Category Archives: Twitter

Online communication: No substitute for the real thing

I remember about five years ago, I used to hang around with this guy. He was a neuroscientist who worked in the psychology faculty of Nottingham Trent University. One day he had some of his students doing an experiment and they hadn’t finished so he suggested I take a saunter around. That was when I saw the poster. It was offering an MA or MSc, I forget, in Cyberpsychology. It then occurred to me that our interaction with technology is changing the base of our psychological processes. I regret to say, by and large, it isn’t a positive change. I also notice that young people who have grown up with this technology have an entirely different thought process to anyone who didn’t grow up with this technology.

The ex-girlfriends

Last year, I was in an extremely abusive relationship with a girl. The bulk of our communication took place online. When we were together, I mean in each other’s company, it was really good, but then she’d go home and we just communicated online. I found it horrible, unbearable at times. It was impossible to have sound discussion with her. Don’t get me wrong, there were other factors, such as her schizophrenia, an unplanned pregnancy, my lifestyle at the time, etc etc that all contributed to the breakdown of the relationship but I noticed that none of those barriers could be overcome as there was a irretrievable breakdown of communication between us.

These problems prevented us from progressing the relationship. This is because relationships never run smoothly. Relationships are peppered with problems. The success or failure of any relationship doesn’t hinge on the what has gone right but more on the ability, or lack thereof, to deal with the problems.

The problems and traumatic situations that arose out of that relationship were best solved when we spent time together. Problems can’t be sorted out online because online communication is incoherent. We would periodically block each other on various social media platforms as a means of punishment. So rooted was our relationship in doing that I was frustrated that I couldn’t have a proper conversation and problems couldn’t be addressed (as an OCD sufferer I have to solve problems) that what would happen is that I would walk to where she lived (about seven miles from where I lived) and walk back, just for the sake of seeing her for fifteen minutes. It alleviated the stress, the anguish, the angst and the anxiety that communicating principally online brings about. A fifteen minute conversation in person had coherency, context, tone and sentiment.

Bizarrely, it mirrored the relationship previous to that one the year before. In that instance I was in a relationship with a girl who lived about 100 miles away in the Roman Spa town of Bath. All through the week we would speak to each other through a variety of social media platforms and conversations were disjointed and fractured. She would absolutely beg, or close to it, to phone me. Sometimes I simply wasn’t up to a phone conversation, but on reflection she garnered tone and a sense of calm from it, something which doesn’t come across in messages over web.

If we rewind to my last “serious” (though in hindsight I probably should have given it more gravity than I did) relationship before both of those, it was again, a long distance relationship. She lived in London and I lived in Nottingham. She would call me everyday, sometimes for upwards of an hour. I found it exhausting. Even though we spoke by telephone regularly, she would constantly relay her problems to me. It was frustrating knowing that I was miles away and in no position to help. It was crushing, emotionally.

The France Situation

I find myself in a situation at present that is not dissimilar but at the same time hugely different.

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Me in France doing French people stuff.

I’m in another long distance relationship. This time it is with a French woman. Being the social creature that I am I have a new and emerging social circle in the city where I live. I don’t live there though, yet. I know my way around the city I live in and can successfully navigate Paris with some proficiency at street level. I was really enjoying France, not least because of the people I had around me. My partner, my friends, I wouldn’t go so far as to say my family, but my home life was good. My life is so good in fact that I’m thinking the next move may be a permanent one.

When I was over there, life was good, but some base in reality is always needed. I had to come back for work. As much as I missed all my friends in Plymouth, am missing people in France like crazy. The main form of communication that I use to communicate with people in France is what’s app. I notice, almost immediately that there is a disconnect there and I wonder about how changed and diverted things are from the essence of the relationship that was originally started given that now the relationship is principally a digital one.

The first example is with a friend. I’m not going to go into detail but one friend that I’ve spoken to since I got back, I said something to. There was an abundantly clear lack of context which led to a huge misunderstanding. Suffice to say that this misunderstanding would not have happened had we actually been face to face. When people communicate digitally, there is no context to what they are saying. It’s not that something can more easily be taken out of context, it is that it isn’t out into context in the first place.

