The rise of the Keyboard Warrior…

THE internet really is a marvellous invention.

I love how easy it is to keep in touch with old friends, who I otherwise might have lost touch with. 

I love that I can share photos with family with just a few clicks of a button. 

And I especially love how quickly I can find the answer to almost any question (and this is particularly useful during difficult pub quizzes as I am both very competitive and not averse to cheating).

But one negative consequence of such a vast and anonymous network is that people use it to be downright nasty to others.

Forget armchair politicians – these days it’s the so-called keyboard warrior you need to be afraid of.

These are the people determined to ram their opinions (often no more than expletive-filled rants) down the throats of others.

It’s a schoolyard fight being waged with nothing more than a smart phone, an overactive left thumb and a staggering amount of anger.

And these people are everywhere – Facebook, Twitter, photo-sharing sites and even message boards – waiting to strike if you so much as put an apostrophe out of place.

I’ve seen it first hand, with celebrities often falling prey to insults about anything from their weight or looks to their talent.

The more extreme version of this kind of behaviour – trolling – has even made the news in recent years, as people have been driven to despair (and, in some cases, suicide) by the words of complete strangers, who are protected by their living rooms and anonymous usernames.

I had a very small taste of this kind of aggression this week after posting a link to this very column on social media.

‘Constructive criticism’ it was not – and before I knew it I’d been treated to a barrage of four letter words topped off with a lovely round of name-calling.

Sadly I don’t have the answer to this particular problem, although it is heartening to know the justice system is beginning to catch up.

However, the whole thing clearly needs further debate.

Let’s keep it friendly though, shall we?
Article first published in The Westmorland Gazette on July 23, 2015

To be a twit, or not to be a twit…that is the question!

TRYING to sound clever is a dodgy business, I’ve found.

Quoting old Willy Shakes once or twice might impress a certain crowd of people, but drop Macbeth-bombs into conversation on a daily basis and you’ll end up sounding like a bit of a moron.

(“Do you want a brew?”

“Well as my old friend Hamlet said – to be quenched or not to be quenched! That is the question!”)

Unfortunately this seems to happen a lot – and culture snobs are the worst bunch.

They’ll deny being judgmental and claim your opinion is just as valid as theirs, but then look at you like you’ve grown a second head if you admit you like the Spice Girls, have the Kardashians on series link and, quite frankly, thought Donnie Darko was a load of old cobblers.

(At that point they’ll probably start panic-quoting Nietzsche at you, to prove they’re nothing like you.)

The reason I say all this is because last week I overheard a gem of a conversation on the train which was so pretentious even Gwyneth Paltrow (she of the ‘conscious uncoupling’) would have cringed.

“Yeah, they were amazing,” said one man to another, about a band he’d been to see the night before.

“They’re the epitome of postpunk shoegaze with real elements of darkwave gothcore about them.”

The other man replied: “Oh…right… I’m not familiar with that, to be honest.”

The first man adopted a slightly patronising tone and said: “I’m not surprised. To be honest, not everybody Gets Them. I think they’re just TOO progressive for some people.”

I sniggered and went back to reading Heat magazine.

Later on, when I recounted this tale to Smithy, we agreed how sad it is that some people seem to feel a great need to be more knowledgable than others. 

My husband, a man who likes to call a spade a spade, pondered this for a few minutes before adding: “It sounds to me that they feel insecure.

“Or they could just be irritating douchebags who need to be hit over the head with their 80s synth punk vinyls.”

Or maybe these people are just too progressive for the likes of us.

Article first published in The Westmorland Gazette on July 16, 2015

I’m going to be 30…if I remember.

MARRIAGE is all about sacrifice.

For example, I fold my husband’s clean shirts just the way he likes, even though it takes up valuable seconds of my time, because he hates doing it and also suffers from chronic laziness.

I also try not to kick him TOO hard when he snores.

And Smithy – the kind-hearted gent that he is – is more than willing to eat the last of the biscuits to save me from the calories.

“I’m giving up my waistline…for you!” he says, as he reaches for the final chocolate digestive.

“This,” he continues, through a mouthful of crumbs, “is how much I love you.”

His generosity knows no bounds.

And his latest ‘act of kindness’, as he has been keen to phrase it, is to decline any part in the planning of my 30th birthday in order to ‘save me’ from his terrible organisational skills.

“I would have spent hours planning something fantastic,” he explained, apologetically. “But you know it’ll be better if you do it.”

I don’t know anything of the sort. 

But that doesn’t stop him from smiling magnanimously, and adding: “It’s just a sacrifice I’m willing to make.”

So now I – equally disorganised and suffering from a severe case of baby brain – have been left with the Great Stress of organising an event in just six weeks, which is suitable for everyone from my friends to the baby and my nonagenarian grandmother.

This would be hard for anyone, but especially so for someone who, quite frankly, couldn’t organise a tea party in a doll’s house.

I’m the person who books train tickets for the right time but the wrong day.

I’m the person who remembers five minutes after the supermarkets close that I don’t have anything in for tea.

And I’m the person who once packed my bags, checked out of a hotel and walked all the way to the train station…a day early.

A party planner I am not – and there’s every chance this milestone may end up being completely bypassed, as I instead sob my way into my dotage, alone, over a pint of G&T.

And let’s be honest – I’ll probably still be late.


Article first published in The Westmorland Gazette on July 9, 2015