Consequences

In the UK over the weekend, the news came out that the presenter of one of these reality-TV programmes had taken her own life, aged just 40. It was not a show I had ever watched, although I had heard it talked about. The presenter was not somebody I had ever heard of.

Because the show was/is quite popular, there has been a lot of airtime since, not least the effect that social media had on this woman’s state of mind. The trouble is, social media is a double-edged sword. Just as it may have broken her (or been a contributing factor), so it was probably partially responsible for giving her the fame and riches that she earned as a TV presenter. During the good times, I am guessing that she used social media to her advantage, even if just to keep herself in the public eye when the programme was off-air.

My own daughter, back in 2015, clained that she was being abused, and convinced the authorities to take her into care, just so shee could get out of the house. The grass is always greener… 2020, she has her own bedsit, but when she comes here to visit, I have trouble getting her to go home again, because she says she feels safe here. Sorry, but that ship sailed long ago.

Just this weekend, the UK was battered by Storm Dennis. The weekend before, we had Storm Ciara. We have a river only maybe ¼ mile away from our house, but I always felt quite safe before, because my house is 10 yards above the river, vertically. But these last couple of weekends, we have had floods of water rise up to the level of the garden – when the place has never flooded before. The reason? Not the river, but the drains not working. Presumably to save money, the local council don’t maintain them any more, and again presumably, they get blocked. It is not surprising since the storms have brought down debris all over the place. Fortunately it has been dry today – so far. Same with grass verges – they don’t maintain them any more, either, so in the summer when you’re pulling out in your car, you can’t see oncoming traffic.

Lastly, on this same point, people – me and my neighbours (okay, not me!) – have elected these people time and again to run the show.

Why don’t people understand that there aree consequences to the choices they make?

Etiquette

I think when you post a view on social media, there are always two things that go on:

  1. what you say, and
  2. how you present it.
The former just represents your point of view and might be perfectly rational or not.
The latter is the key to your point of view being accessible. It might be inaccessible for several reasons, even something as innocuous as the language you’re using. I think there’s a pre-requisite that you can convey your meaning in the chosen language. It raises an interesting point with regard to stroke survivors, some of whom have difficulty with the nuts and bolts, although their thought process is intact.

But I think you can cross a line by choice also by your choice of words. Insulting, patronising, swearing, in some cases. I find even just bringing emotion into things can be a turn-off. I followed a post in a political forum this morning (which describes itself as for political anoraks, so judge for yourselves what that makes me!) in which a chap called somebody a **** (they used real letters, but I’m afraid you’ll have to guess as it’s not something I’m comfortable repeating). The effect of this was that whatever view this guy was propagating, it didn’t go any further with me. So it was ineffective in trying to convert an open-minded reader to their cause.

I do think that the goal of social media posts is not to win an argument – people, especially as they get older, have pretty fixed views and aren’t going to change them because of something you say – but to convince a third-party reader that your view is a reasonable one. Often, if you happen to be disagreeing with someone, they’ll provide that “reason” for you, often by the way they present their argument – being rude or unreasonable or something. I think if you’re going to have a view on politics, then a part of that view is understanding other people’s position, understanding where there is agreement and where there might be disagreement. And, I think there’s generally more agreement than we might first think.
Plus, of course, the other important thing in debating is knowing when you’ve made your point, then stopping. People can always re-read it if they wish.

Addendum:

Do you see what I mean? I turn off when I see the word “Ayatollah”, and any remaining point is lost. I have seen one already about Rees-Mogg, which claimed (incorrectly) that his own constituency (North East Somerset) had voted to remain in the EU. I duspect anybody who follows current affairs would know that, so a fairly obvious lie.


Fundraising

I do sometimes get disillusioned with charities. I follow a few – especially, but not restricted to, stroke charities, especially since my own brush with stroke.

