Is Social Media making us miserable?

Idle blogs of an idle fellow

Social media, as with having children, you have to ask, what the hell did we do before? Presumably we whittled sticks, recorded TOTP on video compilations and skipped through the long grass?

‘I’ve left Facebook’ is greeted initially with shock, laced with considerable disbelief. And that’s before you’ve even told anyone. Ironically it might be your most popular update, that you’ll never get to see. There’s a stubbornness to it; like leaving a great party early, albeit a party at which people are sharing photos of food, children and fierce political party allegiances. And clips of dogs falling off bar stools. It must be that which keeps us all there. The dogs I mean.

Social media is a strange place that demands revisiting like an itch that’s impossible to locate. We are certainly addicted. If someone was checking for their car keys with such frequency they’d be advised to seek…

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I lost a follower on Twitter yesterday. No big deal, it happens all the time. This one though had sent me a DM the night before asking me if I liked his new blog.
The DM was sent after midnight so I read it the next day, visited the blog and read a bunch of posts. I then proceeded to reply to said DM and that’s when I realised I had been unfollowed.
This is a person I know from WordPress, we’ve exchanged a few words on Twitter here and there but it has been nothing more than a very casual type of “acquaintance”.
So, I replied to him and jokingly asked if I had been unfollowed because I hadn’t read his DM till the next day: I said if that was the case, it was rather silly.

The reply shocked me a little: “that’s not the reason and you know it Nathalie”

Well, he was clearly angry which I hadn’t expected and I had NO idea what he was talking about so I told him so.

He replied: “lack of support! I’m always giving…ok! No support at all.”

This, I really didn’t expect so I asked what he had given me exactly.

“Fucking plenty of mentions, RTs, comments. “

Ohhhh, so that was it.

The thing is, I got Twitter long before I had a blog, I’ve always used it primarily for info (it’s the journalism thing) and it didn’t change when I signed up with WordPress. I know a lot of you use Twitter to promote other bloggers and their posts but I’ve never really done that. On occasions I’ve tweeted something that has really moved me for whatever reasons but it’s rare – it’s just not what I use Twitter for.

As I told this person, I assumed he favourited my tweets because they came up on his timeline, his never did on mine. I vaguely recall him retweeting something of mine here and there and a mention (which I thanked him for) not long ago but it can’t have happened that much or I’d remember.
I was obviously expected to return the favour, and I didn’t and it pissed him off. Well, I can understand he got fed up now I know what I was “meant” to do, but I didn’t know that’s what he was waiting for. I’ve never done that “like for like” thing, I find it ridiculous. If I tweet or retweet stuff, I never expect the person I’ve retweeted to do the same for me – I retweet (or favourite) something because I liked it, end of.
You see, I find it a bit much that someone would say I don’t give back because of a few RTs.

Earlier this year, when my “friend” had exams coming up and was going crazy because of it, I practically lived at his place for a few weeks. I went grocery shopping for him, never took any money for it either because he said “things were tight”, I cooked loads because I wanted him to eat healthily so it would help with the stress and his general health, I went through his revision questions with him (even though it was a subject I knew nothing about), quizzed him, etc…I don’t drive so I had to rely on the shitty transport system to get back home: he has a car but was too pressed for time to give me lifts home, it was fine, I was okay with making my own way back. I usually ended up walking home late at night because there were no trains or buses. I went to both his exams with him, got up extra early each time to make sure I would have time to go to Starbucks on the way to his place so he’d have a “proper” coffee. It was a tiring time, not least because he was so down all the time and I had to keep “propping” him up, I had to keep doing motivational speeches – I invested a hell of a lot of time AND energy in him. I was having family issues as well at the time but didn’t tell him about it because I figured he already had enough to deal with: he was a mess, I didn’t want to add to his stress.

While all this was going on, I wrote a piece for him which is still one of my most popular posts: “Rock” – I didn’t tell him I wrote it but I knew he’d see it because he checked out the blog as he was email subscribed; I dedicated this write-up to him publicly at the end of the post (I have since removed his name at the end of said post).
Well, I got one text from him a couple of hours after the post was published with one emoji: “😘”
That’s it, not a word, not anything…BUT he then went on Facebook and checked in at the cinema with a couple of friends posting that they were “looking after him 😍” when I was the one who was doing the looking after, his friends merely went to the cinema with him, such hardship! Love was also poured over everyone who posted on his FB wall while I got one fucking emoji for “Rock”. When I pointed out to him it was quite hurtful that he should take the time to reply to banal FB posts from his friends (you know the type of posts: “I miss you and I love you”) declaring his undying love for them while I never even got a one word reply for a piece of writing dedicated to him, he told me that I was “too sensitive” (yet again) and that if I’d only posted it on his FB wall then he would have replied properly! It was such a ridiculous thing to say, I dropped the subject.

You can see what I had to put up with – I truly had the patience of a saint. But, I still helped him throughout, I really was his “rock”… and as soon as the exams were over, all the promises I’d heard while I was helping him of “doing something fun once the exams are done” just…didn’t materialise, because he was always busy doing things with other people. Then I went through a bad time when I needed some moral support and he wasn’t there for me at all, couldn’t even send me ONE text to check I was okay. When I told him I was incredibly disappointed by his lack of support, he unleashed a torrent of abuse on me.

