Remembering who was the dick and the hero, understanding the people prepared to have a conversation when you need one, the person with the best GIFs… all these things add up to the perfection of a Decent Online Experience. Of course, none of this matters one iota to the person with their own agenda, who’s just here to get a quick fix of narcissistic joy. Like all things, your experience will vary. I’m here for the long term, however, so it matters a great deal that the environment is conducive for me to survive. Therefore, you unfollow the hacked accounts, you block the obvious robots, and life goes on regardless.

Today, however, I miss the good people who went away, the ones I can’t get to be there anymore, and my friends who no longer communicate.

I think I miss them most of all.

The Fix

Yesterday, after someone popped up on my  Twitter feed that I had blocked, I went on a bit of an impromptu exploration of my account. What I found made me stop and think about how Twitter has changed in the last few years, and that those of use using the platform for promotion purposes need to look quite closely at what it is we say and do.

The first major takeaway from this exercise was that, based on my profile and activity, the web-based version of the platform decided I was male. This is not on reflection as much of a surprise as it was yesterday and explains why so much of the advertising that drove me off using the Mac OS version of Twitter was targetted in the way it was. I’d never go back to using the web-based interface either because of the adverts, and it remains the #1 reason why I can’t ever take Twitter seriously (as is the case with Facebook.)

On further inspection, there’s a list of ‘interests’ generated on the web API which (presumably) are used to tailor the advertising I don’t look at.

The eight items that remain hidden (and unclickable) are something of an issue, but not nearly as much as the fact that there are things I’m associated with that I don’t understand:

kaurie2

Okay I get the majority of these (and woman’s pants/trousers are clearly an item of interest) but WTF is kaurie2 and WHY do I have THREE mentions of it? One assumes it’s a mistake or a programmers oversight… but, REALLY?

wtfit

There is also the means by which you can ask Twitter exactly how it uses data in order to tailor content to you. In my case that is a 13 page .PDF file which includes all the commercial Twitter accounts the company feels I would have an interest in. Twitter ‘creates these audiences based on similarities between (your) account and the accounts included in tailored audiences’ and even by opting out of all the specific tools that sell to me, I cannot remove myself from being sold at. There’s a number of out and out spam accounts on this list, apart from a number of fairly obvious other high-profile names… and some not so obvious ones…

hillary

Yes really, I’m on her list, despite being a) not eligible to vote in the US and b) not being American. Twitter, your metrics need a SERIOUS overhaul… 

americanpetroleum

If these things matter to you and if you’re interested in how robots and algorithms already are arbitrarily labelling your future… maybe take some time today to see what companies Twitter has decided you need to be an audience for.

THE RESULTS WILL SURPRISE YOU.

Silence is Easy

After yesterday’s post, I realise there is an important coda that needs to be heard.

Sometimes, talking to people you trust on the Internet can make everything better, especially when you’re alone and lost. To every one of those 44 people who took time out of a busy day to find me a GIF, or simply say yes, you can have a hug, I owe a debt of gratitude that needs to not only be celebrated but held up as demonstration as to how amazingly awesome these kinds of online communities can be.

It is becoming increasingly apparent to me that there’s a significant gulf of comprehension between those who ‘understand’ how the Internet really works (with all the attendant good and evil that encompasses) and those who don’t. Most significantly, those of us who claim to be experts seldom are and must be reminded at least daily this is the case. Every day is a School day for a reason: the most expected and predictable can (and does) surprise. If you truly wish to live as an Internet citizen, professing ‘you know how stuff works here’ is putting you on a hiding to nothing. Time to give that up. 

Instead, like most things in life, the better time spent seems to involve learning how the Internet best works for YOU.

reasons-for-rocking-you1

Reaching out for help is perfectly and absolutely the right thing to do. Living your entire life in minute detail via Social media, however, may NOT be the ideal state of affairs, especially if other people are involved. In fact, from recent experience, do that and it does only end in tears. If I’m learning at 51 when to pick my battles, I can guarantee everybody else could take a look at themselves and pick up their averages. Knowing when to ask for help is, after all, just as important as grasping when to say NO.

