You are a strong, confident woman who does not need to smoke

It’s Time to Talk Day. This means sitting down for five minutes with someone else to speak with them about mental health issues – whether you yourself are affected, are close to someone who is, or would just like to know more.

Alternatively, if you wanted, you could churn out a misguided, borderline offensive piece of rubbish like the one I found on Facebook this morning.

Remember, kids: stay MENTALLY STRONG. Then you too can produce idiotic and patronising platitudes like this one.


Look Up (the words ‘lousy argument’)

While I appreciate the sentiment, here are the issues I have with the Look Up video.

1. Small talk is occasionally a precursor for real conversation; however, it’s more often than not a silence filler, a vacuous and meaningless chat instigated to pass the time. Implying that all small talk is one and the same, and is both necessary and pleasant, is the silliest kind of false logic.

2. Some of my most honest and open relationships are conducted almost exclusively online, with people who I’ve either never met or haven’t seen in years. Physical distance needn’t be a barrier to knowing someone, provided you both agree to be frank. If you have 422 friends and don’t really ‘know’ any of them, then you clearly need to be more careful with your requests and acceptances.

3. If you’re bigging up your life on social media, that suggests self-esteem issues that Facebook didn’t cause. It’s no different to bragging to your mates in the pub. Facebook is a medium of expression, not a catalyst.

4. Crowded commuter trains where no one is talking to each other may make you depressed, but to many of us they’re a haven – the one quiet part of the day. Some people don’t want to talk to others because they’re naturally introverted. I am not, but when I am on a bus I do not want to speak to the random stranger sitting next to me and pretend that I care about who they are and what they do. I want to read my book. Oh, and avoiding eye contact on the Tube has nothing to do with Candy Crush; it’s a British thing. Deal with that.

5. I met my wife online, and I find the Sliding Doors notion that you’ll miss out on your one chance at true love and consign yourself to seventy years of bachelorhood because you were looking at Google Maps demeaning, patronising and insulting.

6. I _do_ spend too much time looking at my smartphone, and having a detox while it’s in for repair has done me the power of good. But I don’t need you to tell me that. It’s a vice, and some vices are hard to break. I am working on it.

7. So you built dens as a child and now the world’s gone to hell in a handcart because of Steve Jobs? Have you actually *been* in a park on a sunny Saturday afternoon? You can’t get near the swings. When I was a kid I built dens in the old house down the road, and then went home and played Magic Knight games on my Spectrum. These days we play hide and seek in the garden and then the boys go for a Minecraft session. I think your spectacles might be a little rose tinted.

That’s all. I am off to check my hit counts.

I’m loving social media instead

This? This has made my jaw drop and my blood boil. This got me into a night-long argument on the Facebook page where I discovered it. Normally I stay out of such things, but…well, look at it. I mean look at it.


Yes, because of course this is how angels work. Angels aren’t the kindly, helpful beings you see on glurge sites. Angels need feeding, and the heart of their diet comes from Facebook exposure. Hell, it doesn’t even have to be Facebook. Any old form of social media will do. So long as you pass it on. Note, of course, the originator’s URL, tastefully understated (but still very clear). That’s completely by the by, of course. This has absolutely fuck all to do with increasing web traffic. This is all about testing your faith, which is something else that angels do regularly. But this isn’t a ‘test’. And it’s not from the angels. It’s manipulative hokum designed to target the weak and vulnerable – people who may actually need help – and persuade them that life will get better and their cancer will be cured if they pass on an image, and all for the sake of upping someone’s hit count.

As I said, I normally avoid arguments about this sort of thing. Religious debate online is five per cent evangelism and ninety five per cent trying to prove the other person wrong. I’m happy to let people have different beliefs to mine, because even if I don’t agree with them I am not going to be able to convince them with a bit of elementary logic and Wikipedia pasting – and even if I could, it’s a hollow victory, because all you’ve done is made someone else look stupid. Remember this, folks. I learned it the hard way so that you don’t have to.

But on this occasion I waded in, albeit in a very low-key fashion, because this is wrong. Its very inception was wrong, and at some point I will feed this back to the image’s presumed creator, when my blood pressure drops a little. In the meantime I’ve made a few salient points that have largely been ignored, which is what I expected, but at least I got to vent my spleen. “Where’s the harm?”  was challenged. “What if someone read this when they were considering suicide, and it stopped them?”. Which is a good point well made, but for every aborted grab for the painkillers, I’ll show you three people who prayed that their sick relative would get well only to have them die three days later, or – worse – four people who left their spouses and went to an internet romance hookup with a guy who then raped them, all because they believed the angels were watching over them.”

“Are you saying people are stupid, or unable to think for themselves?”

“No, I’m saying that people are easily duped. It’s very easy to get swayed by this stuff. I don’t think people are stupid, but I do think they’re naive and easily influenced and inclined to believe whatever they read on .he internet. It’s the same reason I’ll rip into the tabloids whenever I get the chance, because I see plenty of evidence there that people can’t think for themselves – or at least they can’t see what’s obvious to me and many other people I know. This doesn’t usually matter, except when it breeds fear, contempt and hatred (all of which sell newspapers). And in this case it reaches out to people who may genuinely be in trouble and need help – and they’re not going to get it from a repeated meme. So I’m not saying people are stupid, but I’m saying they’re misguided and sometimes led into things that in a proper frame of mind they might be more inclined to ignore. I think the sensible among us have a duty to do something about that.”

There’s a bitter irony in the fact that even by posting it here, I’m contributing to its exposure. But I’d like to hope that no one who actually reads this is going to post it on to their friends. Or if you were about to, I’d urge you to think again. If I can make just one person see how stupid this is, that has to count for something.

The sad thing is that the website from whence this came, whilst inundated with glurge, nonetheless contains a few nuggets of wisdom, choice quotes and worthy offerings. This isn’t one of them.