Stay with me as I try to unpack all my thoughts around this topic. I promise, I will try to be coherent.
I joined Twitter in 2008. The account was just a plaything for me, a way I could chatter back and forth with friends about medieval and string related topics. Back in my earliest exposure to Twitter, I never thought I would develop a relationship of any significance.
And, I was fine with that.
Then, two things happened in 2015 which persuaded me to create a more professional account. The first was I made the terrifying commitment to write full time. The second was D.Trump announced his run for president. Suddenly, my time on Twitter went from a pittance within months to activity measured in hours per day. Twitter became a tool I used daily, almost without fail.
In the lead up to the 2016 election and the immediate aftermath I spent a lot of time on Twitter, mostly talking politics. Hey, I have a Masters in International Policy, and degrees in Political Science and Russian & Eastern European Studies, it was kind of a forgone conclusion I would start hanging with the politically active folks. So before I devolve into politics, let’s just say, enough about that.
At the same time, I was being bombarded with all these messages about how important ‘reach’ was for anyone who wanted to be a writer. As I understand it, a large platform is more important on the non-fiction side of things, but there is that question on some on-line query applications asking about your website, do you have a Twitter handle, how many followers.
Yeah. That stuff.
So, the implication is that ‘reach’ is important. And, not just for the folks in non-fiction. So, I did what any insecure, hopeful person, who thought it was a necessary part of ‘getting in’ would do, I actively started growing my Twitter account.
And grow it I did. By the end of 2022 I had over 15K followers. I interacted with folks all over the globe and from nearly every walk of life. I had conversations, yeah, real conversations, with people from both ends of the political spectrum.
I conversed with folks in Scotland, England, India, Japan, a few folks from E. Europe and all across the United States, Canada and Mexico. There was one Scottish astronomer that I traded bad jokes with. There was a great guy in England who talked mental health. I had a wonderfully supportive friend in India. You get the picture.
Above all, I learned a lot.
I really loved Twitter for the ability it gave me to talk to nearly anyone, anywhere. For the ability it gave me to help people from writers looking for words, to people needing a silly pet name, to folks in the mental health community who needed support. Twitter had value to me.
And, I left.
As of December 31, 2022 I shuttered my account. I didn’t delete it as some people are advocating. Why? Well, if you go that route your Twitter handle becomes available again 30 days later. Anyone could pick it up. Anyone. And, seeing as I talked mental health a lot I decided I didn’t want a random person to have the ability to impersonate me by picking up my handle.
So, people might argue that I haven’t left entirely. They do have a point, I still maintain a single thread attached to the Bird. But, by in large, I’m gone.
I have done everything I could think of to indicate that I am no longer actively participating. I changed my profile pic to an empty chair. I made a specific header that told folks where they could find me. I figured out, hopefully, a ‘bot proof’ way to avoid having my account deleted because I mention in my bio that I am now over on Post and the like.
I could get into the ‘why’. And I’m debating doing so. But I think it all boils down to my personal belief that I couldn’t still participate while waiting for Twitter’s demise. In my opinion, being there is tacit support for the new owner, EMusk, and his policies. Even those who say they are just there to watch the lights go out, are helping to keep the lights on just by their presence. So, I had to go.
Making the decision was gut wrenching. I have so many friends in the communities I participated in and I miss them.
But, aside from all this personal distress, is the question of professional impact.
There was #PitchWars and #PitMad and more pitch events than you could shake a hashtag at. The #WritingCommunity was a tremendous resource for ideas, and commiseration. Who else can understand the sting of query rejection #50 better than a fellow writer? In addition, I followed a great many agents on Twitter. I loved the ability to ask questions in #askAgent conversations. To see them post a #MSWL was wonderful. And I was getting to understand who might just be the right person to whom to submit a query.
All of that, is suddenly out of reach. True, I cut it off, rather than getting chucked out. But, it is still a segment, a large segment of the #WritingCommunity who has chosen to stay. And, while writers attempt to organize themselves on Mastodon, Post, CoSo, Hive and the multitude of social media sites involved in the Twitter diaspora, it is very easy, dare I even say seductive, to look back at the bird and think, eh… my presence really won’t matter. Why not?
And that is a question everyone who has left will have to answer for themselves as new communities start to organize and emerge.
I have made a compromise, which I am not quite comfortable with, but for now I am using my account in one capacity. I use it to announce my new writing efforts. Why? Well, it’s that question of reach, which I have had profoundly reiterated to me as I try to migrate to Post.
As an individual, of no great importance, and no great following, my ‘reach’ has contracted, to a painfully small community. I think I could be ok with that, if not for the niggling question of ‘reach’ which might still be a question asked in the publishing industry.
How are agents and publishers going to respond to the tumult caused by the changes in Twitter? How will the publishing industry redefine reach? Will they? Is leaving Twitter a death sentence? Is sacrificing my connection to nearly 15K people unwise in trying to secure a publishing deal or an agent?
Is going back, and supporting, even tacitly, something I find deeply wrong, required to be considered viable as a potential client?
I don’t know. I sincerely hope that the next few weeks, perhaps months, will offer some clarity as new communities form, and hopefully thrive.