The Return of the Writer’s Lift

As some of you know, in 2018 I started my publication journey.  A tool I found useful in this endeavor was Twitter.  On Twitter, there is a hashtag: #WritingCommunity.  I started following folks who posted in this community, and most of the time it was very fruitful.  I made new friends, and it connected me to literally thousands of writers in every stage of development.  There were these things called “Writer’s Lifts” where everyone got to know each other and promoted their work a little.  Thing is, back then, those lifts were about making friends.  Now…it’s all about selling books.

Don’t get me wrong, I participate, particularly on Saturday as that is #ShamelssSelfPromoSaturday on Twitter.  I drop my link into some lifts and hope for a retweet or two.  I can confidently say I have sold a few books this way, but it’s not like it’s breaking the sales records.  It’s just a nice way to get your work to someone who otherwise might not find it.  So yes, I’m cool with promotional lifts.  However…

I’ve lost the connection.

I don’t KNOW my followers like I used to.  Yes, there are a great many more now than I had a couple of years ago, but I don’t feel the camaraderie like I used to.  We don’t chat.  We just hype each other’s stuff.  Again, don’t get me wrong, that’s cool…but I have no real writer friends.  I searched for such on Twitter, and I found some.  Two live in the area; a guy from the city who writes what he refers to as “dude lit,” and a blogger in the southern tier who has a garden I am envious of.  I often contemplate what it would be like to meet these folks, and have some sort of Algonquin roundtable writing discussion, but I’m an anxious human who has trouble stepping outside her comfort zone.  So online friendship it is.

Anyway, I was thinking about how Twitter used to be cool and decided I would see if it still could be.  I posted a Writers Lift, but I made rules.  Number one, you could not drop me a book link.  If you did, I deleted it.  Number two, you had to introduce yourself and tell us what you write or what you’re working on.  Third, you had to make a friend.

I got 188 replies.

188 people introduced themselves and their writing, and conversations broke out all over the place.  I tried to keep up but eventually had to mute the tweet when I got 35 notifications at once.  Many folks thanked me for this “new spin” on a lift, which made me chuckle because really, I’m just bringing back the old-school jams.  One person gave me an idea for another kind of lift, where we praise OTHER author’s work, not our own, which I think I may try out sometime this week.  A woman in Greece emailed me and told me she liked one of my poems, and asked if she could translate it to Greek and publish it in her lit mag.  I agreed, and you can find it HERE.  Someone else emailed me and told me that they read my excerpts on Amazon and immediately bought the book.  Others talked to me about their writing endeavors.  Overall, it was a very productive little tweet for me, and I really hope it was for others too.

A lot of the crap I see on Twitter now is people trying to up their engagement with ads and random questions and the like.  Me, I have always kept my tweets either about writing or observations from life, and I try to keep the selling of myself to a minimum.  Not that I don’t, because I’m an indie author and that’s part of the job description, but I’d rather read “real” stuff, if you know what I mean.  I’d rather you tweet about the sandwich you had for lunch than see another post that starts with “now available on Amazon…”

I mean…yeah, I’m guilty.  But I’m trying to do other things, too.  Got to keep it fresh, y’know?

So my finding in this little experiment is that people actually do want to connect on Twitter still, it just seems to be a little harder somehow than it was 2 years ago.  Perhaps it’s the algorithm, which has totally screwed me more than once, but overall, I think it’s just that we have lost touch with each other.  I don’t like that, and I won’t do that.  I won’t succumb.  My

DMs are always open to fellow creators.  I am always down to chat about the business of words, and all I really want is a few folks who feel the same.

Minefield

In the past few days on Twitter I have seen a great many readers and writers discussing book reviews.  It did not go well, most of the time.

For instance, one author mentioned how they do not understand why people would leave a poor review based off, and I quote, “one sentence.”  This reviewer also did not finish the book after said sentence, and gave it a one-star review.  The reading community did not like his tweet.

