Saturday, June 24, 2017

On Being Followed

Hey, Mr. Tambourine man, play a song for me
I'm not sleepy and there is no place I'm going to
Hey, Mr. Tambourine man, play a song for me
In the jingle jangle morning I'll come following you - Dylan, "Mr. Tambourine Man"
I believe there is a basic fear -  inherited from our pre-history -  of being followed.

Hence little kids being scared of their own shadows. Women walking alone in city sidewalks, glancing behind if they hear footsteps. The very concept of unlisted phone numbers - useless now in the age of the internet.

And yet,  following is frequently seen as a positive thing. Just take the number of love songs where (mostly) men promise to "follow" their loved ones.

Every breath you take
Every move you make
Every bond you break
Every step you take I'll be watching you - The Police, "Every Breath You Take"

I can remember that song  - "Every Breath You Take" - from the eighties. I found it spooky. Yet it was extremely popular, and I think it was meant to be a love song. Or at least a romantic one. Am I being a radical feminist when I state that being followed "wherever you may go,, with "every move you make, every breath you take" is not a compliment but something scary?

I will follow you
Follow you wherever you may go
There isn't an ocean too deep
A mountain so high it can keep me away - Rick Nelson, "I Will Follow You"

And now "follow" has a new meaning. The Urban Dictionary defines "follow" as "In social media, especially Twitter, it is a subscription of sorts to celebrities, companies, or organizations in order to gain instant access to the thoughts or ideas of said subscription." Adding to the list "celebrities, companies, or organizations" the word "people" and we have a definition that is more apt.

It is not merely people's thoughts and ideas that "following"  gains access to. Let's add in photos. Internet following allows us to give others  "instant access to our thoughts, ideas and photos.

I recently became active on Instagram, largely because I like taking photos and Flickr is so unuser friendly. 

When I set up my Instagram profile I had my privacy option as private. I soon realized this meant I hardly shared anyone else's photos, having very few friends,  with  most of those few not even on Instagram.  I think I had five followers. What a downer! So I changed my profile to "public", and now anyone can "follow" me.

Why did I do such a thing? Am I succumbing to social media - becoming a person desperate for Facebook "likes" and Twitter and Instagram followers?  Have I no friends, no social life? Am I the equivalent of a lonely Victorian spinster, writing in the equivalent of the Victorian lady's diary, on Blogger?

Look at my Instagram profile above. 42 followers - pathetic. And of those, only about five a real people. The others being companies with products and services to sell. Following me in he hope that I will follow them and buy whatever they are selling.

Of course I don't follow such companies, and that is probably why the number of my Instagram followers decreases daily. Following is meant to be reciprocal.. "I will be your friend if you will be my friend" sort of thing. Stuff that for a joke. I am tired of  companies hash-tagging their way into my life.

Calvin Klein Ad, Houston Street, Manhattan
I saw a Scottish TV show last night -  about a hermit who lived alone in a croft in the wilds of the Shetlands. Maybe I should be like him. I can see its positives. No one to follow me, to watch over me. No need to measure my popularity in terms of "likes" and "followers".

But unfortunately, this change in lifestyle is now out of the question. There's no way I would be allowed to live in the Shetlands. After Trump's debacle about the windmills spoiling the view from his Scottish golf course, I suspect they aren't too keen on Americans. And even though I am an Australian American, or and American Australian, I would still feel uncomfortable.

In  any case I can't understand the Scottish dialect. I had to turn closed-captioning on my television even to follow the plot of the TV show. And now it is stuck and I have closed-captioning on everything. I called Netflix to try to get it off, but the customer service guy didn't seem to realize the difference between closed-captioning and sub-titles.

The complexities of modern life.

So I raise my glass to the millennials who know of no other.

"Here's looking at you kids!"

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