Have you ever been to a party where you enjoy everything going on except the people who came with you? Nearly impossible to get out of that situation. Especially if they drove.
That’s the vibe I was getting on Twitter. For the last 9 months, I’ve tried my best to understand social media, and Twitter in particular. I engaged with people all over the world in similar hobbies and careers, and it was adequate. I learned very quickly that no one cares about any questions you pose. But mention a problem you’re having and the help comes pouring out (even if you just want commiseration about a terrible workload, and not a ton of GTD tips). “How nice!” I thought. “I should really get involved in some other communities!”
And since I was starting NaNoWriMo, I jumped into the #writerscommunity and #writingcommunity on Twitter. I posted about WIPs and MCs and saw others writing #YA and #MG and however many else hashtags get bandied about those two groups on a daily basis. And the followers starting flowing in! I was addicted, for a time, to the numbers, 100, 200, 500, 1000, 1500. “Magical!” I thought, following back in a fit of writer solidarity, even though I never even bothered to look at their profile, or recent tweets, or even if we had anything in common besides shouting into the same void.
Then came the realization that my timeline had been rendered useless by near-random following of 1500 strangers talking past each other on how best to write fourth drafts, set up a writer’s room, find an agent…all things that I wasn’t interested in. I blame reading some Dean Wesley Smith before starting NaNoWriMo, with the idea implanted to Write Into the Dark (as befits my Myers-Briggs type–another thing WriterTwitter is obsessed over, nearly as much as their Hogwarts House) and Write Clean First Drafts.
I just did 50,000 words in a month, while working full time, having a social life, and raising twin toddlers with my wife. It wasn’t a great book, but I tried my best to write at the top of my game. Now, it turns out my game is weak, but that improves with practice. Writing sloppy didn’t interest me, and hearing that I’d need to spend a year or more rewriting, and pitching to agents, and and and…
I realized then that I caught a ride to the party with the wrong crowd. This was not my tribe. We were not having a shared experience. I wanted to network with a small, curated crowd. They told me to cast the net far, a net with large holes in it, and slog through like the rest. It’s on me that I believed them for any amount of time, even when I knew better. “Maybe there’s a middle path,” I thought. There’s no middle path. These are two competing schools of thought.
You might think I’m anti-writer’s community from the previous paragraphs. I’m not, really; but it’s also very much not my community. We have a desire in common (to write and be read) but the paths we want to take are divergent.
And because we were so divergent, because we wanted different things, I tried to end my relationship with a massive Twitter community. It did not go well. I bungled it. Instead of simply creating lists, pruning my followers and timeline back a little a time–the steps recommended to me by members of #writerscommunity!–I clicked a big red button and unfollowed everyone.
It was not pretty.
Plus, my Twitter name was still on lists and follow Fridays and followers kept coming. I wasn’t following back right away, as I wanted to get to know people a little before cluttering up my feed again, and they dropped off quickly. And then refollowed as they picked up my name on another list.
Burning the tower to the ground and starting over seemed like a good idea at the time. And I salted the earth soon after, deactivating that account and starting afresh with a new attitude and new tactics. My goals for Twitter is simple. Keep a low profile for a while. Follow people I want to follow. Don’t beg for followers. Don’t get on hype-trains. And don’t indiscriminately follow every last person who shows up in a notification. I wouldn’t get into a car with strangers to go party now, would I?