Category: <span>Blogging</span>

It took ten minutes of chopping – carrot, celery, onion – plus a bag of yellow split peas and some vegetarian stock, add salt and pepper, some more water and, after slow cooking for several hours the kitchen was filled with the wonderful aroma of split pea soup. Thick, creamy, utterly deliciously.

I’ve written about food here before, although I’ve stopped reviewing every restaurant I visit, and used to write even more when I was an active member of the local Yelp community (that got closed down, a fact that still annoys!). It’s such fun to write about food, trying to find more and more ways to describe a flavour, or a texture, or that wonderful combination of both in a dish that simply dances on the taste-buds.

I like food, a fact not lost on my regular reader (hey you!) given how often I talk about my weight for yes, alas the two are inextricably linked given that I tend to eat more calories than I burn.

I’m very privileged of course, living where I live and in a comfortable lifestyle where my main problem is deciding what food to eat, rather than if I will eat at all. If anything we have an abundance of choice, far more than I even remember as a child, especially given the availability of goods that used to only be available in the correct season; that said the seasons still apply, a strawberry in December is not the same as a strawberry in June.

But let’s not get too heavy (pun intended) for food is something that should be enjoyed if at all possible although I am guilty of falling into the “food is fuel” thinking, eating because I should rather than I want to. Thankfully that’s exception rather than the rule, and so most days I eat tasty food that is good for me.

Oh yes, I may be overweight but that’s not because I constantly eat bad food, my breakfasts are typically porridge and fruit (with a skimmed milk, sugar-free vanilla latte), my lunches either freshly made salads or sandwiches (not bought from a supermarket) and my dinners are typically cooked in the oven, be they chicken and veg, or just a bit plate of roasted veg (admittedly with some butter but hey, we gotta live!).

No, where I fall off the good eating wagon is the snacks and the chocolate and the desserts. Too often I reach for something sugary, a sweet tooth inherited from my father, and too often rather than one or two little things, it’s four, or seven, or an entire pack.

This I know, and this is the daily battle of emotional willpower versus intellectual knowledge, and even though most days my intellect wins (a rarity in itself!) the days were my willpower collapses completely tend to undo an entire week or two in one fell swoop. I do not fall lightly (because I’m overweight! Ha ha, look at me, laughing at myself).

And then there is eating out, which can be done healthily but more often than not is an indulgence. I do love a well prepared, well presented meal, and some live long in my memory. There is something about having your senses overwhelmed with juicy sauces and piquant fragrances that really seems to make reminiscing on such meals all the more vivid.

Food is a staple, we all need it, and it always fascinates me to see how different people view it. You see articles about people who’ve eaten the same meal every day for years and year, and then read about people who are moving to an insect-only diet. It is a constant in all our lives, yet every single one of us will have a different favourite food, or favourite cuisine, just as we all have differing dislikes (not to mention allergies).

I guess this all boils down to one thing, are you a sane person, or do you actually think Marmite tastes nice?

Blogging Blogvember Food

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Do, or do not, there is no try.

The challenge was to get from the outdoor centre to a specified point a few hills away, and back, before anyone else. Four teams were assembled, all going to different points on the map that only they knew, and we all set out at the same time.

I was the leader of the squad and I did not like to fail. We set off and all was going well, we reached our turning point, where one of the organisers was wanting for us to confirm we’d made it there, and we were heading back, wary of the time as it zipped past, all the time wondering where the other squads were. Were we winning or losing?

About halfway back one of the younger boys started to complain that he was tired, that his backpack was too heavy, his legs sore. After doing my best to lift his spirits and boost his confidence it was evident he was starting to slow us down.

So I took his backpack from him, slung it across my front (I already had my own on my back) and told him that he “had to keep up now” as he had “no excuses”. Failure here, was not an option. As we set off he still languished at the back, head down, demoralised. I shouted at him to keep up.

My name is Gordon and, contrary to that little tale, I am a nice guy. Honest.

Side thought: isn’t that what all nice guys say? And who am I to decide if I’m nice or not, and against what yardstick of ‘nice’ am I measuring myself?

For many years of my life I considered myself, one way or another, a failure. Not in a completist way, but in the far more damaging and hard to detect micro way. Not matter how hard I competed, there was always someone better than me, bigger than me, faster than me, smarter than me.

