This is a post I’ve been thinking about writing off and on for the better part of a month, but every time I sit down to write it, I can’t make up my mind which direction I want to take it. Each time I’ve let my mind wander off with it, it’s taken a different shape but it almost always feels like a rant. I can’t guarantee that this won’t also come off as a rant, but I need to write something so it will stop stewing in my brain and let me sleep again.
Back at the beginning of the year, I mentioned that I wanted to connect with more writers and garner more of an online following, and I believed the Twitter Writing Community would be a good resource for that:
I want to make more writer friends. We’re all going through similar struggles, and I would love more like-minded people to talk to, to encourage, to encourage me, to teach me. Writer Twitter has shown me a whole new world and I want to be a part of it but I am too awkward/shy to dive in. I want to change that this year and make at least 5 new writer friends. Twitter, WordPress, my local writing community. Wherever. I’m going to get better at this.
I did not get better at it this year. I did start interacting more with other writers on Twitter, though I’m not sure many of them would consider me as anything more than a “mutual.”
I’ve always been a bit of a lurker. I like to observe things from the outside and watch them unfold. Some people come across as more outgoing online than in real life, but I guess you could say I’m just as introverted in my digital life as I am my offline life. Which, makes it difficult to make friends. You gotta talk to people if you want to be their friends, dummy.
And yet the longer I lurk, the less sure I become that I even do want to be friends with anyone there. It’s not that I’m “too awkward/shy to dive in,” it’s that a vast number of these people do not interest me enough to want to get to know them. I went looking for “like-minded people” but the only commonalities I found in a majority of the community were the desire to write and the need to reach out to other writers.
“That seems like a decent foundation, Sara. What’s your issue?”
It took me a long time to narrow that down. It comes down to a frame of reference. What I wanted were people who love to write, with unique personalities and lives that don’t necessarily revolve around writing. I wanted people like me, who have other interests and similar senses of humor, who channel those things when they write, but for whom writing isn’t their sole sense of self.
And that’s the largest issue I have with the #WritingCommunity as a whole. On the surface, it’s a place for writers to gather and discuss writing and share their stories and lift each other up. But beneath that shining, welcoming veneer there’s a large portion of users who treat it solely as a business platform. It’s a numbers game. Boost your follower count, interact with as many people as possible, feed the algorithm.
As with every online community, there are toxic elements. The strange thing about those elements here, though, is that they’re overwhelmingly positive. The #writerslifts and #followtrains that happen all the time are essentially meaningless. Everyone cries for more followers while simultaneously demanding interaction from every last one. If everyone follows everyone, no one actually follows anyone because you cannot keep up with that many people.
Then there are the writers who follow people, DM them with a sales pitch, and then promptly unfollow. I’ve yet to encounter one of these, but I’ve seen enough of the community calling these people out to know it’s fairly common. The ones that aggravate me the most though are the people who expect a follow-back and who will unfollow you if you don’t, or if you don’t interact with them at all.
This is where I seem to struggle the most, because that is not the way I use Twitter. I want to follow people. If a writer follows me, and their follower/following counts are roughly even, and their timeline is nothing but follow trains, motivational/inspirational RTs, and self promo, I have no interest in following back. (Note: this isn’t to say that they shouldn’t be promoting their work, but if that’s the only thing they use Twitter for, then I don’t want to follow.) I want to see opinions and lives and pets and jokes.
Because writers aren’t just writers. We’re people, oftentimes a bunch of people all at once, and we aren’t solely defined by the words we put to the page. Who are you when you put the pen down? When you close your word processor? I want to know what kind of person you are before I even care about talking shop.
I know I’m not alone in this way of thinking. I’ve found other like-minded writers who care more about the person behind the account than just the writing they put out. Maybe none of us are really suited for the larger #WritingCommunity and are just WC-adjacent. Maybe one day I’ll assimilate but for now I’m ok with being a fringe element. I’ll continue lurking and writing and being me. I hope that’s all my followers expect anyway. I want them to enjoy my writing, but I also want them to follow me because they like the things I have to say. I want them to follow me for me, for all of me (or at least, most of me).
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