The second example is a good one, and I can be a bit more specific here. One of, if not my closest friend in France, is also the person that speaks the best English. I try and speak French to her and she tells me to stop. Ironically, she has never been to England or an English speaking country. We can chat for hours. She was a real pillar to me in France. Now our messages don’t follow a linear path, there are always fractures and splinters. Think about it this way. She sends me a message which I pick up when I wake up, I respond. She picks that one up a bit later. Then I pick that one up when I’m about to start work, and so on. Can you imagine periodically returning to the same conversation, over the course of a busy day, every few hours and remain focused on the attention you’re supposed to give that person and your interaction? Of course not. It’s impossible. The conversation ends up fractured with no conclusion or end point, along with the lack of fluidity and the other things that one can take from a conversation either by phone or in person.

The third and final example is my partner. Aside from the obvious that one misses not being in her company, people often turn to their partners for support and reassurance. I am in another country, pondering a huge move to another country, and that really scares me. Sometimes I look too deeply into the messages she sends and when problems do arise, they are impossible to resolve and will be impossible to resolve until I return to France. There is also another thing. My partner doesn’t have the best command of the English language. My French isn’t perfect either, not by any stretch of the imagination. Our bodies have an unspoken communication with each other though. I’m not talking about anything sexual or even about body language. It’s really difficult to explain or describe. I think when two people don’t share a language fluency, they have to communicate in other ways. Say for instance when we are brushing our teeth before bed, we may be silent but more often than not there are a series of glances, small actions, I may reach for the mouthwash, she may turn off the tap I’ve left running and these things form a conversation. Sometimes when we’re doing something more, like playing pool or digging up vegatables on the farm, these small, almost insignificant actions make up a conversation. That’s why being away from her is unbearable. I suppose it is that that highlighted to me that while messages back and forth are ok, there really is no substitute for being together and in person.

Why is it so difficult for women to maintain normal composure in photographs?

Aah, the selfie. There was a time when having your photo taken was an exceedingly rare and special event. I think photo’s  are very special. Philosophically, when that shutter opens, when that photo is taken, we can do what man has dreamed of doing ever since he could first conceptualise it, we have stopped time. For that brief click, for that split second, for the fraction of a second that that shutter is open, we have taken that time and frozen it.

I suppose it used to, when it was a bit more rare, it made us feel special. It made us feel like someone loved us that much to want to take a photo of us. The last relationship I started with a girl before the advent of the camera phone (which I put at 2005) was in 2004. I went absolutely crazy with buying camera’s and taking photo’s because I wanted to immortalise that time of my life, and looking back, even though the situation didn’t turn out to be everything that I wanted it to be, I’m so glad that I captured that moment in my life.

Then we fast forward to the age of the smart phone. The photograph is disposable. If I don’t like a photograph I can take it again. I take photos of things I don’t care about. I take weird and wonderful snaps. This has led to, in my opinion, the most meaningless of all photographs, the selfie.

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Before I go any further, let me explain what a selfie is. A selfie is an exercise in narcissism. It is when someone takes a photo of themselves, not for themselves but because they want others to see it. They share it on Facebook, or Twitter, or snapchat, or instagram, all for the vain purpose of seeking validation.

One would think that as a Catholic, I have a massive problem with this. To a certain extent I do. It is vanity and I think it secretly belies a latent insecurity. People post it because they want the likes, the shares, the comments. My opinion isn’t going to change that. It is deep seeded in human nature. One key to human evolution is that humans gathered together in packs for support and protection. I also think in an increasingly isolated and individualist world, it’s only natural to want to seek out people to enter a “pack” with and the sole remaining vehicle in which we can communicate with each other, social media, we find a useful medium. Even though I level this criticism at the selfie, I don’t say in blanket terms that that is the main objective. I think it is all about context. I think that if someone is looking unusually smart, or on a night out with friends, or in a situation they want to capture, fair enough.

There is however one thing that I don’t understand about selfies. Why do women find it impossible to maintain a normal composure when taking a selfie? I have never understood it.

