Tuesday, 26 April 2011

The Internet

I find myself often having to watch myself on the internet. It's a funny phenomenon isn't it? In general for example, what is it? Where is it? I'm not trying to be philosophical or anything but I remember when first introduced to it being mildly confused as to the intangibility of the internet. Is it a concept or an entity? Please don't say a bit of both! But that's nothing to do with why I have to watch myself on the internet.

The internet has been good to me. It gave me inclusion and friendship and conversation when I couldn't find it in the real world, it has given me some friends, a wider view of the world, and most importantly my husband. Yes, it's a modern love story for the internet-age. No-one I have met on/from the internet has been a peadophile; much to my grandmother's dissapointment. I remember her coming to me when I was at my most gauky and awkward and standoffish, saying 'Now I don't want to offend you, but you are being careful on the computer, because some people are not who they say they are...'. The next thing she said was 'Oh dear, I have offended you' probably because I made an expression somewhere between shock and repulsion at the idea of my seventy year old gran advising me on something I thought of as my own. Indeed, the internet was my generation's tool, and all those older were foreigners, even if schooled in it they would never speak it like a local. I am pretty sure I was on the cusp of being a little too old to be completely indoctrinated, but I managed to be fairly drawn by it nonetheless. No, what is dangerous about the internet is not to do with peadophiles or '14/M/UK' 49 year old men with moustaches. To be honest you have to be excessivley naive, complacent or stupid to fall prey to such on-goings, and I was never any of those things with regards to the internet.

What it is that scares me about the internet is the idea that it will become the same as real life. The best thing about online interaction is the disposable nature of it. You may think it callous and I'm sure it is if I know myself at all, but I like that there is always a red box with a cross in it. It's myself that's the problem really. I have this blog and I have a tumblr. Based on past revalations I like to pride myself on being truthful and honest and completely myself online. In real life social situations require acting and falseness too often and I try my best to shun it or just not care. But there is only so much disgust and so little acception that one can take in a day. The problem is that I find myself slipping sometimes, putting things up for an audience, looking at the 'followers' figure and having that little sinking feeling when it has decreased, the same one that follows being publicly disregarded. Why did that one person choose not to follow my blog any more? What picture was it that I put up, or opinion I spouted? I've had a lot of cat pictures recently, maybe I should do that less...

It's a dangerous thing, popularity. In both the real world and online. I was talking to my friend Kirsty yesterday about it all. She is one of the only people I still see from High School, and we didn't see eachother for a few years. I like to think it was a time apart that allowed us to develop our characters and grow, but I'm fairly sure it was just me being obstinate. She told me she wished she hadn't bothered herself over the tiny things, the trivial details of which shirt or trainers you had to have, or who you followed around like a puppy just to be glimpsed near and associated with. I told my Mum the other day that I wish I had had some confidence to be myself and do what I liked in school. She told me she's glad I didn't; that being kept down is character building and the pain of it all then becomes something far more worthy later on. Perhaps she is right. And if that's the case surely I'm too secure in myself now to be dragged back into the realms of social competition in my online world.

It's hard to know how much to allow all that in. Should I be happy with no-one reading my blogs, and doing it for me, or should I revel in the affirmation of other humans passivley approving of my thoughts and my life?

Either way, what I do know is that not letting people's disapproval hurt you is hard. Being snubbed in real life is horrible, leaving doubts and anxiety festering away on your insides. This can be the same online. I made an 8tracks playlist of my favourite running songs. Someone commented 'omg this sucks'. Interesting how one annonymous person can use three words - or six if you must - to tear a person down in such a way. Of course I sit here now and say to myself that it doesn't matter, that that person just disagreed, each to their own and similar breezy comments. But that doesn't hide the sinking feeling I got having smiled at an email saying someone commented, only to find a pathetic, passive criticism waiting for me. I can never decide if this sort of thing is legitimate and free expression of opinion or unnecessary and hurtful targeting of meanness. I'm never going to be impervious so slights, that is one thing I can accept, and it probably makes me a better person because of it.

People are always quick to say 'if you can't say anything nice, then don't say anything at all' when someone rebels against their viewpoint. As soon as the tables are turned though they feel free to spout out over-exaggerated tirades about something they believe in, with no concern to the people around or the context. I find more and more I can't function in the real world for too long, it drains away a little bit of my soul everytime I have to endure tactless people with illusions of granduer and dazzlingly low IQs. Call me elite, call me intolerant, or just call me impossible, but I like being able to block, close and cancel online. Maybe not being able to do so is the greatest fear.

Monday, 18 April 2011

Treatise on Friendship

I probably bore in many ways and specifically in my constant writings of friends and friendships, and the trials and tribulations therein. However, it is one of those topics that I just can't get past. I like to think that unlike a lot of other people I spend inordinate amounts of time observing - and indeed criticising - human interaction; the forms it takes, where it manifests itself, and the end point of such endeavours. This is probably because I am not a particularly sociable creature. I've always been a loner rather than a team player. I don't mix well because I find it very trying to pretend to be someone I am not to make other people like and accept me. I'm not so arrogant to have never tried, in fact I tried all through my teenage years, being different versions of myself or different people altogether to try and have and keep friends. But in the end it all works out to being alone because even if others can live with your lie, you can't go each day pretending to be someone you are not. That skism that lies underneath the skin is too uncomfortable to wear day in day out. That is also the reason I find working in any form of customer service so appauling.

