Silver the kitten is now on Instagram

Because I was in danger of my my entire online presence becoming kitten-based, I decided to create an Instagram account for Silver. You can find him at @fromsilverwithlove if you’d like to follow tiny kitten adventures through regular photo posts.


Visit my Patreon to find out about the rewards you can get when you become one of my Patrons. If you’d like to make a one-off payment without a monthly commitment, or add a bonus on top of your existing monthly Patreon pledge, you can do that simply and securely through PayPal. Or show your support by buying me a coffee!

I’m the new horror photography Community Volunteer on DeviantArt

I’ve been a Community Volunteer with DeviantArt on and off for the last nine years, most recently looking after a variety of different photography galleries under the umbrella of general photography.

As of 26th September, I’m specifically looking after the horror and macabre photography gallery and I couldn’t be happier!

My first term as a Community Volunteer (2008-2010) was with horror photography, so it feels like a return home and I’m super excited about diving back into a specialist focus again, especially one so close to my heart.

It seemed fitting to include the photo above with this news. If you’re interested in how I created it, materials are listed below. I used one studio strobe with a softbox positioned to the left of the shot and a reflector to the right.

Fake blood is Grimas Filmblood A.
Keys are on a 1970-something Yamaha organ (it still works, I love it)
Smoke is delicious aniseed, menthol and mixed fruit vape.
Hand is mine


Visit my Patreon to find out about the rewards you can get when you become one of my Patrons. If you’d like to make a one-off payment without a monthly commitment, or add a bonus on top of your existing monthly Patreon pledge, you can do that simply and securely through PayPal. Or show your support by buying me a coffee!

My writing is a Daily Deviation on DeviantArt!

This is technically last week’s news cause it happened on 2nd September, but I had a bunch of blog posts scheduled already so it’s being announced here today 🙂

My horror flash fiction piece, Spark, was featured as a Daily Deviation on DeviantArt.com. Daily Deviations are “an assortment of submissions are chosen each day by this select group of staff and volunteer members who wish to showcase artwork they have found impressive or otherwise interesting enough to deserve being brought to the attention of the community-at-large”.

This is such a hugely special thing for me, partly because DeviantArt has been my home, family and community online for over a decade, and partly because this is the first Daily Deviation I’ve received for a piece of writing.

*sniffle*

You can read Spark on DeviantArt here, although if you aren’t a logged-in member, you won’t be able to view it because of Mature Content settings (it’s a pretty horrific story). You can read it here on my website though.


Visit my Patreon to find out about the rewards you can get when you become one of my Patrons. If you’d like to make a one-off payment without a monthly commitment, or add a bonus on top of your existing monthly Patreon pledge, you can do that simply and securely through PayPal. Or show your support by buying me a coffee!

How to use Facebook without using Facebook

What I hope for from Facebook: To keep in touch with lovely friends who I don’t get to hang out with often enough (partly due to living in different countries), to celebrate huge life-changing landmarks and small beautiful moments with people I care about, and to share thoughts, ideas and musings with my friends.

What I get from Facebook: Friends-of-friends who seem to use the internet primarily as a tool for arguing, emotional blackmail guilt-trip chain memes, painfully inaccurate political spam, and passive-aggressive vaguebooking.

The thing is, Facebook is actually really useful for some things, like inviting people to events, keeping track of friends’ birthdays, connecting with people through Groups, and managing artist and business Pages (although the value of those is limited due to Facebook throttling the reach of any Page that doesn’t pay them to serve content to people who have made a conscious choice to actually follow the page and view the content).

Because I AM SO DONE with about 90% of Facebook right now, I came up with a bunch of workarounds so that I can continue to use the useful parts of Facebook without having to bother with the parts that make me want to gouge my eyes out with a blunt spoon. I removed the Facebook app from my phone and rarely visit the desktop site either. It’s been a wonderfully positive experience so far!

If you want to do that too, here are some ways you can use Facebook without using Facebook.

 

Messenger as a stand-alone app and site

Messenger has its own mobile app, which you can download and use for free without having any other Facebook apps installed on your device. Notifications are reasonably flexible, so you can choose to have a light, sound or vibration to notify you of new messages…or not! Messenger also has it’s own URL. Simply bookmark messenger.com in your browser, and you’re set.