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Bank Holiday Sunday in Plymouth is a “thing”. It’s a tradition where everyone goes to the Barbican, which is the quay area of Plymouth, and goes around the pubs. I had a friend from Northern Ireland who’d come over to Plymouth to study and I suggested taking them out on Bank Holiday Sunday. We’d had this discussion before on St Patrick’s Day about girls and selfies and such. A few friends and my mum turned up so I asked her to take a photo of me. My phone not only has two cameras, but also a specific “selfie” function on it. It’s a HTC Desire 610 if that is something that appeals to you. Nonetheless, after she took the photo of me and my mum she took a selfie doing the “pout”.

I couldn’t understand why girls always pull this face when they are taking selfies. My mind boggles whenever I see a girl do it. I can understand when they take a photo at a weird angle, or deliberately try to get cleavage into it, or their figure or whatever. That I can get. You never know, today might be the day that that footballer/millionaire/famous actor might drift on to your instagram page and it will of course help him to fall madly in love with you if you are accentuating the parts of your body that he may like. I get it. I don’t like it. I’ve seen those body parts before on other women. They’re generally all the same and it unsettles me as to why a woman would take a photo like that (as if her body, rather than her core, her identity is what she’d want to “sell” herself on) but I get the theory behind it. What I don’t get is the pout face.

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I don’t see men pulling the pout on the rare occasion that they take a selfie. It doesn’t happen. I realised that men in photos maintain a normal, natural composure. Using my powers of deductive reasoning I turned to my mother. I noticed that it is only women that do this and also that my mother is a woman. She also has Facebook, the internet and a smart(ish) phone so I figured she’d know what I was talking about.

I asked her and she said “I know. Why do they do that? I can’t understand it either. Do you ever see X’s Facebook? Or Y’s Facebook? It is absolutely packed with selfies. Not only do all the photos look exactly the same but also they are starting to get wrinkles from doing the pout that much. I’ve got two and a half decades on them and my face doesn’t look like that.”

This is why I ask the question. I don’t understand why girls pull that pose because there is never a situation where they would generally look like that. It baffles me as to why they do it. I have asked girls why they do it, why they pull that face and the answer I keep getting is “Just because…” I never have a coherent, contingent or comprehensive answer to that question. Why is it impossible for girls to maintain normal composure when taking a selfie? If we rationalise it for a second, it actually seems kind of weird. If a woman had that sort of composure in any given normal setting, I would think there was something wrong with her. I would probably think she had a medical condition of some sort.

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I suppose that if I know I’m not going to get a straight answer to the question, then why ask it? It is nary more than an exercise in futility. I suppose the reason why I am so desperate for an answer to the question is because I want to change the mindset.

I admire, adore and worship the female form. I think it is a beautiful thing. I have not yet found a woman that I don’t find attractive in some way or another. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not a letch. I’m a practising Catholic, so while I find girls attractive (and in many cases it is reciprocated) I don’t chase after them. In my celibacy, (well, not quite celibate, but still to most women I am) I have a whole new appreciation for women and how they look. I like natural, I don’t like make up. A nude woman is a beautiful thing, and that is what I like. I like to take photos when a woman looks natural. This is why I don’t understand why a woman would scrunch up her face, into a pout and take a photo with her camera raised so people can see down her top. I wish they wouldn’t.

Here’s a tip for women. You’re beautiful as you are. You don’t need to cake on the make up, make silly poses and take photos at weird angles. I don’t know why women can’t maintain normal composure in selfies and photo’s but my guess is that if they did, and the real them shone through like it is supposed to do in a photo, that would attract more likes than taking silly selfies.

Yes, Facebook does ruin relationships, but not in the way you might think, and I’d say the same of What’s App too.

I have an ex-girlfriend. I love her very deeply. She loves me very deeply. She has been my ex-girlfriend for almost nine months now. Following some misplaced values and poor communication around Christmas, we got into a cycle of breaking up and getting back together, which has led to some horrible game playing which has quite frankly, soured things. Both of our families and friends are exasperated by all of it. Now, if I’m meeting someone new I describe her as my ex-but-when-is-an-ex-really-an-ex-girlfriend and people tend to understand that reference.

