Talking on social media about nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups

I originally posted this on my personal Facebook profile earlier today, but the more I think about it, the more I feel it applies to social media in general. I’m not sharing this here to talk you into agreeing with me or to invite you to tell me why you don’t. I’m sharing it in the hope that perhaps it might encourage people to consider things from a perspective other than their own, just as other people’s blogs, posts and articles encourage me to do.

Content warning for mentions of hate groups, violence and my usual delightful turn of phrase.

So, fucking nazis and people’s responses to their activities. I’ve been trying to think of something to say about this because I want to say something. I honestly believe it’s time that everyone said something. So this might not be the most eloquent or palatable of somethings, but it’s where I’m at, so here goes…

I’ve seen a lot of “OMG this is so shocking!” posts. And it is shocking. It’s horrible and awful and shocking. If some people don’t appear to be as shocked as you, remember that rather than it being because they don’t care, it may be because the thing that is shocking to you has already formed part of the landscape of their existence for so long that it no longer surprises them. And possibly when they’ve talked about it before, they’ve been dismissed, ignored, disbelieved or shut down. I’m not saying don’t express your shock, horror, rage or whatever. I’m just saying that when other people don’t, it might not be for the reasons you assume.

I’ve also seen a lot of images being shared, from pictures of recent white supremacist marches to depictions of violence in the not-so-distant past to photographs from wars that most people reading this weren’t alive to see. While those might be important images to share, especially if you are part of a community or a demographic that may not have a strong awareness of the things they depict, please remember that some people seeing them have witnessed or experienced those traumatic events first-hand. I’m not saying don’t share those pictures. I’m just saying please respect that not everyone can cope with looking at them for perfectly valid reasons.

I’ve seen a few people saying, “If you respond to violence with violence, you’re just as bad”. I get this on some level. Sometimes there are different ways to respond to a situation without being violent and often those are more productive and less damaging options. But when your safety and survival (or the safety and survival of someone else) are being threatened, fighting back is sometimes the only option. I’m not saying don’t try to find non-violent approaches where you can. I’m just saying that unless you have literally fought for your own survival, kept throwing punches as you lost consciousness, protected someone who couldn’t defend themselves by putting your own body between them and the person trying to hurt them, please try and understand that your hypothetical situation is someone else’s lived experience and maybe you don’t get to tell them how they should have reacted.

Also, it’s really easy to tell someone, in private, “I agree with you. I support you. I’m on your side.” That is a valuable and important thing to do. But it’s also, if not more, important to stand up and state that position openly when you have the opportunity. Yes, trust in the world in general can be damaged by strangers doing terrible things. But trust in the people close to you, which is arguably more meaningful, can be absolutely obliterated to the point of no return by their choosing to remain silent when it really matters.

And another thing. “You have to respect everyone’s opinion equally” is bullshit. If someone’s opinion is that other people are less than human because of their ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation, religion, gender, or mental or physical dis/ability, no-one has to respect that. If someone’s opinion is that other people should be denied human rights, imprisoned, or killed, because of those things, no-one has to respect that either. There is a massive difference between “I politely disagree with your views on an intellectual level” and “You should not be allowed to exist because you are different from me in harmless ways that are inherent to your identity”.

If you feel the need to play devil’s advocate, fuck off. If you feel the need to qualify anything you say with “I’m not a nazi/white supremacist/fascist/total cunt, but…”, fuck off. If you feel the need to say “It’s not that bad” simply because it hasn’t been that bad for you personally or for people you know in the place where you live (yet), fuck off.

Choosing to not take a stance on issues of politics and human rights is a privilege and a luxury that not everyone has. If you want to know “what you would do, if…”, take a look at yourself right now. Because you’re already doing it.


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Why I Scrapped Snapchat (And Love Instagram Stories)

Before I get into this, I want to make something super clear. I’m talking about why I scrapped Snapchat, not why you should. This is totally about my preferences and how I use social media. It’s not going to be the same for everyone and I’m not for a moment suggesting that no-one should be using Snapchat, that everyone should be embracing Instagram Stories or that you must all choose between the two.

A couple of months ago, I decided to give Snapchat a go. There was no deep and meaningful reason for this beyond the fact that I like playing with different social media platforms and I hadn’t played with Snapchat yet. Prior to my Snapchat experimentation, I’d been aware of Instagram Stories, a feature built into the Instagram app (Stories FAQ | Stories launch article on Instagram’s blog). It’s a blatant copy of Snapchat, right down to the recently introduced filters, but since I adore pretty much everything Instagram does (apart from removing the chronological feed and the fact that it’s owned by Facebook…grr!) I figured I’d spend a bit of time getting to know it.

