A Writer Says Goodbye to the Twittersphere

From Publishers Weekly:

A novelist friend told me that social media is pretty much mandatory these days, otherwise I could expect to remain plankton in a sea of fish all swimming toward the same accolades. As a poet, I’m already used to being a small fry, yet as I move into writing journalism and creative nonfiction, I’ve wondered whether I should log back on.

I quit Facebook in 2014 after a manic episode that reared its Medusa-like head online. My wall was a mess of incoherent thoughts, followed by all the email rejections I’d ever received, copied and pasted from my inbox. For the grand finale, I wrote that I would stage a hunger strike to protest the government’s lackluster care for those living with mental illness. Soon after my last post—but not before I typed out the addresses, emails, and phone numbers of my closest friends (should the news media want to reach out to them for comment)—I was hospitalized and newly diagnosed with bipolar I.

As it turns out, extreme social embarrassment is an excellent way to curb a Facebook addiction. A true introvert and a perpetual validation seeker, I knew my pictures were never cute enough, my posts never witty enough, and I spent hours looking at the profiles of women that guys had dumped me for. “She rides an old-school motorcycle,” I’d think. “Makes sense.”

Post-hospitalization, my friends gently reminded me that their personal information was still online. I deleted my account for good.

My pact to stay off social was tested when I started looking for an agent. I scanned interviews and attended panels in which agents said that a strong social media presence was something they looked for in a client. I read manuscript “wish lists” that expressed a keen interest in working with influencers. I noticed that writers in my social circle had, on average, 20,000 Instagram followers, and some had upward of 50,000 Twitter followers.

At the start of 2021, I gave it a try. One agent advised writers to pick a platform and get good at it. I guessed my strong suit would be Twitter. Like an endless Pez dispenser, I can come up with wisecracks all day. With a few quips queued up, I started an account, waited for something spectacular to happen, and pressed delete the next day.

It just didn’t feel right. As a 41-year-old woman, I chafed at the idea of building a “me” brand. I also objected to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for moral and ethical reasons. I didn’t want to support men who had supported the rise of hate groups, conspiracy theorists, and a racist megalomaniac who committed human rights atrocities at the U.S.-Mexico border that this country has yet to properly acknowledge or reckon with. Both Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey put profit before people—demonstrating how easy it is for tech to manipulate government and destabilize democracy.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

PG may have mentioned that he quit using his Facebook account several months ago after changing a lot of personal information about himself to information about nobody. He expects that anyone who may stumble upon his moribund account and knows him will likely conclude his account has been hacked.

PG used this tactic after being unable to locate any way to simply close his FB account. He changed his Facebook password to a long random string of numbers and letters without keeping a copy so he wouldn’t try to revive his account in a moment of weakness.

PG’s motivation for departing from Facebook World was an unanalyzed feeling that Facebook was getting a little creepy, almost stalking him during his online travels.

The recent disclosures of how much information which many might regard as private the company collects from its users has confirmed PG’s sense of FB creepiness.

So he’s off FB for good. If for any reason he decides he needs to go onto FB again to check out something, he’ll create a phony profile for that purpose, use it, then abandon it again.

Yes, PG regularly clears his browser cache of cookies and trackers. He also deploys a VPN that lets him appear to be logging in from Greece or Taiwan with an anonymous browser program that doesn’t keep anything when he wanders into places he suspects may try to track him in some way. He also has a bunch of burner email addresses he uses strictly for signing up for a single service (if you’re willing to use long nonesense Gmail addresses a few times as burner email accounts, PG hasn’t found any noticeable objection from Google so far. If he sees a report of Google cracking down on Gmail abuse in Taiwan, he may change this strategy.)

If PG were an author who was ordered to establish a social media presence in connection with a book or books, he might use some or all of these tactics to exploit FB without being exploited by FB in return.

7 thoughts on “A Writer Says Goodbye to the Twittersphere”

  1. I got off the thing a few years back, but it took one 30 day process followed by a second 30 days. Like PG did, I deleted all data I could and changed the rest to blocks of “ABCs.” I only joined up to understand how it worked. It’s creepy in the extreme.

    I tested it using machines with no connection to me. Seems to have worked.

  2. I don’t think you need social media to succeed (I have run the experiment and being on social media does nothing for my sales), but it can be a nice way to stay in touch with peers, if you like company. Telling people they need it or they can’t have a career is, I guess, the new “if you want a career, you need an agent.”

  3. I’ve given up on social media as outlets to attract people. FB ads never go as far as they claim they will for the money and the bump in sales has never been that great. I barely tolerate looking at my feed anyway these days as it’s full of ads and never shows the people I want to see.
    Twitter – I had to quit…. twice – it’s just a toxic place that does nothing for me but make me angry and then I start saying things that I’ll regret so it’s better to abandon it.
    I can’t put out enough noise on Instagram to make it worthwhile.
    I have my obligatory author page and that’s about it anymore.
    I honestly don’t think there *is* a magic bullet way of getting the word out about your work. Some of the greatest works of all time never had Twitter, or FB, or NYT full-page ads but they are eternal. I will just keep striving to write better books and hope to find my audience – hopefully before departing this mortal coil.

  4. > he might use some or all of these tactics to exploit FB without
    > being exploited by FB in return

    Facebook (and indeed all big internet companies) are pretty good at detecting such ploys; merely using a VPN and a fake name don’t get one so far these days.

  5. “You must be on social media” reminds this grizzled veteran of “You must be in an AOL community.” Marketing gurus never learn — they just change their labels.

  6. I think my pinnacle of FB usage (thrice a day for less than 20 minutes per interaction) was in the span of 5 hours I went from someone wanting to use a couple of photos of mine to use for campaign literature to that same someone saying “never mine” simply because I wasn’t attached to FB 24/7/365.

    I don’t use Twitter simply because it’s a cesspool and has double standards based on your personal politics (or if you’re a despot leading a country) when they apply their T.o.S. I also don’t use many of the popular platforms for pretty much the same reasons, save YouTube & Google (computer is Chrome and I pretty much can surf YT since my interaction is basically commenting on certain videos here and there).

    Sometimes, life is good when you’re not socialized.

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