Recently I fell on some hard times where I had no money and no roof over my head. Life is full of these stumbling blocks and thankfully I had friends that were able to help out, and they did, in some pretty huge ways. Although, and it begrudged me to contact her (the time that I contacted her before that was to tell her that if she didn’t stop, I’d get a restraining order, due to her behaviour on Facebook) I remembered that while my friends would bend over backwards to help me, they weren’t well resourced. She on the other hand had money and lived in a big(ish) house.

Such is the animosity between her parents and I that they would rather have seen me homeless, hungry and destitute on the streets no doubt savouring the moment and popping along with a digital camera to capture it for future enjoyment at a later date. It also took her a leap of faith to help me, which she did.

The breakdown of the relationship was spectacular. It started in the most intense and interpersonal of ways, and ended with slagging each other off on social media and to each other’s friends. It wasn’t just one break up, it was several.  Bear in mind that had the situation been the other way around, I would’ve helped her no questions asked, again, despite the ferocious nature of the break up. Of course, as a very social couple, the break up too was very social. One friend, upon hearing about this said that he thought that it was sad that a social circle descends into civil war and factionalism when a break up occurs.

When my ex-girlfriend heard about what was happening, she immediately offered to take me out for a vegan dinner, which I went along with. She wasn’t working very far from my friends so she came to pick me up. My friend, who, while he had witnessed the breakup, had never actually met the girl in question. He said how he had never seen a couple as much in love as we were. I saw her a couple of days afterwards and it was as if no time had passed at all. I was, and still am, completely in love with her. I then went to stay with another friend in the small South Devon town of Ivybridge.

I asked my ex-girlfriend if she wanted to come out and visit. She obliged. We spent the first half hour kissing and cuddling. Overcome with a sense of guilt, I suggested we go for a walk by the River Erme to some secluded beauty spots. No prizes for guessing what that entailed, twice.
The day was magical. Fresh air, the September sun shining walking along with the woman I love. Occasionally stopping to take it all in. I couldn’t possibly ask for more.

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Cows blocking the path to the river. Meant we were all alone, just us.

A notable point is that my other friend, who has never met the first friend, said also that he had never seen a couple so much in love. He had briefly met my girlfriend, and we all went to school together but I wouldn’t say they knew each other well enough to say “Hi” in the street. I felt it odd that they made the same point. That very evening when me and my ex-girlfriend returned to his, peculiarly he went out, affording us some time alone which was put to good use cuddling in front of the television with some chip shop food.

I trust I’ve set the seen. A young couple, in love, basking with the sort of radiance that makes everyone else want to tear their hair out. So, what went wrong?

Things happened on both sides. I won’t be so harsh as to divulge hers, after all, she isn’t able to defend herself. On my part I went to another country with a female friend for a week and stayed with her family there. It seems obvious that I shouldn’t have done it now but miscommunication at the time and the fact that we were still intimate in the six months that followed led me to believe it was all ok. I’ll never understand how her family came to detest me so strongly, that is just there way I suppose. I can’t expect everyone to love me, but their hatred and derision of our love also led to some unsavoury behaviour on my part.

I do, however, think there was one more key thing that drove the relationship of these two people, that even apparent strangers could see how much they loved each other, to the point where it became painful and unworkable. To explain this I will need to go back some years.

Dating in the pre-Facebook era

Aah, the first one. Everyone remembers the first. The Eagle pub, Ladbroke Grove, Notting Hill, 1999. The day of the Carnival. Number three, Skateboarding at the civic centre. Number Four, in a nightclub, Five through nine, at college. I could go on. I used to meet girls in normal places, we would exchange numbers. We would arrange to meet up. Phone calls were still (kind of) a luxury, and generally the whole house would share one telephone, and mobiles were still exhaustively expensive, though everyone had one. The only way to communicate effectively and at length with someone was in person. Face to face.

