Over the past couple of years, I have struggled with the complications, misunderstandings, and altercations that an online presence can manifest into our physical lives. How other people’s issues can seep into our consciousness, and into the reflections of our thoughts. If you’re familiar with the expression ‘Never complain, never explain’, then you’ll know just how hard it is to discipline ourselves, to ride out those storms and not lose our dignity with an outright meltdown when the pressure rises. I have done it in the past, to good effect. An example would be my film on depression, and how I coped with that. I wasn’t a wobbling blancmange of emotional leakage then, and I certainly am not now. So, hopefully without descending into some kind of wallowing sanctimonious essay on the effect that other people can have on us through the pathways of cyberspace – please dear reader afford me this rare opportunity to vent a few current issues.
A number of weird things have happened lately, and I am writing this post as an open letter to anyone who knows me, has known me, or takes an interest online in some way or another, because I have felt your negativity. Perhaps you feel slighted by me in some way – disappointed by me? Or perhaps you’re quite fond of me and we still enjoy a valued connection, because that is felt very strongly and consistently too. Any which way, be you affectionate or resentful, if you’re still reading this then I rather doubt that you are indifferent to me, and so it is for you dear reader that I write. Because I have, quite frankly, had enough of the bizarre activity.
I am in this mind frame because the roads which we walk online are pretty surreal at times. There are strange folk who wish to message me with new ways they can help me become a better person. You know, if I stopped stylizing things so that they are aesthetic and those who think I take too many selfies. Chill out dears. Quite why they don’t concentrate on themselves and their own development is beyond me, they need it the most. Then there are those few disturbed souls who think that I might have been converted, or turned onto Satanism and want to save me from the Illuminati. Well, I am flattered to great heights that I can appear to anyone as being anywhere close to such an apex, perhaps I have looked into that hollow void, but let me shatter the illusion and tell you that all of that bastardised symbolism you interpret so very wrongly – it has become about as chic and prevalent as a Keep Calm and Carry On poster.
Creeping into my real life now, on an occasion where someone who had never met me, but thought he knew everything that there was to know about me through my Instagram account which is now private. He formed an incorrect opinion on me to which he favorably tailored his own behavior, and then stalked me at my local eatery by befriending my friends. This isn’t normal behavior folks.
Another oddity, in which I was left stood, blanked in the street like a stranger by an old acquaintance as I tried to say hello. The only reason I can attribute to their behavior, (which was unnecessarily contemptuous) is that this was one of over a thousand people whom I had removed from my Facebook friends list last year. Yes, clutch your pearls. You guys, if anyone ever deleted me from an online account and I felt close to them, I would immediately ask them what the craic was. Shit happens.
However, far more serious, recently I had to ask for assistance from the police, involving an appalling episode of online harassment, imitation, and spiteful character defamation. Someone once very close to me thought it justified to publicly disfigure my images, set up mock accounts and contact people under an email account in my name to spread lies with cruel intent. The discovery of who was behind this has enraged me, but as all negative experiences should, it has also renewed me, which makes me a stronger, more vigilant man who has never been more certain about his morals and integrity.
All of this has starkly made me realize how vulnerable we are when we have given so much content, heart, and hard work out into cyberspace. The fact is that the internet can bring us all, as much trouble, heartache, and horror as it can joy, wonder, and opportunity. There have been dark phases where I have wanted to delete everything I had ever created, to remove myself from the passive and anonymous stare of online life. To go back to a time that was less complicated – a life lived through real life person on person interactions, of penning letters, making phone calls and knocking on a friend’s door. ‘Yeah don’t we all’ I hear you say.
We can communicate faster and easier than ever. Yet, not once on any occasion have the people that I removed, unfriended or unfollowed, (you know the score – from longstanding ‘close’ friends to co-workers of decades past, to distant cousins, from someone I once met through a friend on a drunken night, to random rubberneckers who just want to watch). Not once, on any occasion have the people that I removed contacted me to ask if there was a problem, to ask had they done anything, or to ask if I was alright.
Truth is that I really was not alright, and during my depression, I struggled a great deal with cyber-space, but I did come out at the other end and I have been well again for some time. So I would like to offer an apology to anyone that I have deleted, particularly on Facebook. Because whilst I quite rightly culled a lot of people in my darkest moments, perhaps in a clear minded retrospect, it was unfairly done with a few good souls. I do not wish to sail through life collecting enemies, irking people or casting folk aside, but my integrity is my compass, an anchor, and I never do anything for a trivial reason and certainly never out of spite. Truth. Integrity, always. I did not deserve what has come my way online, I am just trying to make it through life without compromising my ideals.