I chimed in, like an idiot, trying to bolster him by saying that I would not care about a review if someone did not “put in the effort” to finish the book.  I got several responses saying that a reader can do whatever they want after getting the book, and that reading for pleasure shouldn’t be an effort.  Yeah, you’re right.  My wording sucked a little.  But the point remains: if you didn’t finish it, I, as an writer, do not trust your review.

I have finished so many books that I did not like.  And I also do not leave poor reviews.  I also have not gotten any poor reviews.  So, I understand that my experience is different from others.  But like it or not, I would never, ever leave a review for something I did not finish.  So, I understand the original tweeters question.  People also started taking issue with them “calling out” the poor reviewer, which I agree is uncouth, but is not what they intended to do, I think.  Anyway, there was backlash.

Then I saw a few other tweets by other folks discussing the same thing.  I stayed out of those threads, but read the comments.  Some readers feel we should just not read our reviews, and many writers agree.  I am in the opposite camp, which I guess is controversial?

My reviews-again, so far so good-have bolstered me.  I couldn’t not read them.  I need them on days when I feel like it’s all crap.  Now, how will I feel when I inevitably get the bad one?  I don’t know.  But I hope that I will look at it with a critical eye.  I hope that it will be constructive to me in some way.  However, if I get something along the lines of “I read one poem, and hated it” I wouldn’t even factor that into my consciousness.  First of all, I maintain that if you didn’t finish it, you’re not in the right position to be judging it.  Secondly, obviously, I didn’t write it for YOU.  And that’s ok.

Now, I really do not care what you do with my book.  You bought it.  It’s your property. Read it, pass it on, shelve it, throw it out, burn it…do what you will.  I hope that if you like it, you leave a review.  If you don’t, I hope you can just say “eh, not for me,” and move along.  And if you must leave a one-star review, I’m just saying, it would be great if you could come at me with guns blazing, so that I can identify any actual problems in my work.

Or, y’know, whatever.  You bought it.

So yes, I will read my reviews.  No, I will not make the mistake of taking to Twitter about bad ones (or asking questions about them, as the case may be.)  Others learned that lesson for me this week, some the hard way, and that sucks for them.  Especially newbies like me…maybe we don’t know the decorum of reviews yet.  Maybe we have no flipping idea how any of this works and are learning as we go.

Most people Google things to get answers, but trust me when I tell you, that is difficult in writing and publication.  You really need to find stuff out firsthand.  And connecting with writers on Twitter is a great way to do it.  Unfortunately, you are occasionally attacked for a misstep, and your meaning gets lost in 280 characters.  (Actually, this is just a general Twitter problem.)

Still…Twitter may bring occasional disagreements or trolls or whatever, but I made some great connections because of the Twitter Writing Community.  I would have no illustrator without it, no publisher for my mini-chap, no book blogger reviews.  It helps me sell my book, and connects me to people who are in different stages of their literary careers.  Not to mention that there are publishers and editors and agents galore.  It’s really very useful.

Just gotta watch your step.

Social Media Distortion

A while back, I was stuck in the hospital and did some research on Snapchat for a piece I was planning on writing, which was mostly finished but recently scrapped because it just wasn’t enough, and I couldn’t get what I was saying across.  Then I was thinking about it the other day, and another idea formed.  Everyone likes social media, for the most part.  Either you’re on or you’re off, and there’s a lot more people on.  Why do we use it?  Why do we like it?  And most interestingly, does social media direct our personalities, or does our personality direct our social media usage?

I asked some people about their opinions on social media and their usage of it.  I then asked them “If your personality was a social media platform, which would it be?”  Below are my findings.

Subject 1.  When asked what platform he prefers, he replied Reddit and Tumblr.  He finds no use for Pinterest, and claims that Instagram sucks because while he likes pictures, they don’t provide enough information.  Twitter, meanwhile, he claims has too much information at once, and is not user friendly to new people.  He prefers the combo of picture and short text, and finds such on Tumblr and Reddit.  However, Facebook is the platform he uses the most, as that’s “where my friends and family are, but it’s become too personal.”  Example:  He likes to post funny memes, but sometimes people take offense to his humor and report him.  He feels that if people adopted a “mind your own business” attitude, it would be a better space.  “And Snapchat?” I ask.  “Snapchat was created for cheating.”