 

Pages Manager as a stand-alone app and Pages as separate URLs

You can also download Pages Manager as a separate app that can be used for free without having any other Facebook apps installed on your device. While you can select vibration and sound notifications independently of each other, you cannot turn off push notifications permanently through the app as it only gives you the option to turn them off until the following morning. If you want to use Pages Manager without notifications, you can still block notifications in your device’s app manager though.

If you want to visit and manage your Pages in a browser, simply bookmark the Pages themselves so you can access them without having to open the main Facebook site.

 

Groups as a stand-alone site

Facebook Groups are actually pretty useful. I’m part of an active, supportive little writing group on Facebook, a group for staff of a news blog I contribute to, and various other groups for organisations I belong to. Luckily, the Groups section of Facebook has its own URL that you can bookmark! Save https://www.facebook.com/groups/?category=groups in your browser’s bookmarks and it’ll take you right to the list of Groups you’re in, rather than the annoying Discover page.

Unfortunately, Facebook has discontinued it’s Groups app, but if you want to access Groups on your mobile device without going through the main Facebook app, you can still do this with your mobile browser – just sync your bookmarks between desktop and mobile, and you’re sorted!

 

Birthday reminders

Facebook can be super useful for helping you to remember friends’ birthdays. I know there are people giving me disapproving looks for this, but seriously, how is it any different from putting birthdays on your calendar? The point is, you use a tool to be reminded of birthdays.

If you want birthday reminders from Facebook without having to visit Facebook, go to the Email Address section of your notification settings https://www.facebook.com/settings?tab=notifications&section=email&view and turn Upcoming Birthdays on. This means you’ll get an email about birthdays from Facebook! If you don’t want those showing up in your inbox, use the settings in your email client to filter them into a separate folder.

 

Creating (and being invited to) Events

You can view Events, including invitations, and create your own by visiting https://www.facebook.com/events/upcoming, which by-passes the main site but still allows you to access everything to do with Events! Annoyingly, there doesn’t seem to be a way (currently, that I can find) of receiving email notifications about invitations without having email notifications generally turned on, but if you can remember to check your emails and other social media sites regularly, it’s not too hard to have a quick look at your Facebook Events too.

If you bookmark the Events URL and sync your bookmarks between your desktop and mobile browser, you can view Events and invitations on your phone or tablet without needing a Facebook app.

If you’re willing to receive push notifications on your desktop even when Facebook is turned off (a big yuck for me personally, but to each their own), you can turn Event-related notifications on through https://www.facebook.com/settings?tab=notifications&section=push&view

 

Checking notifications without viewing the rest of your feed

Yep, this is entirely possible! Your Facebook notifications have their own URL at https://www.facebook.com/notifications so you can bookmark that and check in on your notifications when you feel like it without having to view everything else that appears when you go to the main Facebook site.

To select which notifications you receive on Facebook itself (rather than on your mobile device or by email), go to the On Facebook part of your settings page at https://www.facebook.com/settings?tab=notifications&section=on_facebook&view and turn individual notifications on and off to suit your needs.

 

Make Facebook less awful when you do visit

Even if you want to avoid Facebook most of the time, you may still feel like having the occasional browse. The FB Purity browser extension is an absolutely amazing customisation tool that allows you to hide pretty much any areas of the site and types of content you don’t want to see. It doesn’t stop people saying daft things (although you can block words and phrases) and it doesn’t magically fact check all the political memes, but it does a fantastic job at hiding adverts, Marketplace, ‘someone Liked this thing’ stuff, Trending news, and all the other annoying, extraneous bits and pieces that clog up Facebook and make it horrible.

 

And finally…

Facebook has a tendency to change, hide and remove settings every now and then, so I can’t guarantee that these instructions will definitely be 100% accurate forever, but they’re correct at the time of posting this. I’m sure I haven’t covered absolutely everything in terms of Facebook workarounds, but I hope this has at least provided a helpful starting point for people who want to  use some of the tools Facebook provides without having to deal with the parts of the site that annoy you or suck your time 🙂


Visit my Patreon to find out about the rewards you can get when you become one of my Patrons. If you’d like to make a one-off payment without a monthly commitment, or add a bonus on top of your existing monthly Patreon pledge, you can do that simply and securely through PayPal. Or show your support by buying me a coffee!

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.


Visit my Patreon to find out about the rewards you can get when you become one of my Patrons. If you’d like to make a one-off payment without a monthly commitment, or add a bonus on top of your existing monthly Patreon pledge, you can do that simply and securely through PayPal. Or show your support by buying me a coffee!

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!