Anyway, I have gradually stopped all that nonsense and have just been myself and been honest. Perhaps I am not a nice person, perhaps I am impossible to get along with, and for a long time I thought this to be the case, maybe I still do. But I have been thinking of these issues and the idea of friends and friendship and why people interact with each other (outside of being family, which I seperate on the basis of its unconditionality) for a while now. A few things have emerged that I want to illustrate.

Firstly, I was engaging with the question 'why do people have friends?'. If you consider this I assume you will come up with similar though processes as follows. You have friends so that you have company in which to do the things you like. Friends are for sharing experiences, both good and bad. Friends are people you can talk to and people who can rely on each other. Friends will introduce you to new experiences and keep old experiences interesting. Friends are there so you do not feel lonely, and to keep yourself interacting with other humans. Friends are people you like and admire and therefore want to spend time with. I assume most people would agree with this as the basis of the reasoning behind people having friends. Indeed I have no doubts that for some people this is true. It was probably true a long time ago. But this is very much contrary to what I observe in everyday life.

Interest in human interaction today reveals an explanation for friends and friendships that is far less well intentioned, and be cause of this I believe friendship to be a false institution and utlimatley a lie. People have friends in order to validate their own views of the world. Is it a surprise that at school cliques are formed? People are friends with people who share their interests or images of themselves not because they want to engage in things together or talk of their joint interests, but because they want to paint themselves with their friends brush. They want to look like other people so that they can be in a group and have people think, yes they all are similar, therefore that consensus must be worthy. In a similar vein, have you ever known someone who befriends someone so they will look better? A thin person with a fat friend or a successful person with an unsuccessful friend? This is the reversal of the clique in that they look idealised by comparison. Two different manifestations of the same wish, to promote an image of themeselves that others - who will judge them - find admirable. People wish other people to think that they are great, and it really seems that friends are just the stepping stone on the road to popularity. Thus, friends are not only dispensable, but ultimalely breakable for other peoples purposes.

Secondly then, it is apparent that people who are friends with each other do not care about each other. This comes down to one of my favourite topics of discussion; loyalty and reliablilty. When watching television programmes you get the idea that friends are people who will be there for you no matter what. If you have problems they will support you, if you are sad they will console you and if you need them right away they will be there as fast as they can run. People are meant to make friends and invest in that friendship to build a connection between people that transcends all other factors. Ok yes, disputes will be had and people may change, but by virtue of the fact that you have known each other so long and care for each other's lives, you will be there for them, no matter what. This is a lie. A complete fallacy. It is something that is idealised. People are led into life now to be dissapointed. They are spoilt by the warmth and care of the family and led with false expecation of good and lasting friendships to follow. They are led though into a world where friendship is as consumable as food or fashion trends. If you protray the ideal image for a person now you will be a friend, likely a great one, but as that person's views alter and you remain you, you will be dumped at the side of the road like a puppy after christmas. People are not loyal. They do not like you for your personality, your character, your company or your own sense of loyalty. All they want you for is their own selfish ends. Hence this is why people who change with fashions and try to be cool and liked and aspire to such keep friends. But I am willing to bet that all these friends can't be relied on, and that these people probably have hundreds of friends, all of whom they know or care little for. Thus again friendship fails, when you have that crisis situation you will find that suddenly you are not the fun and cool person they knew when they met you but somoene with a problem, focussing on that rather than whats happening socially, and you will be shrugged off as fast as imaginable. Trust me.

Thirdly and finally, friendship is something that does not survive disruption. You always assume that friends will have fall outs. That's acceptable, and it's fine. You expect to be on the rocks for a little while, and then subsequently making up and friendship renewed. I must say that this never happens. It's different at school because there is a limited number of new people to be friends with. In school if there are others you may well be ditched upon disagreement, but more likely you will be viewed as better than the other people and then kept. In real life there are hundreds and thousands of other hopefuls, walking on the street, in the places you hang out and bumping into people left right and centre. In fact, they even make places themed in order that people with similar interests are housed in specific venues. Clubs, pubs, cafes, shops.. they all are associated with specific age groups, music choices, fashion trends so that there are an inordinate number of people you could indeed like. So when you and your friend have an argument it is far easier for your self-important friend to quickly latch to a new pal - as friendship is not hard in the making these days either - and build a swift relationship than swallow their pride and agree to disagree or even apologise.

