Categories
Life

Feeding Wolves

While talking to friends about their interactions on the internet recently, an interesting subject has arisen – the receipt of discordant feedback, and how best to deal with it.

If somebody takes exception to content you have posted to the internet, should you defend your view, or move on?

I tend to avoid conflict, so will invariably ignore conversations I would rather not have. As entertaining as it might be, the last thing I would want to do on the internet is make an example of anybody else – to draw attention to their views, no matter how flawed I might think they are.

On rare occasions where I feel I cannot let a comment go (as happened recently with a particularly bigoted comment on one of my posts at Medium), I tend to find out a little about the person behind the comment first. If they make a habit of making an arse of themselves then of course they are fair game, but if there is a gulf in terms of culture, faith, or understanding then I am far more careful.

I’m often reminded of a Native American story I heard years ago (hence the title of the post) – I think it’s from the Cherokee people:

An old grandfather was teaching his grandson about life:

“A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.

“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil–he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”

He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you–and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: “Which wolf will win?”

The grandfather simply replied, “The one you feed.”

If you search the internet, you will find many re-tellings of the story – with wording changes to suit each author’s narrative. The essence is absolutely true though – the wolf that lives is the wolf you feed.

When faced with views and opinions you did not seek, the best way to deal with them is to deprive their authors of food. Incendiary feedback is invariably posted in pursuit of reaction. Reaction is attention.

I’m also reminded of “The Celestine Prophecy” – a wonderful book that explores the nature of energy in the universe – that interactions between people can be described as transactions. While some might be described as sources of energy, others might be described as consumers. Consumers create “drama” in order to draw from those around them.

Anyway.

Enough soapbox psychology for one day. Time for a cup of coffee.

Categories
Life

Infinite Rabbit Holes

For the last two hours I have been sitting in front of a computer with the intention of writing something . Instead I have tumbled down rabbit hole after rabbit hole around the internet – either researching stories on twitter to find out if they are true or not, trawling through wonderful comic book cover artwork, or talking to distant friends.

(Five minutes pass while I make a coffee – and I’m only too aware that this is yet another method of distraction from actually getting on with writing anything. At this point, I could probably apply to join the Olympic procrastination team).

It’s already Sunday morning at the time of writing. Saturday vanished into history half an hour ago. In my book Sunday doesn’t start until I wake up in the morning. I could quite cheerfully fall asleep right now, but the temptation to stay up and extend the weekend is ever present. It’s a fools game of course – burning the midnight oil. I’ll never learn.

I suspect I may have become immune to the effects of caffeine.

Perhaps a good book, and a quiet half hour might be just the thing though – a break from the screen, and the infinite rabbit holes of the internet.

p.s. I’ve canned the personal blog at Medium. I suppose this means I’m back.

Categories
Life

Escaping the twenty four hour news cycle

Eleven minutes ago the clock ticked past midnight. It’s officially Monday now, but I’m going to go on pretending it’s Sunday at least until I fall asleep.

We went out for dinner yesterday evening — the first “proper” meal out with family since the pandemic began. My in-laws came over and we walked into town together — eating at the pub where our middle daughter now works. It was great to see the place filled with people after so many months empty — although the conversation happening on a nearby table was one of those conversations you wish you couldn’t hear. I think some people just like the sound of their own voice.

While reading the various accounts of “normal life” shared by friends around the world via the internet, it’s becoming increasingly obvious that the UK is quite a long way ahead of many countries now in terms of dealing with the pandemic, and emerging from the other side. We’re not out of the woods yet, but the vast majority of people have been double vaccinated so their chances of being hospitalised are reduced enormously.

I saw some official statistics recently that of the people admitted to hospital with coronavirus, 97% were not vaccinated. I just wish more people would stop believing the various social media mouthpieces they subscribe to, and start reading and listening to professional journalists working for national or international news agencies. A huge proportion of people seem to seek out the news that best fits their world view — and then the social graph kicks in, presenting them with concordant views. Little by little their views match the increasingly narrow, marginalised, and extreme content they are subjected to — which only gets worse, because that’s all they ever consume.

I’ve always been something of a fence sitter. My default position tends to be “there’s probably more to a story than most people have bothered to find out”- and I purposely browse a variety of news sources as a result. Perhaps the most frustrating observation is that it tends to be older people — those we are traditionally expected to respect and defer to — that have become the most easily radicalised by social media.

Anyway.

Tomorrow is another day. Before it arrives I’m going to sit in bed and read for a while. It turns out books are a very good escape from the twenty four hour social media news cycle.

