Haha, you old scalawag! How nice of you to send a little note this past week saying it’s our fifth anniversary! You even offered a special celebratory tweet to that effect, though I declined, since, unlike so many others involved in relationships with you, I’m not particularly inclined to go spilling my life’s mundane/deeply personal/gory (in the metaphorical sense… don’t want to alarm any law enforcement types who might be listening in!) details all over your bright little screen. But your reminder did bring to mind the thought that writing a letter musing about some things that have come to mind over the past five years about us might be apropos at such an august moment. It can take the place of me inquiring, with false solicitousness, how you’re doing… because it’s really very obvious how you’re doing.
Five years ago! Wow! Mucho water under the dam, and other hoary clichés. We were so young and foolish then, weren’t we? And the world held such promise, didn’t it? Ah, well… the sands of time, and more hoary clichés. Back then, even as a newly published indie author --- pure as the driven snow and other hoary… well, you know… I was already aware I wanted a relationship with you, my dear. You would be my ticket to fame. (Ah, the innocence of youth.) So I thought of five musings related to that five year anniversary which didn’t quite turn out as I’d thought ‘twould, in my wistful naivete. I’d like to say those five musings are powerful testaments of my undying love and loyalty to you, but alas… it didn’t work out that way, and I’ll be brutally honest. Are you prepared, dearheart? Loins girded and other hoary… well, you know. Right, then, let’s begin.
First, my dear, you’re an enormous time waster. There are evidently a lot of writers out there… but they don’t appear to be actually writing, because they’re far too busy posting things --- only a few of which really deal with writing, BTW --- ranging from completely innocuous/banal to stuff that would make a sailor blush (and other hoary…). And curiously --- embarrassingly, really --- many of these self-professed writers are terrible with the actual mechanics of writing, if their tweets are any indication. (Yes, dearheart, I know none of us are perfect… I’ve been known to inadvertently throw out the odd typo now and then, too, but… we can at least strive for perfection in our professed avocation or vocation, can’t we? Instead of laughing it off and saying we’re terrible with spelling or grammar, or besides --- as Mr. K sarcastically noted --- saying that’s what editors are for?)
Second, you’re really not a good sales platform. It wasn’t long --- about five minutes into our relationship --- before I figured out most people I follow, and who follow me, are… well, writers. Just like me. Desperately insecure and introverted people, all of whom want our books to become the next Harry Potter. You see the problem, don’t you, Twitter? We’re not particularly interested in buying other people’s books, for heaven’s sake (you should see the size of the TBR pile beside my bed) … no, no, we want other people buying our books. So… you’re a bit of a bust as far as selling the magnum opus goes.
Third, you’re generally not really much of a forum for in-depth or deep conversations. Part of that isn’t your fault; even when they doubled tweet lengths from 140 to 280 characters… well, that’s not really enough to do justice to topics of eschatological importance, is it? Although most people don’t seem to want deep conversations, anyway; they display a peculiar preference for sharing either intimate personal details --- the sort that would have made my dear mother blush to hear in public, God rest her soul --- or videos of cats doing strange things. So, if people desire longer conversations, they either have to construct a long thread of hopefully more or less connected tweets --- which can be rather like having to read War and Peace on the sides of multiple cereal boxes --- or go into the hidden realm of DMs. Which you’re not supposed to do unsolicited. (Besides, the DM realm seems mostly populated by variations on “Hi! Thanks for following me! PLEASE buy my book!” Oy.)
Fourth, and most seriously, you don’t promote civility --- in fact, quite the reverse. Now, this isn’t totally your fault, dear… but you, and all your relatives in the Social Media Universe, have absolutely exacerbated the problem. (I was going to coin that as an alternative to ‘the DC Universe,’ but ‘the SM Universe’ has some rather unfortunate connotations, don’t you think?) You give the bullies out there a nice electronic screen (literally as well as figuratively) to hide behind and say the most AWFUL things most people wouldn’t have the nerve to say to other people in person. And it’s getting progressively worse. We’re becoming a society of vicious haters, spewing venom over the slightest imagined difference of opinion, or perceived slight. I’m becoming hesitant to voice opinions on your platform, because people can’t merely politely disagree, it seems… they want to slam others to the mat in choke-holds.
So, is it over for us? Well… no, all’s not totally bleak, sweetheart. I saved a positive note for last: you can foster a sense of community. Note I’m not saying you automatically do, just that you can. There are a small number of people out there with whom I exchange humourous asides and pithy comments from time to time.
But I had an interesting epiphany the other day… took my wife to the hospital for a scheduled test, bringing my trusty Dell Inspiron to do some writing during the couple of hours or so it would take. And because of my (well-justified) paranoia about open wi-fi networks, I put my laptop into airplane mode; then I inserted my earbuds, cranked up my iPod, and having shut out Ye Olde Cruel Worlde (including you), wrote effortlessly for the next couple of hours. It was glorious.
And the kicker? Well, Twitter, I confess… I didn’t miss you one bit.
#sorry not sorry, as they say.