I’ve also realised that today it would have been very easy to have broken my posting record here because I don’t feel 110% able to cope. Making the effort to preserve routines, work to deadlines and accommodate others are beginning to matter far more than was ever previously the case. by doing so, everybody benefits. That’s why today I remind myself that knowing when to speak up is a skill I’m awful at, and it needs work. I can ask for help now without a problem. Now comes the part where I’m comfortable speaking up about what is going wrong.

It’s another J Word to add to the rapidly growing pile.

I Think We’re Alone Now

Last week I got a couple of shocks via Social media. All of them involved people having conversations where it was abundantly apparent they’d forgotten the Internet is public.

nastytaste.gif

We’ve all experienced a moment in our lives when something’s been posted on the Internet we wish hadn’t. Once upon a time, there were no delete buttons. You did not get the chance to reverse your decision. However, crucially in current conditions, even deleting an offending post will not mean you’re off the hook. All those people I watch remind themselves ‘I must delete all that stuff I said in the morning’ are already far too late to fix the damage done. If someone else can see it, they can screencap it. Sure, there are ways to spoof Twitter to make it look as if someone said summat they didn’t, but this is largely beside the point.

You should not be saying in public anything you will regret, ever.

delusional.gif

Yet I watch people who accuse others of being troublemakers when that’s exactly their own modus operandi: casual racism, sexism and all points in between. Pronouncing righteousness, reinforcing stereotypes, and the by now almost metronomically predictable subtweeting. Yeah, I get those other people piss you off. If it is that much of a problem, then remove them from your feed. Use a mute button, block them but do not sit and complain. If someone professes an opinion that you do not ascribe to, this is not a reason to hate them. It is a reason to keep them in your feed and learn from them.

The Internet is not just here for your benefit.

Tolerance is in short supply right now and is sorely needed in every walk of life. It is possible for us all to learn from each other, in so many different and surprising ways. Telling other people how to think and act has taken place for thousands of years, the only difference now is that the stage on which it happens is far larger than ever before. The sensitive and susceptible are in danger of believing everything they read as truth. It is already happening.

I wish more people would start thinking and stop posting.

Is That All There Is?

You may not know this, but I have a Facebook page.

my_page.png

Let’s be honest here, it’s just a place where I retweet blog posts and my two Instagram feeds. I’ve tried interactions but honestly my heart is not in it. I also have a personal page but it is never used and I frankly refuse to acknowledge the procession of ‘friends suggestions’ I’m given. I can tell you exactly when my love affair with the platform ended. In the same 48 hour period, my dad and a woman I’d taken steps to distance myself from in the past both asked to follow me in quick succession. There’s a reason you put life in your own hands and don’t hand it to algorithms. After that, Facebook was always going to be an afterthought.

Honestly, I have no regrets at all.

facebookd.png
From The Guardian’s article

Now I’m told that all that Fake News in the US has wrought some mindful change in the platform… except people I trust are saying this is hollow. You can now make adverts for lost pets or to poll your community on what is the best picture from your family photo-shoot… but you’ll be asked to pay for them. There’s no way this platform can sustain itself as free without advertising somewhere, and it has to happen as a result, because there’s only so many ways your finite data resources can be sold. Mostly, any notion of change is irrelevant when it lies to its own users in order to get attention. I am consistently told I have far more notifications than is actually the case. An algorithm offering a new friend ‘suggestion’ is not a notification I asked for or wanted.

If I didn’t think there might be some redeemable part of this company, I would have deleted my presence a long time ago. As it happens, we may well be about to reach that point.

blocked

As I approach the point where social interaction matters less and less if accompanied by any kind of deception, it is easier to simply uncouple from the drama. Not everybody has to be your friend. Just because other people follow you does not mean it is a requirement to either reciprocate or feel an urge to become overtly social. I have decided that if there is no real meaning in my relationships, it won’t matter how many followers appear after my name. Most people only turn up for two things anyway: offering free shit is always a great guarantee of grasping that passing interest, or having a notion of genuine skill. If I get good enough via writing to garner a large following, they will get my sense of humour and how I react to shit like this, OR ELSE THEY’D NOT HAVE FOLLOWED ME TO BEGIN WITH.

