social-media

Cyber Abuse – why does it happen and what do we do about it?

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The internet is a wonderful tool in so many ways, and there is no doubt that it largely enhances our lives.  From online shopping which makes daily life for the disabled or isolated, much easier, to educational information available to everyone, to online business opportunities, it opens life up to us in ways we never realised were closed before.

As with most things in life however, there is a darker side to the internet, and it seems to be gaining in strength.  There have been several high profile instances of cyber bullying and general aggressiveness, the latest of which is the abuse suffered by Stan Collymore, the retired English football player.  He has been on the receiving end of racial abuse, mainly via twitter, which has escalated into death threats and all sorts of other horrors.

There are two questions that spring to mind immediately.  Why do people do this and what can we do about it?

The first of these questions is multi-faceted, but simple to answer – because it’s anonymous.  You don’t have to identify yourself truthfully anywhere on the internet, and this allows you the safety to behave in ways you would never dream of otherwise.  You can call yourself any name you can think of, you can put any random photo on your profile, and no one need know who you really are.  This is extremely empowering, especially for those people who are socially introverted, and/or too afraid to take part in what used to be called ‘normal social situations.’

Suddenly, we can now spit forth all of the darkest horrors that dwell deep within the most animalistic region of our minds, and which we tend to keep locked away when we have to physically interact with people.  No one in their right mind would walk down the street, see a black skinned ex footballer, and yell the N word at the top of their voice.  The chances are that the aforementioned would come over and nut you one if you did.  We all know this, and, not wishing to invite fisticuffs with another person who might hurt us far more than we are able to hurt him/her, we keep our mouths shut and our kneecaps intact.

Get on the internet however, and suddenly those risks are not there anymore.  We no longer have to risk getting a black eye or broken nose, we can be as horrible as we like and be totally confident that we will always get away with it.  That gives us all a lot of power, but it is a power that causes nothing but pain.

I think there are several underlying causes of this upswing in anonymous aggression.  Firstly, our societies are terribly over populated and our territorial boundaries are being invaded every day as more and more housing goes up, gardens get smaller and more people are being housed in apartments without even a balcony, let alone a garden.  We now have more neighbours, far more closer to us than ever before and we are forced to live in far too close a proximity to everyone else.  Everyone likes their own space, but when your own space is not much bigger than your own footprint, it has a detrimental psychological effect, so much so that there is now a new educational discipline called Environmental Psychology.  People can now study the effects of overcrowding and the way it affects us.

This enforced crowding, leads me to the second reason.  The closer we are forced to live with our neighbours, and the less personal space we are allowed, makes us withdraw from social interaction more than we would have done fifty years ago, in order to try to get some time away from all these people so close around.  This withdrawal does nothing to enhance or develop our social or interpersonal skills, and subsequent generations are much less effective at what I call, compassionate social interaction than people of my parents’ generation was.

Given our dwindling ability to interact in a compassionate way, the dwindling of our personal space, and the enforced ‘close proximity living’ we are all experiencing, the type of interaction offered us by the internet, with it’s anonymity, makes cyber abuse bound to happen.  We now have a platform on which to vent all of the pent up feelings our lives cause us, and knowing that we can say whatever we want without anyone having to know who we are, the temptation to vent forth with our most vicious feelings is too strong for many to resist.

So what can we do about it?

This is a hard one, and one that does not have a simple answer.  We should encourage our younger generation to interact physically more than they do, limit their time on the internet so that real interaction becomes the norm for them, and give them other opportunities to vent their feelings in a way that does not involve hurting anyone else.  Ideally we would all have the opportunity to live in slightly larger personal spaces than we now do, but unless there happens to be a sudden pandemic anytime soon, we are doomed to live shoulder to shoulder with our neighbours.  Education is very important and often overlooked in this particular arena.  Those who have spent many years being educated to a high standard, have not only showed that they have high self discipline, necessary for study, but they often have life goals that involve getting out into the world and doing something with their time and skills.  Under educated inner city no-go area housing estates are often filled with people who have not had such a good education and who have practically no job prospects.  They have more free time in which to sit around and get bored, due to not having a high standard of living, and the temptation to spend hours daily on the internet, and using it as an outlet for all of their woes, is very high.

