A few months ago I went back to Twitter. I discovered the writing community (hashtag writingcommunity) and it was awesome. People in all stages of their writing careers being polite and sociable and helping one another out. Writers in different genres being kind to those who worked in other genres. Folks just starting out interacting with published authors. Traditionally published writers chatting civilly with self-published writers. It was absolutely lovely.
Yeah, that didn’t last.
Early on I saw the community self-policing the bad actors. When I say that, I mean a quick response to denounce, unfollow, and block people displaying undisputably bad behavior. No one was rushing to defend racist remarks as “free speech” or categorizing objections to clearly rude misogynist remarks as political posturing.
Why I Quit the Writing Community
Over time it’s fallen prey to the same issues that seem to infect all online communities eventually. Bad actors begin to position themselves as informal leaders. Ideological factions start to congeal, and in “No True Scotsman” fashion begin to declare who’s in and who’s out. The hunt to find things to be offended about, resulting in people being “cancelled”, grows.
The problems metastasize into that thing where people start looking at who you follow, and come for you because you haven’t unfollowed a person the community has decided to other. Because, naturally, a follow automatically equals not only agreement with everything that person has ever tweeted, but endorsement of those views. No one ever follows a person to monitor what sorts of shenanigans they’re up to. It seems kind of dangerous to leave certain bad actors to go about their business in darkness, with no eyes on them, but the message is clear: shun them or we’ll shun you.
I’d like to point out that I graduated from high school 38 years ago this May. I have never had a desire to go back, and have never attended a reunion. These communities, and social media platforms in general, eventually degenerate into badly stereotyped high school paradigms. Cliques and fads and bullies and mean girls.
I’m not saying that there aren’t still kind, helpful people on Twitter that are worth following. As in real life, though, that’s a matter of individuals rather than groups or crowds. I still follow a few interesting, friendly people who are writers. It’s the concept of “community”, as it’s being practiced across the internet here in the 21st century, that I’m growing to reject out of hand.