Monday, 2 February 2015

When Facebook decides you are non-human

Last month, Facebook decided I wasn't a person. When I logged on, I learnt I no longer deserved a personal 'profile', but should instead have a business 'page' to interact with my public. As far as I know I'm not a sentient zaibatsu, or a fan site for Cheez-strings, or a reality show contestant, but Facebook didn't ask or give me the chance to say this.

I had, by an algorithm or a human, been classified as non-human and thus my account, as it was, needed to be removed. With my options narrowed to transition to a business page or no facebook, I went with transition. I saved a copy of my years of flirtations, laughs, battles and drunken photos just in case. This was foresightful, as I would never have got them back.

As a business or public figure page, life was very different. I obviously wasn't interested in other people unless they 'interacted' with me, so no updates from others. I wasn't a person, so couldn't attend events, or be invited to them. Messages and post replies were optional and mainly hidden, unless they crossed a certain algorithmically-determined threshold, in case I got distracted from counting my money. For (presumably privacy?) reasons, I couldn't see the number of people who 'liked' me, or who they were, so couldn't transplant all my friends to a new personal account.

I could still post words and pictures, and people could reply. Their replies and likes and activity was graphed, and I received little updates telling me which of my posts were 'performing' best and that I should consider saying more like that, or paying for them to be seen by more people. About a tenth of my friends saw what I posted: wouldn't I like to contact all of them? In short, I was the proud owner of an electronic echo chamber where my friends were ranked and graphed, I was constantly being invited to buy popularity, and I didn't get invited to parties. Life as a business was very much like being a teenager.

More worrying, though, was how much of my life I lost when I lost Facebook. I'm studying, and my fellow students share schedule changes, mutual support, and ideas on a private Facebook group. To learn with my peers I need Facebook. My shared house is administrated through a Facebook group. If I want to know about parties, internet downtime or kitchen storage, I need Facebook. My mum has Facebook to keep up with my life, and I have friends who prefer Facebook messages to emails. I joined Facebook in the first place because I was missing invites to parties. Hey, everyone was on there, and it was just a tickbox, and seriously, inviting 50 people personally?

Facebook is easy. And it's good. It's good to share photos and news and jokes with people far away, and to hear about people's lives without needing to ask. It's a big world with lots of good people in it and I like to hear from them without needing mad administrative skills. I missed it; I asked Facebook to explain why they chucked me, and reinstate me. There was no reply, so I tried living without it, and made a new profile a few months later.

We're now trapped into a service that can eject you without a second thought, with no reason or appeal. Facebook can cut off from your housemates, your classmates, your family and friends and they won't even tell you why. And when you tell your friends what happened (if you can: how many of your 'friends' do you have emails and phone numbers for?) they will try to stay in touch, or try and remember to tell you that the washing machine is being repaired, but it's just too easy to post and forget.

Ease of use favours a centralised service run by a single company, and aimed at the lowest common denominator. Facebook-dependent people are not the ones running exotic operating systems or working from the command line. Any centralised service invites dependence upon those running it. Do you trust Facebook to decide what you see and who you can talk to? Forget me. Do you trust them to keep your private messages private and not hand material over to law enforcement without good reason?

Homophobes and people scared of breasts have successfully got people and materials banned from the platform. Small businesses and artists can no longer update their fans with news: unless they pay, only a fraction of people who asked for updates will see them. The Facebook insistence on real names puts people at risk and denies genuine identities in the name of preventing abuse which still happens. Facebook are not angels, despite their blue, friendly appearance. And even if you are happy with them now, they have a history of moving the goalposts.

If you have to trust a single company to mediate your social interactions, your photo collection and your past, is this the best one? It may be: we are running a bit low on good guys, and hell, you need to share selfies somewhere. You probably won't run into issues, other than a deluge of Farmville invites, social faux pas and gender-role-reinforcing ads.

Or, you may want to start cultivating a backup network – collecting emails and numbers –, and take a record of your data and photos, in case one day Facebook decides you, too, are not a person.

Think about it, puny humans. BEEP.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Sexual deviants and their broken fingers

Occasions when I have been sexually harassed, what I did, how it worked out, and what I would change in future. I post this in hope of sharing ideas with others for how to deal with shitty behaviour, and of learning how I can deal better with it myself.

