Linking to a Mr Bean video may not be the coolest reference ever made, but this is the image that pops into my mind when I think about the minefield that is Twitter.
I only joined Twitter recently, and pretty reluctantly at that. But writers need to be seen and heard, I was strongly advised, they need to be out there. As a not at all ‘out there’ kind of person, I was hesitant about dipping my toe in this particular body of social media water. Observing it as a lurker, it seemed akin to jumping into a piranha-infested ocean while wearing your best Lady Gaga meat dress. I wasn’t at all sure I wanted to shoehorn myself into an ongoing virtual conversation.
I’m fine with Facebook. People use it as a soap box or diary or photo album – I’m happiest posting funny videos that say very little about me. Blogging has been harder as it’s personal by its very nature. I’m out of my comfort zone talking about myself, but, again, it is something that writers are expected to be able to do these days so those waters also have to be navigated. It’s a learning curve.
Twitter I’m finding hard. I don’t want to tweet about me because, seriously, who cares? I’m more than happy to retweet things that interest me and therefore may be of interest to others, but then that can look lazy and/or sycophantic. Like you’re trying to catch the attention of competition organisers or chatty famous writers.
It’s fascinating to watch how public figures use their Twitter accounts: JK Rowling communicates easily, generally has something interesting to say and isn’t afraid of a scrap. Neil Gaiman is warm and friendly. Stephen King’s rants against terrifying US presidential prospect Donald Trump are downright hilarious. But there are other writers – people whose work I greatly admire – who I’ve regretfully had to unfollow, and usually for the same reason: the sheer volume of daft/ranty/boring tweets they put out into the world.
It’s taught me one thing with regards to Twitter: don’t overdo it. Really, you don’t have to share your every thought and move unless you’re Bieber/Kardashian famous and the people NEED to know (tongue firmly in cheek here). It also makes me wonder why they’re not putting that kind of word count into their work instead. But maybe they are. Maybe Twitter is where they go to for a break, the solitary writer’s water cooler. Or it may be that they’re avoiding the blank page, just like regular people. Whatever the reason, surely it’s better to retain an air of mystery than to broadcast your shopping list?
Some people do use Twitter extremely well, forging relationships and connections. But maybe they’re the same people who, in the real world, are easily able to strike up conversations with complete strangers over canapés at parties, or casually ask someone to dance. Meanwhile, the more socially inept among us lurk cautiously around the edges and then inevitably get it wrong anyway.