Only the lonely – end of an era, and a thank you. #CS

CS – a website connecting singles to other singles – is close to unique in having a lively blogging and forums facility.  At the time I joined, around five years ago, it was international, multi-cultural and interdenominational, and the majority of the members were fairly careful not to step too heavily on the toes of others of different cultures and beliefs in the lively interaction.

conversing

At its best the CS blogs were a kind of Cheers, where everyone knew your name, long term members knew  which blogs would be fun to banter on and which should be avoided (a few nutters grumbled about cliques) and people occasionally met up – I met around a dozen different members, over the five years, and enjoyed online friendships with people I would never meet, would never have met in any other way.

Joining CS changed my life. I said in a lifestyle interview that I got belatedly brave. When I joined I had become a recluse living behind my computer in Scotland, writing books and hoping if I left the real world alone it would return the favour. I only joined to ask single people questions because I needed answers for my books:  the thought of going out and asking real people was unthinkable.

Now I live in Spain, still writing books in between teaching English as a second language and opening my very quirky old house up to paying guests, interacting with others every day, and all of that can be directly traced back to joining the website five years ago.

So CS was pretty special to me, and it was fun. Most of the bloggers were comfortable being single, sometimes drifting in and out of relationships while they waited without anxiety for The One, or sitting shiva for the One who had been lost, or enjoying the banter because for whatever reason real life couldn’t offer the same kind of sociability. There weren’t that many of us, a few hundred at most, some popping by regularly, some intermittently, and blog subjects ranged between being single, topical events, being single, old jokes shaken out for new readers, being single, the occasional attempt to save souls by offering various religions, being single, and every now and then some politics to spice things up.  The being single thing, some blogs were happy about it, some furious and hurting, some philosophical, some raunchy, some advising. It was relevant to the site, after all. One other thing that made it unique – it was like a petrie dish of life itself,  a tiny cross-section of international viewpoints from all ages on all subjects, often fascinatingly alien.

love

A couple of years ago disaster struck. Another blogging website for singles finally closed when it had become so toxic that it had only a handful of members left. The best of them had already come across and fitted right in but unfortunately when it closed its zombies  lurched across and joined CS – for the most part the kind of Christians who would tar and feather Christ for not being American, or at least wearing a MAGA cap.  They blogged relentlessly on their convictions, never joining any of the existing chats, ignoring what CS was as they determinedly changed it to what they had known (and destroyed), lost in their own obsession and speaking only to each other.

roll eyes 

It was like exploding a hate bomb in Cheers. Politics and singles don’t mix.  People obsessed with bigotry certainly don’t mix. Existing members tried to jolly them into chilling, or tried ignoring them, or disinterred unsuspected hates and prejudices to leap into the fray, exploding cyber friendships in the process.  Many withdrew altogether, bored or disgusted or chased on their way by hostility and anger. So much anger, and so much of it illiterate into the bargain.

scold

It reached a point where the minutiae of American politics accounted for the majority of the blogs – an occasional offering from a Normal always attracted comments and chat but Normals were becoming thin on the ground.  (Okay, “Normals” is a loose term, we long-term singles aren’t, but some are more normal than others.)

laugh

Bigmouth launched a protest and a blog asking that politics be confined to a sub-section of the website and although many of the original members joined the protest saying yes yes YES my profile was promptly deleted by the site moderators.

doh 

End of an era. But when I say that one of the no no NO comments was “Bullshite Elegsabutt! (sic) You have a stick so far stuck up your arse you would always find something and someone to complain about,” you can see how far the change has gone. It is definitely time to go.

Please charge your glasses and join me in a toast to a singles website which changed the lives of many besides me. Thank you. No regrets – I knew when I lit the match that I was probably going to be burning my boats, but they were no longer seaworthy as they were. How nice it would have been if instead it had worked and the hate had burned instead. Que sera, sera.

wine

And to the zombies – a pox on your houses.

tongue

The relevance to you, dear Reader, for patiently getting this far? Don’t let politics destroy your friendships and relationships. People can hold different views, despite professional and social media’s frantic attempts to set us all at each other’s throats. If you find yourself hating, it is time to re-examine your position – it may be time to walk away. When the self-obsessed media storm is over, we will still be left with each other – don’t have destroyed that.

 

How famous a writer would you really want to be?

Yup, I know, international best-seller and household name. That’s the kneejerk reaction, right?

When I first starting publishing books I was convinced I was putting myself under a spotlight for the whole world to see. I’m pretty sure other writers can identify with that, because of course we are. Some are cautious and call themselves totally different names. Some do use their real names, or switch to using their nom de plume all the time, bring it on.

However, the world has quite a lot of calls on its attention. Several million writers, for starters, and unless they are phenomenally successful, writers come pretty far down on the list. From being terrified of the spotlight, we move to diffident attempts to attract it (er, hello?) to actively trying to get noticed, to shrugging and accepting that there may be a handful of people glancing our way occasionally. On a good day.

I genuinely hadn’t realised how far my own attitude has shifted until a member of the singles website which enjoys my patronage did a blog about one of my books – the guide to using a singles website, Looking For Mr Will-Do-Nicely.  It was a decidedly barbed blog, wondering aloud how many people from the website would find themselves in the book, and the first few comments were definitely a little paranoid. A website friend sent me a hurried whatsapp, you have to get that blog deleted! Contact the moderators, they are very helpful, they can take it down.

Are you crazy?

I wasn’t thrilled – the blog was barbed – but as Barnum said, no such thing as bad publicity. The book doesn’t point any fingers at individuals, only at types. It gives really good advice. It’s even listed on my profile on the website, and more to the point, it’s not private. It is for sale anywhere in the world. Anyone can buy it. I wish more people would. Everyone on a singles website, for starters.

grin

My website buddy was slightly horrified. But she’s being negative. Whatever you do, don’t comment on the blog! It will stir up all sorts of trouble.

Umm – like people talking about the book? I did appreciate her concern, but it came from her personal horror of being targeted by the malicious. Individuals crave privacy, writers crave publicity.

I commented on the blog, mainly to defuse the paranoia, and there was laughter and a little discussion before the singles turned their attention to another blog and the whole tiny storm in a tiny teacup faded into yesterday’s news.

Makes me wonder, though, having embraced the spotlight, how bright would I want it to get? It would certainly be nice to sell more books, and all the marketing in the world can’t replace being discussed. All advertising, PR and marketing is aimed at starting discussion!  He who shouts the loudest gets the most attention, and I’m rubbish at shouting.

Can you imagine achieving fame, though?  Shifted from behind the parapet, and hoisted into full view  … after those early anxieties I hadn’t thought about it at all, but these days, ouch. To be even mildly or briefly in the spotlight is to be sniped at by any mean-spirited numpty giddy with the power of being able to fire their assault rifle from cover. To be so famous that every fretful tweet you ever wrote in a bad mood was hauled up out of context and shredded, every unguarded word you ever added to a public Facebook debate was given the rubber-hose treatment, and every decision you made was criticised by the following trolls? It happens to politicians, it happens to celebrities, and it happens to household name writers, good or bad.

So, not too famous.  Selling a few thousand books a month would more than cover it. Ta.

(That singles one, you should tell any mature single you know to get it. No, seriously. Good advice. It’s not in the margin with the others because it isn’t fiction. Click here for an Amazon near you, ebook or paperback)

http://mybook.to/MrWillDoNicely