Fast forward to New Year’s Eve/Day 2003/4. Number 24. A childhood friend and friend of the family. We’d been partying all night. We were taken with everything and stuff, just, y’know, happened. We were together for four and a half years. In that four and a half years (where I wasn’t on the pull) Facebook came out.

When the relationship came to an end, suddenly I was back on the dating scene and nobody met in the same ways anymore. I was flabbergasted. There were a few places where it was actually easier to pick up women. The newly established smoking areas in pubs (God bless the Public Health Act 2007) became a veritable gold mine of women. Generally though, nobody seemed to be meeting in person.

For me the chosen method of meeting a girl seemed to be meeting up and being together, in person. Everyone else was meeting on Plenty of Fish, chatting on Facebook or what’s app and I couldn’t get to grips with it. Fast forward to number 31. This is where I first noticed things beginning to change.

I met her on a dating website. She wasn’t beautiful. In fact she was… well… though I’m not naming names or showing photographs there is still no need to be unkind. We tried to meet up regularly. I had a dodgy feeling about the whole relationship though. There was evidently something going on that she wasn’t telling me about. I’d just had a newly acquired smartphone. On this smartphone, I’d installed what’s app. Suddenly, we’d spend every evening talking on what’s app and spent no time at all seeing each other. She would message me incessantly, yet she would never want to meet up. I couldn’t for the life of me understand it. Needless to say we didn’t end up seeing each other for very long.

Skip to number 33 who, ironically, I met in a smoking area. Facebook was how we first began to communicate. Then what’s app. We got together but we lived, I’m going to say 120 miles away. She lived in, I’m going to go with, Gloucester. Yeah, Gloucester, let’s go with that. We saw each other once every fortnight or so. In the in between periods we contacted each other unremittingly on Facebook and What’s app. I didn’t realise it at the time but I was being ground down and gradually exhausted by the relationship and I think us not seeing each other played a large part in that.

I think the internet loses a lot in terms of tone and context. It’s difficult to put across those things to just characters on a screen. Undoubtedly the person reading that will attribute context and tone to it, whether it is there or not.

My situation

Facebook is normally the cause of break ups because one partner uses it to cheat or another believes that their partner is cheating using Facebook. Her words were “Cyberstalking you is my way of letting you know I care.” Both these things happened, well, sort of. However, quite early on, we descended into a situation where we would use Facebook to chat. When we worked together and saw each other every day, it was fine. When we didn’t was when the trouble used to creep in, and this, in my opinion is how Facebook played its part.

I’m quite puzzled that there has been a change in divorce law in the UK. A person could give one of several reasons for divorce and now it is reduced, in simplicity, to just five. Consistently, year after year, the top cause cited in nine out of ten divorce cases was “breakdown of communication”.

With us, because we were communicating predominantly on Facebook and what’s app, we never spoke in person. When a problem occurred, we’d discuss it on what’s app and Facebook, never talking about it in person. The problem was therefore never resolved. It just lay under the surface. We’d have a growing animosity towards each other that didn’t exist when we were in each other’s presence, and probably still wouldn’t.

What happened was that we had substituted speaking in Facebook and what’s app for regular communication and as a result, a chasm grew.

Then came another event. She decided to open Pandora’s box. She used Facebook to contact several of my exes. Something that was never going to end well for either of us. She did this alongside messaging several of my friends that she had never or barely met.

When I was younger, one of my Catholic mentors was talking to me about money. He said “Money is like a gun. A gun is a tremendously useful tool. Money is a tremendously useful tool. Unfortunately, people use these tools for evil, as is their nature.” I think social networking tools are the same.

Social networking is a useful tool, but when it’s misused or substituted for normal conversation, it can be misused and used for evil, which has the propensity to reduce a relationship between two people who, when they are together are the most in love couple people have ever seen, to a smouldering wreck of a relationship with little or nothing to salvage from it.

Lesson

I suppose the main lesson I will take from this is that number 35 will not be on my Facebook, nor will I talk to her in any other format than in person, especially for those super serious conversations.

The past can hurt. You can either run from it or learn from it. I prefer to do the latter.