Subject 2.  When asked what he uses most, he declared Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram, in that order.  He believes that Facebook is the root of all evil, which is a whole different topic for a whole different day…or is it?  Tumblr is dead and Snapchat is fun, and Twitter is the “hot mess 80s we wish the world was still like,” which I think is right on the nose.  He thinks that Reddit is the dark web of social media, and Pinterest is the “bougie, weird cousin of all the rest.” Instagram? “Capitalist hypocritical millennial mind control.”

Subject 3- Uses Facebook the most but Instagram is her favorite. She uses Facebook mainly to catch up with family and friends, and enjoys seeing how they are doing.  The downside to her is the algorithm that limits the feed to a just a few people at once. As someone who works in a small business, she finds it difficult to use Facebook for this purpose, as it is favoring “pay to be seen” content over organic views. She finds Twitter to be an overwhelming platform, with difficulties presented to new users, such as Subject 1 noted.  She does not use Snapchat but feels that while started innocently enough it has evolved into something used mainly for sexual purposes.  She enjoys Reddit, stating that “it’s a huge source of information without feeling overwhelming.”  Subject 3 recently joined Pinterest, so has no real opinion yet, but thinks it may work as a good business tool.  She says Instagram is fun and easy to use.

Subject 4.  Cites that Facebook is tied for number 1 in her mind.  It is best for keeping in touch with friends and family, but she hates the targeted advertising.  She says that it’s helpful to connect with like-minded people, but that that might not be a benefit “if you’re an asshole.” She also enjoys Pinterest as she can scroll through it for hours and find anything imaginable.  She reports no complaint whatsoever.  When she wants to laugh, she reads Reddit, and it has unintentionally become her main source of world news.  She is on Twitter solely to stalk Ryan Reynolds.  She has an Instagram but never uses it.  She likes the filters in Snapchat but has found it incompatible to her phone on several occasions.  Ergo, she never uses it.  Tumblr: “What the fuck is Tumblr?”

Subject 5. When asked what he preferred, he said 4chan and Reddit.  I noted that he was the first person to bring up 4chan, and that Reddit had previously been described as the dark web of the social medias, to which he adamantly states that the dark web of the internet is 4chan, not Reddit.  He uses Facebook but doesn’t agree with many of their policies and finds it to be too family oriented.  He prefers connecting with people outside of his immediate circle and finds places like Reddit to be useful for that.  He says he likes Twitter but finds it boring, as he doesn’t have many friends who use it and he himself only uses it for news updates.  He notes that it is far better than Facebook in this way.  He doesn’t use Insta much, believes Pinterest to be for “old lady stuff,” and uses Snapchat for occasional texting.  He says Reddit is by far the best because you can find everything “from a rare manga to bread stapled to trees to looking at pics of people’s drug stashes.”  Tumblr: “Which one is that?”

Subject 6.  She is unique in that she is not a typical user of social media.  She does not have a Facebook-if she wants to know your drama, she will ask you.  She does not use Twitter because she doesn’t put much stock in the opinion of others.  She used to use Pinterest but says it now “sucks because you can’t just browse anymore.”  She says Instagram is nice and easy to use, but doesn’t keep one.  She uses Reddit for information and likes the platform. Oh, and Tumblr?  “Sounds like something you put rocks in.”

Then there’s me.  I use Twitter the most, at least 2-3 times a day, and I find it to be the best source of information.  I like Twitter because I have found a great community of writers on there, and it is my main source of news.  Facebook is my follow up because, as stated by pretty much everyone uses it, so that’s where all my friends are.  Everyone has a Facebook.  Well, except Subject 6, that is.  I once had a Tumblr when I was in my 20s for about 5 minutes, and I’ve only used Reddit to read the occasional article.  These, to me, are the outliers of the social media world.  I like Instagram because occasionally I find a reason to post a pretty picture.  I used to love Pinterest, but then I got married and fell off it because all my recommendations were bridal related.  And Snapchat?