We need to be teaching the younger generation how to be a compassionate social person in a high density society.  This is where we can blame the parents – us, for not having done our job properly.  Human nature is naturally compassionate, to a degree, but we are also naturally competitive and want to be better than the next guy.  We are capable of great violence and as kids, we need to be taught how to control our selfish urges and live in harmony with others.  With all the educational, racial, cultural and religious differences between us and our neighbours in our new borderless societies, we need to learn how to live and let live.  It doesn’t come naturally, it needs to be learned and we haven’t taught this to our kids.

When it comes to social media, those in charge of these sites need to jump on any wrong doing quickly and deal with it, and this is where they are falling behind.  In all of the recent high profile cases, the social media site(s) involved have done nothing about the abuse.  This needs to change, especially as there have been several suicides resulting from cyber abuse.  The problem for us as users is that we are almost totally powerless to force their hands.  We can email, tweet, post etc demanding they toughen up, but 99% of people, while agreeing, won’t bother to get involved, (another demonstration of today’s lack of compassion for others).

I’ve had a few nasty comments on facebook over the years I’ve been involved with it, and my response is always to go public with it.  I copy and paste the comment, with the person’s name, and let all my followers see it.  I respond not with aggression, but with honesty and openness and show the world who this person is.  Hopefully the ensuing embarrassment will help them to decide not to do it again.  If I get a reputation for always showing the world what you’ve said to me, the chances are you will try to make sure what you say to me is not abusive.  That’s my opinion anyway, and however flawed it may be, it works for me.

I hope Stan Collymore gets the result he deserves, and I hope the twitter bigwigs get off their fat asses and tighten up their response to such crap.  In an ideal world this shit would not happen, but this is not an ideal world, because people live on it.

Nano 2013 update, Promotion decision, and other stuff

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How’s everyone getting on with nano?  I’ve passed the 50k and feel justly proud of myself.  The third volume in The Sinclair V-Logs is taking shape nicely and I estimate that I’m three quarters the way through.  Doing nano is great for self discipline, and it’s wonderful to see how creative you can be, even when you’re forcing yourself.  This book will, I hope, be published in early Summer 2014.

Promotion, sorry for swearing, is a dirty word for indie authors.  It’s worse than fuck, whore, balls and cunt combined and I wince every time I read it, hear it or have to write it.  I’m not a natural saleswoman and don’t pretend to be.  I find selling myself, my brand and my books, very hard indeed.  I have tried though but being financially destitute has prevented me from taking advantage of most internet promotion options.

For a while  now, I’ve welcomed other authors to this blog for tours, spotlights and releases, but until recently, I’d never done one myself.  A few weeks ago, I decided to try my first blog tour to promote my last release, Bygora Vandos and advertised for hosts all over my social media.  I even did a blog here asking for hosts or help.

Here are the results.

I wanted to do the tour for fourteen days, with a different blog on each day, as has become the norm for such tours.  I had two weeks notice before the start date and up until the first day, just five (5) people offered to host me.  Of those five, only two offered me the link to the piece voluntarily; all of the others didn’t bother and I had to go searching for the post.  Another person of the five didn’t bother to do the post at all, and only one further person updated me with blog stats (number of visits etc) and promised to promote the post on other social media.  One of the people who did the post, didn’t bother to put up the post until late afternoon, leaving me with just a couple of hours to find it and then post the link on my own social media.  All but one, didn’t bother to promote the post on their other social media.  None of the people I have ever hosted were among the five mentioned above who offered to host me.

The blog I posted here asking for help got no response at all.  Thanks for nothing..!

