Sunday 2 May 2021

The weekend has been lovely with no social media

When it was announced that football was going to have a social media blackout as part of the campaign to stop online abuse, I thought that the only morally correct thing to do was to support it. As someone who has been on the end of a concerted trolling campaign for a period of two years, I have a degree of sympathy for anyone who has had to put up with it. After finding that both the social media platforms and the police are completely useless when it comes to dealing with these matters, despite death threats, threats against my business and threats against my wife and family, I had a long chat with a friend who is works as a professional social media guru, advising blue chip companies. He was kind enough to do some research and pointed out a few things that made me see sense. 

The troll was getting zero engagement for his posts against me. In actual fact, his efforts were simply making his accounts look like the work of an obsessive with a grudge, undermining his credibility when it came to him posting about other matters close to his heart. This is obvious to anyone who follows these accounts and most people would figure out for themselves what was going on. It was also clear that there were almost no followers for the account that were genuine accounts, as the troll had a penchant for 'follow back' accounts and spambots. His advice was to block any accounts, under no circumstances respond and advise everyone I know to do the same. He said "Don't bother looking at the accounts, as all it will do is irritate you. No one else is looking at them, so why get upset at someone ranting in an echo chamber". 

From a personal perspective, this worked like a dream. Sadly a few people I know didn't take my advice and still engage and get very upset. A local restaurant owner was also targetted. Being a Muslim, he was outraged at recent Islamaphobic attacks. He has taken such attacks very personally and feels that he shouldn't have to put up with this. He is outraged that Twitter does nothing. I share his outrage that such attacks, which are clearly illegal under English Law are tolerated. The accounts are not even removed, let alone reported to the authorities. 

In solidarity with him, with the premiership footballers who make my life a pleasure and my football club, I've had a social media media blackout. I've not looked at Twitter or Facebook (apart from one post about my cousin who passed away that her sister mentioned in a phonecall). And guess what? I've not missed it all.  The faux outrage of Twitter is not something worth the bother. Of course there are some great tweeters, I normally feature their work on a Sunday, but so much of twitter is horrible. I follow Manchester City and it seems that any post by the club invariably is followed by hundreds of tweets from 'supporters' of rival clubs spewing vitriol on the team. It is not just City, every team seems to have the same thing. Normally I just filter it out. As for Politics, just about every tweet is banal. On a Sunday, I normally read the Sunday Times before I get up. This has interesting articles, which are properly researched. There is value. Where is the value in reading a Tweet that says "Boris is corrupt" or "Keir Starmer is a Tory!" or the like. What is even more worrying is when such tweets get dozens of retweets, just because the Tweeter has a profile. 

I honestly wonder if twitter has changed a single mind. What I've observed is that people congeal into groups of like minded people. They all follow each other and stoke each others prejudices. Accounts that support #Brexit are followed by Brexiteers who all wholeheartedly agree with every word they say. The same is true of remainers/rejoiners. People spend their lives composing 256 word pearls of wisdom so all of their mates can say how marvellous they are. In truth, Twitter is a narcissist dream. I didn't realise how much I dislike so much of it, until I stopped looking at it for a couple of days. I suspect that when I start using it again on Tuesday, I will have a massive cull of people I follow. They have every right to their views, but I genuinely don't want idiotic drivel that is not funny in my world.

I just want to reiterate though that there are some wonderful tweeters and twitter does have its uses, such as Samuel Levy who we regularly feature with his tweets of widlife and Mark Amies and the Mill Hill Historical Society's excellent historical tweets. I also thoroughly enjoy the people I follow on our studio account, which is 99% music content and altogether far more pleasant. When I used to work in central London, Twitter was actually quite useful when there was travel disruption, incidents with crime and terrorism etc. You could instalntly learn where to avoid. With terrorist events, you'd hear helicopters, and a quick check of Twitter would tell you all you needed to know, generally my policy was get as far away from any incident as quickly as possible. Since I now work full time in Mill Hill, hopefully that is not something I'll need any time soon. If Twitter won't detox itself, then maybe we should do it for them with a mass unfollow. 

As for Facebook, this is more complicated. There is less interaction with people who have nothing much to say but say it very loudly. I'm not friends with anyone I don't like, but it seems that there is more and more paid content and for reasons I can't fathom, interesting post from friends don't seem to appear (the one I mentioned above about my cousing being a case in point. It required a good old hunt, even though I follow my cousin). My timeline is filled with unfunny paid clips, as well as clips of snakes (which I have a phobia of) eating various things and adverts for pies. It seems that every second or third post is paid content. I get that Facebook has to pay its way, but it is so completely full of rubbish I'm not interested in, that it is actually irritating. Facebook is the worlds best spying platform. People put their whole life on it, then rant that Bill Gates is using a vaccine to implant a microchip in them to spy on them. It really is all quite bonkers. 

What is quite interesting was the number of people who looked at my blog for this Saturday, where I hadn't cross posted it on social media. This was roughly the same as the previous Saturday. 

When the Election campaign in Edgware is done and dusted, I am very minded to take a complete break from Twitter and Facebook. I won't close the accounts down, I'll just ignore them as much as possible. If and when my studio staff can come back to work and I can take some time off, I am very tempted to go on a retreat somewhere very far away and properly chill out. 

This break has made me realise that checking Facebook and Twitter before you've had your first cup of tea is a silly thing to do. I suspect that when the pandemic is over and we have real lives to live, they will reap the whirlwind they've sown with all of this rubbish we are bombareded with. I lived for 40 odd years very happily without social media. We all did. 
I think that the pandemic has put all this in sharp focus. Whilst there has been nothing else to do and no other way to keep in touch, it has been useful, but as I realised last night, at the Claddagh Ring as the third pint went down, sitting under the heater with friends, real life is much more fun than a digital one. 

And before you ask, yes the blog will continue. I enjoy writing it and it seems a few people enjoy reading it. Have a great Sunday.  Here is my 'cheer me up' Playlist, if you need a boost!

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