The Castaway Files: What teenage girls did before Social Media – Teen mags of the 90’s

When I was clearing out I discovered this blast from the past. There is a moral panic that occurs these days due to the ease of access that impressionable young girls have to the internet. I refuse to believe that this curiosity is a recent phenomenon and this can be confirmed by one thing that I found when I was clearing out the flat prior to a move.

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Where teenage girls used to go for inappropriate advice before Yahoo answers

The family member to whom these belonged was about 12-13 and an Irish Twin so it doesn’t take much maths to work out who it was, but even in a Catholic family (where you’re made fully aware of the “facts of life” from a very young age) these were hugely top shelf.

In my mum’s day it was playground tittle tattle that opened people up to this, in my and my sister’s day it was magazines like this that stepped in to fill the void between curiosity and fact. Now, I would say that social media and pornography (incorrectly) fill in most of the blanks.

Having given these magazines a thorough review, one can deduce certain facts. Principally, that 3T are “lish” (they were a short lived band made up of three of Michael Jackson’s nephews) as are 911 but the best was Paul Nicholls. These magazines seem to rave about him. You remember who Paul Nicholls was surely? He played Joe Wicks in Eastenders? Suffered from Schizophrenia? Went properly crazy? Eastenders won huge acclaim for his portrayal. He was quite the teenage pin up.

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A closer inspection of what is on the front reveals, far from the moral panic that exploded at the time, these represent what we would describe as tamer influences on a teenage girls life. Sure there is the odd “How to tell if a boy fancies you” but interspersed between that a competition to win one of 300 BT phonecards (remember them? Look at the top of SHOUT magazine) there are stories with sound morals such as “Cocaine messed up my life” and one of these has an exposé on HIV and other diseases to make sure girls know the facts.

I think it shows how vastly contemporary attitudes can change in twenty years. These at the time were seen as horrendously bad influences. Now we would see them as good influences. If I were a parent I would rather my children saw this than half the horrors they’d be exposed to on the internet. I suppose that’s the way the mop flops.

Has the internet turned us all into stalkers?

*** DISCLAIMER *** – This post is not about anyone in particular. I am not writing it about anyone, I am not conjecturing anything about anyone, it is about no one in particular and is merely a comment on cyberpsychology and it’s application in modern day life.

Recently I met a girl. She told me from the outset that she was “a bit of a stalker”. A couple of weeks ago I met another girl. Her stalking abilities weren’t a topic discussed but following the usual “add me on everything” she asked me extremely candid questions about parts of my life that I have mentioned on social media, but not gone into much detail on. Suddenly for some reason, everyone I seem to meet is either a self confessed stalker, or is a stalker without realising it. What seems even more odd is that this sort of behaviour is somehow seen as ok and justified today.

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Me at a football match indulging in the holy grail of vanity, the "selfie"

I am an exceptionally vain person. It’s not about weakness or insecurity but rather the opposite. I like the way I look. I like the sound of my own voice. I like the way I look on video. I like me. This, manifests itself in a way that makes me deeply self centred. In this day and age though, what massively exacerbates someone being self obsessed is social media. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, all sorts all designed for us to connect with people socially but all inevitably being used as tools of self promotion. It is always best kept updated as it is something we usually like to show off to others. It’s like a digital log of our lives from the moment we first sign up to it.

Mobile phones have, for most of us, replaced face to face communication. Everything from messages to friends, to one’s calendar, to, well, everything, can be found on a mobile phone. I always have a secure lock on mine because it is that important. I don’t think I could live without it and it is home to an absolute mine of information, some of it highly confidential, such as bank details.

With all this information out and available to those who ask for it, a curiosity has befallen us that, in my opinion, borders on the crazy.

I know that whenever I upload to Facebook, certain people read it. Some people go out of there way to read it. Some people follow, even obsess over everything that someone puts up. I find that quite comforting. It’s nice to have that influence on people but I think it also says something darker about human psychology.

Facebook started out as a “Friends Reunited” kind of website where those who signed up to it could keep in contact with college and school friends. Most of us have it linked in with our phones and it is a hugely useful tool of communication but the dynamic has warped, a lot.