The platform that started this idea in my head is my least favorite.  First of all, I did a safety experiment while in the hospital.  I posted my Snapchat on all my social media platforms, and then waited.  I got like 15 friends and a video of some dude’s junk.  Took that as a bad sign.  Now, all I get now is photos of friend’s dogs and videos of their children, which is nice but not anything I can’t get via another platform.

Conclusions:

Facebook is garbage.  From the algorithms to the rules to targeted ads to paying to be seen, it’s a disaster.  Thing is, all of our friends and family are still using this garbage, and we continue to use it because of this.  It’s as if Mark Zuckerberg is holding our friend’s hostage for his own benefit. 

Twitter is good, but tricky.  It can be overwhelming and difficult to understand for new users, but once you figure it out can be a great tool for connecting with like-minded individuals.  It’s a more opinionated place, to be sure, but if you are the sort that can handle that situation then jump right in.

The general consensus on Pinterest is that none of the men really use it and most of the women are bored with it.  While useful for things like home improvement ideas, recipes, and product recommendations, it has lost some appeal since its first appearance on the scene.

Reddit is the platform I have the least experience with, yet seems to be our winner for most used social media.  Literally everyone, including Subject 6 who doesn’t use social media often, uses Reddit.  It’s breadth of information is staggering, and people seem to be able to spend hours there.  I need to catch up, apparently.

Snapchat.  I personally think that Subject 1 summed it up the best when he said that Snapchat is for cheaters.  It’s a weird platform, because with items like filters you would think it was geared toward a younger crowd, but most people just said that they used Snapchat either for convos they don’t want their significant other to see, sexting, or pictures of pets.

Tumblr is over.  Either people know what it is and believe it’s over, or don’t know what it is and do not care.  Save maybe Subject 1.

Instagram may be capitalist mind control, but people seem to like it.  No one seems to LOVE it, though.  I’m sure if I polled a photographer they would say differently.  Which brings me to this:

 “If your personality was a social media platform, which would it be?”  Two people said Twitter, and everyone else said Reddit.  Speaking for myself, a classic Twitter personality, I definitely believe that our personality dictates out social media usage.  Let’s say, for arguments sake, that the Reddit’s could be described as social but more focused on information gathering than the Twitter’s, where it may be the other way around.  I wish I had surveyed a larger crowd, to be honest.  I wonder what else I could have discovered.

All in all, I think it was interesting to look at people’s social media habits in a world where there is a platform for every personality.  I enjoyed learning others opinions on the different social media platforms, and must concede that Snapchat is not, in fact, the worst.  That is Facebook, the monolith of social interaction that has held our grandmother’s hostage for too long.  I’d say that we should all just switch to Twitter and/or Insta, but that brings to mind my mother: “I don’t know, do I want to tweet?  The president does so…I don’t think I want to.”  No, I wouldn’t love it if my mother were on Twitter.  So, to the Facebook gods we continue to pray.

If you made it all the way to the end of the post, I applaud you.  That’s over 1000 words you just read.  If this were Book It, you’d be well on your way to a personal pan pizza.

Follow Backs; or, Why I Blocked You

Despite being on Twitter for over ten years, I have only really been active on it over the past few months, when I did an experiment to decide which social media platform best fit my personality.  I wrote an article about such things but never finished it, and am working on turning it into a future blog post once I compile enough data.  My end result, however, was that Twitter is my drug. 

This led to me joining the #WritingCommunity on Twitter which is huge and mostly supportive and wonderful.  It gained me over 1500 followers and counting.  Not that this matters to me as I was happy with the 108 that followed me since the old days, but as Kev put it “Now you have fans.”  The way Twitter likes to work is that I tweet something, two or three of my friends like it, and it shows up on their friend’s feeds.  Then their friend might like it, might even follow me because they scrolled though my page and found it amusing.  I now average 3-4 followers a day if I’m inactive, more if ‘m working at it.  The idea that they are “fans,” however, is off-putting.  Although, Kev rationalizes that these are potential readers and future book buyers, so yeah, they could be fans in one way or another.  He says I should enjoy it.  I say I’m not used to people liking me.

