Finding Love in the Digital Age – How Far is Too Far?

On Friday, I went up to Edinburgh for a long weekend with some friends at the Fringe Festival.

Like any trip away, we were all filled with anticipation of what the weekend would bring. What was the weather going to be like? Which shows would we see that would make us laugh? Would we laugh so hard we cried?

For a singleton like me (currently in one of my I’d like a boyfriend phases) there was also the ever-present question? Would I meet someone? Would I get a cheeky snog or two? Would I fall in love?

Let’s get the first bit over with – the weather was quite lovely, it always is when I go to Scotland, so much so that I’m truly beginning to believe that the Scots are just lying to the English about the weather in an attempt to keep us out.

We saw:

  • Two slightly camp twins – Kane and Abel (think Jack Whitehall but better looking) performing magic tricks (very funny);
  • I saw Harry Baker the World Poetry Slam champion in an archway in a cellar under a bar (atmospheric, amusing and inspiring);
  • Gobsmacked, an acapella group comprising seven members who performed and sang using their mouths as their only instruments (impressive and infectious);
  • David O’Doherty (quirky yet spine-tingling when talking about the marriage referendum in Ireland)
  • Chris Ramsey (cute and hilarious in equal measure)

And a tear or two may have escaped when I was creased up laughing as Chris Ramsey played a disturbing game of ‘Would You Rather?’ with a shell-shocked sixteen year old in the audience.

Did I fall in love?

Well, Chris Ramsey was lovely, and the twins were definitely worth a flirtatious smile, but like most gay guys, my radar was pinging the moment I stepped on the plane on Friday.

Alan. Lovely, lovely Alan.

Sitting in the front row of the plane, we got have a little chat with the air stewards, but I thought nothing more of him after about five minutes having stepped off the plane.

It was only on the way back, after a particularly hellish wait to drop our bags that I suddenly wondered if maybe we would see Alan again. Standing on tiptoes, I to look over the queue of people waiting to get onto the plane…

There he was. I grinned excitedly, and stepped onto the plane, where he immediately raced up the other end of the plane to deal with another passenger’s problem.

We were sitting in the front row again, so I waited, and halfway through his safety announcement, he spotted me, grinned and waved.

A little bit of flirting followed (something which I’m shockingly bad at – but I had my wing-women around who were able to help, both in keeping the conversation going but also in giving me a little extra confidence) – and then peaked when the stewards came back down toward the front of the plane after handing out complimentary drinks.

Not only after two short flights did I have a usual at the on-board bar (Alan’s trolley), but we also had an in-joke which resulted in the remainder of a bottle of white wine being left with me to see me through the end of the flight.

(At this point, anyone who really knows me, will know that yes, of course I fell in love, the man gave me free wine!)

A little more flirting followed and I missed out an epic opportunity to take it to another level when he asked me (after hearing me refer to Little Gay Andy and Big Fat Ron) what came before Alexander – I should have replied “Well, you can if you want?” but I was slightly speechless as I realised he had been looking up my name on the passenger manifest (luckily my wing-women covered for me to save an awkward stuttering silence).

(And as I write this, I’ve decided to nickname him Sky High Alan – which if he’s reading this, I’m sure will thrill him.)

“Where is all this heading?” I can hear you shouting at your computer/phone screens. Did we fall in love and live happily ever after? Did I join the mile-high group?

No and No. I’m far too shy when it comes to people I actually like for something like that to happen. But I did leave my business card, with my mobile number circled and a message on the back.

I left it propped up on my chair, cringed inside when Sky High Alan instructed the remainder of the passengers to leave any newspapers and magazines they no longer wanted on round one, and  headed off the plane, shaking hands with him as we went.

I haven’t heard from him. Our love is obviously not meant to be.

Or is it?

On Monday morning, I found him on Facebook.

It took about a minute, even though I only knew his first name and the airline he worked for (let that be a lesson in internet privacy for you, kids), and I instantly… did nothing.

There was still a chance he had found the card and would get in touch with me, not wanting to appear too keen.

Or he had found it and thrown it away, laughing at my feeble attempts to invoke future contact.

But I did let our Edinburgh group on WhatsApp know that I had found it. Reaction from all of them was instant and negative. “Don’t add him!”, “Don’t message him.”, “Wait for him to message you!”

What if he doesn’t ever respond? I asked. What if he didn’t find the card?

Well, I did know that he had looked up my name on the manifest, so it was possible he might try and find me himself, but I know my privacy settings make it quite tricky to find me.

