We’re all narcissists now



Okay, apologies in advance, this will probably be a bit of a rant. And it probably won’t be all that original either. But I need to let off steam before I carry on with my editing or I won’t be able to concentrate.

If you were out, in town say, and there was someone you knew stood shouting in the town square “Look at me. Look at me,” you’d probably go and have a serious word with them. But this is perfectly acceptable on social media. In fact the louder you shout, the better. Or at least that is what it feels like. It must be the same impulse that allows people to bully people online that allows them to be so nakedly needy. I’m sure it is all to do with not actually being able to see the people we are talking to that allows both of these dubious behaviours.

My irritation is a permanent side effect of looking at Facebook. And while I know I could just not look, I find it is almost compulsive. Perhaps it allows me to feel superior. After all, here I am blogging about my annoyance – no different really. I wouldn’t do it if I thought no one was going to read it. It is ironic to complain about narcissism by being narcissistic but I feel the need to rid myself of some irritation so I guess I’ll just have to cope with it.

What annoyed me today and prompted this blog is the phenomenon of threatening to leave Facebook or unfriend dozens of people if they don’t interact with you in what you deem to be the proper manner. There will be a big proclamation of how terrible social media is, how they can no longer cope with it or with the people who don’t interact with them (or God forbid, disagree with their opinions). There is then a big outpouring from said friends about how they cannot possibly live without that person’s contributions to social media and the original person then decides to stay. I find it hard to believe that people I know are really that needy. Imagine if you did that in real life. You’d probably end up with no friends whatsoever. I personally do not particularly care if someone decides to cull their friends and decides I am on of the ones that needs to go. So be it. You can’t force some one to be friends with you. Would you really keep pushing on real life if you knew that you didn’t have that much in common with people.

I keep saying in real life and maybe that is why I can’t get to grips with this behaviour. I do not live my life through my keyboard and monitor. There is a gap between Facebook and the real world for me but I guess that isn’t true for everyone. And maybe it’s because I’m not that good at sharing in real life so even the mask of anonymity that a screen gives you is not enough for me to lay everything out for inspection. I don’t really understand but I do know it makes me mad.

Everyone likes to be liked and I suppose that Facebook can give you that in spades. I like it as much as anyone when someone likes my status or this blog post. No one is immune. I would just hope that I could hold on to my sense of decorum and not nakedly plead for someone’s pity or love. I do not want to be that person, standing yelling in the middle of town. That is the image I will keep in my head in case I am tempted to do it.


20 years ago today…

I know its my age – the looming horror of forty which is only just over the horizon – that is making me think back over my life. Maybe I have just got to the age where you can’t help but think that you have had your halcyon days. The music, the films, the TV were all better then. (I don’t really believe that, by the way, there is still excellent music, films and TV. My tolerance for the rubbish has just got lower.)

20 years ago, I was in my second year at university, in a student house with five other people. The house was damp. We were burgled and the landlord genuinely suggested that we spent a night without a door rather than have and come and fix the one that the burglars broke in their haste to get our stuff. My library books got so damp that I had to pay for some of them as they were unusable.

None of us had a car. Or a computer. In my third year, I eventually purchased a word processor. It was huge and useless. Like a really slow electric typewriter. It felt like the height of modernity. The university wasn’t much better. They had BBC computers where you had to manually add the formatting. It really did seem like it would never catch on. Compared to my current electronic dependency (it does genuinely seem as if there is always some piece of equipment charging), it seemed like a more innocent time.

I never imagined my mobile phone would become such an integral part of my life. As ever, I was probably one of the last people to get one and then one of the last to get a smart phone. It is just so very tempting. To phone. To upload a photo. To be in constant touch if you so desire. No one ever needs to worry. There is no need to lose touch. Communication is so easy. Easier equals better, right? That seems to be where the march of progress is taking us.