What ended up happening was that IG Stories really highlighted all the things about Snapchat that didn’t work for me. Because of the ephemeral nature of IG Stories, I share pictures that I don’t consider artistic enough to post in other places. I also share content that might be interesting to look at for a few seconds as part of my day but that I wouldn’t share elsewhere (I’m not a “check out my breakfast” Instagrammer or Tweeter, but I totally Story this stuff). Something else that appeals to me about IG Stories is being able to share the less polished and glamourous aspects of my existence that I still want to put ‘out there’, like raw moments in a life with chronic illness, without these posts lasting forever.

While I was using Snapchat, I shared those things there too – the nature of my content was not specific to IG Stories – but Snapchat just wasn’t doing it for me, and that’s what I want to talk about here. It’s confusing that Snapchat also has a feature called ‘your story’, where you add posts to a stream of your day rather than sending them to specific people. To differentiate for the purpose of this blog, ‘story/stories’ with a lowercase ‘s’ refers to that feature within Snapchat and IG Stories, and ‘Story/Stories’ with a capital ‘S’ refers specifically to IG Stories.

First, let’s look at some things IG Stories and Snapchat have in common…

  • Posts can be photos or videos
  • Posts to your story disappear after 24 hours
  • You can choose to save your own posts to your device (or not)
  • Posts can be customised with text, graphics and lenses/face filters (this is a shiny new feature on IG Stories, being rolled out today)
  • There are no comments or likes on posts in stories, so responses are sent as private messages
  • Posts can be sent to specific people as well as being shared as part of your story (see why the story/Story thing is hard to write about?)

And here are the differences…

  • Providing your Instagram account isn’t set to Private, your Story can be viewed by anyone who can access the rest of your content. Stories on Private accounts can only be viewed by friends. On Snapchat, you can ONLY see someone’s posts after adding them as a friend. This means you have no clue what someone’s content is like until AFTER you’ve added them, so you have no idea whether or not you’ll actually have any interest in what they’re posting without adding them first. I encountered some pretty vile shit on Snapchat because of this.
  • It’s basically impossible to browse or search users on Snapchat itself. I used an app called Ghostcodes, which allows you to browse profiles based on categories and keywords, but you still have to add someone on Snapchat itself to see their posts or communicate with them. Because IG Stories is part of the Instagram app, all Instagram’s usual search and browse functions apply.
  • IG Stories allows you to mention/tag other users in your posts. I haven’t been able to find that function in Snapchat, or any information about it, so I’m assuming it isn’t a thing. I could be wrong though.
  • While Snapchat allows you to contribute to live stories, these are location-based and/or event-based, so you’re contributing your post to an over-all collaborative thing. IG Stories allows you to go live without these restrictions. Your live videos vanish immediately once you finish streaming. Obviously this has its positives and negatives, but it definitely makes me more inclined to use the live video function without giving as much of a shit about looking rough or doing daft stuff (both of which are constants in my life).

Why this stuff matters to me but might not matter to you…

  • I reckon Snapchat is probably great if you know loads of people who also use Snapchat, which I don’t. The people I follow on Instagram are people who I either already have a connection with through a shared appreciation of each other’s photos, or whose posts interest me enough that I want to follow them and see more of their content. Snapchat doesn’t allow for this at all.
  • Snapchat is also probably really useful for people who are focused on broadcasting rather than (just) making mutual connections. I assume it might be great for brands or individuals who are looking for another channel of distribution for primarily video-based content, and I know some YouTubers with thousands of followers who use Snapchat for things like Q&A sessions. Although teenagers and people in their early twenties make up the largest number of both Snapchat and Instagram’s users, Instagram has a much larger number of people in older age groups than Snapchat does. So if your intended audience leans towards a lower age range, or you’re a younger person with lots of friends of a similar age, Snapchat could totally work for you. I’m not pulling this information out of my ass. It’s available here, if you’re interested.
  • Some people use the whole “add me to see my content” approach as a way to gain followers. Setting your Instagram account to private means that if you have a vaguely interesting profile and you Like other people’s stuff, they might follow you just to check out your posts. Since you need to add someone on Snapchat to see their posts, this could be a useful tool to entice followers from other platforms, or those who have found you via Ghostcodes, to follow you. This is a million miles from my approach to social media, so it doesn’t appeal to me in the slightest.