Think back to the last time you added someone on Facebook, or more appropriately, added someone you liked, or fancied. I don’t know you, but I’m guessing you didn’t just click “accept” on the friend request and leave it at that. I’d place money on it that you clicked on their profile. I’d also guess that you had a peruse through their photos, and probably a lengthy one at that. I’d be tempted to suggest that you looked at their “about” page as well. This may seem extensive, but it is actually par for the course.

The last girlfriend that I met pre-Facebook was in 2003. At the start of the relationship we went to visit various relatives and the photo albums came out and we’d share those memories. Also, we’d talk about what I had done in life, what I intended to do and so on. This mass peruse of Facebook isn’t actually stalking. I’m sure if the person didn’t want to share that information they wouldn’t and showing all of one’s photo’s is just the technological evolution of what we’d do at that first Sunday lunch with our relatives anyway. Right?

Well, this is where it takes a darker turn. Away from Facebook when did you go and look at their Twitter, their YouTube, their Tumblr or googling their name in order to find out as much as you can about them? See, Facebook brings out the egotist in all of us, and that information is volunteered, but to try and scoop out information that isn’t? That for me borders on the creepy. As would obsessing over the Facebook page.

An example of this is the girl that I met recently. She’s a farm girl and doesn’t really like social networks, partly because she “doesn’t have time for such nonsense” and partly because social networking and sharing that much information publicly “deeply unsettles” her. She wants to start coming out with high end organic produce and realises that she needs to develop a brand around that. I turned her to Twitter and she gets on fine with it. She looks at others who have done similar things and has built up a solid core of followers. The other day though she brought up an incident. Something that happened several years ago. I asked her how she knew about it and she said “I was going back through your Twitter and…” she paused and put her hand to her face before continuing “Oh my God, I’ve become one of “them” haven’t I?” I nodded. Needless to say she now exercises a lot more discipline on Twitter.

With each new medium we find out more and more until we reach the holy grail of anyone’s life. Their mobile phone. According to mobilephonechecker.com 62% of men and 34% of women have admitted (that being the key word) to checking their partner’s mobile phone. I’m with the majority of men. I’ve done so. I’m not proud to admit that I have, but I have. I think in truth the actual proportion is far higher but people are ashamed to admit it.

Here’s the thing. If we described these activities to anyone or ourselves ten years ago, they could be seen as nothing other than being a stalker or being creepy. If ourselves from ten years ago heard that we checked our partners phone, perused their Facebook and social media, googled our partners names, we would probably think that within ten years we’d all become paranoid to the point of insanity and that such behaviour is really unhealthy. I believe the internet has turned us all into stalkers, but I also believe that it is acceptable, or at least not as unacceptable as it once was, because everybody does it.

I will however leave you with two cautionary tales. That girl I met back in 2003? I used to check her phone, and her Facebook, and any other information I could get my hands on. This was the case for years. I was utterly consumed by jealousy and the belief that she’d be cheating on me. I never found any evidence of it, but that led me only to believe that she was good at hiding it, or that I wasn’t looking hard enough or in the right place. This persisted for months. Every time my snooping didn’t turn anything up, I’d be determined to look again which led to a spiral of jealousy which ultimately drove her into the arms of another man. It was suffocating and exhausting. I know how she must have felt as I was in exactly the same situation, with roles reversed, a few months ago. Another would be of a friend who picked up her boyfriend’s phone and found out, straight away, that he was cheating. It broke her heart. It’s a Catch 22. By the end of the snooping you’ll end up either more jealous or utterly heartbroken.

Something to bear in mind there when you get the urge to stalk.

With the advent of the internet, everyone presumes themselves well informed. Not the case.

When I was younger, and I mean in my teens, the internet was the preserve of a small, wealthy, if a little geeky, elite. Now, I would think everyone to some extent has access. Every mobile phone has some level of web access on it. Everyone has a computer. In short, everyone has access to the sheer wealth of information that is out there.

The tone of internet comments and internet etiquette has changed as well. As technology becomes available to everyone, the temptation for everyone is to interact with it. Everyone then sees something online, believes it to be true, and forms an opinion on it based on that fact.