To put it mildly, I was extremely disappointed in the lack of interest and help by other authors, and this experience has led me to make two decisions.

I shall never host another author on my blog, ever again.

I shall no longer bother trying to promote my own work.

I shall concentrate on writing books.  I shall publish them as I usually do on all the usual platforms, and I shall do a blog here announcing it, facebook and twitter.  Beyond that, I shall do no promotion at all.  There is no point in trying to get my voice heard above all the bored housewives with money who churn out trash erotica and romance by the bucket load, when other authors actively try to block my voice by boycotting me.  I shall put my energies into writing, and since I write books worth reading, a rarity in this compost heap that is the self published world, my total focus will be put to good use.

In short, what I want to say to other authors is, Fuck You..!

The third bit of news is that my horror story anthology will hopefully be released on Dec 6th.  I’m waiting for cover art at this very moment, everything else is done and finished.  I’m looking forward to this, it’s been a long time in the making and it has been done with the help of my facebook friends, many of whom star in the stories.  I dedicate this book to them, my murderers, psychos, weirdos, crazies and victims.

Internet marketing – I need a plan that works

I’m the first to admit that when it comes to internet promotion/marketing, I suck cock.  I’m a good writer but I’m terrible at selling my stuff.  I wish I was better at it, and I’ve tried but got almost nowhere.  This has to change, it’s the only aspect of being an author that I not only hate, but I’m very bad at.

I’ve been listening to other authors on facebook, talking about this very subject.  I’ve come to realise that using social media for promotion is a skill; one has to learn how to do it artistically and creatively, rather than being a bull in a china shop.  The authors I’ve connected with, all seem to agree that the best social media for promotion, are twitter, facebook and pinterest, with stumbleupon coming up at the rear.  Now I know this, I have a starting point.

I’ve been fine tuning my use of twitter for a while now and it’s running quite well, to a point.  I use Feed 140 to drip feed tweets throughout the day, and I’ve compiled a playlist of almost 300 ‘content’ tweets that drip through to my twitter at 3 per hour.  I sort this playlist into groups of 5, like this -

1 – a quote

2 – a link to an interesting article

3 – a promo for one of my books

4 – another quote

5 – a link to one of my blogs

By doing it this way, my followers don’t get snowed under by my promos, and they get to know that I offer stuff that interests them away from writing.  By interesting them in other ways, they might then take a moment to check out my books or my blog.  They might not, but there’s a better chance than just throwing “buy my books” tweets at them incessantly.  I add to this playlist from time to time, so there’s fresh content coming through and I have found that since I’ve been using twitter in this way, I get a lot of followers, and a lot of my tweets are favourited and retweeted, although those are never my book promo tweets.  I don’t know if this is ever going to help me sell books, but at least I’m trying.

I’ve decided to try to use pinterest in a similar way.  Up until now, I’ve kept pinterest to my books and blogs and I’ve never had any traffic to my blog from there and comments from other authors have convinced me to try something similar to my twitter use.  I am in the process of building ‘content boards’ that have nothing to do with my books or blog.  Recipes, gardening, decorating, craft ideas etc will form the bulk of this content, and hopefully I will get more traffic there which may migrate to my blog and books.

I already have a facebook author page, separate from my personal page and I use that for my blog posts and all book related stuff.  I also make posts that are not just book related, so people can see I’m a person with ideas and imagination, a sense of humour and not just someone trying to sell their shit.  I post funny photos and humorous quotes as well as book stuff, and I get a few ‘likes’ to such posts from time to time.  The problem with facebook fan pages, is that facebook don’t let your posts be seen by everyone who subscribes, unless you pay, so you know that your post isn’t going to be seen by everyone.  I’m trying to engage people more, with my fan page, but it’s a slow and thankless task.  There are so many author pages, all vying for everyone’s attention, and this oversaturation makes readers eyes glass over.