In conclusion…
I don’t see the point in using two platforms for exactly the same thing, especially when one has lots of features that I find useful and the other doesn’t. I’m all about the mutual connections and I’m already established on Instagram in that I’ve been using it for a while, so it made more sense for me to hang on to Instagram and make more use of Stories than to keep Snapchat as well when I wasn’t really enjoying it or getting much out of it.

As the song goes, you gotta know when you hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, know when to walk away, know when to choose one platform for sharing videos of your cat and selfies with animal ears over another…

If you’d like to see ephemeral life fragments in my Instagram Stories, as well as lots of photos, (my entire IG account is public) you can find me at instagram.com/tanyasimonesimpson

I’m On Snapchat Now, Because Reasons

UPDATE 16TH MAY 2017: My experimentation with Snapchat was short-lived. Read about why here.

Every time I read about how ridiculous/self-indulgent/disgusting selfie culture (whatever the fuck that even means) is and how terrible/offensive/pretentious it is for people to share pictures of the minutiae of their lives on the internet, I think, “Hang on, I’m ridiculous, self-indulgent, disgusting, terrible, offensive and pretentious! Why am I not doing more of that stuff?”.

So I downloaded Snapchat. My Story is set to public (so far). My “who can contact me” thingy is set to Friends, even though I haven’t added any yet. I don’t entirely know how to. I’m a bit weirded out about the idea that if I add someone as a friend they can call me. Like with voices. It seems like that’s a thing. Citation needed. I have another browser tab open with a Google search for “snapchat how to”. I made the little picture up there with my face in the ghost thing so that’s good. Look, I’m 36 years old, shut up.

If you follow me (or add me or whatever you do on Snapchat) you will be exposed to an interactive ephemeral visual art experience. Or you’ll see lots of photos of random crap I encounter as I go about my day. However you want to look at it. To be honest, it’ll probably just be a series of hideous mistakes captioned with “What the fuck am I even doing here?” for about a week.

As far as I know, you can follow/add/whatever me by taking a picture of the thing with the ghost and the dots and then doing something in the app. I think you can also search for me. My username is tanyassimpson (cause I’m super witty). From what I’ve read on some embarrassingly “teaching your dad to type” style articles that were exactly at the level I required, adding someone as a friend is a one way thing, then they can choose to add you as a friend if they want. So if you seem to be an alright human being or if we obviously know each other, I’ll probably do that.

This will be an interesting experiment. Or something. See you there!

 

Warmth from Within and Without

warmth from within and without

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a miscellaneous life stuff update here so I figured it was time. As I write this, I’m curled up in an oversized armchair (bought by my 6ft 4in husband, so perfectly excessive for 5ft 3in me), listening to a station on Play Music called Beautiful Piano Ballads (Play Music stations are my new obsession, don’t even get me started), drinking chai and inhaling the glorious aroma of a chocolate scented candle on my altar, blessed by the glow of early spring sunlight streaming through the french doors. And you know what? I feel relaxed. Genuinely, completely chill for the first time in ages.

In my last job and the connected volunteer work I was involved with until late last year, this is when the busiest time of year would have been kicking off. I would have been barely coping with an insane amount of work while under a constant barrage of expectation and pressure over things that sat too uneasily with my personal values. It’s not that I didn’t deeply enjoy parts of it, but it was like when you get back from a camping trip where you were caught in a storm and your tent leaked and you twisted your ankle on the way down the mountain – even though it was exhausting and painful, you still did it again because you survived the ordeal and only remembered the amazing bits. I’m not throwing total shade on ex-volunteering-and-job because it gave me so many incredible experiences and introduced me to some of my best friends. It’s pretty fucking fantastic not to be doing it anymore though, even if leaving it behind gouged a chunk out of my heart in the shape of things that could not be made OK enough for me to continue.

For the first time in ages, the onset of spring feels like the arrival of a close friend bearing coffee and hugs rather than a close friend bearing a hastily packed parachute and the suggestion of sky diving. I’m not really a spring kind of person and I usually get my energy buzz on in the autumn, but this year is different. It’s good. I feel inspired and excited but without all the nervous twitching and insomnia that usually goes along with those things.  I feel free.

Right now, I’m writing a book. I am honest-to-goodness doing the thing I’ve said I was going to do for the last thirty-something years. I’m also learning how to write a book as I write the book so it’s not going to be a masterpiece but it is going to be a learning experience and whatever comes from it will be sent out into the world in some manner. My goal is just to finish it and to have grown from the experience. Then I will write another book and it will be better. I’ve already decided this is how it’s going to go.