This is the view of friendship I see as I observe people I know get let down by their so called friends. People pull out of plans at the last minute, people leave you for more desirable mates, people ditch you once the boyfriend arrives, people say oh yeah let's meet up but never call you, expecting you to once again do all the running, and for what? The grace of their ever so precious company? That startling hour where perhaps one day you will realise that you have very little of actual meaning to talk about? Maybe people should realise that friends are just a disposable substitute for family or sexual relationships. Once a person gets their boyfriend and grows wise enough to cherish their family for what they are, you will be forgotten. True friendship doesn't exist anymore. If you have friends I'm willing to bet you don't talk about what's important to you. I'm willing to bet that something very significant has happened and no-one even noticed or cared to ask. I'm willing to bet that they don't know the real you, your secrets, your fears, your aspirations. And I'm willing to bet that when it comes down to it and you are on the brink of something, that you know deep down that you couldn't rely on them, that you would call into the darkness and hear no reply. I just hope you wouldn't call back if the tables were turned.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

thinking and waiting and writing

So, for as long as I can remember I have written. When I was young I would write illustrated folder paper 'books' about animals, starting with dogs and evolving to horses, both wild and tame. One of my favourite books when I was young was The Silver Brumby by Elyne Mitchell, about wild Australian horses and their efforts to avoid being captured and tamed. Once I had devoured these tales I proceeded to fanatically regurgitate them, changing names and altering landscapes in my childlike attempt to write original prose. Later I wrote a book about a girl who had a pony and went to shows. This was based on the Jill series by Ruby Ferguson, and I'm fairly sure that the only unique aspect of my own production was the karisma colour pencil illustrations throughout. Though I'm sure I traced the cover image from my Dorling Kindersley horse breeds book as I remember it being fantastically accurate.
I moved on from here and wrote more I'm sure, stupid stories of what I wished would happen in my life which, if they were collaborated here now, would surely reveal the typical journey of child to teenager in terms of experiences. Pets, adventures, discos, boys. I expect my back catalogue was fantastically sterotypical.

Nevertheless, I still write. As I grew up I would keep a journal. Not a 'Dear Diary..." this is who I like at school and tomorrow I'm going to the park to hang type journal - such was my teenage self that this would have proved too cringe worthy to look back over - but a scrawled, non-dated mishmash of events and thoughts. I remember being at school once and saying to my former friend - now eneverated arch enemy - that I always looked through my drawers and possessions and found stuff and felt nostalgic but like I was watching Mrs Doubtfire on an agonising loop. I couldn't beleive that my former self was so silly and cringey. If I re-read anything I'd written I would shudder internally and very rarely stop myself from trashing the entire document. Hence there being little left for me to read now. However, I have kept these journals. There are three of them. I remember I picked them out on purpose for liking the earthy, worn feeling of them. Except the middle one which I didn't like but wrote in anyway, to use it. I think I was trying to protray my internal situation in every molecule of these journals, so the medium was effected just as much as the writing. Anyway, the interesting thing is that I re-read these and I don't shudder or cringe and I have never felt a want to destroy them. Ok there are bits that are typically teenage, but there is a lot of honesty in there that only I can decipher because I was living it. There is a lot of pain and dislocation that still remains today, and the way that I write it is often admirable. It manages to protray it in a way which isn't affected or confessional. I tried to start these journals again, inspired in the way I was inspired by other people's novels when young, but I couldn't. I've grown too much and my life lacks the drama - real or imagined - which could fill the pages up. There's something about that time of your life in which you manage to be both a ridiculous mess or a person, half evolved into adulthood and half venerating childhood, trying to claw it all back. It's so informative that the prose that emerged was so pure, untainted and accurate. The observations of everyday events take on new life, their simple actions being described with such delicate accuracy and the meaning behind them looming large. I find it very hard to do this now.

Now I don't know if I can write. A fellow blogger's first entry told me that she found it hard to return to her teenage self's ability to lay everything down on paper. That she wrote poems and prose and felt it good rather than awkward and put on. I can't tell whether this is because our teenage selves have a selfish confidence in their own feelings and convictions that drive this expulsion of thought onto paper. Or perhaps it's just that our adult brains are so mature that they can think out these problems and emotional difficulties, rendering it meaningless to attempt later to put it down on paper. I'm not sure, all I do know now is that I want to write but I doubt myself. I have the words, and I surely have the practice. My carreer is based on writing, and being eloquent and verbal and protraying something in so accurate a way that the reader assumes the viewpoint for themselves. That is the crux of historical argument and the key aim of my writing. Perhaps this is irreconcilable with personal writing? I keep this blog, but often feel as though I can't find the topic. Once I have the idea of what I'm writing it takes very little time to get going, and I find myself an hour later with what I see as an evocative text full of ideas and vivid imageries of my own view of my life.

I want to write a novel. I really do feel as though I have it in my. I feel it most when I am reading a novel and I think to myself, I could do this, and I could do it so much better. Call this big headed or mislead but from past experience I tend to have a fairly accurate prior knowledge of what I can and can't achieve. So, this is why I am going to start to write. I wanted to put it in here so I can't forget it and just pretend that it never happened. The theme is of people seamlessley changing between late teenage and adulthood, of losing identity and gaining new identity. It is based on a sentiment I find true to my own identity and which reflects something I deal with on my blog and in life in general. I hope that it is good enough, and won't come out sounding trite. If it does, you shall be the first to know. I have no illusions of granduer. I think not of publication and editing and book shop shelves. All I think of is my old self in her room, writing in faded red and brown journals with an inky pen, managing to sound eloquent in the face of all that is not unique.