I have this blog linked automatically to my facebook fan page, my twitter feed, my linkedIn page, my google+ page and my goodreads blog, so I am trying to keep up a presence in as many places as possible.  Beyond paying for promotion space, which is out of the question because I’m broke, I don’t know what else I can do.  I take every opportunity to be interviewed, and I accept guest posts on this blog from others.

I’d be interested to hear about any other ideas or opportunities, especially those that cost nothing.

 

The real face of twitter

I’ve been on twitter for around a year or so.  Not long by many people’s standards but before I published my books there was no real need for the extra burden of different social networking sites.  Actually I did get onto twitter before that but I quickly found it to be useless for actively engaging with anyone, so I stayed away and didn’t use my account until I started self publishing.

And there’s the rub.  Twitter is crap for conversation.  If it’s friends and happy conversation you’re after, stay away from twitter and stick with good old eff bee.  Twitter is for 3 things and 3 things only.

1.  Celebrities

2.  Fans

3.  Advertising your shit.

I’ll take each of these in turn.  Twitter is THE place for today’s celeb’s to let the rest of us plebs know that they are actually real live people and not some cgi invention.  They post their pictures and funny videos and tell us all about what they’re doing on set or in the studio and trade witty repartee with other celebs. They also plug their latest movie/album/book/tv show etc on twitter.  For celebs, twitter is an amazing free advertising bill board and they love it.

Hot on the heels of all the celeb twitterers come their fans – in their millions.  The fans come to twitter simply to try to get noticed by their idol (yes I’ve done that too and quickly realised I was on a hiding to nothing).  Every tweet by their favourite celeb is pounced on and the number of replies skyrockets quickly.    Each one hopes and prays their idol will reply to their tweet and some of them will tweet hundreds of times a day solely to try and get noticed by their idol.  What they don’t realise is that alot of the more major celebs on twitter will  have ‘staff’ doing their tweets, announcing the latest movie/album etc and posting photos ad nauseam.  The chances of getting a tweet by a major movie star on twitter is about the same as me walking outside of my house right now and slipping up in a heap of rocking horse shit..!

I used to be a fan of Dwayne The Rock Johnson and used to tweet hello to him and send him the digital artwork I did of him but I never got a response.  Seeing his tweets and his responses (on the rare occasions when he does actually respond) has put me off him as a person.  He’s beautiful to look at and is good at acting but as a person he sucks.  Thanks twitter, you took my idol from me..!

And then there’s advertising.  Twitter is heaving with people all trying to sell their shit (me included) and each one tweets endlessly about how wonderful their product is and why it’s better than everyone else’s.  That’s all well and good but you see dear, there are no actual customers on twitter, only other crazed sellers who have no intention whatsoever of ever buying your shit nor anyone else’s.  If you’re trying to sell your shit on twitter, you’re wasting your time because you’re not reaching actual customers there.  It took me ages to realise this (I can be thick sometimes) and I sat down and wondered what the heck I was doing flogging my guts retweeting other authors, when the effort doesn’t increase my book sales.

And hard work it is too.  It takes a serious amount of time out of your day using twitter.  You’re expected to retweet people so that they will retweet you back.  I say, supposed, because in practice it doesn’t happen that way.  I spent a couple of hours a day retweeting people and only ever got 3 or 4 retweets in return and half of those I did get were ones where I’d thanked someone for retweeting or said hello to a new follower – all carefully chosen by the retweeter so as not to include a link to my work.

I now go there for just a couple of minutes a day to check for new followers and direct messages but I no longer retweet people.  The number of retweets I got in no way made up for the time I spent or the numbers of tweets I retweeted.  I have my facebook author pages set up so everything I post there automatically goes to my twitter page too so I’m still sort of using it as free advertising.

I prefer to actually interact with people so I stay on facebook.  I have my personal page and my author page and I find it more pleasing to have actual conversations with people than simply dispense links that immediately get lost in the cess pool of other tweets, which no one reads or pays attention to.

Is is just me?  What do you think of twitter?