The Creeping Creepshow Creep 

Location: Punk gig in Leipzig at Wave Gothik Treffen festival
Situation: I took off my T-shirt during a slow song and stood to one side to cool down in my bikini top. A thoroughly fucked man crept up behind me and hilariously undid it in the manner of a 10 year old. I clasped my bikini to me and turned round to chastise him, and he pulled at it from under my hands.
What I did: Gave up trying to preserve modesty in the face of his yanking, accepted that people were going to see my tits and decked him.
What happened: He kept laughing. Some of the other German punks around were shocked. One gave me his jacket and one held the dude, and I hit him in a big wide loopy John Wayne smack. He showed no indication at all that it hurt. I put on my clothes, walked away and stayed away from him (although saw the end of the gig). Other dudes moved in to keep an eye on me.
What I'd change: Why didn’t I tell the bouncers?!? I guess I thought that because I was just wearing a bikini, or because I was at a punk gig, they wouldn't care: or that because I hit the man, I was in the wrong.
 I must also learn to hit harder.

The international linguist 

Location: The 390 bus from Euston to Camden, London.
Situation: Dude in his ~fifties sits by me and starts attempting to chat me up, with hey babies, where are you goings, and what are you doings.
What I did: Ignored his first few ‘Hey baby’s, then responded in a made up language for a bit before declaring to the bus 'Hi, everyone: this dude thinks he has a chance with me: does anyone know anyone more his age and level?'
What happened: He persisted in trying to interact with my made up language for ten minutes, until I made a public declaration, at which he looked embarrassed.
What I'd change: Not a thing.

Wandering little fingers 

Location: Stiff Little Fingers gig, Hackey, London
The situation: I was wearing a bra with a fishnet top. A big dude, probably 40 or so (I was 18), came over and grabbed my breasts as handles while humping me from behind.
What I did: Grabbed his little fingers and bent back until he let go
What happened: Some crunching. Then he fucked off back to his mates.
What I'd change: I feel I should have warned him first.

The StopCheck

Location: A bus stop in north London, late at night having overshot my stop
Situation: A mid 20s dude came over to the bus stop, asked me what I was doing there, talked to me, invited me back to his place, asked if I was a man or a woman, groped me to check my answer.
What I did: Asked what his mother would think of him groping strange women at bus stops.
What happened: He looked embarrassed and said 'don't bring my mum into this'. Kept talking at me, with less hands, until my bus came.
What I'd change: I would have liked to make him feel more bad about what he was doing. Or hit him. But we were alone.

The 'It's different for a girl' 

Location: Synthetic Culture, goth night club in London Situation: I was watching a pole dancer perform. When she finished her set she came down and squeezed my tits.
What I did: Said 'excuse me, I don't think we've been introduced'.
What happened: She explained she was horny and missing her boyfriend. I moved on without questioning whether he had tits.
What I'd change: I was too polite. I should have made it clear her behaviour was unacceptable even though she was female.

I have a few more. I should also obviously say I tend to recall the ones which were particularly extreme, or turned out particularly well: there's probably also a load of banal stuff which just slips my mind. I am 1m69, between 75 and 85 kg and have trained in several martial arts, although I am not very good at them and currently extremely unfit. Responding forcefully has never worked out badly for me although I recently read of a case where it very much did, so do be aware.

Lessons learnt:


  • Watch out for buses.
  • Finger locks get you everywhere.
  • Guys at punk gigs are overexcited by breasts.
  • Some girls are idiots.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Why I am not wearing a poppy

Death is awful. Death meted out by humans more so. 

I imagine myself on the battlefield, shivering, having signed up thinking I would be part of a show of strength, something proud, against darkness and evil, and I would come home. Realising that my 'fight' -  a competition to see who can throw away more warm, living, loving bodies - is against an enemy just like us, doing what they believe to be right, and the only way I can get through this is to throw more bodies down in front of me. Bodies that were men and women, bodies that had favourite foods and hopes and loves, it's them or me. If I believe enough in what I was told I mow them down like meat; if not I roll over and die. Those are the choices.  

