Love in the time of textual harassment

Image: The Kiss Wall on Brighton seafront (credit: Fast Eddie 42)
Image: The Kiss Wall on Brighton seafront (credit: Fast Eddie 42)

I met my wife when my internet access was restricted to a 36 kps modem at one computer in my office, next to the fax machine in the secretaries’ room.

I bought my first mobile phone after we’d been together for about six months. It would be a year or two before text messaging started in the UK.

Image: What my first phone looked like - what the image doesn't show is the credit card sized SIM card or the massive brick-sized battery.
Image: What my first phone looked like - what the image doesn

If we phone one another in the day during that honeymoon period it would be on a land-line. That would happen maybe once a day.

I had email. She didn’t.

So… I have no idea what online dating, or the early stages of a relationship conducted in the modern world is like. I’ve never had a Facebook status other than married and I’ve never had to de-friend an ex and divide up our friends online like so many paperback books.

Have some sympathy, then, for today’s yoot. While it may be easier to meet potential partners, once you have the etiquette is shifting as fast as the technologies and if you happen across someone whose boundaries are different to your own, there might be trouble. Your web shadow, social network presences and always-on personal comms device (mobile) mean that when things you don’t like kick off they kick off fast.

Encouraging, then, to see sites like thatsnotcool.com offering teens a helping hand with dealing with a terrifyingly long list of behaviours that might upset them, including:

  • Cyber-bullying
  • Pestering via email and texts
  • Malicious slander
  • Hacking email and social network accounts
  • Asking for inappropriate photos
  • Posting said photos online

The has advice, spaces to discuss these issues and an amusing/disturbing set of “call-out cards” you can send / post to a harasser’s web page by way of a hint to them to back off (a selection of which are below)…

Image: Call out cards
Image: Call out cards

Via Dirk at Herd

Useful advertising: Atheist bus ads

Image: An atheist bus advert (credit: Lorissa)
Image: An atheist bus advert (credit: Lorissa)

You’ll doubtless have heard the story of the journalist and comedian, Ariane Sherine, who was irritated by a Christian ad campaign on buses declaring that non-believers  “will be condemned to everlasting separation from God and then you spend all eternity in torment in hell … Jesus spoke about this as a lake of fire prepared for the devil”.

Writing a series of articles on the Guardian’s Comment is Free website, she suggested that atheists club together to pay for a some ads with a more reassuring atheist messsage (“There’s probably no god, now stop worrying and enjoy your life”) the campaign gathered momentum and raised far more money than was needed. It also became a meme that spread around the world.

Sometimes it’s more about the journey than the ad. The ads, or the process of getting them there, became a social object.

The effect of the advertising itself is almost peripheral to the effect of the debate, the bringing together of atheists – a group usually less adept at organising itself than anarchists – with the focus of getting these ads made and the space on the buses bought.

So, some online debate plus a donation website (with a fund that is still growing) and there you have it… a potent piece of activism.

: : Finally, as a riposte to the inevitable complaints to the ASA, Richard Dawkins, a devise proponent of atheism gives a choice quote in this video:  “They have to take offence – it’s the only weapon they’ve got.” Got to remember that one, right?

Edge of a riot: Social media, balance and truth in the news

Image: A police line forms toward the end of yesterday's Gaza protest in London (credit: Rich Lewis)

When I was a student in 1994 I was on the front cover of The Indpendent the morning after a riot outside the Houses of Parliament.

The image was of a grimacing, dreadlocked fellow’s grimacing face lunging over the line of police shields.

(No, that wasn’t me…)

The picture spoke a thousand words. It told the whole story. The whole story of a photographer standing the other side of police barricade.

The image looked as if it was taken in the heat of the disturbance. In fact it was a while before anything had happened, when what would become a riot was still a peaceful protest against the Criminal Justice Bill. The man was drunk and on his own. I saw him have a tussle with the cordon of police and – rightly so – being arrested and taken away.

Far from being part of an angry mob there was no one behind him. Well, I was – a few metres back and hence I was in the shot.

Being *in* the protest was a very different experience to being the safer side of the police lines.

After yesterday’s protests in London about Gaza yesterday turned to violence, much of the news coverage is, understandably, about the riot, with few of the images and little of the copy dwelling on the rest of the day of protest. If it bleeds it leads, as they say…

Image: A policeman in riot gear at yesterday's protest (credit: Tyron Francis)

The non-bleeding, peaceful protests get their own coverage in social media. A search for “London protests” filtered by most recent brings images from today’s pro-Israel protests in London, then hundreds of images of yesterday’s March. There are the beginnings of trouble in there (police changing into riot gear as the mood gets uglier, fireworks going off outside the Israeli embassy) and some of the actual violence.

No doubt that in part reflects the priorities of people caught up in the violence (taking part / trying to get away rather than documenting the moment) but perhaps also gives a more proportional balanced view of how the day unfolded. The creativity and passion of the protesters, the diversity of people taking part, the scale of the event are there in the hundreds of photos people have uploaded.

Image: A family on the protest march (credit: Tyron Francis)

The truth is more prosaic, less dramatic, slower than the news cycle. But at a time when churnalism and misinformation is decaying the media’s usefulness as a truthful recorder of events, sometimes social media is where we need to turn for the facts.

: : I went back to the Flickr search as I finished this article and there were many more images of the violence at the end of the day being posted…

There are of course,

For a protester’s-eye view of being on the the march have a look at this:

Gaza protest in London from maryrosecook on Vimeo.

This one follows the news media’s format a little more closely, with the most of it being of the rioting at the end of the day. In big protests like this one, there are often people who are really there with the hop of provoking and tkaing part in trouble, masking their hooliganism as political activism.