Could communication be diluted by the ease with which you can do it now? No one ever thinks that just because you can doesn’t necessarily mean that you should. 20 years ago, if I wanted to phone home, for example, I had to go across the road to the phone box (as we decided this was better than fighting over the phone bill) and hope that the person on the other end would agree to reverse the charges. This would usually end with someone – one of my housemates usually – banging on the door so they could use the phone. I’m not saying this was fun – and in the North West rain, it almost certainly wasn’t – but you did have to make it count. You didn’t feel compelled to inform people that you’ve just eaten a ham sandwich. Or that you were bored. (If you’re posting that you’re bored on Facebook, you need to seriously think about what you are doing with your life.) When did it become obligatory for people to communicate about every aspect of their lives? 

I seem to be suffering from the opposite problem at the moment. I can’t seem to find worthy detail to post. I’ve got Facebook block. Nothing seems important enough. I can’t help sitting in front of my screen and think who cares. Don’t get me wrong, I like Facebook. It is useful for keeping in touch with people who live a long way away and who I definitely feel closer to than I would have done but for the most part it just seems like the root of all inanity.

It surprises me, this nostalgia. I always thought that I was quite cynical. It turns out I am a romantic at heart. Who’d have thought it? Perhaps communication, like knowledge, should be hard won. It should have meaning and it should be thoughtful. Perhaps I should update my status to ‘my longing for the past is only matched by my happiness that I no longer live there.’ I don’t miss standing in a cold phone box but I do promise to think before I post.

Another week goes by…

It has been a strange week. I have now read Shattered Reflections three times. Just when I thought it was almost time to move to the next step, approve the proofs and then it would be the excitement of sales and marketing. Then, some inconsistencies were pointed out to me and I realised I needed to check through it all again. Square one, hello, here I am again. Starting to wonder how I ever thought this manuscript was ready for public consumption. Hello, also, nerves.

So, I have neglected everything else. No twitter. No facebook. Barely read my e-mails. No writing on exciting new project. No working on website.  No point in having a snazzy website if I have no book to sell. That makes sense, right. But I worry that having taken the first tentative steps towards marketing myself that I am now instantly disappearing. Its taking too long. Furthermore, Shattered Reflections is starting to feel like a piece of coursework that I have marked too many times. I’m thoroughly sick of it. I want to work on something new.

Still I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. This next week should see the proofs ready. The website should be up. Facebook page should be ready. Hears hoping, anyway.

A strange exercise in self promotion.

So it is a week since I started this strange exercise in self promotion and I have to say the net result is I am a bit rubbish at it. Others seem to excel at it. Easily sharing opinions, keeping the public aware of them. By contrast, I worry about every tweet, every word and letter until I lose momentum.

I posted my blog and people liked it. If I sound surprised then this is because I am. Perhaps you wonder why I wrote it if I didn’t expect this to be the outcome. Well, of course, I hoped. But in reality, the pessimist in me expected it to languish lonely in cyberspace. It’s strange to me that people I don’t know might randomly come across my blog and read it. Of course, this is the very definition of reading a book but walking into a book shop and plucking something off the shelf seems natural to me. It has taken me a while to realise that I could treat the Internet in the same way, that people treated it in this way. It makes me feel old to think that reading a book you have physically in your hand is becoming increasingly old-fashioned. Old, and a little depressed.

It has taken me a while to realise how the Internet works – I don’t mean the nuts and bolts of it, I don’t think I’ll ever understand that – but the way people treat it, think of it, work with it. I always vowed that I wouldn’t use Twitter or be the sort to post every thought on Facebook. And even now when I realise the usefulness of it, I still find myself hesitating. At heart I am a quiet person. (Okay, all those of you reading this who actually know me, you can stop laughing now.) What I mean is, I have never really put myself forward. It feels a little like volunteering information that no one asked for. So even as I am typing this it still feels strange.

As for the rest of my week, it has been spent in anticipation. The proofs of Shattered Reflections are ready and I am just waiting for them to arrive so I can start the project of editing them. Excitement bubbles under until they arrive.