New Year, new post. Not that I get much post these days. The very few sparse items that Postie posts through the letter box end up being either a bill or an appointment reminder. It seems that social media, computers and the social cancer that is Facebook have reduced the need for communication with distant peers to a series of likes and half-arsed comments. Gone are the days of writing a letter, sticking it in a postbox and waiting eagerly for a reply.
If you remember, I started last year with a Facebook abstinence with only a brief jaunt back there to promote holiday news. The return ended later in the year after someone found the name Gnomepants objectionable and complained. Thus ending a 15 year presence, and nicely timed too.
Since being Facebook free I have been able to choose and consume my own choice of content using a mix of Reddit (r/stegzy) and reading around subjects on Feedly, Wikipedia and of course LJ. Indeed, I have now also realised that Facebook is the new smoking.
Think of a time when lots of people smoked. A non-smoker might sigh, wag their fingers and tut, exclaiming: “You’re killing yourself, damaging your health, your lungs and heart. Stop it!”.
But the people that smoked would often just laugh, shrug and smoke a packet of Benson & Hedges at you out of spite saying: “Yeah, but it’s not killing me noticeably yet and I like it”.
I draw the same parallel with Facebook. Like nicotine it is addictive in many respects, the serotonin reward from liking things, receiving feedback and narcissistic forming approval, I can see the damage it does to the self if not to society as a whole (like passive smoking!). Yet I can see and hear the people laughing, pointing their fingers and saying: “Huh, yeah sure it’s doing damage but I can’t see it in my nice little enjoyable echo chamber”
Meh. Nothing I can say or do will convince over 4 million people.
During my free time, while my mind repairs itself from 15 years of Facebook abuse, I’ve been thinking about the good old days of communication, in particular, the lack of mail (electronic or other) that I receive these days from “real people” as opposed to spam and junk mail. Then something my parents once said to me rang true: “The only way you receive letters is if you send letters”.
As a result, I have decided that 2018 will be my year of writing letters. I will send, via letter, details that I would have posted on Facebook to people who, in the past, I might have communicated with solely via Facebook. This, of course, limits me to those people whose addresses I still know (or can work out), but I think it will be an interesting experiment. I bet they won’t reply.
Other New Year projects include
Getting fitter, getting rid of some shite that I don’t need and trying to get my finances under an even tighter reign, but more of that over the coming weeks/months. Of course, I have just had 10 days off work, so I might just be a little ambitious in that regard!
Other things being enjoyed at the moment include:-
Star Trek: Discovery (I see you Clem Fandango!)
Stellaris (a Civ clone set in space!)
Cities: Skylines (a SimCity clone)
Computery tasks and Internettery
Reading lots of Reddit (using the fantastic Apollo app!)
For those who don’t read my Livejournal, those who have only just noticed I’ve not liked or posted on Facebook recently and those who just don’t give a stuff, on 30th January I logged out of Facebook.
I went up to the little icon in the right of my Facebook page clicked and then clicked on Log Out. I did the same on my devices and desktops and I sat, twitchy fingered, waiting for the wave of withdrawal to wash. Fourteen days later, nothing. I’m not even cowering in the corner like a heroin addict from a 1980s public information film.
I have been reminded though, thanks to Facebook, that I have an account…AND…I might have missed somethings. M has posted an update. S has shared a picture. B was live. Messages like these, I had a few from the social network, no doubt in an effort to entice me back in. Even today, I received a message to tell me I had 19 notifications and 3 Event invites. I don’t care. I’m not even curious.
The sad side though, is none of my associates on Facebook have noticed my absence and if they have, they haven’t messaged me out of concern about my well being or to enquire my virtual whereabouts.
So I have a white F on a blue background shaped hole in my day to day activities yet I still yearn to share things like interesting links or thought farts. But thanks to IFTTT my link sharing addiction has allowed me to share links, Swarm logins and Pinterest pins to my Blogger account and, in turn, occasionally some legacy IFTTT recipes will post over to FB. Really though, I’m not arsed.
Then this morning, while trying to enquire about the imminent birth of a friend’s child I realised that the only way I can reach the guy and his missus was through FB. They were on Twitter, but rarely used it. The overwhelming urge to log in was, although fleeting, like when a smoker kids themselves that just one won’t hurt. But I endured. I fired up Twitter and fired off some messages. That way, at least if they think I don’t care, in several years time they might log back into Twitter and see my messages. Then again, they might not.
Instead, I have retired to former social media haunts. My feeling is that the love affair with FB has passed. With nothing to jump ship to, I have returned to the likes of Livejournal, Ello and I’ve even dabbled with other new pretenders to the throne. But the lack of familiar people on these new arenas just shows me even more how much of behemoth Facebook has become. Its vast digital dirty fingers dipping into every aspect of the web like a rot. But, I’m free now. Free.