I don't know how you come out of that human. I would melt down in that situation.

So I have time and comfort and support and love for conscripts, for people who didn't know what they were getting into, for people who signed up and regretted and ran. People who did dark things, trapped in those dark places and tormented after, throughout history and now; those people I feel for so much. For them I would wear a poppy, if it helps the dead at all. I have always felt that the most relevant part of the 'glorious dead' was the 'dead' part.

But not all soldiers are forced, not here, not now. Some come to it voluntarily, some enjoy it, some don't question or realise what they are doing. It's a profession that attracts bullies and sadists. People who choose to kill people. I cannot support that. Those people are the willing arms of those who lead us into war, they are the muscle that lets them do it, and every body sent home is another reason to fight more, because they dared attack our brave lads. (Our brave lads who firebomb them nightly.) 

Enlisting soldiers are, at best, a tool for governments to play at popularity, at machismo, at aggression. And the cost of using these tools - of psychiatric care, of rehabilitation, of physiotherapy, of funds for dependant wives, husbands, children, parents - should fall to charity? Governments have little in the way of morals - an organism reborn every 4 years has little time to develop a conscience - but the need for a cold hard line of cash to repair their toy soldiers might make them more cautious about breaking them. But no, a shaking donation bucket and a white feather shame campaign is the way to support children without fathers and fathers without legs or sleep.

We have sent our soldiers - all kinds of people from all kinds of backgrounds signed up for all kinds of reasons - into war based on misinformation, lies, and reputation; lacking intelligence, weapons and resources. They killed tens of thousands of civilians - the Iraq Body Count alone stands at more than 115,000 civilian deaths. We murderered and we created murderers and a paper poppy is not enough to staunch that wound. 

A red one won't even show the blood.


('But what about the World Wars?' 'Those soldiers died to keep us free!' 'You can only say that because the soldiers keep you safe'.. 

1. It's impossible to establish what would have happened if we hadn't gone to war, or if we'd fought differently, or smarter and with less deaths. Noone can know what would have happened.  

2. The fact that you need to go back to 1945 to cite a war that is commonly accepted to have justification does not inspire my confidence in military policy and practice over the last 70 years.

3. If my country can go to war based on no evidence and without a democratic mandate I'm not sure how free I am.)

Sunday, 4 August 2013

I suck Satan's cock.

I suck Satan's cock almost daily. 

People come and ask me how to get what they want. I want to tell them work hard, be good, try hard, take chances, be lucky - but they've heard there is a quick way. So the sacred cow (that's me, by the way) gives the magic cock a suck and it squirts dark thoughts right into the shill gland at the back of my throat.


It talks to me about customer journey, about profiling, client messages, about social marketing and buzz and dynamic environments and telling stories, weaving interesting stories, selling stories.

No, I try and say, that isn't what story means, stories are for bedtime, fireside. You're thinking of stuffing truth in one of 12 acceptable delivery formats, doping and plumping with human interest and serving in snack size portions to desperate hacks. You've mistaken caring for a ticked list of boxes. People are better than believing who shouts the loudest and the most.

But the cock keeps shooting into my mouth, and those balls are nowhere near empty. Each spurt down my throat covers another piece of what is good and beautiful. I choke up around what is being done to what I thought I believed in. Where is my air?

I should pull off. Why don't I pull off? My bank manager and my landlord hold my head steady, stroke my throat and ease the darkness down.

I could bite. Why don't I bite? I bare my teeth ready and the people who want my help rub my back. They trust me. They asked for my help. If I bite, they will be taken too, taken and processed and ground up. They are good people. I can't bite.

I make a feed, I lock it down and fillet my rage into 140 chars or less. FUCK YOU I scream at the devil. My fingers flick frantically across the keyboard, as I trickle a puny back channel to counter the thick streams coming stronger in my mouth.

Put my sigil on them, says the devil's cock. Render unto Satan what is Satan's. They want to belong - let them belong to me. Brand the bastards who ask for it, lifting their quivering rumps in anticipation.

They want it. They don't know what they're asking. They're children begging for junk food. What do I say? I've got my mouth full myself.

One meal? In a good cause? One meal won't destroy the population and one refusal won't turn the congealed tide of trademarked slop.