In my professional life, I worked with a variety of clients and, basically, you negotiated as good a deal as you could. But there was no “career ladder”, for example. I think the high water mark for me was £800/day, about £100/hour, even this was several years ago so I would expect, in today’s money, it’d be even more. With this in mind, therefore, I pretty much consider that the biggest donation I could possibly make to a charity is my time.

But I see ads on tv (lots and lots of them!) and posts on social media, and I appear very much to be in the minority. There’s lots of fun runs, for example, but they’re all quite thinly-veiled sponsored events, basically aimed at generating cash. Exactly as I used to do on a sponsored walk, say, when I was 10 years old. It’s pretty clear, both in terms of the thrust of the adverts, and also where the recognition happens (so-and-so is a star because they raised £10000, say), that the main driver for charities is to get hold of your cash. Not your time, but your cash.

Don’t get me wrong. Money is a great enabler. With more cash, the charities can do more. I know all about being enabled as the money I earned from my job enabled me to visit luxurious hotels and restaurants, to happily head to the Mediterranean for wonderful holidays, and to drive around in a Porsche 911. So I know how, when you start off with a bundle of cash, nice things can follow.

But cash is only ever a means to an end.The ultimate goal of a charity is nothing to do wish cash, it is to help people.

I’m not speaking out of sour grapes – these comments are really just an observation. I’m not speaking because the charity work that I do goes pretty much unnoticed – in fact I wouldn’t really want it any other way. My goal in my charity work is to do what little I can to help people who’ve recently been touched by stroke rationalise what has happened to them, and in that respect, the charity itself is an “enabler”, enabling me to go onto the ward and speak to people. Plus, of course, my efforts only amount to an hour or so every fortnight, so one could hardly accuse me of working tirelessly! Indeed, my metric is, and has always been, whether my visits benefit the actual patients or relatives – so in that respect, any goals that the charity night have as regards fundraising are incidental to me. Quite simply, if I didn’t think I was helping people in some way, then I wouldn’t bother

It’s ironic, really, because my greater experiences in this area (I’d never have registered all these things a few years ago) actually make it less likely that I will donate to charities. If my wife is no longer with us, then my will specifies that my estate will go to the welfare of my animals, and I’m still happy with that arrangement.

Puzzled

Last night, I happened to be looking at Facebook. I was in a stroke group, and there was a new member message. This person had replied that her 80-year-old aunty had just had a stroke, and that she wanted to find out more.

The Stroke Association publish something which is quite useful here. It starts off briefly with what a stroke is (the technical stuff) but then talks about statistics. Splits by age, ethnicity, gender etc. I found it useful because each stroke is so different, you can only hope to make sense of it by looking at it from a high level. So anyway, I posted a link to this document and thought no more of it.

Later that evening I saw messages from this group saying that my ability to comment had been temporarily suspended. I thought at first it must be everyone in the group, but I searched around a bit and found that it was specifically directed at me, I’d been “muted”. Now, my principle is basically that if I’m not allowed to comment on something, then there’s not much point in me even seeing it. So I decided to leave the group. It was no big deal, it was the kind of group where some of the members would post meaningless stuff such as “good morning” and “good night”, neither of which appeal to me.

But all the same, it would have been interesting to learn what I’d said that was so offensive in the first place.

Star Wars

Oops, I appear to have upset some other stroke survivors.

I was looking at Facebook, at my news feed, and I saw a post by a charity that I follow. Their post highlighted a stroke survivor’s blog entry, comparing the effects of a stroke to some of the subplots from Star Wars. It make me chuckle, I thought this (to make the comparison) was quite an amusing thing to do, a kind of pointless exercise, so I posted a “laugh” reaction, and made a comment to the effect that maybe the blog’s author had too much time on their hands.

By this I meant that, way back all those years ago, there was absolutely no way George Lucas could have realised that his film franchise would become such a behemoth, it was just A.N. Other film, so for us to now interpret pieces of its script as deep and meaningful mantras is probably somewhat misplaced. I think there’s a danger of attaching far too much significance to these things…. But of course this is lighthearted stuff, both the comparison itself and my comment – none of this is going to change the world.