Surely I owed it to the Gods of “You Never Know” to send a hello?

“NO.” came the reply. “Finding him on FB is creepy!” “There are limits to YOLO – this is outside of those.”

So, I stopped asking my wing-women and their boyfriends, and asked a couple of gays that I know. Their responses were quite the opposite. Do it. Definitely do it. That’s how the world works now. Send him a friend request to make sure he sees it. Do it now.

And I found that very interesting. Could it just be a simple difference that deems what is acceptable and what isn’t? The straight people in my life find it unacceptable, while the gays find it an obvious thing to do.

It surprised me, the contrasting views, where people were drawing the line between what was acceptable and what wasn’t.

Personally, at first I found leaving the card a little creepy (the whole thing had a bit of a whiff of hitting on teacher about it) – but I went with it. I didn’t find finding him on Facebook as creepy, but actually then contacting him? In the message I drafted in my head, the first thing I did was apologise for being creepy, so obviously my gut reaction was that yes, this may be crossing the line.

The girls were able to clearly draw a line. The gays drew a line between sending a message and friend requesting him (well one of them did).

Where would you draw the line? How far is too far when tracking down a guy you like on the internet? How is it any different to hanging out in a bar you know your crush frequents, in the hope that you might get to talk to them.

Where would you draw the line?

Maybe this blog post is crossing the line?

Where did I draw the line? I’m not sure yet. Part of me thinks, despite what the girls said, it would be acceptable to message him today (the day after meeting him). However, it is very clear in my head that if I do message him, it would have to be today.

Thinking about someone for DAYS after meeting them, then tracking them down on Facebook to ask them out? Nauh.

So, there you go. I’m not sure where the line is, but it will definitely be drawn come midnight tonight. After then, the only hope I have of ever seeing him again would be to keep booking myself onto Virgin flights with the futile aim of bumping into Sky High Alan again.

Now THAT would be creepy.

#BEDM14: Raindrops On Roses…

I happen to use six different kinds of social media on my phone. They’re a bit like supermarkets in a way. They’re all very similar, they all offer very similar things, but each of them are just slightly different.

I’m going to use this blog to tell you my favourite thing about each of them

 

LinkedIn – The Boring One

I don’t mean to be rude, but let’s face it, by design it’s the corporate side of social media. All a bit serious, all a bit po-faced. Not gonna be many drunken selfies on here, and if there are, you’re probably doing it wrong.

The good thing about it, though, is it gives me the chance to dream. I can see an amazing job across the other side of the world and I have a shared connection with the person who posted the job.

Maybe, just maybe…

 

Grindr – The Slutty One

Ok, so this one doesn’t actually live on my phone. At the moment. I briefly downloaded it again on Saturday night, before deleting it quickly again on Sunday morning.

Grindr’s great for meeting new guys… when you’re in a town or city larger that Swindon.When you’re in Swindon, it’s just full of guys you’ve already dated, or already rejected.

It’s perfect for when you’re on your own in a new town. Doesn’t just have to be about sex, but it can be if that’s what you want.

 

Instagram – The Arty One

Hot guys. Blokes that take nearly naked selfies of themselves. That’s one – amazing – side of Instagram.

The other side to it is it allows me to fool myself into thinking I’m a photographic genius. Real photographic geniuses probably hate it, probably think it’s a watering down of their art, but I love it.

I don’t like photos of me, but I like more of them since I discovered Instagram

 

Snapchat – The Silly One

I don’t like photos of me, and I like them even less since I discovered Snapchat. But they delete themselves after 10 seconds – hurrah!

Snapchat allows us to have a bit of fun with our mates, and its disposable. It doesn’t matter if we don’t look quite right (or if we’ve taken a picture of something we shouldn’t have), it’s just a bit of messing about.

 

Facebook – The One You Wish Wasn’t There

Facebook feels like the one that you keep because you feel you ought to. It’s quite handy to have around, mostly because it helps you keep track of birthdays of people. In short, Facebook keeps in contact with people so you don’t have to.

The added benefit to Facebook is that you can look at people used to know and feel good about yourself because of how fat they got.

 

Twitter – The Popular One

Twitter kind of has the best bits of all pieces of Social Media. Mess around with your mates. Make business connections. Keep in contact with old friends. Meet new people in new places.

Most importantly, look at pictures of hot guys with their tops off.

Twitter stops you from being lonely. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing or where you are. There’s usually somebody, somewhere doing the same thing as you. You can have quick disposable conversations, or you can really make some good friends.

