hi riley! read this recently and would love to get ur perspective on this as a YA author https://tinyletter.com/misshelved/letters/did-twitter-break-ya-misshelved-6
hi anon! yeah, i read this the day it was posted. thoughts/supplementary essay below.
firstly, i'd put a big "I AGREE" stamp across this essay. i think it's well-cited and thoughtful, and i agree with pretty much everything in it. i especially appreciate it for introducing me to the terms "context collapse" and "morally motivated networked harassment" - seeing internet sociology studied and labeled is ... odd, but useful.
i left twitter in 2017, but i keep an eye on things, which seem similar now to the way they were four years ago. the essay describes the never-ending scrutiny, the need to seem perfect, and the pressure on writers to out themselves. all of that is spot-on. twitter is an outing machine. there is so much harassment and anger on the platform that in serious conversations, good-faith engagement becomes something that must be earned, rather than something that's expected. and in order to earn good faith, strangers expect you to offer up an all-access pass to who you are. otherwise, things might take a swift left turn into verbal abuse.
obviously twitter is a cesspit of harassment from racist, homophobic, and transphobic people, but i think the most painful harassment comes from within the community. i, and most people i know, wouldn't give a single minuscule little fuck if ben shapiro's entire army of ghouls came after us and told us we were destroying the sacred values of Old America or whatever. but the community at large does care about issues of racial justice and queer liberation and economic justice. which is why it's painful to see this supposed "community" eating its own over and over again.
how cruel can we be to people and pretend that we are their friends? that's the emotional crux of the essay to me. what we're doing to ourselves - people who do share our values and want to achieve the same goals - because this one platform is built on rewarding the quickest, most brutal, and most public response.
god forbid you don't have your identity figured out. god forbid you have an invisible disability, or are writing a story about something sensitive you've personally experienced but had an off-consensus reaction to. on twitter, if you are not a paragon of absolute and immediate clarity, you may as well be lower than dirt morally, because you're unable to do what the platform requires of you: air every private corner of your identity, up to and including your trauma, to justify not only your everyday actions and opinions but also your art.
(this is all honestly incompatible with interesting art, but i'll get to that in a bit.)
it doesn't take a genius to see how troubling this environment is when combined with twitter as a marketing tool. i remember that around the time of my debut, i'd tweet out threads of private, painful, personal stuff, which felt terrible to recount, but i'd watch the like count increase with this sense of catholic, confessional satisfaction. all of this was tied to the idea of my potential salability as a writer.
i was around 21 at the time. i felt a lot of pressure as a debut. i wanted people to like me and think i was exceptionally mature and confident. i wanted to do my job and build buzz for my book. i saw that all these publishing professionals and authors spent day in, day out angry and exhausted on twitter. every few days, a new person fifteen years older than me would say, "i can't take this anymore, i'm so fucking tired of this, i'm logging off for a while." i thought, well, this must be how online activism feels: like running on a sprained ankle.
i can still remember book after book after book that inspired blow-ups, big explanations, and simmering resentment: carve the mark (whose author was forced to admit that she suffered chronic pain after relentless criticism of that element), the black witch (a book explicitly about unlearning racism that was criticized for depicting ... racism), ramona blue (a book about a bi girl who thinks she's a lesbian but winds up in an m/f relationship, because she's still discovering her identity) ... etc
each book, each incident, followed the same pattern. firestorms of anger, a decision of where to place blame, the desperate need for a single consensus opinion in the community. i think a lot of people on book twitter see these as bugs inherent to the platform, but really, in twitter's eyes, they're features. the angrier and more upset twitter's userbase is, the more reliant they are on the platform.
i wound up leaving around the time i realized that not only was twitter making me anxious - NOT being on twitter was beginning to make me anxious, because of vaguely dread-infused tweets all around like "i'm seeing an awful lot of people who are staying silent about X. ... why are so many people who are so loud about X so silent about Y?" etc.
that shit is beyond poisonous. people will not always be logged on. the absence of someone's agreement does not mean disagreement. actually, someone's absence is not inherently meaningful, because it is the internet and silence is everyone's default position; internet silence in all likelihood means that that person is out in the universe doing other things.
this is already a ridiculously long response, so i'll try to wrap up. firstly, i think that progressive writers and readers have GOT to stop thinking that a correct consensus opinion can exist on every piece of fiction, and on every issue in general, and that if someone diverges from that consensus, they're incorrectly progressive.
secondly, i think that progressive writers and readers have got to uncouple the idea of a "book with good politics" from a good book, because 1) there are books about morally grimy, despicable subjects that help us process the landscape of human behavior, and
2) if, in your fiction, there is only one set of allowed responses for your protagonist, you will write the same person over and over and over again. you see this a lot in religious fiction. the person is not a human being but an expression of the creator's moral alignment. (not entirely surprising that this similarity to religious correctness might crop up with the current state of the movement. i read this piece around the time i left twitter and it shook me really, really deeply.)
i understand that in YA, there's a sensation of immense pressure because people want to model good politics and correct behavior for kids. this is a noble idea - and maybe twitter is great for people who want to be role models. but i've become more and more staunchly against the idea of artist as role model. the role of the writer is not to be emulated but to write fiction. and the role of fiction is not to read like something delivered from a soapbox, or to display some scrubbed-clean universe where each wrong is immediately identified as a wrong, and where total morality is always glowing in the backdrop. it's to put something human on paper, and as human beings, we might aspire to total morality, but we fall short again and again. honestly, that's what being on twitter showed me more clearly than anything.
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Books; Darcy/Sam Winchester
Pairing: Darcy Lewis/Sam Winchester
"I know you didn't just do that thing I saw you do…" Darcy murmured under her breath as she reached for the book Sam had just picked up for a few seconds and misshelved.
He grimaced. "Oops… sorry… right... that's a pet peeve. Never misshelve in front of the librarian."
She rolled her eyes. "Sam Winchester, you haven't changed. Except your hair is longer."
"Darcy Lewis… neither have you. And… likewise."
"So…" she leaned against a shelf. "What are you hunting this time? Because honestly, last time we hung out was the closest to becoming the ghost librarian from Ghostbusters that I ever want to be."
"Not hunting anything… except… maybe a date? If you've got some hanging around."
Darcy smirked. "I'll go check in the reserves… maybe I can find you something."
"Yeah, you should... until then, you should take this number and call me if you have anything available." He handed her a scrap of paper with a number scribbled on the back.
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