At school I was in the top classes for Maths and English, but not at the top of those classes. In P.E. I wasn’t great at football, preferring basketball where my height and hand-to-eye coordination could shine through but even then there were two boys taller and better than me.

So I found ways to cope, I picked my battles and worked hard where I was close to the top, eschewing anything that I would immediately fail at. Why bother trying out for the school football team, when I was a guaranteed starter for our house basketball team? Revise and study hard for that English exam, but I’m probably gonna fail Chemistry anyway, so why bother. It’s a crude and basic way to approach things, and I’m still guilty of it preferring to play video games on easier settings so I’ll win, rather than challenge myself to improve and, probably, fail.

Of course, failing is part and parcel of life and it took me far too long to realise how important it is to learn to fail. Dealing with failure is as crucial as learning to win with grace.

Yesterday I wrote about “Trying” and a large part of that was actually about failing and letting that be acceptable. That has freed me up to re-try some things I enjoy as hobbies, safe in the knowledge that I won’t fail at them, because just trying is, in and of itself, very much a mark in the win column!

Master Yoda said “Do, or do not, there is no try” and he is right, well he is right if you want to become a Jedi and save the universe. Thankfully, us mere mortals have less taxing demands so perhaps we need a new Yoda sacrament to be writ; “Try, or try not, there is only fail”, and with that we can learn to fail, and learn that failing is not a bad thing at all.

And, for those who are wondering (and still reading), yes my squad did make it back to the outdoor centre first.

We won.

But looking back on my younger self that day I can see just how badly I failed.

Blogging Blogvember

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A Saturday morning alarm set for 6.45am.

I try to fight the urge to hit SNOOZE.

I succeed (!) and rise from the warmth of my bed. I have a plan.

Once ready, I head downstairs, eat a slice of toast and rouse Dave, one of our dogs, from his slumber. As ever he gets up and stretches, sleepily padding his way to where I stand in the hall, lead in hand, waiting. I fasten the clips around him, double check my pockets; keys, poo bags, phone. We are good to go and head out in the brisk morning air and start our walk.

It’s early so there are few souls to be seen and those we do encounter are also out walking their dogs. Briefly pleasantries are exchanged and we go on our separate ways. At the park Dave is let off to roam, a little, with his LED collar – essentially for a black dog in the dark – giving away his location. He veers too far sometimes but a corrective call is all that is needed to bring him back to my side.

We walk on, round the park once then back to the street. We head away from home and walk beside quiet roads that are slowly filling with traffic as workers wake and start their commutes. At every gate Dave pauses briefly to check, every shop door is sniffed, the occasional piece of litter consulted, as on we walk.

He can be very focussed – the boy likes to WALK. None of this ambling around for him, no! – and so we pass other early risers who want to stop and say hello but Dave walks straight past, determined to get to wherever it is he thinks he is headed. As we cross roads he pulls one way when we are going another. One day I’ll let him lead us, but not today, that is not the plan.

Another park as the morning light breaks through the trees, a few more dogs to greet this time, but soon enough it’s time to head for home. My stomach rumbles.

The final stop, a final pee, and then we are there, back inside the warmth of our home. Sasha gets up to greet us and I swap dogs, letting Dave off his lead and putting Sasha on hers, she too needs some morning relief but we won’t walk as far, her ageing hips need the rest.

Once done it’s time to feed them both – 8am – and once they’re done it’s my turn. Another slice of toast will suffice for now, they will need their post-breakfast pees soon, so I make my first coffee of the day.

Soon enough they’ve both been taken out again, and I start to prepare the breakfast I’d planned for, scrambled eggs, crispy bacon and toast.

9am is approaching as I plate up and take my seat in front of the TV, just in time for the Rugby World Cup final.

That was the plan.

I’ve been trying NOT to make plans for a long time now, at least I’ve been trying not to micro-plan my day as much as I used to. It’s been working for the most part, but part of letting go of that approach to living, something I did subconsciously for most of my adult life, is also learning to accept that I won’t always manage it but I am trying, and that trying is all I need to do.

And the more I learn to just try, the happier I feel, simply by removing the pressure to succeed all the time.

Now I’m off to watch the Rugby where I hope there will be plenty of tries (do you see what I did there), and no doubt I’ll spend the rest of the day trying to stay awake whilst being very happy to fail (fall asleep on the sofa).

