Saturday 10 September 2022

A quiet bead week

Handmade lampwork glass bead bracelet by Laura Sparling

I've made beads this week but I'm only just getting round to doing anything with them. This morning I made this bracelet which I've called 'Thames'.

Handmade lampwork glass bead bracelet by Laura Sparling

The beads are smooth pebble-type ones in a transparent greenish-grey, each wrapped with a band of silvered ivory.

Handmade lampwork glass bead bracelet by Laura Sparling

Handmade lampwork glass bead bracelet by Laura Sparling

The bracelet fastens with a magnetic clasp (always feels space age) and it's in my shop as I type.

I spent last weekend in Hedge End celebrating my niece Robyn's eighteenth birthday. At the risk of sounding like an old biddy, I cannot believe how fast those eighteen years have gone. I was even more incredulous when she was waiting for me at the railway station. In her car. Which she drove me – her forty-four year old auntie who cannot and will not drive – to my sister's house in.

Liverpool Street underground station roundel
I can never resist a roundel

It took me two full days to recover from my weekend away. The trains were all to cock which made my outward journey over five hours. I had to go via Liverpool Street rather than my beloved King's Cross. I'd planned to go for a quick first journey on the Elizabeth Line but nope, that plan was scuppered for time reasons. But yes, ten hours of travel and doing the socialising get-together thing really knackered me out. That makes it sound like I didn't enjoy myself but I did; I had a lovely, lovely time. It's just I've become so used to it being just me, Chris, Nigel, and seeing three other people every Friday at the foodbank warehouse, that all that going places and seeing many people was very different.

All that travel did give me time to get a chunk of The Ink Black Heart listened to, though. I finished it last night and I absolutely loved it. I've seen a lot of people complaining that they can't get on with the formatting of the book as it contains a lot of transcripts of tweets and chat room exchanges. Reviews for the audiobook are similar but I honestly didn't have an issue with it. I've already started my second listen.

Many of the tweets and transcripts of online discourse in The Ink Black Heart are uncomfortable to listen to or read. If you're at all familiar with any of the threats and abuse that JK Rowling herself has been on the receiving end of these past couple of years, it makes the listening to or reading of parts of the book even more uncomfy. Social media is a problem. It has its uses but what it is doing to some people, and the knock-on effect that it has in real life, is deeply concerning. Never have I felt this more than I have the last couple of days on Twitter. I knew the social media problem was bad (and I could elaborate and go on forever here but I won't because it's just me and about two other people reading this blog) and that some people's moral compasses are truly broken, but the atrocious takes on the Queen's death and the way in which some people have spoken to others about her and the Royal Family is utterly disgusting. Personally, I find endless news stories of royal weddings, births, scandals and arguments quite tedious and I barely pay them any attention so yeah, I'm pretty much indifferent to all things royal. However, I was moved by the news that Queen Elizabeth was gravely ill and when it was announced that she'd died I felt sad. Many people have said it but the Queen has always been there. She was a constant, and for that to be no more feels slightly unsettling.

What really bothered me on Thursday and Friday, though, was seeing people second guess themselves with regard to showing how they felt about the news. I saw many tweets along the lines of "I'm not a royalist but... I'm upset she's gone/I feel sorry for Charles/it's the end of an era" etc and I saw people liking tweets but clearly not saying what they wanted to say for fear of being jumped on, ridiculed, unfollowed or blocked by people who had zero qualms about voicing their opinions on the matter. These people are so sure of themselves and the fact that they're on The Right Side of History™ they feel that they can abuse and belittle anybody who doesn't agree with them and who isn't a subscriber to whatever ideology they are. I say ideology because whenever I looked at the Twitter profiles of any of these shouty, righteous types, they all displayed labels – be it an identity flag, an '-ist' of some kind, a symbol like a red rose (socialist) or purple, white and green hearts (gender critical feminist), vegan, preferred pronouns, 'FBPE' (anti-Brexit) or the dreaded '#BeKind' – that show they are in thrall to some particular set of beliefs. I know a lot of people will consider some of those things I've just listed to be harmless, but I don't see it that way. The need to label yourself and others as belonging to this group or that way of thinking is dividing society into little factions who cannot accept any way of thinking that doesn't one hundred percent match theirs. Anyone who does think differently to them is called a bigot, far right, Nazi, white supremacist, TERF, bootlicker, and so on. The very fact that I can predict with very high accuracy the phrases and insults that one person will chuck at another after they've written something really edgy like "RIP Queen Elizabeth" shows that these are indeed dogmatic belief systems and my word, am I sick of it. 

And for what it’s worth, the only things I'd label myself are 'atheist' and 'realist' but I don't feel the need to state them in a social media profile.

Technology has evolved way faster than our abilities to cope with the sociological results of it have, and we aren’t equipped to interact with as many people via social media as we are expected to. As a result, quite a few people seem to have forgotten how to be human. If you feel sad about the Queen dying, say so. Don't back it up with a disclaimer about not being much of a royalist. And if you are a royalist and you have a large collection of corgi ornaments and commemorative Diana plates, that's cool too. Just say how you feel. If people disagree with you, let them. Just be you. Honestly, those three words are my life advice to anybody. Just be you. Some people will like you and some people won't and that's just the way it is, both online and offline.

Anyway, that's enough of me wanging on about the ills of social media. And if you think it odd that I clearly despise what Twitter is doing to us all yet I'm on there joining the noise, that's because the only way to fight this shite is to push back against it at the source. It's not always fun and I have to be in the right frame of mind to do it, but do it I shall. Well, until I get my account suspended for wrongthink, that is.


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