I was due to DJ at Big Blue that night as it was Halloween. People had been texting me, excited at dressing up, excited to hear what I’d be playing. I couldn’t let them down. So, heart like a boulder, I packed all my gear up and I went. And I DJed. Here’s a pic from that night:
I look okay, don’t I? I’ve always been good at hiding my feelings but that night was a strain. I had to smile and chat and DJ while, inside, there was this kind of howling, terrible fear. I was nervous and sad, a strange combination.
When I got home to the empty house and the empty bed, I broke down. I was doing that kid crying where you can’t catch your breath, you start hiccuping and the ridiculousness of the sound simply makes the pain feel even worse.
But I had hope. I could win her back. I could show her we could work out what had gone wrong. This is was the love of my life and she’d told me many times that I was the same for her. We could fix this.
When she came to talk, a few days later, she told me it was too late for all that. For her, our relationship was already a thing of the past. Those fourteen years were sealed off, snipped away. I begged her to change her mind. I literally got down on my knees and begged her. You often see that in love song lyrics, “I’m down on my knees, begging you please” but actually finding yourself in the emotional position where it’s the only way you can appeal to someone you love is horrible, particularly when your obvious pain doesn’t change their mind.
In the last five years, no-one has loved me or kissed me or held me or even wanted to be held or kissed by me. This is not because I’ve been a hermit: I’ve forced myself to go out there and be positive and adventurous and I’ve been amazing places and met some incredible people, through gigging. Most of my friends now are intelligent, beautiful women so I don’t lack the feminine in my life. But no-one has fallen in love with me. To be honest, no-one has even given me a chance.
Maybe you’re thinking that I’m obviously stuck and afraid to move on. I don’t think that’s true: I have opened my heart but the result has been more pain and confusion and tears and sleepless nights, heart pounding. And the re-affirmation that, yes, no-one wants me.
This is the longest I’ve ever been single and, truthfully, I’m the loneliest I can ever remember being. That’s including when I was five or six and all the kids at my school were being racist to me with the encouragement of a particularly fucked-up teacher. I feel that same sense of abandonement and unlovability, of being an ugly little boy that no-one wants to sit near. For the past eleven, twelve days, I’ve been dreaming of my ex every night. I haven’t been sleeping well and as a result I’m jumpy and exhausted, I feel haunted but not by a ghost, by the vision of a life where I’m happy and loved.
I can’t believe it’s five years. I can’t believe five years have gone by. If I could only travel back five years and one day, could I change everything? I’d certainly give the old me a slap and warn him about the future that waits for him. Maybe he’d take heed and go to his wife, my wife and hold her and love her and let her know they could work things out. He could wrap her in his arms and never let her go. Ever.
And this timeline, this five years would cease to exist. With a smile, not fake this time, I would mercifully be erased from existence.
…Rafiq ur Rahman, a drone strike survivor from Pakistan, speaks at a congressional briefing in Washington, DC convened by Rep. Alan Grayson (FL-09). The primary school teacher spoke with his daughter Nabila (9) and son Zubair (13). One year ago, they were injured in the same drone strike that killed their 67-year-old grandmother, Rafiq’s mother, as she was tending crops in her garden.
Kevin Gosztola of Firedog lake attended the briefing, and writes: “It is heart-wrenching to hear a 13-year-old boy say, ‘Congressman Grayson, I no longer love blue skies. In fact, I now prefer gray skies. The drones do not fly when the skies are gray,’ because this is one of the few times he is not afraid he will be targeted by a drone.”
(Source: Boing Boing)
I was an early adopter of Facebook. Well, as early as I could be ~ for ages in the UK, it wasn’t open to everyone. But I did join asap and I was glad to because Rupert Murdoch had just bought MySpace. I even had a little strapline on my Last.fm page which said “I boycott MurdochSpace, I’m on Facebook!”
As bizarre as it may seem now, Facebook then was the underdog. I had to prod friends to join me on there, so denuded was it of actual social activity compared to MySpace (kind of like Google+ currently…). As far as I knew, I’d joined yet another social network that would flounder and then fail, initial engagement tailing off and then friends’ updates slowly becoming more sporadic before approaching zero. Another Friendster, Hi5, Everyone’s Connected or all the other social networks that existed pre-Facebook.