Blogging Blogvember

It’s probably set in the kitchen in my parents old house. Habitat (?) wallpaper, and a wall mounted set of scales with a dark blue bowl. I think that’s where it’s from, or it’s entirely possible that old photos have further blurred my increasingly bad memory.

I can remember one Christmas morning, before my sister arrived, leaping on to my parents bed and opening my He-Man presents. Again, there is a photo somewhere of that moment which might be why it sticks in my mind so vividly, and this matches most of my memories that can be traced to a photo. Mind you, for some reason it is Christmases that loom largest in my memory, so perhaps there is a level of emotional attachment at play.

My fondest memories of our family Christmases were just that, a time for just the five of us (my parents, myself, my sister, and the dog), all in good spirits, all happy and together. These are always the best memories and those early mornings, chomping on chocolate coins and reading my Oor Wullie annual loom large whenever I cast my mind back to my childhood.

I’ve tried to push my mind further back a few times, tried to get back to the house I spent the first three years of my life in, but I don’t even get a hazy hint at those days. In this example the photos don’t help as I clearly don’t have any memories to grasp on to in the first place. That said, given my parents old house was the family home for 40 years of my life, it’s no wonder that all of my oldest recollections stem from that place, those rooms, our garden, and all the wonderful times spent there.

These days I take a lot of photos, partly because I enjoy photography but more and more I realise it’s a way to capture the memories as they happen as I fear I will forget them, a fear that grows the older I get. Of course the ubiquity of having a phone in my pocket everywhere I go makes this much easier, and I wonder how this wonderful little gadget will impact future generations, how will their memories be impacted? What will their favourite recollections be compromised of?

My recollections are more than the images they represent, of course they are, and photos are just an easy way to trigger those, and for the most part I’m pretty good at putting the camera away and living in the moment itself, for without the emotional connection, without something else to grasp on to, photos are simply a flat, dimensionless trick, a rendering of a time and place that holds no value.

A while ago I realised that I should be more focused on creating more of those connections, and more recently I’ve been mindful of how often I dive behind the camera and make more of an effort to find the balance, putting the camera aside and enjoying each moment as it happens and I find that my more recent memories, ones spent experiencing the moment first hand rather than via the glow of a screen, live larger and brighter in my memory.

Every day Facebook reminds me of memories from last year, and as I pause to look at those photos I find I can recall more than I see, and perhaps my memory isn’t all that bad after all. The details I can recall are all the better for having been present at that time and I find my mind able to recall more and more details of those past events.

I realise now that those will always be the recollections I strive for as they give me a richer pathway to past memories that I hold dear. And those are always the best things to remember.

Blogging Blogvember Life

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Is it just me or are the number of blogs on the rise again?

Despite all the other methods of social media available, blogging remains a unique option, better suited to those wishing to publish thoughts, ideas, commentary and the like, than the more recent incumbents of Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Honourable mention for Tumblr but it just never had the richness to provide great content, and I think remains a little too focused on its own model of interactions rather than the content it holds.

As a long-term blogger (aka old git) it’s interesting to see the ebb and flow of popularity that blogging goes through. I think this is the third or maybe fourth wave of ‘the rise of blogging’ that I can recall and each time things change a little bit further without ever straying too far from the basic roots of blogging.

Yup, when I started round ‘ere it were all but fields…

Blogging is about mostly about words and links (I’m putting photo only blogs aside for now). Some blogs are heavier on one than the other, the best have a mix of both, and they all tend to be well written with a distinct voice. Admittedly, those are pretty wide parameters, which have been continually tweaked and stretched over the past 20 years and my blog is a reasonable example of this evolution. It weren’t always such and if you head back through my archives you’ll see I started writing short pieces every few days, then through the next couple of years (as soon as Blogger came along) I began publishing new posts multiple times a day, often linking to something interesting I’d just found and over time, as I wrote more often I found more and more of my ‘voice’, despite not ever having much of an audience (or much in the way of quality).

Today a successful blog is just one part of an online presence, sitting alongside Instagram perfect photos, sound-bite worthy Tweets, a stream of Snapchats, and lots of promotion; Read my new post! Yeah it’s not actually new but I need to keep my presence refreshed so I’m posting it again for the umpteenth time this week but hey, my stats say these are the best times for interaction/hits so I gotta do it to stay relevant!!