It's hard to think with Satan's cock in your throat.

_______________
Things I didn't have the nerve to publish.

work sucks, as if you didn't know.

work sucks, as if you didn't know. I don't know how we did it, but we slipped and made a system where you give five days to get two. Yeah, on paper, on contract, it's only 35 / 168 signed away - as if anyone works 9 to 5 anymore. Oh Dusty, I'd kill for 9-5. It's 9-6, 9-7, 9-9 and only up.

but beyond that there's more, the trimmings eating in - the morning hauling up, the mute commute, the rare, endangered lunchhour for paying bills and sending packets. The team drinks, the gym because you don't have time to walk outside, the late night supermarkets where you buy what's left after the stay at home parents have descended for their locust offsprint, the trains that take their time back because work is what matters - before you're home again with nothing more to give.

Crashed on the sofa with your other life waiting, looking at you accusingly, and no appetite for anything but telly pap. I can't be an inspired artist in the two hours before bed, even when I force myself to stay awake because I don't want to give in and abandon consciousness until the next drudgeday starts.

occasional midweek oasis when i steal in the bars, the nightclasses, the fights, the gigs, the music the . i overdo it, up and out at the sniff of real life, and the morning doesn't matter, until it does, with the shame and the sickness and the excuses to visit anywhere that's not fluorescent lit and consensus airconditioned. moanday morning, swearing off, no more life except in designated living zones.

The big glimmering weekend, the mountains beckoning all slogging weeklong trudgedays finally to the foothills of friday nights, I barrel into the fresh springs, and drink and drink to lose the inhibitions i nurture in cubefarms to regain fringe views and political heat and forget that 54 little hours later i'll be waiting to have my head held under again.

moanday

screwsday

grudgeday

trudgeday

cryday

What a way to make a living and not live.

___________________________

more things i wrote and didn't post at the time. I need to work on that, huh.

I don't want to go back on the medication

I don't. I don't want to be a symbiote again, dependent on the chemicals and the doctor's whims to get through the days. I want my lover to stay with the woman he met, not a pathetic hybrid, a new fake person.

But I've lost happiness. How can you lose happiness? What sort of stupid evolutionary fuckup is this? What is the point of this stupid emotion?

My tears serve no purpose. I don't suffer for a reason, I don't draw motivation from it: in fact I do less as this salty, sobbing mess than I ever did before.

I have no purpose to my life and at the moment my missions are not cry in front of people and to try and stop eating at some point.

Medication is a crutch. But crutches are there so you can keep going.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

When the levee breaks

Another thing I wrote and didn't publish. Publish now.
__________________
 I woke up yesterday crying and I've been crying ever since. My face is blank but my eyes are streaming like a widow who's just had a facial. I asked them why but they won't say. Bastards.

 I've been feeling pressure building inside me for days. Not explosive steam pressure, smooth relentless pressure of sheets of green water, death soup, pushing against a crumbling tired dam.

 My water table is rising. I'm a skin bag now and every step I take squelches. When it reached my throat yesterday I clammed up, trying to choke it back, but I had to breathe sometime and it overflowed past those blocks.  Today it reached my eyes and they were the ones to crack. They gave out on me and leaked, the weak bastards. With each lurch forward the cold water sloshes against my sockets and blurps out of the bulging lids.

 Bits of me sail with it as the stream lurches out, escaping the mineral traces that make even the weak skin bag I am more than water. Sweeps and seeps away the molecules of flavour and flecks of cheer suspended in even a wet thing like me. Straight out of my traitor eyes my core goes, lost in osmosis as my diluted self pools on the ground.

 I can't find the spring the water comes from, but I know it's deep and strong enough to fill me up again and again, rinsing my innards transparent and taut as tumours. The water passing through me grinds me smooth. Nothing but a tubeworm in the vent.

 Maybe my eyes know where the spring begins, the source of the torrent reaming me out. But the flimsy bastards wouldn't tell me, would never help me. My last levee against the formless flood and they quit.

Save yourselves if you like, fuckers: you'll not last long teteering on the flow leaving me. You'll fall, and lie, and molder like sad olives in the puddle that was us before you cracked.