I feel as though I have gone through a big change this year and it is partly because I read ‘Heretics’ by Will Storr. I wrote a review and my thoughts on the book here, but to summarise – I had been examining my position as a skeptic and as a paranormal researcher prior to reading the book but upon doing so a lot of the soul searching found a resolution.
This was partly because of the conclusions that Will himself finds as he explores the questions the book is based around, and partly because of the irrational reaction I faced from members of skeptic communities when I did some investigation into claims made about James Randi by Will Storr.
In ‘Heretics’ Storr quoted Randi saying certain appalling things about Social Darwinism that many skeptics said he couldn’t possibly have said, accusing Storr of quote mining or outright fabrication. I decided to look at the evidence and found that Randi had indeed said what had been written and that, according to many skeptics (including high profile skeptics), was a bad thing for me to have done. One particular high profile skeptic questioned their followers on Facebook about who exactly I thought I was looking into such matters, and in response I questioned (to myself) who these people thought they were and who they thought they were kidding.
In the subsequent months I have observed a lot of combative behaviour that has made me want to distance myself from certain communities and groups. If you asked me last year how I identified myself I’d have said ‘a skeptic, an atheist, a secularist’ but now I’m not so sure I’m as eager to use those labels. Perhaps I’d tell you I was just a curious ghost geek, an open-minded non-believer, a doubtful-yet-curious observer…
As the new year approaches I’ve been considering a lot of things about who I am and what I want to achieve and I’ve realised that those goals that would have once sat firmly within skeptical communities and organisations no longer do. I have decided that 2014 is going to be a year for me as an individual away from labels that come with so much negative baggage.
As such I have deleted my Facebook and Google+ accounts (where I would encounter so much negativity and aggression) and I’ve written up a list of Eight rules. They are as follows:
1 – Being selfish is okay. Looking after yourself is not a bad thing.
2 – let other people own their negativity, don’t own it for them. Even temporarily.
3 – Comparison is the thief of joy.
4 – It is okay to be wrong.
5 – Whatever it is, don’t take it personally.
6 – Invest in what makes you happy.
7 – If what is familiar makes you happy that is okay
8 – don’t be afraid to fail and don’t be ashamed to admit failure.
These rules are a bit cheesy but I’m fine with that. I feel that for a while I have blogged, podcasted etc. to keep up with the skeptic communities and to be heard, but that isn’t something that makes me happy anymore. I will continue to blog, podcast, speak etc. but I’ll do it because I want to do it, because it makes me happy, not on anybody else’s terms or with their approval and whether I am heard or not. I know I have a small-yet-loyal following here on my blog, and I doff my hat to you.
I will investigate and research allegedly paranormal phenomena because it interests me and not on behalf of a community that only approves of me doing said research because they can”t be bothered to do it themselves and would rather dismiss everything remotely odd a priori while ironically continuing to preach about being open minded. Hmmph.
I’ve also made some New Years Resolutions ahead of January 1st. I won’t post them all here but they include: Be in control of you, Explore more, Learn new things.
These are, I hope, more worthwhile ways to spend my time than being suffocated online by the habitual negativity of people that I don’t really know. Only time shall tell.
By the way, you can still catch my on Twitter @hayleystevens if you want to follow me away from my blog.