Tag Archives: Facebook

All our Daughters? Desperately Seeking Meaning in Manchester

Like many of us I woke this morning to the news that another terror attack has happened in Manchester.  I guess this one was a little closer to home, in that our daughter goes to Manchester a lot, and theoretically could have been involved.  Imagining a loved one caught up in such an event brings it close to your heart in a way that no statistics can.  I got the news via Facebook messenger from our daughter (she’s in Leicester right now, so I wouldn’t have worried) and then went to other news sites for details.  I now know as much as anyone about what happened.  Presumably details will emerge of the who and the how; presumably as usual the why will remain a mystery.

So I go on Facebook briefly – and immediately I am assaulted by a scattering of comments about Muslims, not from friends (who would be immediately unfriended) but by members of groups I belong to.  I won’t repeat what the comments said, since they were fairly predictable; but it goes to the heart of my problems about Facebook.  I go there every day because I want to communicate with friends, to share life events, to find out what my children are up to, and to catch up with the latest news in, for example, the Labour Party (no campaigning today as a mark of respect.)  Yet every day I am assaulted – and that is not too strong a word – by hatred, vitriol, insults and prejudice.  When I post even the mildest of comments I am unsure whether it might, out of nowhere, receive an aggressive response from someone who has read into it a meaning which I never intended.

I’ve tried various responses to this: preventive, ie trying to make my meaning as clear as possible; asking questions, eg when someone posts an aggressive comment, asking why they think as they do, and most effective of all, hiding, unfollowing and in extreme cases, blocking.  I am careful to mind my mental health when on Facebook, and when posts have a detrimental effect on me, I hide them or unfollow the conversation.

All this seems as nothing in the face of an event like last night’s: and yet it is somehow relevant.  How do we deal with atrocities like this?  I am aware that, as mere bystanders, we don’t have to deal with very much, and yet there are our own feelings and responses, and those of others with whom we interact.  So how do we deal with the inevitable upsurge in hatred and prejudice?  Here are some ideas:

Hiding and unfollowing: don’t read the tabloids or follow the trolls.  The tabloids have vested interests and are not open to argument, and the trolls just want the attention.

Asking questions: when in contact with far-right groups, ask mild, polite questions.  Why do you think that?  What makes you say that?  Which particular aspects of sharia law do you disagree with?  Their beliefs are usually unfocussed and emotional – specific questions can cut into that.

Stand alongside the persecuted: when witnessing a verbal attack on someone, stand alongside them.  Ask if they are OK, or strike up a conversation.  (Naturally a physical attack needs to trigger a call to the police.)

Difficult though it is, avoid rage and vitriol: these achieve nothing beyond raising your own blood pressure.  As the Buddha says, trying to hurt someone with anger is like throwing a spear made of fire.  You burn your own hand first.  If situations and people enrage you, come back when you’re calmer and ask questions.  Above all, don’t get into arguments; debate peacefully.

The scenario in Manchester reminded me of Arthur Miller’s play, ‘All My Sons.’  A corrupt aircraft manufacturer allows faulty parts to be fitted into planes, resulting in the death of young pilots, one of whom turns out to be his son.  The title of the play comes from his final recognition that there is no difference between his son and the others: that they were ‘all his sons.’

And there’s the rub.  My daughter, thank god, was not in Manchester last night.  But other daughters were.  All our daughters were.

Kirk out

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Verb and Re-Verb

In the last year or two I’ve been collecting examples of new verbs.  These are usually existing words which have been either squashed or repurposed and made into verbs.  Previously they were either phrases (eg to manage a project becomes to project-manage) or nouns (eg to window, meaning to schedule a delivery within a particular period of time).  So here’s a little list, by no means exhaustive but comprising the ones I’ve managed to capture and commit to pen and paper:

to re-platform (heard at the railway station)

to window (seen on Facebook)

to project-manage (heard in conversation and rendered somewhat redundant by the phrase ‘I project-managed a project’…)

to part-time work

to offshore (as in tax)

to vacation (to be fair, this has been around for a while in the US but has only recently made it over here)

to semi-final (heard on University Challenge)

to sunblock (read just today on Facebook)

I’m sure there are thousands more.  Have you come across any?  I’d love to hear them.  Please send them to me and I’ll post them

Thanks

Kirk out

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Filed under Facebook, friends and family, language and grammar, radio

Look, I’m Just Disinterested, Alright?