When I was younger, I was relatively alone in watching the news. I used to work in a nightclub at sixteen and when I’d come home, I’d have a beer, put on news 24, and get informed. People, if they weren’t informed on politics, would never offer up an opinion. This is 2001. Even then I considered myself well informed. In late 2001, I studied politics, sociology, law, citizenship and French at college. Then I learnt about things like agenda and bias. 

Ten years later, everyone has the internet. Everyone considers themselves well informed. Everyone offers up their opinion, and thinks it is either funny or correct. The notion is “if you watch the news, you are well informed” but that simply doesn’t fly anymore. 

We live in a world saturated by news media. When I’m in Plymouth, it’s on my phone. Then as I walk through the city centre, it’s on a massive television, then there are several newspaper front pages. Also, as I was growing up the Sun, the News of the World, The Daily Sport, the Star, were all joke papers that no-one would take seriously. Nowadays, even people see stories printed in those papers as semi-respectable.

The reason why I notice internet comments and things like Twitter going downhill is because everyone has an opinion and feels they should voice it. They really shouldn’t though. 

I see the reason for this as three fold. One, people voice their opinion without being given any information. There were calls to deport Abu Qatada, but did any news outlet actually state the nature of the crimes he was being accused of, or just that he was an “extremist”? The second is that people often know what has happened and yet only have a minor understanding or don’t read it correctly. For instance, when a paper prints a story about an “alleged” rapist or an “alleged” paedophile, people often look past the word “alleged” and just read what it is the person has been accused of, believing them to be guilty before the trial has taken place and offering up what they would like to do to paedophiles, which usually involves something entailing an unspeakable horror saying more about the person suggesting that than the person accused of the crime. The third, is when someone has a grasp of the facts, but not an overall understanding of them. The one to concentrate on here is when someone sees a program about the welfare state in the United Kingdom and offers a, usually poorly spelt, uninformed opinion based on what they think they know of it.

What I would probably say is, given the age that we live in, have you ever considered not offering up your fleeting opinion on things as they may change? Have you ever thought of not being reactionary to things? Have you ever thought of maybe mulling over or researching your point before taking to Twitter/Facebook/The Daily Mail website to voice your opinion? 

Badults – Possibly the worst program I have ever watched

The BBC were hyping Badults as a great new program. I watched the first episode. I then watched five minutes of the second, but only because I couldn’t find the remote. I was torn when considering registering my disgust on twitter.

See, here’s the thing when it comes to making a television show, it takes effort. I remember the first sketch I made and it was painful to do. We spent three hours planning, eight hours filming and my friend spent two weeks editing. All for forty seconds of footage. Thus, by that reckoning, badults would have taken a good six months to make. I don’t want to trash six months of someone’s work.

Why did I register my disgust? Because it is, quite simply, the worst program I have ever seen in my entire life. I’m not joking or exaggerating either. I have never seen anything worse than it.

Of course I took to Twitter and everyone else was saying the same thing or similar things. There were a notable few that weren’t saying that but they seemed to be die hard fans and friends and relatives of the people who did badults, while the rest of us normals were quite vocal in how much we hated it.

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One question that was regularly asked was “how did this even get commissioned?” and I subscribe to that view. If the public didn’t like it, and it was despised on social media, then surely the critics would like it. They didn’t. No-one, apart from a couple of loyal fans and the casts family and friends liked it.

A few Sundays ago, they put Badults between Family Guy and American Dad in a bid to attract more viewers. All they attracted was more derisionary comments. They’d just made a larger group of people hate it.

Some stuff on BBC Three is good to watch. Other stuff like Sun, Sex and suspicious parents, one can sit through. Badults is beneath that. It is “turn over the channel before it comes on” bad.

Over the weeks the number of negative comments on Twitter dwindled, not because people warmed to it, but simply because there were fewer and fewer people watching it.

The fact that it got commissioned was bad. The public hated it. It was hated on social media. The critics hated it. It somehow got commissioned for a second series though. My question is how?

Oh, yeah, and if you do see it on TV, do yourself a favour, don’t watch it.