I have been thinking about how I, we, communicate for some time now. And I decided a while ago that, throughout 2017, I would post a few miscellaneous thoughts at the end of each month. If I made a commitment to do this weekly, then I knew I would find it difficult as pressures began to mount; but the thought of only committing to twelve posts a year is less daunting.
So here is the first of my ‘A Month on Monday’ posts, recapping events and thoughts of the last month.
2017 is already an odd and disturbing year.
Social Media and Survival
As you may know, I have a love-hate relationship with social media. It brings out the best and worst of us; it can sow discord, it can start a revolution.
In the past two years, I have closed down my personal Facebook account, my LinkedIn account, and my Tumblr account. My MySpace account fell by the wayside some time ago. I have an empty Facebook account, to post updates to pages for work and ShiverWriggle, and to download public group and page data for my research studies.
Twitter is different. Twitter genuinely brings me much joy at times, but it brings the opposite many other times. Recently, it has been more negative than positive, possibly as other people either feel the need to shout about the world’s atrocities, or else step away from the soapbox magnifier. And we should shout about the hideousness that is going on at present but, on the flip side, there’s only so much an individual can take. Anecdotally, there appears to have been a steep incline in the number of anxiety-related illnesses affecting the general population at the moment. We can’t switch off – we mustn’t switch off – but if we don’t pause to take a breath and look after ourselves then we will be of no help to anyone. If we are to be the resistance, we need to be fit and healthy enough to be of use.
I also use Twitter to engage with others about my research, as well as collecting data for my thesis. I hosted a Twitter Hour about the #OrkneySupernatural in November, and I will be hosting other hashtags in a few weeks’ time. Twitter allows me to reach out to people I have never met and may never meet. I can engage in genuinely meaningful bitesize conversations with complete strangers.
I do not like, however, being beholden to a platform I do not control. Increasingly, algorithms are being used to limit or dilute what we see, by throwing in promoted tweets. Or here’s what you missed (after only a couple of hours away). Or this person liked that, that person replied with this. I was relieved when Twitter publically condemned the recent actions of the White House against refugees from predominantly Muslim countries; but it cannot be denied that the existence of Twitter and other social network sites amplified the feelings of discontent and the accompanying bitterness that enabled us to arrive at this juncture in the first place.
Additionally, there is an increasing number of reports that people are being asked to provide their Twitter handle upon arrival in America (as well as, even more worrying, the content of the mobile phonebook). I never had much intention of travelling to America, though The Man will tell you that the quality of life there is good (he very much enjoyed many aspects of his years there); and what little chance there was of me wanting to visit is rapidly depleting in a disappointed, horrified haze.
So maybe I will clear my personal Twitter account, perhaps even delete it, after I have completed my studies. I don’t want to lose everything I have posted over the previous eight years, though; there’s some good content on there. So I have been thinking about how to retain and own my Twitter data on my own platform. My current idea is to slowly work my way through my (thousands-of-tweets-long) archive, and decide what I want to keep. It would be so much easier if you could skip to, and scroll from, any given date on Twitter; but at least the option of downloading my Twitter data in spreadsheet form makes working through them a little easier. I have a few ideas about how I might display this information after I have whittled my way through my tweets, but more on that another time.
I am not one of life’s natural runners, but I am nothing if not tenacious. Back in autumn, I decided to give running another go, and I was more surprised than I suspect anyone else would be that I actually missed it over the extended December and January festive season. It helps that I run in Culloden Moor Woods, the perfect place. I start, I stop, and I try to start again a little sooner or run a little longer next time. Osa loves it, and enjoys trotting back and fore between The Man and I, trying to keep an eye on both of us at the same time. He prefers it when I don’t get more than one or two bends ahead. He truly is a shepherd.
Our Girl on the Outside
I have started writing for ShiverWriggle again, when time allows. Our Girl on the Outside is my current affairs notebook. It’s an appropriate outlet at this moment in time, and keeps me from getting too political on Twitter (I’m failing at that, presently). At some point in the future, I may well dust these off and polish them. At the moment, they’re very much brief scribbles. It’s quite refreshing working this way; it’s the perfect antidote to the PhD. It also allows me to be deliberately provocative in a less overt medium.
Day’s Dying Glory
My sister Virginia, is publishing a book later this year. It’s a historical fiction set during the Napoleonic Wars, and she’s hoping to do a mini-tour round a few different places of interest. You can find out more here.
That’ll do for this month. I’m exhausted by the world at the moment, but this evening’s marches across the UK and beyond offer hope and remind us how much strength and determination there is out there. If you need some inspiration, just search for images of some of the recent protest signs; especially in these times, a sense of wry humour goes a long way.