Flame Wars

By C.M. Saunders

I’ve had a few interesting experiences recently. My life is full of interesting experiences. I seem to attract them. But these particular interesting experiences involved social media. Wow. What a strange world we’ve created. Sometimes, it’s a free-for-all. Other times it’s worse.

A couple of weeks ago, a guy sent me a friend request on Facebook, closely followed by a copy-and-pasted ‘Please fund my Kickstarter’ message. He was trying to raise funds to make a horror movie. I replied, saying I would be happy to support him, if he would support me in return. If he would be so kind as to buy one of my books, I would make a donation to his Kickstarter scheme. Seems like a fair deal, right?

You know what he did? He blocked me.

Even Kickstarter guy couldn’t match another dude I ran into recently for pure assholery This guy claimed to be a ‘Hollywood Celebrity.’ I messaged him, out of genuine interest, and asked how he won this celebrity status. In all fairness, he took time out of his busy superstar schedule to respond with a chirpy, ‘Hard work, motherfucker!’

I replied with, ‘What work is that?’ Quite reasonable, I thought. I wanted to get to know my new celebrity friend. Yup, that sucker blocked me, too.

I HATE it when people block me. I rarely feel strongly enough to block others. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not a universal rule. Some blockings are completely justified. Like the fake profiles fronted up by stolen pics of babes in bikinis that just want to spam your page with ads for sunglasses, or the ridiculously attractive Filipino girls who want you to send them money for a new phone. You can also add angry exes, potential sex offenders, terrorists, asylum seekers, and assorted gold diggers and career criminals to that list. But the truth is, it’s rarely so dramatic. Most blockings result from trivial online disagreements.

For example, you might be involved in one of those ridiculous group chats at two in the morning discussing the merits (or not) of Metallica’s new album, when someone disagrees with something you say and instantly hits the block button. That really gets my goat. It’s the equivalent of farting and leaving the room. What would happen if we all just blocked everyone who had a different opinion to us? Our narrow online world would soon be populated by a bunch of people who all think the same way we do. Our online world would become an echo chamber. And how boring would that be?

It’s a sad indictment of the human condition that most people just want to hear empty platitudes. They want their ego stroked. They want you to agree with them.

They want validation.

What they DON’T want is to be challenged. Some do, obviously. That’s why they actively seek out controversial topics and discussions and say ridiculous things, just to get a reaction. But the vast majority just want people to agree with them. Say how they are right, and everyone else is wrong.

Well, here’s an idea. How about us, as a race, manning the fuck up? If someone doesn’t agree with you, stand and fight your ground, put your ideas and opinion across in a calm, rational manner. Help the other person see things the way you do. Don’t just go crying off like a little gutless little prick. That’s weak.

Some people jealously guard their Facebook page, as if anyone actually cares what they say on it. They keep their ‘friends’ to a minimum and have rules like, ‘If I don’t know you in real life, I don’t want to know you on FB.’

That’s understandable. But it’s not how I roll. My Facebook page is a free-for-all. An open window into my life. Being a struggling indie writer (we’re all struggling) I need the exposure, so the more ‘friends’ I have and the more interaction I can promote, the better. It’s an integral part of my platform. I also move around a lot. I’ve lived in eight cities in three countries over the past decade or so. Facebook makes it easy to stay in touch with people who would otherwise disappear from my life. So yeah, my Facebook page is utter carnage.

One of my pet hates is people coming on to one of my social media profiles and telling me off. My pages are my domain, you may as well run in my house and yell at me. Not cool. The Brexit debacle of 2016, closely followed by the American election, prompted a whole new level of Internet assholery. One acquaintance wrote ‘Get a better brain, get better friends,’ on my wall then promptly unfriended me. I messaged him to ask what his problem was, and apparently my crime was ‘liking’ something he didn’t approve of. I shit you not.

In the resultant fallout from Brexit, I was called things I’d never been called before. Right wing thug, fascist, Nazi sympathiser.

The problem stemmed from the fact that at the time I had a red dragon as my cover picture on my Facebook page, because Wales were doing well at the Euros (it’s a football tournament). Some people decided that because I had a dragon on my page, I must be a racist. What’s gone so wrong with society that people confuse national pride with racism? When you take these accusers to task, they try to show their superior intellect by nit-picking. In one conversation I misplaced an apostrophe, in another I used the common abbreviation ‘U’ instead of ‘you.’ Both were jumped upon with great delight, as if that was the only thing that could justify their argument. MISPLACED APOSTROPHE? HA! YOU MUST BE A THICK RACIST!!

Not really, mate.

Block.

The saddest and most ironic thing of all was that these ‘Remainers’ who supposedly pride themselves on a liberal attitude and racial tolerance made a snap judgement based on a picture. That isn’t very tolerant. They believed what they WANTED to believe. They wanted to assume the moral high ground and label me a ‘Leaver’ and, by extension, right-wing fascist scum. The truth is, I didn’t even vote to leave. Okay, I didn’t vote to remain, either. I was one of the apathetic 27.3% who couldn’t be arsed to vote at all.

More recently, I made a tongue-in-cheek comment on a friend’s status, about him posting too many statuses, and one of his friends told me to go and kill myself.

Harsh.

And another block. I don’t need the hostility.

So what’s the takeaway from all this? Use social networks as tools, not weapons, and don’t be dicks.

That is all.

 

61yusXRXjwLX3, the third collection of fiction by C.M. Saunders featuring revised versions of stories taken from the pages of The Literary Hatchet, Siren’s Call, Morpheus Tales, Gore Magazine, Indie Writer’s Review and several anthologies, is available now. X3 also includes two previously unpublished stories, extensive notes, and exclusive artwork by the award-winning Greg Chapman. 

Meet the airline passenger who makes an alarming discovery, the boy who takes on an evil troll, an ageing couple facing the apocalypse, a jaded music hack on the trail of the Next Big Thing, the gambler taking one last spin, and many more.

 

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