I see talk of things like discovering your brand, of finding the perfect grid, of honing your voice. It were ever thus of course, just that the terminology has changed a little as blogging is, for many, a business not a hobby and understandably that leads to a focus on views, hits, and stats, and as they start to grow their brand, so the focus turns to monetization (if that’s even a word) and the key to social media hierarchy, influence.

I know several bloggers who have successful blogs, that are well written, personable, gorgeously designed and well presented, and they deserve all their success for their hard work. Yes, it is hard work to maintain a blog over a long period of time, to find your voice, hone your craft and produce content regularly. Any old fool can churn out a 500 word diatribe and throw it into a templated design, but to build an engaged audience takes a level of honesty and integrity that not everyone can maintain.

To which I should admit that I look on at the latest crop of successful bloggers who appear (although we know how looks can be deceiving) to be having that ‘better life’ and I wonder. When I started my blog, if I’d really gone for it with a passion, could I have been as successful? (hint: no, or I’d have done it already).

This isn’t a grumpy old man rant though, I’m not bitter about those people as they all work hard to get to where they are, it just isn’t for me.

Which begs the question, as blogging has changed so much, why the hell am I still doing it? If it ain’t for the money and the rewards then why keep doing this, I mean, it’s been twenty years!

Let’s cut to the chase. The reason I still write and publish posts on this blog is down to pure and utter vanity. I can parcel it up any way you like, put a big bow on it and say that this is a way to process a whirl of random thoughts (which it is), or that I continue to post in the (vain!) hope that someone else might find something I’ve written useful, or perhaps I would even go so far as to suggest that my voice is actually important, my opinions should be heard, and I’m actually utterly dismayed that my blog is not more widely read but hey, I’m not that (white) guy and, frankly, I’m amazed that anyone person reads this at all. Aside from my parents of course, they remain my most loyal of readers but that’s largely because I’m a terrible son who doesn’t see his family often enough!

Essentially though, and I think whilst the means may differ, all bloggers have the same end goal in mind when they hit Publish. They want to be validated, they want to be heard and noticed. Even if it’s only a little as sometimes that’s all we need.

When I started out, part of my reason for blogging was purely the fact that I, little ole me, could write some nonsense and with a few HTML tags, and a quick FTP upload, it would appear on the internet right there next to Yahoo News! You’d search AltaVista and find my website, or perhaps you’d spot it in the list of 30 or so in the UK / Weblogs category in the Yahoo directory. Regardless, there was a strange ego boost to seeing something I’d created ‘up there’ with all the others, all of which I presumed knew exactly what they were doing and why whereas I was making it all up as I went along. Ain’t hindsight wonderful.

However, it soon became a vanity project and with valid reason for a while when I separated out my professional thoughts to a separate blog. That got me a couple of speaking slots at some industry conferences and made me very aware of being fairly high profile, admittedly if only in a small professional circle. Yet it was never something I took over into my personal blog, other than one presentation I did on blogging many moons ago, it remained a hobby.

All of that ‘fame’ happened just before the latest wave of social media, Instagram wasn’t long launched, Snapchat was a few years away, and Twitter was king with all the cool kids. I was still blogging, but it was starting to feel very much like shouting into the void.

And to be honest, it still does. But then, isn’t that the point of a vanity project? You shout and shout simply because you want to, simply because you can.

I’ve been lucky. I am still in contact, even if it’s just social media contact, with some of the bloggers that started around the same time as me, some of which are still blogging as well (we are a stubborn bunch!) but the longer this blog goes on, the more I wonder why I keep doing it, it’s a habit, sure, but is it a bad one?

When the 20th anniversary of this blog rolled around I contemplated closing it down and as each post becomes more and more of a challenge that may still happen and I can’t imagine many people will mind. What’s more important is whether I’ll mind or not, and therein lies the root of this to-blog-or-not-to-blog angst.

For a long time I wrote fairly intimately about various aspects of my life and whilst I stopped shy of discussing my sex life, other aspects of my personality, my sexuality, my political leanings, and my feminism have all been fair game. Yet over the past couple of years I’ve gotten away from that. It probably, unconsciously, started when I went back for some counselling a few years ago and while that prompted some deeper introspective posts, I’ve not really been quite as forthcoming as I have been in the past.