Best of all, there’s a 140 character limit – you don’t have to put up with people wanging on about anything for very long.

 

 

In summary, social media’s great. But actually, the social aspect of all of these have existed for a long time before smart phones were even invented. The media element just makes it more accessible, more efficient.

Sometimes it’s good to put the phone down, grab a glass of wine, and go and sit outside with a friend.

(And look at hot guys with their tops off)

Prompt: Six of your favourite bits of social media

#BEDM14: Big Bird’s Got Nothing On Me

Dear Nic,

It’s possible that with a few of these BEDM14 posts that I’m doing that I’m not quite doing what you intended with the prompts.

For instance, today’s prompt was A letter.

The assumption is that you wanted us to write a letter to someone. It would certainly make for a different style of blog post and would keep things interesting, if not for us, then for the readers.

What it has done is make me think – which may also be the point of all of the prompts.

Letters come in two shapes and sizes. One is professional, quite dry and not exactly the sort of thing you’d want to write about on a blog (Despite that being exactly what I did a few weeks ago when I wrote about writing covering letters, but hey, everything has a context).

The other kind of letter would be a personal one. A letter to someone with whom I have some kind of prior relationship – or to someone who I’d like to have some kind of future relationship with.

Putting up a letter of that kind would not only reveal a lot about me, but would also reveal stuff about them. At least, stuff that I perceive about them.

The prompt made me question, just how much do I want to reveal about myself to my audience – regardless of the size?

The answer is the same as it would be on Twitter, or on Facebook, at work, or in real life. I don’t want to reveal all that much. At least not yet.

I want to be in control of what I reveal and when, therefore any letter that I wrote would be either dishonest, dull, or revealing what I didn’t want to reveal.

That’s why I’ve chosen not to write a letter. However, by addressing this post to you, I have therefore written a letter, which makes the whole point of it… null and void.

Do I now have to come up with another blog post for today?

 

Regards,

Alexander J Call

 

PS – It’s possible you actually wanted us to write about a letter from the alphabet, which is a little bit Sesame Street. If that was the case, my favourite letter would probably have to be P. I’m not sure why, but I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for it. I think it leaves a nice sound on the lips.

Prompt: A letter

BEDM14: What’s The Problem?

Yesterday I posted a rather flippant post comparing Facebook and Twitter to having kids. The reason for avoiding the prompt ‘Facebook or Twitter?’ was because I feared the resulting blog would end in a diatribe not against Facebook, but more the people that use it.

I’m still not going to go into it, I don’t want to upset anyone just to make an interesting blog. There’s plenty about what people do on Facebook that annoys me, but to be honest it probably says more about me, than it does about them. I could go on and on and on about some of the things that people do and their response would most likely be: What’s the problem?

That’s what this blog is about. It’s my ‘What’s the Problem?’ to something that I recently read in the latest issue of Attitude magazine.

It was an opinion piece by Iain Dale, there isn’t an online version that I can find, so you’ll have to buy a copy of the magazine to read his full article (But why wouldn’t you? There’s a lovely picture of Ben Hardy aka Peter Beale off of EastEnders on the cover).

It is an opinion piece, and I can’t stress that enough, because if it’s his opinion, then that’s fine. He’s entitled to it, but I’m entitled to disagree. It was subtitled Where are the ‘normal’ gay people on TV?

Dale makes a lot of really good points. The article in itself is questioning why sexuality is used as an adjective, as if it’s something that defines a person. He notes that he was described in The Observer as ‘Iain Dale, the gay Conservative candidate’.

Conservative candidate should be a suitable enough label for him – unless the article in itself (Dale doesn’t mention what the article was about) was specifically around gay issues, in which case the label of gay would add context to the article.

There are two sections of his piece that I object to.

Even EastEnders, the show which broke new ground in the late 1980s by screening the first fay kiss fell for the gay stereotype ‘Muscle Mary’ character, Christian

And then later:

One of the few places on TV where you find completely ordinary gay people is in the news. I say ordinary – they are generally extraordinary people, but the thing they have in common is that most people wouldn’t even know they are gay

There are many kinds of homophobia in this world, and the one we all object to is heterosexuals discriminating against homosexuals simply for the fact that they are homosexual.

What troubles me is when homosexuals discriminate against other homosexuals.

If I was a young gay boy reading a copy of Attitude Magazine for the first time, I would be troubled by Dale’s opinion piece. His unconsidered us of the word ‘normal’ is troubling.

What he is linking normal to is people not being able to tell that they are gay. What he is linking normal, whether he intends to or not, is being able to pass as straight.

What he’s actually saying is that these people – and he lists several examples – are not camp.

The people he lists, among them are Clare Balding, Evan Davis and Paddy O’Connell are people that don’t make you ‘automatically think ‘gay’’ but then he goes onto qualify that in O’Connell’s case he would ‘make an exception but only when he’s presenting the Eurovision semis’

Dale wants less camp people on TV. And that’s ok. But it’s not ok to infer that these people are not normal, or that they don’t exist.

Christian Clarke from EastEnders may well be a Muscle Mary stereotype. But these people exist. They deserve a place on our television screens.

I’m not exactly butch – I have a slight wiggle when I walk, and I know my way around a well-timed eyebrow raise – so Iain Dale’s article hits home slightly.

I recently was speaking to a chap on Grindr. Lovely guy, liked him quite a lot, but he told me he didn’t like camp guys. This led to a discussion in my office among a couple of them, where we agreed that on the scale, I’m probably a six – that means I’m not whole row of tents, but I’m more than just a one person pop-up.

I worried over meeting him, I thought he would immediately take offence if I spoke with a slightly higher voice than he, or if I ordered vodka tonic instead of a beer.

I probably shouldn’t have been worried, he was camper than me, not by much, but if I’m a six, then he was a seven – that doesn’t bother me. What does bother me is that I did get worried about it. I worried about changing who I am.

It’s 2014. We shouldn’t have to worry about hiding ourselves away and trying to be ‘ordinary’ so that people don’t know we’re gay.

It’s fine to campaign for a wider representation of gay men and women in our media, but we need to stop using the word normal when we mean non-camp.

Prompt: What’s the Problem

You Can’t Upgrade A Child

I don’t have kids.

I probably won’t have kids

I don’t really know a lot about kids – and I don’t really want to know about kids.

What’s my point?

Well, I do know that you’re not supposed to have favourites, and that most parents when asked will say that of course they don’t have favourites.

But is it possible not to have a favourite?

A parent would probably say that they love Fanny their little first born, but then when little Willie is born a couple of years later, they’ve learned from their mistakes.

They know what to avoid, what to do more of, and more importantly which shops sell the most flame-retardant clothing

Little Willie is just better. Child 2.0.

It doesn’t mean they don’t love Fanny, they just prefer Willie.

And part of them probably does wish they could start again with Fanny, but they got it wrong at the beginning and they’ll probably never invest in Fanny as much as they should.

On the flip side, Fanny hasn’t done anything wrong, she’s just got the unfortunate happenstance of having come first.

Lucky Willie didn’t come till later.

Like I said, I don’t have kids, but I do have experience in this area.

I like Facebook, I don’t want to delete Facebook, but I’d rather spend my evening with Willie. I mean Twitter. It’s just better.

It’s exactly the same.

Prompt: Facebook or Twitter?

 

 

Pass the Gin

I mentioned in a previous post – at least I think I mentioned it, if I didn’t, then I’m mentioning it now – that a friend/colleague/flatmate of mine once said that I was too social to be a writer.

His view was that a writer is one of those people who sits inside, burrows themselves away and stays alone for months at a time, pouring their heart into their work – and likely, pouring gin into their mouths.  Simon romanticizes the process – and, there is likely nothing more romantic to him than being able to drink from morning to night.

But I disagree (not about the gin part). I like going out, of course I do, but there are some weekends where I get home from work at 6pm on a Friday night and don’t leave again until Monday morning. Even on these weekends, I often get little to no writing done.

It’s not because I’m too social, it’s because I get too easily distracted. Twitter. Facebook. The Simpsons: Tapped Out. The complete box set of Lost. Ironing. Painting the hallway. The flatmate (it’s a small flat, and he has a big mouth).

I recently deleted twitter from my phone. Not because of any misguided notion that without it I would become a 10,000 word a day writer, but because I just felt like I needed a break.

I did think that coming off twitter would give me a little extra time. But I’ve just found other distractions (Game of Trones, Grindr, this blog).

The trick to it is having a routine – and having one that you can stick to. I’m slowly trying to find one that works for me, but it’s difficult. Even if I do get all the little irrelevant distractions – life just gets in the way.

I will go back to twitter at some point – maybe soon – maybe I already have by the time I’ve posted this, because quitting it is not the secret to writing a bestseller.

I’ll try to give up some of the distractions and settle into a proper writing routine, but in the meantime, I need more friends on The Simpsons Tapped Out – I’m bertypop – add me!