Wind forward many years to 2013. Facebook rules the planet. Its reach is enormous, so much so that new websites know they’ll garner more users if they offer Facebook login. Your Facebook identity has become the key to large swathes of the web.
Also in the interim, Facebook has gone from Good Guy Greg to Scumbag Steve. When I first joined, Facebook had easy, good privacy controls. For a start, you could decide not to let anyone add you at all ~ they got rid of that. And you could have it set that only people who were your friends could message you ~ they got rid of that. This was part of a volley of attacks on user privacy, all geared towards increasing clicks and thus increasing profits. Facebook has moved from comfortably cosy to chaotically paranoid. So many friends of mine have ended up inadvertently broadcasting the end of relationships or liking a dodgy page which then appears on everyone’s newsfeed. The reason this happens is not because they’re idiots, it’s because Facebook deliberately obfuscates user controls in order to make us as wide open and vulnerable as possible. Hey, every interaction, even a horrible one, is an advert served, right?
Around August of this year, I realised that I was going on Facebook in a reasonably happy, calm mood and then, after a few minutes trudging through the cesspool of my newsfeed, I was angry and depressed. Racism, disablism, sexism, homophobia, every kind of moronic prejudice possible for a human to hold was being proudly bleated out, often repeated verbatim from the pages of The Sun or Daily Mail.
I felt like I was being forced to watch The Jeremy Kyle Show on infinite repeat.
So I resolved to hide everyone that was annoying. That helped, somewhat but it didn’t stop the fuckers commenting on what I posted. Any time I posted up a feminist link, blokes would ooze out of the woodwork with the inevitable, “Yeah but women have it better than men now, don’t they??” When I presented them with concrete evidence why their beliefs were bullshit, they simply ignored it or moved on to bashing immigrants or asylum seekers. And I had wasted yet more time arguing with idiots on the internet. Argh.
Obviously, these weren’t close friends of mine. These were, at best, acquaintances. People I’d met out clubbing or DJing or gigging. They seemed okay, you know, not members of the Hitler Youth. But after adding them on Facebook their posts about Muslamic Rayguns, shiftless dole-fiddlers or Saint Margaret of Thatcher polluted my newsfeed immediately. They are the essence of the typical Tory: they unthinkingly and unquestioningly parrot what they’re fed by their lords and masters in the capitalist media. There is no filtering or critical appraisal whatsoever.
Sure, I could delete them all. I could do what every Facebook user now has to do periodically, since the website is so royally fucked: the Facebook cull. But I’d done that before, going from 500+ “friends” down to around 200. That works, for a while but the number of friends inevitably creeps back up again. There’s also the other factor: people are mortally offended when you delete them. Even if they have never, ever interacted with you. I’d do a cull and then be out clubbing and get evils off some girl I’d added and then deleted because I couldn’t cope with her Olympian-level Vaguebooking.
These random people who felt they had a right to lob their uninformed turds of comment at me, where did they get that sense of entitlement? From Facebook. I didn’t actually know them, they didn’t actually know me, we weren’t actually friends at all. I can tell you, I am far pickier with who I am friends with, not being a wanker being a basic requirement. Facebook’s online erosion of boundaries and it’s confusion of the parasocial with the social is steathily pernicious.
The only presence I have on Facebook now is my White Town band page, which I administer through a ghost account. I would love to delete that too and if Google+ takes off a bit more, maybe I will. (G+ reminds me of Facebook in the early days, it’s polite, informative and quite empty.) You see, I’m not against social networking per se, I’m against what Facebook has morphed into. It has turned itself into this monster of unwanted adds and base interactions. There is room for a new challenger to take its crown. If I could code, I’d whip it up myself but unfortunately, I’m only a humble sociologist and musican. I can see what needs to be done but I cannot script it.