I’m really not.  Most people see my face, assume I’m a bitch, and move on.  My memoir will be titled “That’s Just My Face: The Brigid Hannon Story.”  But I digress…

So here I am, active on Twitter, gaining those followers, using hashtags and threads and all that jazz, and I come across several walks of life.  It’s customary to follow back your followers, so that you don’t seem like a total jerk.  The problem is, while I am always respectful, I don’t WANT to follow some of these people.  There are certain subgroups of people that, frankly, bring nothing to my life.  It’s to them I speak today.

A few letters to a few followers that I did not follow back:

Dear Dude With No Bio Who Slid Into My DMs-

Thank you for telling me about your lucrative job as a doctor from California who is currently living in Syria.  (Or Iran.  Usually one or the other.)  That’s not fishy at all.  I certainly don’t automatically assume that you are an election rigging, fake-news spouting, Russian bot.  Your lack of info and tweets only shows me that you are concentrating on the care of the one child you always seem to have from a previous marriage who is in boarding school in Russia.  (It’s always Russia.)  I’m not really looking to chat further but, in the future, may I suggest learning English so that you actually sound like a doctor from California?  It will smooth out your attempt to scam people.

Dear Dude With Bio That Reads “Looking For The One”-

Thank you for the excessive compliments.  I also think my glasses are sexy.  So does my husband.  I’m sorry that you didn’t take my statement about being married appropriately.  I crazily assumed you would tell me to have a nice day and leave it at that.  I didn’t realize that first you would ask me to have an affair with you and then call me a bitch when I refused.  I’m not even refusing because I’m married, buddy.  I would refuse you if I was single.  I may be the caring, beautiful goddess you claim I am, but Twitter is not Tinder and I am not “The One.”

Dear Uber Christian-

Hiya.  I’m a cultural Catholic, having been raised in a deeply religious environment and then giving up the church completely by age 25.  So, if you’re the kind of Christian I’m talking about, you either think I’m a heathen because I left the church or you think I’m a heathen because you think all Catholics are heathens which is a fun little fact about Evangelicals that I learned at too young an age.  Now since I’m a heathen, you may feel the urge to convert me.  Please resist.  Here are some facts about me.  1. I am a contrary person, in general.  I don’t tend to go along with the crowd.  Crowds make me nervous.  And 2.  My God is bigger than yours.  Yours is small and boxed-in, excluding people and pointing fingers and telling you when to jump and how high.  My God loves everyone, created us all with purpose despite our flaws, and makes us WANT to jump higher, without telling us to.  I would ask you to know Him better…but I don’t shove my personal beliefs down other people’s throats like some do.

Dear Company Selling Things-

I live paycheck to paycheck.  I might like what you have to offer, but I can’t BUY what you have to offer.  Your services may be number one, but my follow back is not going to change your profit line.  I get the idea of promoting yourself via Twitter, especially since I will have to do that should someone pick up my chapbook, but just because you show up in my follow list I’m not going to check out your page and think “hell, I really DO need a new porch awning!  I’ll just get it from these guys!”  No, it’s never going to happen.

Dear Trump Fan-

Honey, you’re lost.  I mean, how did you even get here?  What part of my profile made you think “gee, she’s my kind of gal!”  Was it the anti-gun posts, or the feminism blogs?  Was it the rooting for Liz Warren, or the unabashed girl-crush on AOC?  Was it the part where I’m all for abortion rights, or was it my comments on Mitch McConnell’s frog face?  The part where I yelled about kids in cages, or the MeToo hashtag?  WHY ARE YOU HERE?  Are you one of those rare few who love and accept all no matter what their beliefs?  And if so…why are you a Trump fan?

Dear Tweeter Of Their Native Tongue:

I would love to follow you back, really, but I have no idea what you’re saying.  I appreciate that you know more than one language and can understand me, but nothing you post will be relevant to me due to the language barrier.  My deepest regrets.

Oh, and finally:

Dear One Dude From Kenya Who Messaged Me Because He Likes Poems And Didn’t Hit On Me Once:

Thanks, like…so much.  A prince among men, you are.