Am I swamped by social media? Maybe. Currently, Battleaxe uses Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, and is just exploring the new planet in the social media universe, Mastodon. Sounds bad, but look, I’m lucky to be an OLD Battleaxe – thank goodness, no pressure on me to make Tiktok videos in my bedroom, or to SnapChat pictures of my tits to the boy at the next desk at school. I have a LinkedIn account, but never use it – why would I, when I don’t have to flog my so-called ‘skills’ around or big up my achievements in the hope of gaining advancement. Ah, the joy of being retired. But nevertheless, the sand is nearing the bottom of the hour-glass, life is running out on me. Should I be spending my declining years looking at cat pictures? Or re-posting stuff about Brexit and the Tories? Or even sharing pretty photos, like this from Alexandra Park last week:
Yes, I know social media platforms are supposed to be infested with Bots from Russia, China, Trump Towers or spurious Tory think-tanks who apparently flood timelines with misinformation that’ll turn our heads as soon as we look at it. Well, they obviously don’t find Battleaxe sufficiently interesting to bother with because I never see any. Shame really. I have just read that Elon Musk has let Trump back onto Twitter. Bad business, but I can just block the horrible orange fool.
I’ve got friends who won’t use social media because of concerns about safety. I don’t have to worry about offending those folk because they won’t be reading this anyway, so frankly, I think that’s pretty silly. I can’t imagine why, for example, the Chinese government would be remotely interested in hacking into the minutiae of my life. Or Mr Putin for that matter. Does anyone want to steal my identity? Hack into my bank account? Not unless I am very careless. It would make more sense if the people said they didn’t use social media because it uses up too much time. It certainly does that.
So, if life is so precious, and time is finite, why do I use social media at all? Well, firstly, it’s about this blog. To be sure, I am never going to ‘monetise’ Hastings Battleaxe, or be an ‘influencer’. My writing is simultaneously too eclectic and too opinionated. Battleaxe’s strong views are never going to endear her to advertisers, or sponsors. I’m never going to crash the internet with my thousands of followers.
But the blog does have a respectable number of fans, and I do value those who like to read it. I post blog links on several platforms to ensure all my audience is reached. You may well be asking why on earth I write the blog… but that’s another story.
So, firstly, lets look at Facebook. Even though one reads that it is now very unfashionable and used only by oldsters, I still like it. Firstly, it enables me to keep in touch with people I don’t see that often – or not at all, like Mo I used to share a flat with when I was in my twenties, who now lives in France, or people I used to work with, or live near. I enjoy seeing their photos and reading their posts, and I also like the way old photos crop up as a ‘Memory’. Secondly, I have a large local network, and follow local groups and pages – FB keeps me in touch with what is going on round here, and with local friends. I’ve also sold lots of stuff through Facebook Marketplace. And of course, my FB group ‘Collecting Spaghetti Poodles and Cats’, now has 122 members… How nerdy is that! What I don’t like? All the adverts cluttering up the time-line, often for cheap Chinese clothes that nobody in their right mind would ever buy.
Instagram? Despite its enormous popularity, Battleaxe doesn’t care for it. I like words as well as pictures, and I feel compelled to search for ‘arty’ beautiful images to post… I think there is competition about which photos are considered most ‘instaworthy’. Certainly, I wouldn’t post photos of myself looking anything other than thin and gorgeous, which reduces the choice of images with me in down to nil. I do post photos on Insta, but not often enough to create a real presence. But, there are friends and relatives who use that and not FB, so I do enough to keep it alive.
Pinterest was huge when it started, and for a bit, I loved it. Posted absolutely masses of photos on umpteen different ‘boards’. These days, I never look at them, but there they all still are, cluttering up a server in Palo Alto (Is that where they live? Yes it is. Oh look, it is a ‘Charter’ City) I suppose it is good if you are an artist/crafter/maker, or a designer needing a mood board thing, but otherwise? Nah. So won’t say any more.
This brings us on to Twitter. I read that due to Elon Musk, who I have to say sounds a complete idiot, most of the staff have left and Twitter is close to collapse. I dunno if that’s true, but it would be a great shame. For news as it happens, and instant reaction to everything from the Autumn Statement to the judges scores on Strictly, it can’t be beaten. But I can’t hold with promoting the views of nasty fascist lunatics, and there are many aggressive and abusive creatures on there who seem to do nothing else apart from comb the site for things they disagree with. I have been called a whining snowflake, ignorant, stupid, a TERF, a remoaner, a Red Tory – you name it. To protect yourself from attacks, inevitably you end up in an ‘echo chamber’ of people with similar views. The vast majority of the 3,000-odd people I follow and who follow me are left-wing, anti-Tory, anti-Brexit, anti-Trump Tofu-eating Wokerati etc etc. This can give a skewed view of the world.
Anyway, just in case Twitter collapses, I have joined thousands, nay millions of other Twitterati and opened a Mastodon account.
What is Mastodon? Well, it’s a network of linked servers, some tiny, run from people’s bedrooms, others huge, run by silicone-infused types in Palo Alto, others in universities, or by just about anybody across the globe. There are no ads, and no commercial sponsorship. You sign onto a server, and get going. Mastodon has been around for a bit, and has an existing culture – politeness, patience, and thoughtfulness seem to be important. Most people who sign up are keen to emphasise other interests as well as a narrow focus on politics etc., and this makes it more interesting. Also, as it is smaller and slower, people actually reply to your comments. You can spare yourself the grief of reading stuff about say, the insanities of the Tories, by using a feature called Content Warning. You can put your posts behind a heading so that anyone scrolling past doesn’t have to read them. Clearly the huge influx has caused problems, and servers can run slow. Some more wild-westy outfits are probably short on moderation and technical expertise. When you join, you pretty much pick a server at random from a huge list. I was very lucky and plumped for a server called Toot.Community (Tweets are toots on Mastodon) which is run by very sensible, helpful, calm and capable Dutchmen. Toot.Community disappears from the list quite often, because very wisely, the admins periodically close it to newcomers to save it being overwhelmed. If you want to find me on Mastodon, my ‘handle’ is @steffogrunt, the same as on Twitter.
So, what is it like? With periodic influxes of Twitterati, it can feel (now hush ma mouth) a bit like errr… the Unofficial Women’s Institute Facebook Group. The same, usually technical, questions being asked over and over again, then people don’t read the answers and ask again, then say they can’t do it and are fed up with the whole thing. But leaving that aside, I could easily waste absolutely hours on Mastodon – I have been happily distracted by posts about collecting sea-glass, the art of Ladybird books, drawings of animals based only on their skeletons, poetry, writing tips,women in ancient Mesopotamia, how to open a pomegranate… the list is endless. The ultimate in surreal pointlessness appeared today – a guy who paints octopuses (octupi?) on the underside of tables in hotel bedrooms… (credit to @firstname.lastname@example.org).
Actually, I think I have ADHD… now she tells everyone. Is it a waste of my life reading all that stuff? I don’t know.Who’s to judge. What would I be doing instead? Cleaning the house? No chance. Writing poetry or my novel, that would be better. Or even using GoCompare to get a better quote for our car insurance…
Is scrolling through Mastodon any different to watching football, ‘Homes under the Hammer’ or even Matt Hancock on I’m a Celebrity. I have to say although I have a massive appetite for rubbish (I can even enjoy the odd episode of ‘Say Yes to the Dress’) I just can’t watch Hancock – it makes me feel physically sick.
Who could resist this cat picture? Digby looking cuddly.