Facebook are enforcing their real names policy like jackbooted fascists. Pressurising members to use their real legal names rather than any assumed, stage or preferred nom-de-plume. Please see my previous post for their reasons why – Facebook Real Names Policy – Intro.
This is the second post of this series.
People ask why I use the name Stegzy Gnomepants. I usually say “Mind your own business”. Sometimes, however, I’m not so rude about it; the reason I use the name Stegzy Gnomepants is because people know me by that name.
I started using the internet in 1986, but back then the internet was bobbins and was more like Ceefax than the internet we know and love today. Back then I used the handle Stegzy and remained using that name until about a month later when my parents got their telephone bill and the internet was taken away from me.
Tardis yourself forward in time to 1998 when I bought my first PC. It was a Pentium 266. It cost me £1000 or there abouts. Top of the range. Fast modem (56kpbs). A whopping lump of RAM (something like 16Mb). A cavernous hard drive (approx 512Mb). I connected to the internet and restarted my online life as Stegzy.
Internet fashions came and went. AOL IM, CompuServe, that weird virtual world that Demon Internet had for a few years, Usenet newsgroups – all using the name stegzy. The Gnomepants bit came shortly after, when, as more and more people began using the internet, names were getting quickly claimed by other users. Yes, another Stegzy started to appear. I had to distinguish. Someone I knew then affectionately used to call me Gnomepants, I adopted that name as my online personalities surname.
This was the early 2000s. Then came Freeserve chat. I used the name stegzy there as well as evilgnome. Sometimes, for anonymity, I would use the name gnomepants. It helped separate my real life from my online life. It kept people from my work, past and those I didn’t want to communicate with, out of my online adventures where, if they found out about my activities, they would have ruined it. Ripping me away from my special place. My escape. My hide away. Where I was safe from those that would interfere. A place I could be myself without fear of judgement or prejudice.
Next came Livejournal. You can find me there using the name Stegzy too and all entries from there have been preserved here on WordPress too. That is when the real Stegzy Gnomepants blossomed. 2004 came and went. Sometime during this period a bloke called Zuckerberg created a service called Facebook…you might have heard of it.
So lets look at this again….1986 I begin using the name Stegzy. Stegzy Gnomepants circa 1998. People I meet on line know me as Stegzy Gnomepants. I spend the majority of the period 1998-2004 online as….Stegzy Gnomepants. Then some bloke comes along and creates a website called Facebook which nobody had heard of.
Ok, let’s carry on…Myspace – Stegzy Gnomepants. Hotmail – stegzy gnomepants. Google! What name shall I use? Oh I know, I’ll use my real name…Nobody knows me…ok I’ll use my assumed name….Everyone knows me! Stegzy Gnomepants.
2006ish. Good online friend Dan4th (Hi Dan if you still read!) tells me about some website where American kids hang out. Fascist books or Fuctbook or something. Oh yes…Facebook…I’ll sign up. Stegzy Gnomepants.
Blogspot arose – Stegzy Gnomepants; WordPress – Stegzy Gnomepants; Hell, I’m Stegzy Gnomepants on the BBC, Ebay, everywhere. Search google. You’ll see me using that everywhere and I have been for a very very long time.
Once more lets step back and look –
Me – Known online as Stegzy Gnomepants since 1998
Zuckerberg – Known online as Facebook since 2004.
Think that makes me win.
2014. Facebook decide that I must use my real name. A name nobody on the internet knows me by.
I teach Social Media for Business during the day. In my lessons I advise that to be successful online you need to remain consistent across all platforms. Use the same username where possible. The same avatar. The same contact details. Thats how people know who you are.
Mr Zuckerberg, if I’m to change my name just for your silly little empire, then my influence will have no weight. Businesses will not use me as an influencer. I cannot be a potential brand ambassador for your clients. I am the celebrity. I am the authority. I am the connector, the expert, the agitator. I am the journalist and the activist. I am the personal brand personified. That means my identity is nothing to you.
Yes I know you say I can create a PAGE but with a page I cannot interact with people as a person. Like things as a person. Interact, engage and amplify as a person online. Especially with products, services or similar which anyone can see me liking, make a judgement on my character. My beliefs. My choices. People that judge. People who I have no wish to share my identity with.
Someone said about my last post on this matter “If you don’t want to adhere to the Facebook’s terms and conditions don’t use it”. Something I am considering. Very hard. Perhaps over to Google+, who realised a very long time ago, forcing your “product” to use something in a way they don’t want to leads to failure. Isn’t that right Google Wave?
So when the call comes I will depart from Facebook. I will leave it never to return. You can continue to read my exploits here on WordPress or follow me on Twitter (@stegzy). Facebook postings will decline. I’m sorry if you, like Zuckerberg, no longer want, care or give a stuff about what I say, like or want to share with you. I’m sorry if you no longer want to fuel our social media narcissism together. But if that’s the way you want to play, I’ll let you take your ball home by yourself. Just mind you don’t trip over those toys you claim I threw out of my pram.