Since I started on this project a couple of weeks ago (I rambled about it here), I’ve been allowing myself to write whatever comes into my head and embrace the joy of happy brainspew. I have a kind of beginning and a kind of ending and a vague idea of what might happen in between. My characters have been revealing their voices and their histories. I’ve been asking them questions and letting them answer in their own time. The next bit of the mission is to solidify their identities through mood boards, personality tests and other getting-to-know-you stuff. Once that’s done, I’ll be better positioned to understand how they’ll navigate the world that is the as-yet-unplotted story.

I’m also enjoying social media in a way that I hadn’t really felt able to in a long while. I’m using Facebook less and less because even with the wonder that is the FB Purity Chrome extension it still generally irritates the shit out of me. I still have my artist page where I post stuff relating to my writing and photography, and my FB-based writing group totally owns my soul, but I’m just not feeling the personal-connection vibe on Facebook-in-general anymore.

I’m using Twitter and Tumblr a lot more often than I was (Tumblr is basically internet crack, seriously, I could lose hours on the mobile app way too easily), and I’m posting my writing regularly on Medium. I’ve been falling out of love with Instagram since they took away the chronological feed, but I still post there and have a browse when I have time and can get the app to work without crashing. I am, and will probably forever be, attached in so many ways to DeviantArt, where I’m a photography Community Volunteer. The thing with DA is that there’s a lot of stuff I’m not into on the site, but it’s so easy to customise my experience so that I don’t see any of that stuff. I don’t see it as a professional platform but unlike people who hate the open-to-all-standards aspect of it, I adore the fact that it’s filled with people of all ages and skill levels. It’s had, and continues to have, its ups and downs but it’s a place where I learned and grew so I’m happy to support other people learning and growing there.

My new favourite is Ello. Not to sound too hipstery but I was there at the beginning when it was invite-only and was spoken of as an alternative to Facebook. It has evolved into a creative hub and I love the tightly knit community, especially the awesome writers I’ve met there. It still obviously has a long way to go and things change constantly as it finds its feet, but I feel welcome and at home there. And there’s no advertising, so the user is not the product, which is great. You should all join Ello right now. Seriously. Do it.

This has become a massive ramble so I’ll leave it there and go put my characters through the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. I hope you’re all having a good week.

❤ Tanya

It’s OK To Express Yourself Through Images Of Yourself

This is a reminder that it’s OK to express yourself through images of yourself. It’s OK to take photos of yourself, to draw or paint pictures of yourself. It’s also OK to write poetry, stories, essays and blogs based on your own experiences and ideas.

It’s OK to share those things with your family, your friends, your community and the whole world if you want to. If you don’t want to, that’s OK too, but it doesn’t mean that other people shouldn’t. Your choices are your own and deciding where, when or even if your image and your words are seen is an act of empowerment and you deserve to be empowered, to empower yourself.

Self-portraits are not new. Autobiographies and memoirs are not new. But somehow as soon as people – especially women, especially young women, especially people in minority groups or oppressed groups, or people on the fringes of society, or people with lifestyles outside of the mainstream – have access to the tools and channels to place their pictures and words in the public sphere without prior approval from the powers that be, it’s all ridicule, shaming and accusations of narcissism.

It’s OK to feel confident. It’s OK to feel beautiful. It’s OK to not feel confident or not feel beautiful or not to care about, or be motivated by, the concept of beauty in the slightest but to accept that you are as worthy as anyone else of existing and taking up space and being seen and heard and represented.

And if anyone ever dares to tell you that your face or your body or your voice are not acceptable, if anyone ever dares to tell you to sit down and shut up, to be less visible, to be less anything, that says nothing at all about you and everything about them.

Hearts on Sleeves and Catalysts for Change

Do you ever think about a thing you do, ask yourself why you do it and find yourself unable to formulate an adequate answer? After last night’s I’m going to vomit my soul up all over my blog for no apparent reason session, I fell asleep wondering why I do that , woke up this morning still wondering and now I can’t stop thinking about it.

There’s a common assumption that people write about themselves for attention. Obviously I can’t speak for everyone, but if I wanted internet attention, I would get a whole lot more of it, a whole lot more easily, if I posted my soul-spew on Facebook for a few hundred of my closest friends and causal acquaintances to read. Even on its best day, this blog gets absolutely nowhere near that level of views, so it’s not that.

