I had just started following a writer I admire, and strangely, on the morning of June 28th, she had posted a series of complaints about a review of her most recent novel. I think I saw 11 tweets right away, and every few minutes, a new one popped up.
The "complaints" were increasingly bitter. The writer called her reviewer a "moron" and an "idiot." She disparaged the newspaper in which the review was printed. She discussed how women don't have to be nice when other people are "trying to destroy" them.
Hmmm. Real-time soap opera on Twitter! I felt like re-tweeting some of this so other people could watch along with me. It was both horrible and entertaining. I really had the urge to be first to do this, too (Twitter was making me competitive in a weird way--and later, I saw that other people *were* doing this. There's something about scooping on Twitter that I just have to catch up on).
But here's the thing: I'm just too nice to laugh when other people are freaking out. We've all freaked out, haven't we? We've all thought other people are morons. The difference, perhaps, is that we don't Tweet about it.
I will be the first to admit that I didn't really get Twitter until about a month ago. "What are you doing now?" is the question Twitter asks people to answer. This is not a whole lot different from Facebook. Why do we need two of these things? I wondered. I was also bothered by the strange Twitter lingo (RTs--re-tweets) and plentiful @ signs and constant tinyurls and bits.
Now I see it. The difference is that Twitter is instantaneous. All your friends/followers will see your tweets without having to visit a special page, and without the weird occasional hiding-of-posts thing that FB sometimes seems to do.
As another writer, Nick Belardes, told me back then, when I first complained about Twitter: "Methinks you're not getting Twitter, chickadee. It's micro-blogging on a global level." As someone else recently posted, Twitter is e-mail times 1000. It's powerful. It's timely. Its potential impact is amazing.
So, to see Famous Writer Freaking Out minute by minute, her posts getting ever more snarky, I thought: Wow. I also thought, who is going to advise her to stop? It was sort of like watching someone have a mental breakdown. You might giggle nervously, but really, deep down, you're worried.
What should I do? I wondered. I didn't want to be mean and make her look even more stupid (she was doing that really well all by herself). I also didn't want her to hate me if I wrote about her. I could see, though, that this was rather important, and I had to say something.
So I tweeted that the PR flack in me (and PR comes too naturally, sometimes. I see what others never seem to, and they never want to hear it, but I can smell an impending scandal ten miles off. I am always thinking about damage control) thinks that imploding writers probably should NOT publicly gripe about bad reviews...because it just makes other people want to read them.
That's the next thing I did. I read the review.
It was negative, but still, not that bad. It was objective. The review made total sense. I felt exactly the same way as the reviewer: this writer's work was slipping. She was still sort of amazing, but just not as good as she had been.
It could be a natural progression (after 20 or so novels, perhaps a writer just starts losing steam; plots become repetitive; the details might suffer). My very favorite writer's most recent novel was so disappointing that I actually couldn't force myself to finish it. I think he's done now, probably. But it was good while it lasted, and he still wrote some perennially important novels, and one of my all-time favorites.
The same thing could be happening with this writer. I don't, however, want any part in her destruction (though her use of that word was very odd, I thought. How can a super-rich, bestselling author with more than 20 books out ever be "destroyed?").
If anyone is now wondering or getting frustrated, I am not getting involved with naming names. I am just not going to go there. Still, I am too nice--or maybe I haven't fully fallen under the Twitter spell. I still think people need privacy sometimes, and I don't care about being the first to write about a personal catastrophe.
Tweet when it's interesting, I say. Tweet when it's meaningful. Don't Tweet about the minutiae of your life or what you can see outside the window (unless it's tres bizarre). Don't Tweet to publicize really old articles on your blog...I mean, really old ones (I saw that today and thought it was so stupid).
Use Twitter, though, to start conversations, to share what was funny, clever, or blew your mind.
Don't let Twitter take over your life, but just enjoy it for its usefulness. Does that help?
The aforementioned Famous Writer deleted her Twitter account. She didn't know how to sit on her hands when she got angry, but she certainly showed me how important it is to learn that skill.