Perhaps it’s the growing sense of my place in the world, something I’ve touched on many times, and my growing belief that the only thing I should really be doing with my voice is to amplify the voices of others (and ohhh how I wish more men would take this stance) although I recognise the irony of that statement amongst this gushingly ponderous post. As time goes by I struggle with what to write, and yet, and yet… I still find something, so the hobby continues, even as it veers away from certain areas of my life it embraces new ones.

Even now, as I write this post, I’m trying to find an answer and half wondering if I’ll even post this – because frankly this is getting embarrassingly self-serving – yet it strikes me that I enjoy this habit, this hobby of mine that doesn’t really offer any value to anyone bar me, as it was and as it should be.

So yeah, I’ve wondered if I’m done with blogging, but it appears that I’m not. Not yet.


Apparently I’m not alone.

Blogging Personal Musings

In 1996 I attend a day long training course to learn how to use a new technical language to publish text on the internet. I was working for a small firm in Helensburgh at the time, the internet was still new, we’d only just upgraded to Windows 95, and I was put in charge of creating their website.

That technical language was called HyperText Markup Language (HTML) and still powers the bulk of the internet today. The default browser of the day was Netscape Navigator, and webpages looked very basic consisting of little more than black text on a grey background with some oddly placed images. In the last hour of the training course we were taken through some new developments in HTML which added the ability to make the background a different colour and then how to create clickable imagemaps. Exciting times!

Eager to experiment with this new knowledge I created my own little website, all hand coded in HTML. It was only a few hyperlinked pages kept locally to begin with, and mostly just lists of my favourite websites. As it turns out that is pretty much what many other people were doing at the time,but only a handful were publishing these on the internet for others to see but I was soon to join them quite simply because I could (ahhh memories of angelfire).

I had no grand plan, no burning desire to do much with this knowledge, it was (and still is) a curiosity and a level playing field. I had a website, just like the BBC had a website, just like Microsoft had a website. Were they my peers now? Of course not, my own little website was little more than a handful of pages of not much else of note.

Zip forward to 1997; I’ve built the company website (Crossaig) and I’ve started using the internet more and more, mostly exploring various strands of the Yahoo Directory or following webrings to discover new websites. Some of these had started offering more content, unique content, content written by the person behind the blog. Some were curated list of interesting websites, some were almost like diaries, I was fascinated.

Needless to say you can guess what happened next, I followed suit and in June 1999 I purchased a domain name – www.snowgoon.co.uk – and some webspace and uploaded my own random little website and started writing content. I was mimicking what I’d seen other do (I’m an early adopter, not a culture maker) and having fun doing it.

That website is long gone but the posts still exist here in the archives. I didn’t know what a blog was back then (no-one did) but soon enough an online tool called Blogger came along and made it much much easier to publish content online and the rest, as they say, is history.

It was 20 years ago today that I published a piece of nonsense about Sunglasses to my own little website. Who’d have thunk I’d still be posting nonsense here 20 years later. I may have been going in and out of style, but I hope I’ve at least managed to raise a smile.

Blogging

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I have a habit of starting to write posts but not finishing them and then complaining (to myself) that I don’t have anything to write about. The moment will pass and then a few days later the urge will come rolling back in like a gentle tide and I’m back at the keyboard, typing out yet more nonsense to post on this blog.

My approach to writing blog posts hasn’t really changed in the past 20 years – which says something in and of itself – I get an idea, I start typing and don’t stop until I stop. I tend not to plan what I write, preferring to just get some words in place, hoping that I can rearrange them later into something that resembles a coherent thought or two.

For my regular reader, you’ll already know that it doesn’t always work out. Sure, I can get the words out but finding a semblance of order and common thought can prove a challenge at times. So I save a draft and go and read something else written by people with actual talent, and then spend far too much time (entire minutes!) wondering why I still bother.

I’ve tried a variety of things to get around this in the past; I’ve posted some creative writing here and whilst that’s something I’m keen to back to it’s not always that easy and takes more time than your average brain dump of a blog post, I’ve tried a regular schedule (3 posts a week all the way through 2018) and that at least forces me to think about what I’m going to post and made me take a little more time to make it ‘good’, and I’ve looked for inspirational lists for ideas. None of these seem to have stuck, and then I remember that this is a hobby and something I do because I enjoy it and I relax and move on to something else.

