For those who don’t know, I’ve worked in online content and social media since 2009.
I’ve done this successfully for individuals, companies, and not-for-profit organisations. When doing this for myself, I’ve been equally successful, although less so when it comes to Twitter.
On Twitter, I tend to get more opinionated. Heck, most people do; there’s a reason Jimmy Kimmel started Mean Tweets, and not mean Instagram posts. On Twitter, it’s all too easy to post a thought and not consider its ramifications, or who might be offended by such a thought.
Many have been fired for tweets that felt to them warranted, or in jest, or taken out of context, and yet were later seen differently by their audience, their friends, or their employer.
And in nine years on the platform, I messed up more than a couple of times.
My biggest howler was early on, when (and my memory’s a little hazy here) I questioned why anyone would want to read historical fiction. My then editor at a particular literary journal quite rightly pointed out that she writes historical fiction.
I hadn’t meant her at the time. I hadn’t meant any one author, I was making an observed proclivity to the genre over contemporary fiction in reviewing, publishing, and recognition.
Where was my research to back this up? It’s hard to show when you’re only working with 140 characters.
How is that her fault? It’s not. Why did I say it? Because I was spouting the kind of crap people post on Twitter day-in, day-out, opinion or reflection masquerading as real thought, when really it’s knee-jerk, filtered observation dependent on any number of other mitigating factors.
She has never replied to another email of mine. I used to think she was a jerk. I realise now that if someone dissed my chosen genre, I’d likely be a little cautious in reengaging with them.
Were all the gaffes my fault? No. In some instances, they were down to a lower character limit, and the inability for Twitter to provide hyperlinks, citations, or the necessary footnotes to contextualise my thought, or to better buffer the thoughts and feelings of the respondent. In some instances, a reader was more triggered than me, and so chose that day, at the time, to more forcefully make their point. And this matters because anyone, at any time on Twitter is subject to their thoughts and emotions, the very things that compel them onto the platform.
Don’t like something someone said about the book you published? Post it on Twitter. Triggered over a perceived slight or injustice? Tweet it. Add a quote, make another's tweet your very own, saying, ‘Yes, we are right, and by god, they are so very wrong.'
Twitter can be a place for fascinating, insightful discussion, but it’s often not the case. It could be more supportive for authors but more often it’s ‘announcing’ you’re OK, or you won a prize, or you got a good review, all to offset the inherent criticism one’s bound to face as an author.
I’m no longer on Twitter because I’m nicer in life than on the tweets. Neither is the whole me, it’s just that one is like a shouted conversation in a crowd, whereas when face-to-face I pay more dutiful attention, taking in another’s tone, intentions, and context.
Do I miss Twitter? Not in the slightest but for many it’s a vital part of life. Many use it better than me (much respect to the #5amwritersclub,) and connect and more meaningfully support their fellow writers.
I did this when and where I could. I’ll miss those writers who are of a similar soul, those willing to share and to talk as if in the same room. But my mind now feels free to again be both in and out of control; to take a thought, keep it in, and in time let it grow.