How I Try to Stay Out of Trouble on Social Media

Image by Steve from Pixabay

If you’re a writer, social media is a necessary evil. I don’t even like to call it “evil,” because whatever success I’ve had as a writer is almost entirely due to social media. Seriously.

I got into Pitch Madness (RIP) after I read about it in a writing group on Facebook. 

I whipped Tidepool into publishing shape thanks to Pitch Wars (also RIP), which I heard about on Twitter after I’d gotten into Pitch Madness. 

I connected with Parliament House Press thanks to #SFFPit, a Twitter-based pitch party. (I hope #SFFPit is still around.)

I made my first pro short fiction sale when I saw Gabino Iglesias post a call on Twitter for submissions for an anthology he was editing. 

And, y’know, I like hanging out on Twitter. I’ve met lots of fun people that way and kept in touch with writers I’ve met in real life. I truly do not know how I’d have gotten through a year-plus of pandemic-related stress without it. It helped to know that everyone all over the world was going through the same terrifying thing. 

So basically, there is no way in the world I’m getting off social media. Unless Elon Musk manages to sink Twitter, and lord knows he’s trying his best. 

But I can’t deny it: Social media can be an incredibly dangerous thing. I’ve watched someone firebomb their own career in a matter of minutes with a few ill-considered Tweets or Facebook posts.

No, I’m not going to rant against so-called “cancel culture.” I call it “consequence culture.” You’re free to say whatever inflammatory things you want to online. Others are just as free to tell you what they think of your shitty opinions and take their business elsewhere. Some people seem perfectly OK with the first part of that, but utterly outraged by the second part. But I think that’s how things should work. You can say whatever you want; you cannot demand that nobody react negatively to it.

Even so, I’d like to not end up on the wrong side of consequence culture myself. I can’t speak for anyone else, but this is what I do to try to keep myself out of deep shit. 

Whenever I am posting on Twitter or other social media, I imagine someone who follows me on that platform hates my guts and will instantly screenshot anything I say that they could possibly use to tank my writing career, stop me from being hired, or really piss off my friends and family. Who knows? That could all be true. Hate follows are a thing. 

Even if this isn’t true, it helps me think twice. Do I absolutely need to get into the middle of this dogfight? If I join other people in throwing virtual rocks at a person, who am I really trying to impress? 

Sometimes, yes, I do it anyhow. But stopping to think twice and thrice is good practice. 

Now, is this going to keep me out of trouble forever? I doubt it. Nobody goes on Twitter with the thought “Hey, I’m kinda bored—I think tonight I’ll completely wreck the writing and/or agenting and/or publishing and/or other career I worked so hard to build.” It’s often the takes people don’t expect to be controversial—the carelessly dashed-off jokes, or the preaching to the choir when one forgets the choir isn’t the only group listening—that get them in the deepest of deep shit. 

It’s entirely possible my day is coming. I’ve still got some of the prejudices and blinkers life leaves you with when you experience it on a relatively low-difficulty setting. I’ve tried to unlearn those, but every day I’m reminded I still have work to do. I’m just going to do my best to make sure that reminder doesn’t come via a big public social media faceplant. 

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