Suggested Audio Jukebox ♫
 Kansas Carry on My Wayward Son
 Stillwater Love Thing
 Elton John Tiny Dancer
 Stillwater Fever Dog
Where better to luxuriate than one’s very own personal comfort zone? Said plush precinct is custom-built around our own preferences, tailored to facilitate our strengths, and generally free of the irritation that comes from stepping out into more uncharted territories. That said, while familiarity need not necessarily breed contempt, it can grow dreadfully predictable operating within such cosy confines as it tends only to endorse the knowledge and resources we already possess.
Thinking outside the box on occasion affords valuable insight into emotions and feelings otherwise unavailable and is just as crucial to our development as the kind of sanctuaries we cling to habitually. The old adage suggests we need to be “in it to win it” but the prizes are often far greater if we vacate our comfort zones for a second or three, provided we watch out for those dreaded roaming charges of course.
Given that I’m primarily a creature of habit, I’m never more jovial than when secure in my surroundings, perhaps running the mill for a spot of much-needed cardiovascular exercise in the process. Give me a snug Tartan blanket, coal fire, some fast food and a DVD remote and I’m snugger than a bug rug in Istanbul. However, the thing about being a writer by trade is that boundaries are unlikely to permit the kind of growth to truly excel in my art. I make no secret of my stance with regards to poetry as I find it more restrictive than the other creative platforms within which I traditionally loiter. This is partly due to my fondness for limericks, for timing my rhyming to get those bells chiming. Too confining? Perhaps but some of my proudest works have been poems so I’m grateful for the opportunity to flee the roost once in a while, for the purpose of research you understand.
Then we have social networks and I’ll be the first to fess up that these exist some way from my comfort zone. For me, it’s always been a toss-up between Facebook and Twitter for pole position, and the latter wins out effortlessly for being a tad more anonymous. While I can see the benefits of connecting my diodes to Zuckerberg’s mighty social Trojan, I’d much rather flap my tattered wings than trundle along cobbled stone.
Each to their own I guess but ten minutes of FB time leaves me all memed out and too often burdened with the woes of the weary to even contemplate peeling a banana. Meanwhile, up in the clear blue skies of the Twitterverse, I am enabled to soar freely, swooping down to catch whichever morning worms appear most flavorsome. Actually that’s not strictly accurate as the blue bird makes no attempt to disguise its contempt for the manner in which I go about my business.
Back in the day, I used to provide a more personal service, mailing my work wide and far every time I posted and I would’ve got away with it too, had it not been for those pesky Twitter Bots and their incessant meddling. Now I’m officially branded a spammer by the powers that be; a constant drain on the bandwidth of others and rarely up to anything if it amounts to anything more than no good. My tweets have an uncanny knack for disappearing from the timelines of others and all this because I’ve been kind enough to place all my eggs in their basket alone. This leaves me one of two distinct options – either I suck it up like a thirsty aardvark and pay no mind to their callous victimization or find myself a fresh nest to feather before clay pigeon season commences.
So what do I do? Scurry back to Facebook with my tail tucked between my legs and plead for either forgiveness or a swift, painless death? Not on your Nelly I don’t. Indeed I only keep my account active for a handful of friends who aren’t accessible any other way and have little to no inclination to leap back into this particular (dis)comfort zone any time soon. However, there is another untraveled road that could just prove worthy of further exploration; a third Goliath in social circles worldwide and an unknown quantity to one so technologically challenged as I. If Twitter is a pair of comfy carpet slippers and Facebook a pair of less comfy carpet slippers, then Instagram is a brace of patent ten-inch heels offering nada in the way of ankle support and more than likely to result in bunions.
While I’ve been known to bust out the evening frock and pearl necklace on rare occasion (on account of being comfortable in my skin and a little for my own amusement), I’m not entirely sure I’m ready to be classed an all singing and dancing dame just yet if I’m honest. Sounds suspiciously like hard work to me and I happen to be allergic to any kind of shift deal that eats up my precious playtime. In a perfect world, there’d be an affable butler on-hand to take my coat and introduce me to the other guests.
Alas, Instagram haven’t gotten around to recruiting hired help at this point, thus it appears I’ll be undertaking this pilgrimage solo. This will entail being dropped deep behind enemy lines, tiptoeing through the tulips, and praying War Horse triggers the Claymore before I’m blown back into frigging MySpace. No one wishes to end up there; in the old airplane graveyard wearing a helmet riddled with shrapnel.
Anyroad, what do you say we discuss the elephant in the room before it gets sick of the bar nuts and brings it in for a hug? Does anyone else have the faintest inkle dinkle how to navigate this bare-boned behemoth? I mean, where the block rockin’ fuck are the menu options Instagram? Pardon me for speaking out of turn here, but it’s a smidgen threadbare, don’t you think? I feel like a fire ant in the hardware hedge maze that is IKEA. If Crazy Ralph were here now, I know what the old buzzard would rasp in my general direction. He’d say “you’re doomed!” and I’d be inclined to offer my endorsement on that observation. I may have napped through the Powerpoint but nobody mentioned jack shit about death curses. Something tells me Instagram and I may not be cut out for one another after all, and that this is going to be a decidedly brief courtship.
In a situation such as this, my primary action is to weigh up the pros against cons. Straight off the bat, I have a number of initial gripes aside from the sparse interface. For starters, it appears as though any photos uploaded are subject to compulsory cropping and that’s something I really could do without. Even more disparaging is the fact that any links included aren’t active, not ideal given the nature of my interactions. Should I post a new article and pimp it out via Instagram, then users will be required to cut and paste said link in order to access it on my blog. Talk about inconvenience. We all live such hectic lives and anything deemed hard work is instantly discarded as superfluous. Granted, there’s a handy love heart icon below each offering to express our fondness but, other than that, no dice.