Categories
Life

The Reciprocation Expectation

There’s something about publishing blog posts on mainstream platforms that I’ve never liked. It never used to exist, and has only come about because platforms happened. It’s the unwritten expectation that if somebody shows interest in your writing, you should show interest in theirs too.

Don’t get me wrong – many people don’t really mind if you read or not (I think I fall into this camp) – they are writing more to empty their head, and because they enjoy writing – they are not writing to attract an audience, or to build a social network. As in all things I suppose there is a minority that expect reciprocation for any interest they show. I’m not saying it’s wrong – it’s just a different way of seeing the world – a more transactional view.

I don’t like it.

It’s easy to blame the likes of WordPress, Tumblr, Blogger and so on for building in functionality where accounts are required – it makes the engineering a lot easier. However it also causes lock-in, silos of information, and invisible walls between people, and their stories. Once you’ve built a walled garden around your users, you can of course start building “social” features – which I might argue aren’t social at all. I’ve written before about how the social internet isn’t really social – I’m not going there again today.

Here’s an excerpt:

Each major platform is not social in it’s own way. Tumblr, once a mighty bastion of creativity and free thinking, has become a ghost town. Instagram has been flooded with inspirational clothes-try-on hauliers. Facebook’s algorithmic timeline has transformed it into a political hellscape where factions of families fall out with one another, never to speak again. Twitter has become festooned with soap-box keyboard warriors — investing just enough effort to type a few hundred characters, but not willing to do anything more towards the causes they broadcast, promote, or cancel.

Surviving the Social Internet

Anyway.

I suppose this post is a very roundabout way of announcing that I’ve started cross-posting into Substack once more. A number of friends had asked if I might – because they don’t like the big publishing platforms – they don’t want accounts – can they not just get an email when I write? I found myself reluctantly agreeing with them. It takes very little effort from me, and serves as a back-channel of sorts – a place you can find and subscribe to writing without having to set foot in the quagmire that the big publishing platforms often become.

The second blog lives at jonathanwrotethis.substack.com – you can subscribe by email for free, it’s emails are arguably nicer than those that WordPress churn out, and it requires no membership. If you’ve not seen substack, it’s worth a look.

I’ll climb back off my soapbox now, go make a coffee, and put my feet up for a bit. I ran this morning.

Categories
Life

Where did the weekend go ?

It’s Friday evening, and the “week off” has vanished. I’m wondering where it went. The last few days are a mental jumble of running, working on the garden, doing chores, and jumping down internet rabbit holes.

In-between the usual mayhem, I have been slowly falling back into the clutches of Medium – writing essays, and publishing them into their partner programme. Choosing subjects that people might be interested in is something of a mystery to me at the moment – a little like throwing spaghetti at the wall to find out what sticks. I wrote a throw-away piece yesterday that gained immediate traction – then spent all morning today writing a well researched long-form piece, published it, and waited for several hours. Nothing. It’s all a bit of a mystery.

I have to keep telling myself that Medium is very different than WordPress. Where blogs are very much about the “here and now”, essays are more about ideas and thoughts – they float around for longer in the content delivery machine, and unexpectedly re-surface months after you’ve written them. An article I wrote in January suddenly earned over a hundred dollars last month. I’m guessing it caught the wave of a trending topic somewhere.

I guess the take-away is that I’m writing again. That’s good, right? I suppose I’m not posting here though, and I’m not “present” on social media though.

Saying that, I finally started playing with “stories” on Instagram this week – the self destroying photos that only live for a little while. I was sitting in McDonalds with my youngest daughter (our first meal out together for 18 months!), waiting for her to finish. I didn’t realise you can have the story photos appear both on your Instagram wall, and on Facebook as a “story”. It’s all tremendously confusing.

Anyway. I should probably be writing something of consequence, rather than emptying my head here. I guess this keeps me sane though. I will be back soon, honest.

Categories
Life

An Internet Fishing Expedition

After talking to a few friends who also post to WordPress, and who have also seen an increase in follows, likes, and subscriptions from business accounts who never interact again, I thought I might lace a post with suitable terms to see what happens. Take no notice of the next paragraph.

Wellness. Weight loss. Fitness. Running. Diet. Fibre. Anxiety. Health. Lockdown. Project Management. Productivity. Work. Stress. Time. Sales. Marketing. Human Resources. People. Life. Products. Truth. Honesty. Journal. Diary. Books. Reading. Stories. Music. Facebook. Twitter. Social.

