Imagine you have been in a coma for seven years. You wake up and the first voice you hear is Alexa. The Christmas just gone, I started to ‘come round’ after spending more than half a decade in a sleep-deprived fugue state. To say I had been depressed doesn’t cover it really, although that was the diagnosis I was given by a series of doctors – and was the basis of my treatment.
Here’s why. In 2010, I received some upsetting personal news, which kicked off a period of severe insomnia. Initially caused by stress, this chronic sleeplessness took on a life of its own (and is the subject of an online column which I’m writing for the Telegraph.)
I hung in there for a couple of years, but from 2012 onwards, there was pretty much a self-imposed media blackout – I was absent, not present in the world. I spent the days reading fiction but I couldn’t bear very much reality. I didn’t listen to the radio, watch TV, read the news or really interact with anyone or anything on a meaningful basis.
I missed a lot.
Now Sleeping Beauty (as my friends like to call me) is catching up. Having come round and slowly but surely started to face my problems, grabbing a few hours’ sleep here and there, I am once again joining the world again. Every day there are new nuggets to discover, from the funny to the upsetting to the merely mundane. This is what I have learnt about the world so far...
Social media is king and getting into a Twitterstorm is really easy to do
Before I ‘left’the planet in 2012, Facebook and Twitter were firmly established, and I had accounts in both. As the editor of Mother & Baby magazine, I was followed by lots of PRs who represented nursery product brands. The chit-chat from clever journalists and celebrities was also mildly diverting. Then I switched off.
Newly reborn, I am enjoying the verbal exchanges of WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger and funny hashtags. Although, as I discovered this weekend, there is a double meaning to the word ‘viral’. On Friday night I sent what I thought was an openhearted and uncontroversial tweet about the lack of voting choices for a Jewish, historical Labour voter like me. The initial response, from the Momentum trolls, was vile, defamatory and very unpleasant and snowballed pretty quickly. And all because of...
The Labour anti-Semitism row
I have voted Labour in every election since I turned 18 in 1986. (I’m not particularly Left-wing, but didn’t like the alternatives.) I am Jewish. In the next election, I will not be voting Labour. If I ever I had a political ‘home’, I no longer do.
The general anti-Zionist sentiment in the country also hurts. Many musicians and writers I admire have signed up to the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) petition. I hate the fact that university societies are equating Zionism with Apartheid (we all boycotted Barclays and Outspan oranges in the late Eighties. Now it’s Bank Leumi and Jaffa oranges.)
I was on the fence about Israeli politics, not having visited the country since 1989. Now, with this storm raging, I am engaged, reading everything and (almost) sympathise with some of the Israeli government’s policies. This is new and I guess not what the BDS people are aiming for.
Writing and talking have become terrifyingly politically correct
New words and phrases have entered the lexicon: ‘humble bragging’, ‘woke’, ‘virtue-signalling’ and ‘cis-gender.’’ Non-binary people are now known by the pronoun ‘they’ instead of ‘he’ or ‘she’, which can become a bit confusing after a while. This is not a ‘hating’ comment, just an observation. I don’t want to get into another Twitter storm.
Vaping has become a 'thing'
What the hell are vaping shops, and why are there so many of them on my local high street? See, too, coffee shops. And does anyone use those electric plug sockets for cars? What happens when it rains?
Zipwire Boris is now Bad-boy-of-Brexit Boris
The jolly mayor and presenter of Have I Got News For You? looks increasingly likely to become our next prime minister and could take us out of Europe by the end of October. I didn’t leave the house to vote in the referendum, and now I wish I had (Remainer, sorry.)
Nobody talks to one another any more
My sister-in-law says that each time her mobile rings, she knows it’s me, because I am the only person who ever calls her (she is 47, not 15, a GP and a mother of two teenagers.) How did this happen?
Everyone has a mental health diagnosis
It’s wonderful that there is no longer a stigma allied to psychiatric conditions, that people are more open and accepting of each other. But there does seem to be a bit of a bandwagon. I remember when Catherine Zeta Jones was diagnosed bipolar and it was ‘fashionable’ for a while. Now everyone seems to have ADHD, or dyslexia, or cyclothymia. Even Princes William and Harry have weighed in.
While this is all laudable, severe, untrendy mental health conditions such as schizophrenia and manic depression (the pre-decimal term for bipolar) deserve to be taken seriously and allocated appropriate resources.
We are now all utterly dependent on WiFi
Suddenly we need these invisible airwaves for everything from communicating to buying clothes and food and ordering Ubers. When we can’t access it, we become stressed, upset and violent.
It’s only going to get worse. The world will be ruled by BT engineers and those who know how to fix the broadband.
TV has become a new world
Oh the new joys of Netflix and Amazon Prime. Back in the day, Netflix was about delivering DVDs (remember those?) Now I can catch up on all the box sets I’ve missed: Mad Men, Breaking Bad, The Americans, Flight of the Conchords, Black Mirror. Treasures old and new. Chernobyl on Sky Atlantic and of course Fleabag and Killing Eve.
When I was last in the world, only hardcore football fans really had Sky. Now, ‘normal’ TV is largely rubbish. But once you tot up your BBC licence fee, Prime, Netflix, and BT Sport (when did our phone company suddenly become a sports channel) it’s all getting quite pricey.