Social media is never truly yours to dictate until a certain level of ‘fame’ is reached.

nospoon.gif

If I believe what I’m told, every time I use the f-word in a Tweet half the platform’s automatically censored from seeing I exist anyway. It doesn’t matter what I say, it is all being sanitised before the World can get indignant about it. The fact my follower count is in the negative this month for the first time in a while is nothing to do with people leaving in droves. I’m setting my own rules, and once they’re organised, we’ll see about turning those numbers around.

I’m not afraid of being alone. The bigger concern remains being genuine and true to what I believe. Once that’s consistent, we’ll work on everything else.

Stop

It’s been a while since I lobbed this graphic on the top of a post, but you can expect to see it a bit more in the weeks that follow. It’s a New Year, after all, and that means that people are using Social media as a means to prove they are capable of change. I have to admit that the major change I’m implementing is to spend less time taking part in discussion, and more time working. It was during that period yesterday that a couple of minor epiphanies took place.


You Know I Can Hear You, Right?

alone.gif

It is clearly apparent that a couple of people on my feed aren’t aware that if I’m friends with the same people they are, I get to see their conversations. If you have a dialogue directly with someone, this won’t clog up anybody’s timelines except the people involved, which is great. There’s an exception to that, but we’ll deal with that in a moment. However, if Person A posts a non specific tweet into my timeline and then Person B replies, it’s there for everybody to see. Sometimes I watch people reply to these with the belief that it’s a ‘private’ conversation.

You wouldn’t have said that in public otherwise, would you?

I watched a couple of people fall foul to this yesterday and learnt some quite interesting stuff about them that wasn’t clear otherwise. The other one is when someone does a lovely soapbox speech about X in one place when I’ve seen them say the exact opposite somewhere else to appease the friends groups they’re now hanging with. All those people who wish Social media wasn’t like High School are, amazingly, the exact same people making it just that way due to the fact they think other people don’t pay attention. You’d be amazed how many of us do, dude.


Please Don’t Include Everybody in your Replies

wtfishappeningnow.gif

As it’s Friday, I’m hoping mentioning this in a cheery, helpful fashion might have an effect. This is traditionally the day people on Twitter do #FF (Friends Friday) and shout out all the great people they interact with. The problem isn’t those initial tweets, let me be clear, but everybody that then hits reply to say than you, inadvertently cc-ing in EVERYBODY ELSE. Except, for some people, I suspect this isn’t an accident, and they enjoy the brief dopamine hit all those messages make in their Notifications.

I use Twitter to write, and communicate. I’m not here for the popularity contest, and have made a habit of force-unfollowing people when I no longer feel we have anything to say to each other (no, it’s not the main reason but I’d be lying if I said it hadn’t happened.) I don’t #FF any more because of it. I also appreciate that for some people it is an important part of their existence online, but if you’re going to live here long term it might be an idea to either learn how to respect other people’s spaces or grasp how much noise thinking before posting can reduce.

You could thank the person who does the #FF in a separate Tweet. You don’t have to show everybody else you did that, just them. I won’t lie, when I end up in a #FF userpile I politely thank the person concerned, and then mute the original conversation, so I can get on using Twitter in the way that works best for me. If this flagrant disregard of your #FF motivation removes me from your Friday mantras, I will not take it as a slur or unfollow you in disgust. If you fail to communicate regularly or stay stuff I find uncomfortable, or assume that because we spoke once three years we remain friends? Then I might have reason to press the button.

In the end, you can rest assured, it wasn’t you. It was most definitely me.


The Overnight Mass CC gets you an Instant Mute

Lokisquashed.gif

If you cc-me in on a conversation when I’m asleep and I wake up to 100+ Notifications on my arrival the next morning which constitute nothing of value, I’m gonna mute yo ass.

Sorry, but I didn’t sign up for that when I joined.


Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to start working on getting the poetry archived and scheduled for the weekend…

Which Way?

The purpose of taking November off from ‘organised’ work was twofold, as those of you paying attention will know. Firstly it was to get NanoWriMo not just to 50k words but beyond (which is what has happened, more on which will be retro posted in the next 24 hours.) Secondly, but probably more importantly, this month was to take a look at what my Patreon produces, and to see if what I’m asking and offering is fit for purpose. This is the moment where my conclusions are cohesive enough to make public.


Not Enough Content I Enjoy Making

30thankyous

Poetry has been the revelation since June: that I can write it, and that occasionally it hits the target. However, poetry was never my primary goal when I started the Patreon. To produce output I enjoy, and to do so consistently, is taking over increasing amounts of time I’d like for fiction and other projects, and as result it is probably time to reassess generally how much of it is written and when. The same is true of the Book of the Month essays, and what will now happen going forward is an acknowledgement that creativity is being stifled by possessing too rigid a framework. That’s why my November Instagram project has stalled: there’s insufficient nutrients required to feed the idea.

What this means is that I’ll be deleting the November ’30 Things About Me’ posts on Instagram and starting fresh in December. Next month there’ll be more thought given to meaningful content I enjoy making, not just things to fill space. Planning is important, but only if I can stick to timetables, and that means becoming flexible with pre-planned output and occasionally being more spontaneous. Just occasionally though, because you and I both know what happens when you let the plan go out the window…


More Fiction, Less Fact

seed

One of the overriding advantages doing critical essays for three weeks out of four is that it allows me to have time to write fiction in the spaces in-between. However, what became increasingly obvious as time went on was I much preferred the stories to naval gazing. Therefore, starting next month, there’s going to be an attempt to do more of the fiction with an emphasis on shorter stories and other forms of storytelling (looking at you Instagram and Twitter.) I like the Book of the Month ‘concept’ and what has thrown up, but for now want to be focussing more on the borders between what is real and what the Internet tells us is the same.

Therefore, the Book of the Month ‘concept’ is being retired to every third month, beginning in January 2018 with Cathy O’Neil’s Weapons of Math Destruction. There’ll be more on this, and on how the BoTM concept will change in the next few weeks.


A Better Portal, Properly Organised

cropped-header42.png

The biggest single takeaway from my feedback is that people like what I’m doing, and want more of the same. To make sure this happens therefore this website and the layout therein are not really fit for purpose. They weren’t to begin with but the last few months have gone to demonstrate that I need better presentation and more organisation at this end. More importantly, Patreon itself is not selling me as I would wish, and that too needs to be altered.

Therefore, December will see me thank my Patreons with personalised Christmas Haiku, a seasonal thank you for their generosity and support, before I redefine all my Tiers  for 2018. All existing Patrons will be receiving physical gifts regardless of what tier they are on, with all rewards then going digital only starting next year.  I’m also committed to a full web redesign over the Christmas period, meaning that when we start the year anew in 2018, both Patreon and this site have a cohesive design and are far easier to navigate.


What this means in terms of content here is still being planned. I’ll have more news for you on that front starting next week.

Communication Breakdown

Origins

Those of you paying attention will know that yesterday was my 51st Birthday. These events are often odd affairs: I can remember my 40th as one of the darkest periods of my life, whilst a decade on I was in Paris, with my family and staying in the fanciest Hotel I’d ever experienced. As human beings, we tend to put a lot of emphasis on these celebrations, and it is only this year that I’ve begun to understand why that is. Those revelations will undoubtedly serve as personal blogging fodder for several days: for now, I wanted to spend some time explaining how a very particular group of people have influenced my journey to this point.