However, a couple of people seized on the “time on their hands” phrase and said that yes, a disabled person would have a lot of time on their hands. Clearly my remark had been received by some as far more serious than it was intended. I wasn’t really concerned that some of the commenters hadn’t understood my attempt at a joke (it falls kind of flat now in any case as I sit here and dissect it), but one person who commented was the author of the blog, who said that the post had taken some considerable effort, given how his stroke had left him, and so I felt obliged to explain my remark and apologise.

But that small incident has consequences. First, it highlights how there is a fine line between ribbing someone about something, and causing them offence. Second, I think I need to stop commenting on such posts and keep my thoughts to myself, especially with the posts of a stroke charity, where other followers might get upset. The last thing I’d want to do is to upset someone over something this trivial. And if I feel if I shouldn’t comment, it’s probably safer just not to subscribe to the content in the first place, just to keep out of temptation’s way.

If my reaction seems a bit irrational, maybe it was brought on by the stroke? Or, maybe I’d have had the same reaction even if I hadn’t had one? Who’s to say?

Friends

Was really pleased this morning to open my browser (one of the tabs goes to Facebook) and see a friend request from a guy I only ever met once, who also does (or did, at the time) drop-ins at the hospital. I never knew he was there. although I must admit I never  particularly go looking. I’m generally quite happy with a small bunch of friends, people I already know anyway, so I never really feel the need to look for new people.

I only met this guy once and he too is a survivor. I remember him saying that he’d had his strokes (there were 3 of them, poor guy) 7 years ago. I remember being impressed because from his manners etc. it wasn’t at all obvious to me that he’d even had a stroke! I remember that one of his milestones was to ride motorbikes again, something which I believe he achieved. Certainly his profile on Facebook is a lovely shiny red bike. It kind of reminds me about my own miestone, to get back on a pushbike.

I think I met him just before christmas, so it’ll be good to catch up.

On a more serious note, it does kind of highlight how useful social media can be for people like me to find like-minded souls, which would be very difficult otherwise. I chat to a few survivors on FB. Meaning no disrespect to any of my other friends, who are very understanding, I can talk to them about strokey-type things, and the context is already there. No explanations necessary, because we already grasp the problem. It is very different from when I first left hospital, and felt very alone.

On more mundane matters, my wife was out all day yesterday, so I took advantage of the good weather to mow the front lawn. I got about 3/4 of the way around, before the mower decided it didn’t want to start. So it all looks a bit of a pig’s ear, although my wife says it looks ok (although she says it probably wasn’t too bright to have started hitting the mower with a spade!). Anyway, will try to finish it today – whenever this happens I always smell petrol so presumably I’d flooded the engine somehow.

Starman

They played Starman on the radio yesterday, and I was reminded of that wonderful performance of Space Oddity on the International Space Station:

Facebook

I was lucky (well, I thought so!) enough to meet Tony Benn a few years ago, and couldn’t help but notice that he avoided getting into ideological debates with people – I suppose you can dance around fine points, but ultimately, on the big things, you have a certain view of the world and other people either share that view or they don’t. Its not really a popularity contest – you really have to be defined by a set of principles if you want people to take you seriously.

Yesterday, I saw that Billy Bragg had posted something on Facebook. Now, I obviously follow this guy, so I’m normally quite sympathetic to him. But, on this occasion, I thought he was wrong, so posted a comment saying why I thought this.
It was very interesting, as the replies started to flood in. At first, it was a case of clarifying why I thought what I did (including dealing with people who could only really offer that I was an idiot). So I did my best to explain myself. It all took a fair amount of time, though, so evertually I stopped following the post.
I happened to go back there this morning, and was quite plesantly surprised by the tone of the comments. While yesterday they were mostly full-frontal attacks, today they were generally a lot better thought out. Quite open questions, even some comments of support.There was even one woman, (I’m not sure that she was a supporter!), who said that at least my views were well-thought-out, “not like most people”. Er, that was a compliment………wasn’t it?