How and when did we get so fucking touchy? It’s becoming a basic challenge to just exist as a human being without pissing someone off, putting your foot in your mouth or inadvertently dropping a right old bollock. There seems to be a level of expectation that far exceeds the reality of the bunch of bumbling cock-up merchants that we actually are.
Back in the seventies nothing was off limits. It was an unpleasant extreme. Anyone who wistfully hearkens back to the glory days of the seventies and early eighties is either a) a terrible cunt or b) basing their romantic reminiscences on post-punk. And I can’t hold that against anyone frankly, but it wasn’t exactly representative of what was being transmitted into people’s living rooms, evening in, evening out. Between ‘Mind Your Language’, ‘Love Thy Neighbour’, Jim Davidson’s stand up comedy and ‘On The Buses’ you’d be hard pushed to find more piercing sexism, repulsive racism, suggestive homophobia and downright slack-as-fuck scriptwriting. It was and is an embarrassment.
The eighties wasn’t that markedly different, just a lot shinier and with more buttons, bits of paper daisy-wheeling wildly out of incomprehensible machines and mobile phones so heavy that owners had to invest in furniture made of heavy-duty chrome and glass, lest they dent. On the whole, women were still eye-candy, racism was barely a term and if a common-or-garden kid wanted to come out there was still a very heavy risk of having seven bails of shit kicked out of them, whilst whole suburban villages broke into mass pant-shitting over a potential AIDS epidemic and panic bought toilet-seat covers. Bosses were cunty with impunity, people generally spoke their minds when it suited them.
It was all pretty basic stuff…someone says or does something that causes offence. The other person takes offence and chooses whether or not to address it. That’s it. Simple as. It has an almost Neanderthal simplicity in hindsight.
Try finding anything quite so clear cut in our newish, mildly shiny, screamingly nuts, overly paranoid, intervention-seeking interwebs. I’m not an old-fashioned kinda gal on the whole. I swear prolifically, require surgically removing from my ‘i’ devices, rejoice in the existence of The Outnet and punch the air when I see people taking on the world in new and exciting ways. The New delights me at every turn and the more modern the world becomes, the more I feel like I fit into it.
This new world is as complex as it is brilliant; everything moves so fast, responses and answers rarely wait, you have shit pinging at you every five minutes (I seriously have a concerto of fucking alert tones controlling most aspects of my life), demands on time, money and…HOLY FUCK! All the things that were supposed to make life easier are, in fact, leaving us with less time. And further we add to the fire by casually chucking out text messages, emails, status updates, Tweets and blog posts like it ain’t no thang. Just waiting for someone else’s fingers to run towards your opinions.
Being of the generation that once lived in a mostly technology-free world and has grown alongside the world in terms of its relatively new tech-saturation, I can watch with a mixture of fear and amusement as we all–at-once learn to cope with the new distance between us. It’s creating a strange environment of extreme isolation, narcissism and self-importance at one end of the spectrum and an overwhelming desire to connect, talk, share and come together at the other. They’re really not so different. Those in on-line isolation clearly can’t want to be alone otherwise they wouldn’t reach out. We are created to desire the contact, love, kindness and support of our fellow human, but the isolationists gauge their value by response and that’s incredibly unhealthy and feeds the narcissism.
In recent weeks and months I have learnt via all this shouting into the ether that the greater the distance between us and the more we learn from millions of new different sources, the more likely we are to get the fucking hump with each other about the minutiae. And I’ve watched in baffled amazement as people who should all be fighting the same corner are squabbling amongst themselves like a bunch of E number addled seven year olds. All I can see are semantics (and a mental image of people smacking each other round the heads with massive ugly handbags, but that’s just my own personal terror). Given how much I can get away with saying on the free Internet, it’s interesting that I find myself starting to self-edit, based not on offending anyone, but a desire to never be involved in an online privilege-checking shit-sling. And I’m a foul-mouthed over-opinionated old harridan post-editing, so clearly you do not ever want to find out what goes on in my head. Truly.
Perhaps we some kind of genealogy of cause. A diagram to represent the sources of all movements and their intersections that will naturally guide us all towards a united end where we can officially say ‘that attitude over there is horseshit’ and ‘that one is fucking awesome!’. Someone can officiate. We can give them a nice hat to wear and a badge and stern hashtag (#PACKITIN).
Or possibly I think that we all just need a lovely distraction. A point of unity that we all share. Something utterly repulsive and vile. Something that gleefully shunts a boot up the arse of everyone equally. Something so earth-shatteringly cunty that there is no need for nit-picking or point-scoring. Instead we can all link arms and do an almighty gazillion-person nut-kicking can-can that sends bits of tosspot exploding all over the cosmos.
Or maybe, just maybe, we can all make a pact to, before smashing our pudgy digits down on our touchscreens, pause for a minute. Take a moment of reflection and say to ourselves ‘are sharing these words with another human being going to make my life better today?’.
And then watch in awed and blissful wonder as the whole of Twitter joins in a harmonious outpouring of a single sentiment…