by Gabino Iglesias
So far we have only talked about publishing in this space. However, the constant drama on Twitter over the past few weeks made me decide to use this month’s column to talk about social media and Twitter in general. Social media was part of my dissertation and it’s something I teach regularly, so while a lot of what you will read here could be called opinions, I assure you that they are educated ones and I offer them here in hopes that they will help folks navigate social media–which is to say I’m not trying to pick a fight with you, tell you how to behave on Twitter, or chastising you for anything you do with your platform. In any case, here are ten tips to help you survive Twitter:
1. Remember it’s not real life
Social media isn’t real. That’s why people always yell at each other and threaten to kick everyone’s ass. This means that most of what happens on it has no effect on your life. This isn’t to say it won’t ruin your mood or push you to take some time off social media, but it will rarely affect what you do with your day on a regular basis.
2. Accept that you won’t change anyone’s mind
Racists, homophobes, Ted Cruz stans, white supremacists; if it’s trash, it’s on social media. If you’re on social media, especially Twitter, you will encounter these people. Trying to change their mind is a waste of time. Would you try to explain to a Klan member why they’re wrong if you saw him at a coffee shop? Would you go to one of those events that are about how Trump will be reinstated in August and try to explain to the people there why that’s not happening? Social media is the same way; no one will change their mind because you have data or live a reality that proves their opinions are wrong, so don’t waste your time trying to do that.
3. Keep in mind that you don’t have to engage with anyone
You don’t owe anyone a thing. Your time and mental health are yours to enjoy and take care of, so only engage when you want to. I can’t stay quiet when I see certain things—racism, transphobia, sexual harassment—but there are plenty I shake my head at and ignore. That helps me keep my blood pressure under control. If someone is yelling about something on Twitter and you don’t care, you can ignore it and talk about something else.
4. Recognize that, to a large degree, Twitter is what you make of it
I’ve been called a spic and beaner, to name two slurs that have been present in my life since I started using social media. I’ve had a reading on Zoom interrupted by racists yelling slurs while I was trying to read. However, most of my interactions are with truly awesome people, positive folks who aren’t out to pick fights because it’s fucking Tuesday or sunny or raining, and amazing artists looking to share their work and the work of others. I choose to surround myself with good people, and that makes Twitter great almost all the time. Will you get the occasional asshole? Of course. Will drama land on your plate as you’re trying to do something else? You bet. Is the horrible side of social media always there? Yup. Can you stay away from it most of the time? Totally. Have you seen the news lately? All of that awfulness is happening in the real world, so it’s normal for it to crawl into social media, but that doesn’t mean you have to pay attention to it all the time or allow it to enter your space.
5. Learn to mute and block people
Remember those slurs I mentioned? Well, anyone who says that to me is blocked. I won’t spend six hours going back and forth with them on social media. Fuck them and fuck that. Any time I spend typing is time I will spend working on articles, novels, short stories, book reviews, or talking to friends and trying to support others. I don’t have time to waste, and people who throw racial slurs around don’t deserve a speck of my time. Block and mute people if they get on your nerves or insult you. Seriously, it’s good for your mental health and will improve your Twitter experience.
6. Accept that people are angry and a lot of them put all their anger on social media
Your tweet: “Good morning, folks! Have a great day.”
First response: “Fuck you! Don’t tell me what to do!”
Second response: “Who da fuck says ‘folks’? lol”
Third response: “You will have a great day if you buy my book! (insert Amazon link)”
Fourth response: (insert huge coffee meme)
Fifth response: “I always try, but I can’t because THE FUCKING GAY AGENDA WON’T LET ME!”
Sixth response: “Sure.”
You get the point. Do you and don’t pay attention to the anger that has nothing to do with you. If we’re being brutally honest, none of us are perfect and we’re all assholes from time to time. Some people will dislike you because of that and, in a way, that’s understandable. However, I lot of people will be angry at you because you seem happy or because you seem to be doing well or because you shared some good news or because you didn’t reply to their 2:15am dick pic or “hey” DM or because you look good in a selfie or because you took a picture of a pretty tree. Their anger is on them, so let them fester in it and soar high above that shit.
7. Accept that followers come and go
I’ve studied social media for a long time and teach it at SNHU and my own workshops. That means I pay a lot of attention from time to time. That also means I know that every action on Twitter has a reaction, and that reaction is often getting unfollowed. I lost dozens of followers because I shared a photo of a dead snapping turtle. I lose ten to twelve followers every time I tweet about how horrible Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, Lauren Boebert, or Marjorie Taylor Greene are. I lose followers whenever I talk about diversity in fiction, which also fills my notification with hatred for 24-48 hours. Oh, and every time I support trans people? Mass follower exodus. Shit, sometimes I’ve gone to DM a friendly acquaintance on Twitter about an interview or to ask for a galley and learn they unfollowed me or blocked me. That’s okay. Followers come and go, so focus on doing whatever makes you happy and not on numbers.
8. Learn to take time off if you need it
FOMO is a real thing, but if being on Twitter or any other social media platform is affecting your mental health or keeping you from doing the things you’re passionate about, take a break. Seriously, unplug and do something else. It will all be there when you come back, the good and the bad, and you won’t miss anything more important than your mental health.
9. Internalize the fact that Twitter is part of the public sphere and what you put on it is for public consumption
One thing we spend a lot of time talking about in my workshops is the idea of privacy on social media. Anything you put out there, including DMs, can be made public in about four seconds flat. It’s okay to keep your religion, family, sexuality, hobbies, politics, or health private. There should be some stuff you enjoy and keep to yourself. You can talk about movies or gaming or books or music, but you can also keep some of that stuff to yourself and use it as a refuge when you take time off social media. Don’t want to share anything? That’s cool. I mean this: you don’t HAVE to be on social media. I know plenty of folks who aren’t, and none of them worry about it.
10. Self-care should be your number one priority
Social media is fucking insidious in many ways. You have to learn to combat that by focusing on yourself instead of focusing on it. Making friends is awesome, selling books is great, participating in certain discussions is illuminating and intellectual stimulating…but those things won’t happen if you’re constantly angry and frustrated and want to quit social media. There are many things that matter more than Twitter, so keep in mind why you’re there. Take care of yourself and who/what you love first and then spend whatever time you have left on social media. If it’s the other way around, you might need to rethink your priorities. You matter more than any platform.