All of this means that I have a number of draft posts that have never really made the grade. Yes, it’s a very low bar, but looking at the drafts I currently have sitting here I can see what I was trying to say in some, can’t really see it in others, and frankly some should never ever see the light of day.

Draft posts are not a thing to be ashamed of, and so I thought I’d give them a little light by listing them here, in reverse order based on when I last modified them, although what I should do with them. It’s been quite cathartic!

  • iOS Apps – Every now and then I update the list of apps I use on my iPhone. Not done it for a few years and this draft is dated from Sept 2017 as it is. Also, not so much a wordy post but more of a list.
    Update & publish.
  • Writing space – A post about why I wasn’t writing, and how that is based on fear and trying to get back into the habit. Dated Oct 2017 I’m not sure why I didn’t post this one as it was accurate at the time. Alas, time moves on so it is actually talking about circumstances that don’t match my life as it is now so it needs some editing, which is why it’s still in draft. A lot of it is still valid though.
    Update & publish.
  • Clothed for life – I wrote this fairly quickly after reading another post about sustainable clothing. It’s very much a draft and doesn’t really say anything I haven’t since said.
    Delete.
  • Nanette – Safe to say the Hannah Gadsby show Nanette hit several nerves. I started to try and get my feelings out, on things like toxic masculinity and my own role within it. It’s mostly a circular journey of ‘I know I am not as woke as I think I am but I’m trying’ and reads very much like just another cis white male adding his voice and is dangerously close to ‘I’m a nice guy though’ territory. None need ever read that.
    Delete.
  • TV for sale – in which I look at why I watch TV and discuss some of the shows I watching. Written in July 2018, it’s out of date.
    Delete.
  • Glasgow man – written in direct response to an awful tweet from the “Glasgow man club” – which seems like just a good awful place veiled with good intentions; “Glasgow Man Club will give you the tools and teach you the protocols and routines to create a strong, powerful man. A better husband, partner, father, brother, son and friend; create better relationships with your partner, re-light that sexual fire, no more begging for sex; prove to your kids how awesome a father and role model you can be.”.
    Fuck that shit, say I. This draft remains unposted but I do want to revisit it because this is definitely a place where my voice needs to be added. (Dear guy, stop being that guy, thanks, yours, a guy).
    Update & publish.
  • Why am I STILL blogging? – I occasionally feel nostalgic. Or envious. Or a strange mix of the two when another blogger looms into view with tales of earnings and supplied products and… well I’m not doing this for THAT but it does feel like I could’ve made different decisions. But then this blog wouldn’t be THIS blog. My thoughts on how things have evolved then.
    Update & publish.
  • Apple no longer excites – I upgraded my 6 year old MacBook Air and the entire experience was smooth and… a bit dull. Same with iPhone upgrades. Mostly just me ranting about that and then countering those rants with ill thought through comments on WHY this is the case. Meh.
    Delete!
  • Dogs – As those on my Instagram will know. I now live with two dogs – Dave & Sasha – who I adore. It’s been a big change but a welcome one.
    Update & publish.
  • Going Monzo – My new bank account, and our joint account, is with Monzo. A ‘fintech’ company that offers an excellent app with instant notifications, balance updates and more. It has, in a short space of time, given me a renewed focus on my finances, just because it’s easy to use (the ability to syphon off money into distinct ‘pots’ has been a life changer). That said, this is mostly me waxing lyrical and linking to my sign up link.
    Delete.
  • Story of a back – Just me moaning about my sore back which, since I wrote this draft, has been treated and is on the mend.
    Delete.
  • 20 years – written in preparation of the 20th year of my blog.
    Update and schedule to be published on the big day itself.

So, it turns out I have plenty still to write about, I just need to focus on finishing what I’ve started.

Ohhh were it ever so!

Blogging Personal Musings

A few days ago a short video clip went viral, in the way short video clips do. It was taken during a baseball game and showed a foul ball (a hit that lands out of bounds) landing in the front few rows of the stand. A child scrabbles under his seat to get it but the ball rolls under his seat and a man sitting behind him reaches down and snatches it up, laughing, and then hands it to the woman sitting next to him.