You see, without exception, it is those who take time to be critical whom I respect the most.

yourekiddingmeright.gif

Being positive is, for a writer, often the coward’s way out. I can remember moments when asked to critique other people’s works, I’ve struggled to find anything positive to say. In those cases, the compliment sandwich becomes a difficult meal to make. You know how this works: two positives that act as the bread to a filling where you get to lay bare all the bad stuff. Except sometimes, there is only filling. As a society, we are now pushed to be positive for a lot of very good, noble and totally correct reasons. There are extremely sound foundations for encouraging this behaviour… except when your sandwich is sans filling…

It is a balancing act I’ve always found hard to maintain because I was made a blunt instrument. I’ve had to learn to communicate a balance, and over the years on my three blogs you can, if you take the time, watch this evolution take place. There will be days when I continue to say ‘fuck you’ to various sections of the establishment, and that remains the case because there is the realisation that these people just don’t listen regardless. If your idea of criticism is the passive-aggressive format that at least one of my stalkers took in an attempt to try and make me feel guilty for ostracising him? I can see the difference now. That ploy’s not going to work anymore.

radcliffetried.gif

With everybody else, I can find a working relationship. Language differences do not matter: I can Google translate now if required (and I do when the need is there) and honestly if the willing exists on both sides, everybody wins. The best criticism I get, consistently, is that which simply holds a mirror up to my own failings without fear. It happens far more than most might realise too: the exchanges via Social media, realisations that are highlighted by (often) the most unexpected of people. The number of individuals who still DM me when typos turn up in posts is a true joy and is never going to get old. It isn’t pedantry, but a physical manifestation of care, and I will forever remain grateful.

Being online is becoming less dangerous with each passing day as a result. Those who are annoyed enough to block me from their lives have done their job in teaching the lessons around how sometimes, however hard you try, people will just hate what you are regardless. Occasionally those blocks, however, are for sanity, and the understanding that someone isn’t listening to anyone but themselves. For the people who really matter you just mute and allow them the chance to vent, because they give you that respect in your space to do the exact same thing. Having taken all my Twitter mutes off this morning after a period where I just needed to breathe (metaphorically speaking) there a readiness to engage again.

wtfit.gif

Writing isn’t just an exercise in self-satisfaction, despite what some authors might say to the contrary. It is as much about being able to grasp and accept the critical responses of others as it is being able to do the same to them. I am happy to be edited, which was once not the case but only to a point. If I feel someone’s suggesting the removal of a point I feel is crucial to an argument or a narrative, it will stay intact. If someone sees the World in a differing way to me that is absolutely fine (and I can respect this) but not at the expense of my own view or indeed feelings on the matter. If it is obvious someone is not prepared to compromise… then you walk on. With too much else to do, some fights are simply not worth your time.

However, I listen to all the criticism I get. Good and bad, positive and negative, I have found the means to assimilate it all. That is something I know many people just can’t do, but for me, it has become as much of the process as the writing itself. I have been forged in the heat of decades of pitched Internet abuse, attacked by trolls and fools as well as finding some of the best and most brilliant friends a girl could ever ask for in her journey to enlightenment. Sometimes, you take it all because there’s the understanding that on some days, you get nothing at all.

This is what I have become, and it is glorious.

The Gift of .GIF-Mas LAUNCH POST

Ladies and gentlemen, you know I do love myself some HOT .GIF ACTION on the Twitters, and so this year I intend to reproduce the most fun I’ve had with this platform for some time. Last year, instead of spending money that could be used for stuff like helping people who have nothing, I gave a bunch of cash to Oxfam and sent loads of people .GIFs instead.

gif_of_Xmas.png

This year, I have upped the stakes, and instead of doing requests, I’ll be making stories, commenting on events or simply sharing the favourite .Gifs other people throw at me. I’ll also be doing it for 12 hours straight. There’s a reason for that, because I’m trying to raise money at the same time.

JustGiving - Sponsor me now!

This time, I want to raise 100 UK Pounds at minimum for Mind who have pretty much every aspect of Mental Health in the UK covered. Speaking as someone with mental health issues, I can think of no finer means by which you help someone else but by doing what you are good at, and I am VERY GOOD at .Gifs.

4414e-its_a_trap_star_wars

So, please make sure you keep December 17th free in your diaries. You can then come and laugh at me, as I attempt to use a 140 character format to entertain on a Saturday night.

thatsall

%d bloggers like this: