Shortly after Elon Musk threatened to buy Twitter, Twitter’s board accepted the $44 billion takeover bid (which increasingly seems less than certain). And soon after, Twitter users started making their own threats. Go.
Outraged that another billionaire could take over yet another supposed venue for free speech – or that the space brother would make the social media site, often criticized for its already lukewarm handling of harassment, even more a nest of vipers possibly re-establishing Donald Trump’s Twitter account – some users reacted to these threats. At the time of this writing, I’ve lost around 200 subscribers, and I’m far from alone in this, although it remains to be seen what exactly happens, whether it’s a purge or a glitch or that people are actually jumping on social media. , as some have sworn.
Does not matter to me. As many women and users from marginalized communities have pointed out, the more followers you have on Twitter, the less enjoyable or even sustainable the site becomes. Like most of these women, I get a lot of unsolicited direct messages from men via Twitter, some of them horrific: sexual or violent or both. A long time ago, I implemented protection settings, the few that Twitter offers. I don’t get notifications from people I don’t follow, and I often only set replies to my tweets to people I follow.
It doesn’t matter to me, but it could affect my future livelihood. As a 21st century writer, I’m expected to be on social media. I’m expected to promote my work online, but not too much. Be charming, but not too charming (see: DM from unknown men). I am certainly not the only one. From freelance writers to book authors, artists to people with disabilities, not everyone has the luxury of quitting Twitter, even if they want to.
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Years ago, the rumor started circulating in literary circles that books, especially memoirs, were being rejected by publishers because the writers didn’t have enough of a social media presence. At least 10,000 subscribers were needed, according to some rumors. 25,000 followers, went others. In 2019, Publishers Weekly wrote, “The moment agents or publishers hear an author has little or no following, that’s it,” calling “huge” social media a “must have for a book deal. “. The idea was that memoirs in particular, with their focus on a singular life, would not sell well unless readers were already familiar with that life, were already fans.
This idea doesn’t exactly play out in book sales. As the New York Times wrote in an article on social media and book sales, especially those written by celebrities: “Even having one of the biggest social networks in the world is not a guarantee. ” Yet the pressure persists for authors. Having a platform and using it in a certain way. What way, of course, keeps changing.
I’m not sure anyone reads a witty, dotted summary on Twitter and thinks yes, I really want to read a novel by that person.
As an author of published books, I am constantly bombarded with advice on social media best practices. Post to Twitter at least twice a day. Post three times more about other people’s work than your own. Have a pinned tweet with links to buy your book. The only thing that is certain is that no one knows what they are doing, but you have to do it. Authors are expected to “build online presences and cultivate subscribers — in other words, do their own advertising,” Publishers Weekly wrote in 2022. social media, but also create a public identity to attract potential readers.”
I had articles that went viral and I had tweets go viral – but I’ve certainly never seen a book go viral. I’m not sure anyone reads a witty, dotted summary on Twitter and thinks yes, I really want to read a novel by that person. And yet, the expectation holds. Having no social media these days is seen as kind of a warning sign, like Joe on Netflix’s “You” – what are you hiding, kind of psychopath?
It’s not a pressure that older generations can always understand, but the days of being an elusive artist who publishes a book once a decade and then disappears like a Literary Brigadoon are over for all but the most privileged. . If you are already known, you may be able to do this. For everyone else? You will be expected to have an online presence.
Publishing isn’t the only area with social media expectations. Journalists have a reputation for always being online, especially on Twitter, but that’s often a fact. In my last full-time editorial job, where I was editor-in-chief, I was mandatory have a public Twitter feed.
News always tends to fall on Twitter. Along with this, jobs and opportunities are posted there. As Scarlett Harris, cultural critic, author and editor, wrote to me (yes, on Twitter): “I will only leave if [Twitter] fundamentally changes. I have made so many professional contacts and friends here. I couldn’t work or promote my work in the same way.”
I couldn’t have paid my rent without Twitter back then.
That sentiment was echoed by Mike Hipple, a photographer and writer who said he uses Instagram to promote his work, but when it comes to Twitter: “I think I’m going to have to stick around – just in terms of contacts and opportunities plus the simple fact that it’s a way to promote my work. There’s so much stuff out there, and while Instagram is more useful to me as a visual person, every little bit helps.
Twitter, much more than other social media, functions as a hub for reporters looking for sources (some told me they’ve stopped calling sources on Twitter because they’re overwhelmed with responses) as well as for publishers who publish work. Many editors of various publications use Twitter to post calls for submissions: stories they hope to hire out to freelancers. Journalist Lola Mendez tweeted: “Unless editors leave Twitter, I literally can’t… Unfortunately, there is no other platform as good enough for freelance writers as Twitter.
News comes in fast, as does the attribution of who gets paid to write about it. During the years that I worked as a freelance journalist, a competitive and difficult job, I answered multiple calls to pitch on Twitter. I found work there, gained signatures, and established long-term relationships with publishers and publications. I couldn’t have paid my rent without Twitter back then.
For some, Twitter has also functioned as a community, which they are loath to abandon. This is perhaps especially true for people with disabilities, myself included. As the pandemic continues to isolate the most vulnerable in particular, Twitter remains a place to share resources and find support. I follow several threads of Twitter messages from deaf and disabled writers, few I know in “real life”, but all of whom have encouraged each other over the years, while sharing life-saving advice and information. , including job leads and health resources .
“If we leave a space, we leave behind friends who remain.”
I got an appointment for my child’s vaccine through Twitter. An internet friend tweeted the day the vaccine was approved for children under 12 that she had found an appointment at a local children’s hospital and when I asked her, a stranger to me, known only by Internet, How? ‘Or’ Whatshe sent me a link to the sign up sheet.
As writer and critic Lorraine Berry wrote to me, “I thought about leaving, but I gave up on Facebook and don’t use Instagram. Twitter is my best connection to other writers. It’s the only place to socially interact with people who are working on similar things and feel community. Writing is lonely work. The company is good.
“But, more importantly to me,” Berry continued, “if we leave a space, we leave behind friends who remain, and we cede that space more to the right-wing echo chamber. Tweeting isn’t about resistance, but neither is it to be silent. I prefer to stay and make noise.
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Concerns about Musk’s takeover threat not only include another public forum owned by a billionaire, but that this particular billionaire could contribute to the spread of misinformation and the proliferation of trolling, a behavior toxic online that Musk himself frequently indulges in.
But like Jennifer Pullena professor and fiction writer, told me, “Social media, including Twitter, was already owned by wealthy tech friends anyway. There’s always been a lot of toxicity involved, so unless it gets noticeably worse, its usefulness matters more to me.
Keith Roysdon, journalist and true mystery writer, told me when the Musk news broke: “I signed up on one of the alternative sites people recommended and thought, OK, I can do it. I didn’t know what to do with Twitter when I got here in 2009 or when it was. But then I saw people today posting about how the fight was on Twitter.
“So, I’m not leaving.”
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