Yes, it’s time again for One of Those Posts.  You know, the ones where I rant about words, their use and misuse and abuse and whether it’s time to – well, to call a truce.  I’ve given up with the apostrophe – although giving up feels  a bit like the Major in Fawlty Towers where he looks at his paper and says ‘Strike, Strike, Strike!  Why do we bother, Fawlty?’ to which Basil replies, sotto voce: ‘Didn’t know you did, Major.’  That’s my life: I bother about grammar and spelling and the uses, misuses and abuses of our demotic Anglo-Saxon (damn, these sit-coms keep getting in: that’s ‘Blackadder’ with Robbie Coltrane as Dr Johnson) and the world, in the shape of Basil Fawlty, repeats sotto voce, ‘Didn’t know you did, Lizardyoga.’

Well I can’t help it, and here is the latest batch of utterances to cross my verbal horizon.  First off, disinterested.  You must have heard it too; it’s everywhere: I last heard it on the radio this morning when an otherwise reasonably educated and eloquent presenter used it in broad daylight in front of a nationwide audience.  What he actually meant was uninterested: bored, alienated, reduced to a state of tedium.  Not disinterested.  Disinterested means – or used to mean, until these hooligans got hold of it – detached, impartial, uninvolved; as in a disinterested bystander.

And then there’s alright.  I grew up being rapped over the metaphorical knuckles for that spelling and being told that all right is two words, not one – but nowadays alright crops up in the best of circles * and the other spelling is rarely seen.  How do these things happen?

I suspect they happen for a variety of reasons; still, change as ever is effected through usage, and it’s pointless beefing about it.  But whereas all right and alright clearly mean the same and there is no appreciable reason why one should not be exchanged for the other; in the case of disinterested and uninterested we have two different words which are conflated with the result that one of them is lost.

Should we worry?  Should we send out a search party?  Don’t ask me.  And what’s with this horrid new word prideful?  What’s wrong with just saying proud?  I mean, does John Donne’s poem say ‘Death be not prideful’?  I don’t think so!

On the plus side (sort of) a friend on Facebook has invented or discovered a new word when she said that a delivery had been windowed for between nine and twelve of the clock.  Now, for all I know this verb is in constant use in delivery circles; workers at Amazon may tell each other on an hourly basis that parcels have been windowed between six a m and midnight (well it is Amazon, what d’you expect?) – but this verb was new to me and I quite like it.

There’s a lot of this sort of stuff going on and I keep trying to make a definitive list, but it’s like trying to build a castle out of water.  So that’s it for today.

Alright?

Argh, I actually used it for real.  *Sigh.*

Kirk out

*crop circles, ha ha

 

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Monty, You Terrible C***

It’s dreadful the language you get on Facebook these days.  People calling each other the worst names while insisting on having a drink and smoking the largest joints you’ve ever seen, getting nearly gored by bulls and almost b****red in dank cottage bedrooms.  And yet this is what keeps me sane, for it all happens on one group.  The Withnail and I Appreciation Society.

I blogged about this a week or two back when I first joined.  Back then I merely found it a source of idle amusement; but it has rapidly grown into one of the major sources of sanity in my life.  When I begin to ask myself why I still bother with Facebook; when my heart splinters with despair at the political wrangling; when the simplest of local discussions seems to degenerate into fury – then I turn to the W&I group and find a balm for my soul.  There’s something very sustaining about the freedom to insult people: when I was younger most of my friends called each other terrible names and it was all understood to be in jest, a kind of shorthand, a way of saying we liked each other.  This is quite male, I think, but some women like it too: it’s comforting and reassuring.  It’s like knowing you can’t cross a line; that you are accepted and included, without judgement.

The W&I group is entirely in the spirit of the film; it’s a happy-go-lucky, serendipitous bunch of people who take their amusement where they find it, demand to have some booze, scour cafes for the finest wines known to humanity and find hares for their pot in the humps of local types.  Of course, none of this will mean anything to you if you haven’t seen the film.  So what are you waiting for?

Kirk out

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TMA!!!

OMG!  WTF?  There are just TMA nowadays.  What am I on about?  Too many acronyms, that’s what: and there are more of them all the time.  Just when you thought it was safe to go back to your local evangelical church you find yourself wondering why the hell they are so keen on Kentucky Fried Chicken – only to discover that, well duh! KFC obviously stands for Knighton Free Church.  Only it used to be written out in full…

Facebook is one of the worst places for this, and if you don’t know the lingo it can drive you insane.  What is the MSM and why does nobody trust it?  What is BDSM and is it rude?  I know what L’s and G’s are but now they’ve been joined by B’s and T’s and sometimes Q’s as well.  If you go to see a film it can be CGI; if you watch a TV programme it can be ICYMI.  If you have a facebook conversation as well as the obligatory LOLs and OMGs it can be peppered with CBA’s, IKWYM’S and ISWYM’S.  SWIM?

