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Avatars Gravatars and Gravitas


Moto Guzzi V8 at Goodwood FOS - Photo: Andrew Butler

I started riding motorbikes when I was about 30, at the time it was part lifestyle choice and part necessity (the awful Beetle had died.) I was a student and I remember someone coming up to me and saying “Oh, so you’re Andy the biker?” This struck me for a couple of reasons, I hate being called Andy and I resented being labelled a biker. Nothing against bikers per-se you understand but I didn’t feel that was my box to be put in, I was still at the stage of ‘fearful-of-ending-up-in-a-box’ every time I rode the bike. I thought my label was ‘Andrew the incredibly talented guitar player, swimmer, cyclist…

Well a couple of years on and I had racked up in excess of 100,000miles on bikes, having started my own courier business in Yorkshire.

By the way, before we continue, the photo above is the Moto Guzzi V8 at Goodward Festival of Speed a few years ago, sadly not me but any excuse, (the Guzzi!)

Does my Arse Look Big in These?

However part of the biking-worry thing still stuck, the fancy dress. I do have a bit of a penchant for leather and in an Ideal world would still have my original second-hand Lewis Leathers, even with the baggiest arse in the world (the leathers that is.) In a really ideal world I would be able to fit into them too. Let’s make it clear, groups of middle aged guts hanging round outside the local motorbike shop on a Saturday is the case against riding motorbikes. Forget the safety statistics, aesthetics is the true worry. At the early stage of my motorcycling career I had a bit of a Michael Bolton thing going on with the hair but always felt more uncomfortable with peoples’ assumptions once the leather and helmet were donned. In essence the moment the gear was on people viewed me differently, some sort of sinister personality transformation had occurred. You see we all fall victim for others’ prejudices and dare I say fantasies. Being brutally honest I realise this has nothing to do with me, my looks, charms or appeal because I am totally hidden under leather and fibre glass.

As a courier the bike of choice was BMW, this again led to issues of perception because anyone who knows about such things knows the BMW ‘flying bricks‘ were nothing other than yawners, but they looked exciting to those not in the know. As a brand loyal rider I soon bought into the BMW GoreTex range of biking gear, initially a rather fetching red but latterly turquoise and purple: oh those crazy nineties. And here is where the proof is found. Flirty girlies would still phone my despatch company and ask me to come round in my sexy leathers, 18 months after I had moved into the niche paraphilia of romper-suits for big boys.

Hi I'm MandySo, what has this got to do with social media? Well, I reckon there is a possibility that a lot of people slip into disguise once online, it’s really rather easy isn’t it? It has been said that people express themselves differently when in disguise, fair enough. Sometimes this is a real worry though, expressed surprisingly well with the poster below which was designed by an otherwise feckless pupil of mine when I was a teacher.

Incidentally, I remember this the student Googled “scary+man” to source this image a couple of years ago, I have just replicated the search and he’s still there. Another example of what I am talking about.

Avatars, Gravatars and Gravitas

So to Avatars.

Anyone on Twitter, Facebook, WordPress will at some point be asked to post an Avatar. I have a few: a photo taken by my daughter in the local coffee shop, one where I had just finished the Topsham to Turf swim and my Barcelona Helvetica image. Some people’s change almost daily and some have an egg on their Twitter, some even have the hallowed animated GIF. Some seem to express their current mood and quite a few seem to express a moddewell’s need for clothing, the latter gets my ‘block for spam’ vote every time.

I guess we should be taking these things seriously or should we perhaps go with the flow of the moment? What are we communicating, the full SP or shall we tease and flirt? Let’s face it offer a little teaser and most peoples’ imaginations will fill in the gaps to fit in with their own hopes, desires and dare I suggest again fantasies?

Many, many years ago a friend reported that a regular daydream of hers was that of a film of her life being made, I guess an extension of the Warhol ‘everyone should have 15minutes of fame idea.’ Well now 30 years on it’s all too doable, YouTube to your hearts’ delight and advertise it through the social network of your choice.

Just beware though, when you are online you will need to be either very guarded or more than a little robust.

For now, I’m going out on my bike, I will wear a black Arai helmet and a manky old Belstaff wax coat that cost me eight quid. I expect to be cold.

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