In the darkest moments of my depression, in 2015, during my treatment and recovery – I saw staring back at me on my ‘friends’ lists, plenty of people whose actions/inactions helped put me further out into the wilderness. Roaming those wastelands of emptiness. The hope vacuum and self-loathing that was my mind, with its heavily undulating currents of failure, worthlessness and despair (the stress of which was enough for my hair to fall out in patches), all of those things streamed into an already unbearable weight on my chest that was tipping the scales in favour of a exit plan – to make plans to end my own life. In amongst all of that, I might have lost contact with people who did actually care about me and were supportive. I am very regretful for that, and I apologize. I am quite guilty of acting subconsciously, of judging people by their actions, or rather their inactions. Often what people don’t say, is far louder than what they do say – and I am afraid I will judge you on that.
From the gay friend of years who it was revealed to me had blocked doors and all invites for me and Stuart, for fear the attention might not fall on him completely one presumes. To the people who seemingly wanted nothing to do with me as the years went by, but who suddenly became an authority behind my back, regaling people on my comings, goings and reasoning’s – as though they had ever cared until my name was linked to various people in the public eye. The shallow people who came out of the woodwork, and to what elaborate means they went to in orchestrating trouble, well it just melted my head.
The person who practically frothed at the mouth asking to work with me, yet I could still hear their prior voice ringing in my ears when I had initially offered assistance at the very beginning of my photography and I was told it was not really appropriate because they were ‘higher end’. Those who ignored all of my successes but actively relished each of my dramas, yeah they need to learn to lift other people up.
Then there were the delightful creatures of sneak, of which there were many, who actively pretended to be my friend in order to get closer to other friends – all of them joining forces, daily voice messages, constant emails and offer an of support and respect that was feigned, flat and ultimately transparent. Endless examples that would bore you to tears. This is life, we know people don’t we… but boy, I didn’t expect such a staggering amount of passive aggressive abuse from friends, and family.
Coming out of the desolation of depression, I learned not to care for any quantity of likes and hearts, I wanted connection and meaning. I absolutely adore the small pocket friends I have made and kept hold of through the internet, and as much as I wish I hadn’t been in such a dark place, I do hope that you can understand why you might have got caught up in the self-preservation tactics that I employed. It was a means of coping and shrinking my world down, to people who interact with me regularly and have always been consistent.
It is also worth noting, whilst I am on my soap box, that neither I nor any of my remaining friends have used one another to get anywhere in this world. Everyone I’ve ever met, anywhere where I’ve ever experienced things through other people and any doors opened to me – my own merit. One on one interactions and no forced friendships. Sycophancy and calculation are easy options. Chose integrity, always. No matter who you’re dealing with. People who really know and understand me, they know this about me and they know what I am capable of personally. Underestimating me is a very common mistake. I’ll get to all of the doors in life that I want opening by myself – the few that are left that is, and what is more, I will knock proudly.
Anyway, to finish up – I do imagine that this post will reach those I intend it to because some people sadly thrive when they have gossip to spread. Moreover, from that, I do hope it reaches by chance – anyone who has touched the timeline of my life and is no longer a part of it, no matter how distantly in the past we shared a connection, nor how recently it ended. It’s never too late to build bridges, and to wish one another nothing but good things. The world around us is shifting, people are becoming deeply divided in amongst all of the change and uncertainty that these incredible times are bringing, and perhaps you feel it too? We’re all connected after all.
Forgiveness, acceptance, and healing is far more urgent than fighting with one another and whipping up trouble, particularly when based on second and third-hand whispers, gossip or presumptions – in this digital age it is unhealthy and confusing for people when things are done in the dark. I urge anyone who has built up an opinion about me or any of my actions, without talking to me directly, to actually speak to me. Wild idea, I know.
I’m in a chilled groove my friends, I no longer concern myself with the thoughts of others. If people were to approach me and ask me, then they would get the truth. Make light your quest folks, down with hate, misinformation, and fear. All the tools are at our fingertips to put the internet to work for the betterment of ourselves, to expand our collective consciousness and build towards a power that is in the hands and minds of the people.
What we choose to float out into cyberspace carries an echo into the consciousness of the receiver. Stop fighting, wanting to change people, start listening and understanding and communicating with compassion and lucidity. The seconds of our lives are running away, and as Arcade Fire sing so very expertly…
“After all the breath, and the dirt, and the fires that burn, and after all this time, and after all the ambulances go. And after all the hangers-on are done. Hanging on to the dead lights of the afterglow. I’ve gotta know. Can we work it out?”