Enough is enough.  I’m suffering from acronysm.  Or acronicism.  Or acronyism.  Or maybe even anachronism.  My head is close to exploding: it’s all TMI baby and I can’t even say TGIF because it’s Monday so I am going to sod off PDQ and go live in a hut for a while until it all blows over.

TTFN

Kirk out

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Are You In Or Out?

Well, which is it?  Should we stay or leave?  Should we be a part of the whole mess and try to sort it out from within, or leave and plough our own furrow?  I am referring, of course, to that community beyond our borders that is Facebook.  I’ve been back and forth on this: I’ve been in and out and back in again, and slowly I’m evolving a way to be in Facebook but not of it.

For example, say a debate starts on a particular subject.  Very soon people line up on one side or the other and then the mud-slinging starts.  ‘Boo’ words and ‘hurrah’ words are brought into play and woe betide anyone who tries to enter the debate in a reasoned and calm manner: for some reason this is the trigger for people on both sides to stop attacking each other and start attacking you.  No matter how mild your comments, no matter how accommodating your language or how sensible your points, you will become Public Enemy No. 1.  Time to bow out.

So I’ve developed a strategy.  The moment an argument becomes polarised; the moment somebody starts slinging mud or hurling insults, I uncouple. In Facebook parlance, I ‘turn off notifications for this thread.’

Similarly, when a person I’ve friended starts being abusive or rude (not necessarily towards me) I turn off their notifications.  You can do this, I’ve found: it’s called ‘unfollowing’ and means you can stay friends but you don’t get notified when they post things.

So all that is useful and it’s a step short of unfriending and blocking, which I’ve done with one or two people but it’s an extreme step.  In one case it was because the person persistently posted comments which were either negative or irrelevant.  This I do not need.

Of course, this does not prevent an awful lot of junk appearing in my news feed, so a certain amount of ongoing editing is required.  My pet peeves at the moment are adverts which look like posts (the price you pay for Facebook being free, I guess) and pictures of dying children begging me to post an ‘Amen’ so they can be healed.  In some ways I find the latter more offensive than the former: it’s not only emotionally manipulative (‘if you don’t comment then you don’t care’) it’s also wrong-headed, as if God’s going to sit there and tot up the number of ‘Amens’ before deciding whether to heal the child.

So there you are.  In Facebook but not of it.  As for the EU, that’s another matter…

Kirk out

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Stuff I’d Like to Say

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how human relations might be improved if people adopted the Quaker approach to speaking, which is to ask yourself before engaging gob (or keyboard) the following four questions:

is it true?

is it helpful?

is it kind?

is it necessary?

For example, was it necessary for a driver, when I was trying to get across a road on my bike in a limited time, to hoot angrily and repeatedly at me?

Was it kind?

Was it helpful?

It was not.  I was quite proud of my reaction though: instead of growling or howling I smiled sweetly and made a gracious ‘you go ahead’ gesture.  And then I was reminded of the words of the Buddha about anger: that to show anger towards someone is like holding a flaming spear by the lighted end.  I can’t find the quote but I’m sure he said it – or something like it.  Oh, apparently it wasn’t him although it is within the Buddhist tradition and entirely consistent with Buddha teaching:

http://fakebuddhaquotes.com/holding-on-to-anger-is-like-grasping-a-hot-coal-with-the-intent-of-harming-another-you-end-up-getting-burned/

There’s also the old saying that when you point a finger at someone there are three pointing back at you.  So although I was slightly shaken by this driver’s excessive and unnecessary anger, I reflected on these things and also on the fact that he has probably shortened his life by several seconds due to increased blood-pressure, heart-rate and tension.

I’ve had a great day so far: first Tomatoes, then the Real Junk Food Cafe where, having had breakfast already I restricted myself to a mince pie and an apple.  This is the first time I have been there since it opened and I have to say it’s a great initiative; collecting ‘rejected’ food from supermarkets and turning it into delicious meals which are free or ‘pay as you feel’.  There, serendipitously, I ran into Christine who is going to help me with my ESOL interview as she teaches something similar; we had a really useful chat.

https://www.facebook.com/trjfpleics/

And so home, where I began writing to you, dear reader.

Kirk out

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