Let’s see what happens. Let’s see who follows, or likes the post. I’ll add to the end of the post after dangling it in the internet ocean for a few days.

Categories
Life

Drama Queens

It’s Sunday afternoon, and the sun is shining. I expect the rest of the family will expect me to wander out into the back garden soon and start the barbecue. I’m wondering where the weekend went.

I’ve recently found myself thinking about this whole blogging escapade again. I’ve been writing at WordPress for years, and cross-posting into Tumblr. While doing so, WordPress has been slowly pivoting towards becoming a publishing platform – great for running a company website, but perhaps not quite so good at being a personal journal. If I’m right, Automattic’s acquisition of Tumblr makes a lot of sense.

The social internet itself is changing too (if indeed it ever was social).

The internet has become a lot less open and accepting than it once was. Cancel culture has to shoulder much of the blame for that. Rather than embrace differences, and celebrate diversity of thought and opinion, too many people have joined forces in a weaponised rampage of destruction – racing to the bottom as fast as they can. It’s a shame.

I’m reminded of a ridiculous comedy movie many years ago where the staff of a factory repeatedly downed tools and went on strike for the most innocuous of reasons – if transposed into the social internet, it’s the same as somebody noticing a slight perceived injustice while wandering along a street, setting up a soap-box, attracting a crowd, and handing out sub-machine-guns to anybody that might want to join in the “take down”.

The distortion of “Black Lives Matter” has proven that a militant minority will attach itself to any populist cause in order to quietly further their real aim, or bring down the cause they are pretending to support.

This got a bit deep, didn’t it.

Shall we just agree that on the whole, people are great – but also that a small number of people ruin everything for everybody else. I think the Celestine Prophecy described it in terms of energy transactions – where some would create dramas to draw energy from others. Drama queens. The world needs a few less drama queens.

Shall we also agree that I need to stop thinking so much ?

Categories
Life

Frustrated

I’m stepping away from the social internet for a while.

Everywhere I look, all I see is keyboard warriors writing at length about politics, social injustice, gender bias, racism, and any other thing that has triggered them on a particular day.

Here’s the thing – social networks surround people with those that share similar views – so all they are doing is preaching to the choir. Here’s another thing – most people don’t want to start a conversation – they just want to promote their often badly informed views and opinions as widely as possible.

If those expounding at length about the injustices surrounding them invested anywhere near as much effort in actually doing anything, they might succeed in moving the dial a little, rather than just making a lot of noise about where it’s pointing.

Of course the internet isn’t entirely full of soap-box activists. There’s a quiet army of regular people, just trying to get from one day to the next without being called out, or drawn into anything too horrendous.  That doesn’t mean they don’t care.

If you see me posting about flying pretend aeroplanes, exploring imaginary planets, or adventuring through sewers as a mad Italian plumber over the coming weeks, you’ll know why.

Categories
Life

Lunchtime Thoughts

It’s Monday lunchtime, and you find me sitting in the junk room at home. I’ve been here on weekdays since the middle of March. Nearly four months now. The only places I have visited in town during that time have been the grocery store, and the pharmacy. I’ve been on a few long walks (even with a broken toe), which we have dubbed “mental health walks”.

This weekend we visited a national trust property called “Basildon Park”, and wandered around the grounds of the estate for a few hours. We took a picnic, and met my in-laws there. While walking, we viewed any and all strangers with suspicion.

Work has slowed down ever-so-slightly this week. Owing to shortened working hours, and various co-workers being furloughed, I’ve found my days pretty full. Busy is good though. Busy stops you looking at the world around you too much and being horrified at the ignorance, division, and idiocy going on seemingly everywhere.

I’ve quickly learned that it’s best not to have balanced opinions about anything at the moment – there’s a strong sense from the most vocal on social media platforms that if you’re not with them, you are against them – there is no middle ground. Facts, opinions, truth, and lies have been stirred into a toxic stew that is fashioned into whatever narrative people wish to subscribe to or promote. It doesn’t help that “defence of self” is such a strong instinct in the wilfully ignorant.

Anyway.

I’m listening to the “Mellow Morning” playlist on Spotify, complete with adverts every few minutes. Music has been one of the huge benefits of working from home – filling the room with an endless stream of songs and stories. I tent to pick playlists completely at random – and rarely know the names of any of the bands, artists, or tracks. If one of the kids were to walk in and ask after a track (which they will not, because it’s Dad music), I typically wouldn’t be able to tell them.

Time for another coffee perhaps.

p.s. I cut all my hair off again.