Leaving Facebook is kind of like dying. Of course, with my real, actual friends, not a thing has changed. We meet, we coffee, we shop, we go clubbing. What’s missing now is that I’m out of the social loop most people are part of. Unless I check carefully, I’ll miss someone’s birthday night out or gig because all of that is organised on Facebook now and only on Facebook. People have become Facebook lazy. A promoter now is someone who posts to Facebook regularly and that’s it. So, missing out on stuff like that is a minus.
However, it’s outweighed by the humongous pluses. I no longer get angry reading uninformed codswallop. I no longer have to delete comments foaming with hatespeech. I was a bit sad that some people I used to interact with on Facebook lost touch with me when I left, even though I’m hardly the Unabomber: I’m on Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Kik, Whatsapp. The lesson I’ve drawn from that is this: it was my mistake. I mistook the parasocial for social, something that’s very easily done in today’s online world. I guess if those people aren’t my friends now, then they never actually were. That may sound like another minus but I see it as a plus: I have limited time and energy, I’d rather spend on people who genuinely value having me in their lives.
Since leaving, I have more time, I write and read more, I take more photos and make more music. I hadn’t actually realised how often I was checking my newsfeed or responding to comments until I went cold turkey. All those minutes can very quickly add up into hours wasted on pissing in the wind. I also enjoy the sense of disconnection from the tabloid priorities of the Facebook world. I’m perfectly capable of going to news sites that report actual news rather than scrolling through everyone’s outrage over Miley Cyrus’ skimpily-clad pudenda. This post-Facebook time has been calmer and more contemplative, a kind of techno-Buddhist elimination of useless, distracting chatter.
Every time I’m out, someone will come up to me and ask me why I’ve left Facebook or that they miss the science posts I used to do on there. I tell them I still post all those links on my Twitter or that they can chat to me on Kik. They then throw me this wary look, like they’re dealing with an escapee from a secure ward because I’ve chosen not to be on Facebook.
It kind of reminds me of how MySpace users looked at me when I left there.
This morning, another dream about my ex. As ever, the dream seemed more real than my “real” life, the colours more vivid, the sounds crystal and perfect. But the major difference to my waking existence is the deep feeling of being loved and understood that the dream made me remember.
I say made because part of the process of splitting with my ex was a self-lobotomy that I carried out with a toffee hammer and a shard of ice from the freezer. Once I’d tapped in far enough, the memories that I couldn’t bear were erased and I did my best to fill in the resulting gaps with banalities and levels from Goldeneye 64.
For a while, I didn’t dream of her. My brain, atypically cutting me some fucking slack, instead took me to Rokakku Dai Heights where I was tagging and avoiding vicious coppers. Or I was in a temple, running down an alcove to where I knew body armour would be secreted.
But lately, my brain has been betraying me. As the fifth anniversary of the end of my world approaches, it chooses to fill my dreams with her. The way she talked, smiled, smelled, kissed me, loved me.
(This all sounds very morbid and Inception-ish. She isn’t dead, she’s alive and well and very happy with her new girlfriend, from what her mother tells me.)
The other day, I woke crying because I’d dreamt of a bag she used to have. How ridiculous is that? In my “real” life, I’d completely forgotten about this bag. It was just a bag, why would I remember it? But in the dream, we were getting ready to go somewhere and she called out for me to fetch it. So I did and it was exactly as it was, every detail down to the muted colours of the hippyish front and the feel of the string ties slipping through my fingers.
I can protect yourself against the big things: finding a photo of her in the corner of a drawer, a hairpin wedged into the recessed track of a sliding door. The bag, I wasn’t prepared for and it was a fist to the gut. So I woke, cried and then tried to go back to sleep. My brain, probably feeling guilty at how much it had upset me, tried to give me a dream about a threesome with two very pretty girls but that fizzled rapidly and I woke again, exhausted and confused.
After Halloween passes, I should be okay. All the pieces of my fractured life will be jammed back into the unconvincing jigsaw I’ve constructed for the past five years, edges snarling against one another. I’ll write some more songs about her, maybe a bad poem or two.
The dreams will stop so my days will stop being nightmares.