Worse still, news has just filtered through that the powers that be over at Twitter have increased the character count to 240, almost double the meager ration that has been a bone of contention for so long now. It feels as though they’ve caught wind of my skulking and upped their game accordingly. With half a mind reminding me that it’s better the devil you know and the other half utterly discombobulated, I reckon my time on Instagram is about to be cut unceremoniously short. But what’s this? I sense activity as one of the previously dormant icons on the bottom right of my screen has changed integrity. I may be something of a technical gibbon, nay the Maurice of gibbons, but even I can suss out that the newfound orange dot translates to “you’ve got mail”. Could the tide be about to change?
Indeed it could. You see, one of my very best friends in the world has registered my attendance and affectionately prepared a welcome party of sorts. Anyone au fait with Twitter should be more than aware of the name Kreepazoid Kelly as she provides a ray of light for so many and only ever wishes to celebrate. However, what you may not know is that she also happens to be a two-time survivor of brain cancer and currently deep in battle mode once more. The reason you may be clueless to this additional tidbit of information is that she doesn’t let her illness define her. Neither does she brush it under the carpet. Instead she continues to spread the goodwill as best she can, regardless of any crippling pain that may be paying her a visit that day and that makes her a bona fide superhero in my book.
Bless this inspirational young lady for fetching my carpet slippers just as I was preparing to “pop out for a pint of semi-skimmed”. Had she not embraced my presence with such briskness, then I’d have been back at Twitter HQ as we speak, explaining my wanderlust to Norma Jean in Human Resources. Mercifully, Kelly happens to be a dab hand at Insta-hanging and, with danger of coming across all Cocky Herbert here, her advice is “as sound as a pound”. Suddenly I don’t feel quite such a target for bamboozlement and a friendly face and huge heart is all it took to free me of any phase one jitters. Let’s not poke the photo bomber just yet, I still feel a fair amount of moisture behind my ears. But first light has been cast. Thank you my awesome friend.
I’ve only recently crossed paths with Kelly’s Neuro-Twin and fellow battle cat, Sharon Lawson, better known to many as Freckles and Valium but it doesn’t take me long to spot a cape and tiara above the rooftops. The above photo suggests two things to me – warmth and serenity – and I’m all in pre-flop when that delicious duo are being peddled. Sharon has fought the good fight for twenty years now and it will take more than a debilitating seizure to douse her zest for life. I’m humbled in the company of folk who find a way to flourish, irrespective of long odds and short straws. Respect is a given, love instantaneous, and friendship forever. That’s how it works right? No timer. No curfew. No imprisonment. Just friendship. I also like to refer to this as simply “home”.
Speaking of mi casa, others are now providing the same kind of housewarming. Take author Joseph A. Pinto for example, a gentleman who I’ve still to have the pleasure of getting to know. Every day for an entire calendar month, Joseph is posting a daily photo in honor of Pancreatic Cancer Awareness. Each picture accommodates a polished purple “P” and this instantly appeals to my Sesame Street sensibilities. Moreover, given that he’s a creative soul, there’s no shortage of ingenuity when it comes to making each snapshot as fresh as a daisy. Is it just me or is beginning to get rather toasty in here? Suddenly I feel less like a fish out of water and far more like one of the people. I’d click my heels but Instagram already cropped them out, dagnabbit.
Meet Gemi and notice the way this precious pooch blends into the autumn blossom all around her. Now please allow me to introduce you to her wonderful mommy, Gayle Frank, a lady whose friendship I’ve cherished dearly ever since I first relocated my voice box. Thanks to Instagram, we’ve now reconnected and picked up precisely where we left off some time back. It was a tweet by Gayle commenting on the rate that my synapses fire that powered me up during the darkest period of my life and I treasure those kind words to this very day. 2017 has been a wretched year for her but this dazzling gemstone has played a key role in her wading through the tall reeds of sorrow. Using my newfound ability to tag photos, I can now pop in on this angel on four bear paws whenever I wish and will always return with a guaranteed smile.
It’s starting to dawn on me that Instagram has a rather splendiferous vibe to it, you know. Gradually other loved ones are revealing themselves and I sense a real feeling of community spirit bubbling away beneath the timid interface. What is also becoming plainly evident is that folk are more thoughtful with just what it is they share to this platform. Dare I say there’s a touch of class to each interaction which I find largely AWOL on Facebook. Not looking to come across as snobbish, on the contrary, I’m as common as muck me and never happier than when kicking back with a can of cheap industrial strength lager and packet of Pickled Onion Space Raiders. But I’m not sensing the white noise that traditionally accompanies log in with FB and signs don’t come any more encouraging than that one.
Of course, there’s still the small matter of my unscheduled hiatus from Twitter and something tells me they’ll be one beyond livid at my ship jumping exploits. Prey not blue bird as my eggs will still be laid in your nest, first and foremost. With 240 characters now at my disposal and a legion of besties to cater my kindness to, I’d be a platter of plankton not to use this as my go-to social tool. It’s Facebook I feel sorry for as three’s a crowd and besides – what have you done for me lately? Thus I’ll continue to treat it like a second cousin twice detached, drop my oviums into the blue hamper, then take a leisurely stroll over to Instagram to dish out the omelette. Simple. I’m not looking to become Insta-Famous this day or any other in the foreseeable. You see, thanks to the above collective and many others besides (you’ll know who you are), I kinda already am.
For Gemi 🐾
Truly, Really, Clearly, Sincerely,
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of the Crimson Quill
Copyright: Grueheads Films 2017