Sunday, 16 November 2014

Twitter Abuse

Everybody has stories like this to tell. It really isn't special, and as far as abuse on Social Media goes, it probably was of the more harmless variety. Well, definitely - because murder and rape threats didn't come into it by any stretch.

But just because you didn't get threatened with rape...does that already make it harmless? Did you therefore get away lightly? Why should it not be possible to contradict somebody about a reading of an article in The Guardian of all places? Why should it not be permissable to defend the author of an article against blatantly absurd readings? Why should one not be allowed to point out what the author "really" meant, especially when it's done in a polite and non-offensive way? Is that already showing  too much female uppityness when dealing with a twitter-male? A twitter-male who has a lot of like-minded mates whom he is ready and willing to summon as back-up via copious RT's: "Look at 'er - getting above 'erself, having an opinion when I expressly stated what's what!"

I'm no shrinking violet on twitter, I don't withdraw into my mousehole just because some fat, bald uneducated male tells me to do so. On twitter, you learn to deal with people who think just because they're invisble, they can dish it out. And in my experience, the best thing is to look those people squarely in the eye and hit back. As soon as they feel your fear all hell breaks lose. Because, make no mistake  those people are without exception pathetic, deficient men (yes, men) with an inferiority complex. On Social Media they feel empowered, they feel nobody can beat them (unlike their daily experiences in real life where they probably have to kowtow, buckle and scrape).

So, it isn't as if I was dumbfounded by this particular reaction, not as if I didn't have my defences in place. I hit back, of course I did. With the sort of thin sneer which drives men like that into paroxysms of fury. They would kill you then if they were physically there. But they're not.

So far, so bad. But it made me think: Is it all really worth it? Is it worth my time defending freelance Guardian writers at the cost of getting abuse form a totally irrelevant person whom I don't know and will (fortunately) never meet? Why bother? Why tweet? I don't tend to get abuse in my daily life, I don't have encounters with pond life telling me off, telling me what's what. So...why go online to meet abusers, clueless, hapless human beings with a huge rage, a sense of entitlement and an axe to grind?

I don't know, but I don't think it's fundamentally a good idea. I will have to think about it. But it definitely can't carry on like that.

Sunday, 7 September 2014


Don't let the title put you off! It's just a little piece where I want to show how we are affected by preconceptions about the weather, with an intercultural twist. (Inspired, no doubt by the pretty ropey summer we've all been having.)

There are loads of myths and folksy believes attached to the weather any particular area has got (or is thought to be having.) Take Scotland, for example - most people will be associating one word here: RAIN. Yes, it rains a lot in Scotland but -after having spent a year there - I wouldn't say rain is the archetypal Scottish weather. In my books it is WIND. Whether it's sunny, or rainy, or just grey - one thing is empirically guaranteed: It will be windy. Yet RAIN will remain the salient first association when it comes to Scottish weather. Why? Because it goes with the complex image we all carry around with us: Cosy darkening afternoons with a cup of tea, a glowing fire, tartan blanket at the ready and a Victorian novel whilst the rain is lashing against the window pane. A nasty, bitingly cold wind when you walk up the Lothian Road? Not on anybody's favourite mental map of Sotland.

Or take Munich. At least within Germany, that's a town firmly associated with sunshine. Long hot summers, lasting well into the Oktoberfest season. Endless blue skies where you go rambling or rock-climbing in the neighbouring Alps. Or jump into one of the many lakes... tanned people frolicking in the Bavarian sunshine. The truth? There is more rain in  Munich than in the allegedly perma-rained on northern town of Hamburg!

So what I'm trying to illustrate is  that there is a real and actual weather - and then there's a weather of the mind: Psycho-Metereology. We have something in our mind, and stick a label on the object - regardless of the reality.

Another example is Paris - I noticed that it's an absolute trope amongst Americans to say how ever much they love "the city of light", it seems to get so much rain. I've been to Paris scores of times, but never noticed anything untoward about its weather. It seems to be standard central/Western European to me. So again, one's perceptions colour one's belief-structure. There are no absolutes - and people's preconceptions about the weather they associate with a particular place illustrate this beautifully.