Watching it and you can’t help but be horrified, a grown man, snatching a ball away from a child and LAUGHING about it.

Needless to say the backlash was swift and I re-tweeted it myself in a pique of righteous outrage. Who WAS this douchebag? Clearly a horrible person, and it wasn’t hard to plop him into the American stereotype; white guy, baseball cap, arrogant, careless, Trump voter, and no doubt an ill-educated, racist, sexist, right-wing asshole to boot. It’s not much of a leap, let’s be honest, given the lens we view America through at the moment but with a quick click of a button I could share my disbelief and mild hatred of this stranger with the rest of Twitter, along with several thousand other similarly gobsmacked people who also re-tweeted the clip.

Ohhh and it felt so so good. Justice has been served!! At least in so much as it ever is in a world where social media skips and bounces across the surface of the inane and newsworthy alike, why deep dive when you can pass judgement and move on to the next crusade. Dreddful times? But then I guess it’s not like we have to wait long before the next thing comes along, the next blip on the radar at which we can direct our moral judgement, all name of correcting wrongs and making the world a better place.

Baseball stealer, Brexit disaster, climate change, refugee activism. Click, click, click, click. And lo I have participated and the world spins easier on its axis.

That’s how the world works now, right? I have shared so I am part of the solution, I can now kick back, relax and feel good about myself. Isn’t social media WONDERFUL!

I know, I know, if only it were so.

One of the first things I ever published here, back in June 1999, was a reaction to another shooting in the US of A. It was the only social media platform we had back then; four years before MySpace, five before Facebook, seven before Twitter. It were nowt but fields but it was all we had, hand-crafted HTML and FTP uploads. Even back then, despite the paucity of blogs (or perhaps because of it) my blogroll was full of similarly minded people, liberal IT geeks. No doubt there were plenty of right-wing GOP bloggers but I had no need or desire to track them down. The news was my source of information on the wider world.

These days the news is a source, and even then I’m much more wary of trusting it to be reported without agenda or bias, and I look to social media to sense check what I’m reading. Which means it can be a vicious circle of lies and deceit that self-perpetuate. Clearly social media is simply heralding the downfall of what little humanity we seem to have left.

Which is complete nonsense, after all I wouldn’t have heard about many glorious things at all if it wasn’t for social media. It’s not like the news headlines are dominated by acts of kindness and love, is it?

I know my life is richer for social media in many positive and uplifting ways. Which is lovely. Seeing the good side of humanity is a wonderful thing and genuinely makes me happy and reminds me that the shit-storm that is plastered all over newspapers and TV banners is the worst tip of the shitberg. Dig a little (ewwww) and there are stories of care and compassion to find. Phew. What a relief. Except it should be no surprise that my personally curated and selected social media feeds bring me things of joy and beauty in this horrible horrible world.

At this point I find myself searching for an analogy, one that pairs manure with roses, perhaps, but I then I realise that like most analogies it’s easy to realise how flawed they are; sure roses like manure, but too much manure and the roses will be weak and lack vibrancy, not enough and they are stunted and dull.

Which is all just a really clunky and roundabout way of saying I don’t think I have enough manure in my social media, which is not a statement I thought I’d ever make but there you have it. Like most people my social media is within my bubble, it shares my world view, it reacts the same way I do, and it’s why it’s a key part of staying connected to my “tribe”. I know that not looking outside of your tribe is, in and of itself, a dangerously blinkered view of the world to have.

I think I need to be challenged more, to have my gaze shifted from time to time, or I’m in danger of falling into the same knee-jerk reactions that I see elsewhere, the ones I point at and laugh at because what kind of idiot reacts without thinking?

In the world of fake news this is all the more important. Challenge your presumptions, pause your reactions, find the other sides to the story, assess.

That baseball guy, it turns out, had already snagged one foul ball and handed it to the kid in front of him. Apparently he’s a nice guy and does that from time to time. Various tweets from people sitting near him during the game confirm this, calling out all those horrible people who’d hate-shared the video clip portraying him as some form of child-hating monster.

I was one of those people.

I’d been faked news’d.

And worse still, I’d reacted just like the morons I see do it over and over again – Trump is great, women need to know their place, immigrants should just go home – I see those idiots scream and shout.

And I sit by and retweet those who rail against them, comfortable in my quiet home, safe from any backlash.

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