Now, THAT is what I call: “giving all the time and getting no support” – forget bloody Retweets!! Now, THAT is worth getting upset about, not Retweets! 

I documented it too much on the blog, that person is no longer in my life, because it was something that kept repeating itself: me doing loads over the years and getting nothing back. It took me a (very) long time to say: enough! I mean, we had other problems beside his utter selfishness but that’s another story – too many bits and pieces of it have already appeared on this blog.
I am such a loyal person, that’s who I am: if we’re friends, I’ll always have your back – if you need me, I’ll always be there for you. And I do it because I want to, because I care about you, not because I expect anything back. However, if you keep letting me down should I occasionally need your support, then…eventually, we’re going to have a problem.

It’s not even as if I’m just ‘generous’ with friends, I am like that with everyone. Just a couple of nights ago I spent 30 minutes walking the streets with a Japanese girl who couldn’t find her way back to her host family. She hardly spoke any English and it took me forever to understand what she wanted when she first approached me. It was dark, I was already late, but she was lost and getting frantic – there was no way I was going to leave her there. I took charge, got her to take her iPhone out so I could understand exactly where it was she was meant to go, then I went up to every door to check house numbers because I didn’t actually know the address – we eventually found it, she was incredibly relieved and really grateful. I do things like that all the time, I have NO merit though, because I just cannot walk past someone who needs help. I always think: what if it was me who needed help? Wouldn’t I want someone to be helpful? YES, I bloody would, hence why I do what I do.

My (long-winded) point is, I just can’t believe I’ve been told I’m selfish because of Retweets.
We all know what the blogging community is like: some people you connect with more than others. I wish I had more time to be supportive on WordPress, there are a lot of people I enjoy the posts of and click “like” before moving on without commenting. I don’t like doing it, I feel bad doing it, but there just isn’t enough time. I mainly (though not solely) comment on the blogs of the people I have really connected with, the people who blow me away, not just with their posts but also with their personalities.
Is that selfish? Yes, it is but I think it’s the kind of selfishness most of us are guilty of. In an ideal world (one with 48 hours in a day) I would do more, I really would. It doesn’t help that WordPress has a habit of unfollowing people for you so they just disappear until one day, you wonder what has happened and why you haven’t seen them in ages. The fact people switch blogs or start new ones is also challenging to say the least, it really makes it hard to keep up with them.

I’m aware I’ve been slack at times on WordPress because the last few months have been difficult for me, but I’ve really tried to keep up or catch up with the people who really matter to me. If I’ve noticed somebody I don’t know that well is visiting my blog regularly, I will always visit them back – it’s just common courtesy. I don’t necessarily expect others to do the same though: if I read your posts it’s because I like your writing or what you write about, or both – I don’t expect you to rush to my blog in return.
I’ve done my best in stressful and busy times: I haven’t been able to do anymore than that and I’m sorry for it, but that’s just the way it is.
So, dear blogger, and ex-Twitter follower: I’m very sorry that I’ve upset you, I genuinely didn’t mean to – I think we clearly misunderstood each other and had different expectations of what this very casual acquaintance thingy meant. I haven’t unfollowed you (back) on Twitter and I wish you well – may you find more rewarding Twitter followers than me.

The pen really is mightier than the sword


It’s been an emotional week.
In the aftermath of the horrors that took place in Paris this week, the mood in France is subdued.

After the shooting at Charlie Hebdo, I didn’t realise at first that my favourite cartoonist was among those killed. When I saw his name in the list of victims, anger replaced shock.

I had grown up with “Cabu”, as he was known. Every Wednesday afternoon, he used to appear on this kid’s French show and do a quick drawing lesson. He was funny, he was talented and he was part of our childhood. Now he’s been murdered – senselessly.

I phoned my friend as soon as I saw his name listed among the dead – gosh I was angry. Only when she answered, all I could say was: “the bastards killed Cabu!” in a voice choked with tears.

And that’s what it’s been like among the French this week: anger intermingling with sadness and defiance.

Every one in France has been touched by the tragedy. Even people who didn’t care much about the magazine Charlie Hebdo, even people who didn’t agree with most of what was published in it.

When the terrorists murdered those people, they attacked our values, they attacked the French spirit, they attacked the whole of France.
They tried to tell the French that freedom of speech should be suppressed, that it could be punished and sanctioned.
They obviously didn’t understand who we are. They could kill hundred and thousands of us and yet we would still defend the right to free speech to the end.
That is why the whole of France is standing united and defiant. Because ‘they’ killed people for drawing, for expressing an opinion – and they killed them in the name of religion ffs.

The French community in the English town I live in organised a vigil for the Charlie Hebdo victims on Thursday night. Thanks to Facebook (it does have its uses) we organised the whole thing very quickly. There was about 150 of us in attendance but it was very cathartic. As we lit the candles, brandished our pencils and signs and paid our respects to the dead – we felt at one with Paris and at one with France.
The terrorists are now dead. It’s ironic that they died after trying to threaten our freedom of speech – only for their actions to actually make it stronger than ever. They died after attempting to create chaos and mayhem in France – and only succeeded in uniting us all: Nous sommes tous Charlie.

I know that this quote has been used to death this week, but that’s because it’s so fitting, and true: “the pen really is mightier than the sword”.