On a similar note, perhaps it’s a desire for validation. Again, that would come quickly and in vast quantities through Facebook where I know for certain that people would respond with kindness, acceptance and love. I would be reminded that not only are there people who get it, but there are people I know and talk to all the time who get it. This blog is not a very commenty or interacty place (which I’m fine with), so posting anything here for validation would be utterly pointless.

It may be assumed that people empty their minds out into a blog because they don’t have anyone in ‘real life’ to talk to about their problems, feelings or dilemmas. Again, this is totally not the case for me. I’m incredibly lucky because, whether I deserve it or not, I have plenty of wonderful people in my life who I could talk to at any time about anything. I’m definitely not lacking in ‘real life’ communication opportunities, so that reason goes out the window too.

Sometimes when I read other people’s blogs where they talk about deeply personal issues, they explain that their reason for doing so is, at least in part, to help other people. You write about something personal and painful, someone else reads it and can relate to it, then boom! You have helped a person to feel less alone. I’d love to pretend this was my motivation because it would make me look like more of a decent human being than I probably am but the truth is, the other-people-relating factor is no more than a pleasant side effect for me.

Perhaps it’s because I’m a writer, I need to write and ‘myself’ is an accessible subject. I would really like to say this is the reason, and perhaps it’s closer than all the others so far, but it still doesn’t hit the nail on the head. I write all the time about all sorts of things. I write for work. Even when I’m writing recreationally, I don’t always, or even particularly often, write autobiographically (although I often do write in first-person). I’m not short on external inspiration. I gluttonously absorb music, films, TV shows, books, news articles and personal conversations, curating them in my mind to return to later. I have an equally useful and irritating tendency to remember things in precise detail, word-for-word (I am the worst person in the world to argue with because when you play the “When did I say that?” card, I’ll be able to tell you when, where, what you were wearing and how good your hair looked at the time) so if I just wanted to write, it would take me all of 30 seconds to shuffle through my brain-files and find something to write about.

So maybe it’s actually none of those reasons. Maybe it’s something broader and less pin-down-able. Maybe I’m going to try and describe it here. Clue: I am going to try and describe it here. Strap in and hold on.

What if we didn’t exist in a culture of shame? What if it was no more difficult to talk about what hurts you than it is to talk about what makes you smile? What if it wasn’t viewed negatively to talk openly about mental illness or traumatic events or just feeling-down-because-reasons? What if doing so didn’t result in feelings of guilt because other people might have it worse? What if we didn’t score strength-points by keeping everything buried and hidden behind bullshit faux-inspirational quotes about choosing to be positive?

I’m not suggesting that everyone runs around screaming their problems in the face of whoever they encounter in the course of a day, but what if more people felt they could quietly (or not so quietly, whatever) place a small section of their heart in open view without having to earn the right to do so? What if that wasn’t viewed as a radical act? What could that mean for our collective sense of compassion and understanding?

I’m not going to answer that question and I don’t expect you to answer it either. I only ask that you think about it and the next time you feel like you need to write something, paint something, photograph something, sing something, as an act of release and relief, consider that it may also be an act of empowerment with the potential to reach far beyond your own experience. Consider that it, that you, may be a catalyst for change.

Selfies and Soapboxes

Today, a friend posted a link on Facebook to an article entitled Narcissistic, Maybe. But Is There More To The Art Of The Selfie?. It’s an interesting article and it’s short, so if you have a couple of minutes free right now you should totally go and read it. Or open it in a new tab and finish reading my blog post first…

I’m not going to make a habit of blogging replies I’ve written about links on Facebook but having written this particular reply, I realised it actually summed up my entire stance on selfies (or self-portraits, as people have been calling them probably since art and language allowed for it) so I’m getting on my soapbox and posting it here too. There is some swearing. Deal with it.

I’m all for people taking and sharing pictures of themselves, from mirror-shot selfies to artistic-as-fuck self portraits. In a world where you can be, and probably are being (CCTV in the streets, for example), filmed and photographed against your will or without your awareness, taking a photo of yourself, approving of it yourself and sharing it yourself is a massively political act demonstrating agency at a time when consent is not assumed to be necessary for your image to be captured, shared and used by others.

It’s also a push back against mainstream media projections of what is acceptable and desirable in a person’s appearance. We are all constantly bombarded with images of the ideal but as more people share pictures of themselves, however they do or don’t fit into or around that ideal, the more the message of “You must be at least this perfect to exist” is diluted because fuck it, look at this amazing variety of fascinating individuals expressing themselves, as themselves, however the hell they want.