[What's Next?] Twitter Tweet
Contributor
Written by
Cait Levin
March 2015
Contributor
Written by
Cait Levin
March 2015

I am terrible at Twitter. I find this ironic, because I’m part of an organization (this one! Hi She Writers!) that constantly speaks to the importance of author platform, having a digital platform, reaching your audience, etc. All of those things are, as we always say, extremely important in an increasingly digital world. I, however, am not practicing what I preach. I am terrible at Twitter.

I created my Twitter account in April 2012, already very late to the party. I have 21 followers but follow 66 others, a terrible ratio that speaks for itself in a number of ways. I have sent 18 Tweets. Not this week. Not this month. In my life. Here is my first tweet:

 

Obviously that’s a good one. Nearly all of my tweets are about YA books. There are a few about Goodreads. One about The Giver being made into a movie. Most recently, one about Harper Lee’s new book (has anyone written about that on SW yet? We should talk.). Don’t all rush to follow me at once!

I check Twitter a bit more than I tweet, though. Mostly I follow YA publishers, authors, and comedians in general. This winter I started following @SWCTweather and I checked Twitter more this winter than I have over the entirety of my online life. Seriously, if you live in Southwestern Connecticut, this is your weather guy. He is never wrong. It’s insane.

As you can see, I’m pretty bad at Twitter. My online presence is minimal. I find that both disheartening and, well, not. Disheartening because I’m very close to being done with the final draft of my book. I can taste it. Because of that, I can’t help but preemptively think about who’s going to buy my book. My dad. My friends. A few people who see on Facebook that I published a book and knew me at some point in my life. Then I stop thinking about it because I can feel the stress moving up through my chest. I am failing to market myself, and failing thoroughly. I am a reluctant toe-dipper in the world of social media. The digital platform that my book is meant to stand on is built of rotting wood and rusty nails, and I have to borrow a toolbox to fix it because I called all the repairmen in the yellow pages and they were closed. I still use phone books. Help.

At the same time, I’m not bothered by this lack of digital presence at all. As a young person (Generation Y?) I’m supposed to be a part of this new media age. It all makes sense to me, I’m able to keep up with it all, but I’m supposed to be in the thick of it, leading the charge, urging it forward. I think I’m old-fashioned in a lot of ways (sometimes cooking with butter just tastes better. Period.), but when I look around, I really don’t mind. Recently I went to brunch with my boyfriend and three people our age came in and sat at a table near ours. They all got out their phones immediately and started scrolling and swiping. They didn’t speak to each other. They spoke to the waiter to order and then recommenced the scrolling. I was baffled by this, but not surprised. Why did they come here? I wondered. Why not stay home and message your friends instead?

It’s a problem with my generation, and the struggle will mark the generation after mine. My sister is a part of this generation, and the importance of her phone is frightening. I teach children of this generation, and they come to school sleep-deprived and irritable, awake at all hours checking their little pings and lights to make sure they aren’t left out. Is this true for everyone? Of course not. But it’s true for enough people that it concerns me, a lot.

One of the things I teach is 8th-grade history. Recently we were discussing the Great Depression, and I put a circle of dominoes in the center of the large table we all sit around. I knocked it down in front of my students. “How do we pick these back up?” I asked them. They studied the dominoes, silent.

            “One at a time!” One student offered.

            “That won’t work, the others will keep it down,” another countered.

            “In a circle, like they fell,” another suggested.

            “But how do we pick up the first one?” I probed.

            They continued to look at the little pieces, thinking.

            “You have to do it all at once,” someone said. “All together.”

We’re not going to undo the social media surge, and it would be a mistake if we did. The level of information we have access to is positive in a lot of ways, and a stimulus for change and global awareness that I fully support. I need to be better about my platform, and that’s a goal I will start to strive for. As authors, we need to take advantage of this level of connectivity, this access to our audience that great writers of the past never had access to. We, all of us, also need to avoid the traps—the addiction to our tiny computers, the disconnect from reality, the fear of missing out. With great power comes great responsibility. It’s all still so new, and changing fast. But we can do this, people. All together, now. 

Cait Levin is the Community Manager at She Writes. You can read more of her blog (when she stops watching so much Dawson’s Creek and actually writes more of a blog) here.

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Comments
  • Michelle Cox

    I would also love to see some hard-core research on who's doing what and what the real effect is.  However, the media landscape probably evolves faster than the data can be compiled, much less analyzed!  As for my kids, they say that Facebook is for "old people"!  As if!  However, I do find this comment worthy of further contemplation....

    Meanwhile, one of my kids likes Snapchat and the other likes Instagram.  The third is ambivalent!

      

  • Cait Levin

    @Michelle, I have the same hope that you do! I think we'll get there. I find it really interesting that your kids hate the Twitter machine! I'm fascinated by which social media teens like and which they don't, and why. I'm sure there are sociologists out there doing research on this stuff -- I would love to see it!

  • Michelle Cox

    Wow, Cait!  Where to start.  Let me say first of all...how many jobs do you have?  Do you have any free time?  A teacher, a writer, and community manager at SheWrites?  I'm impressed.

    In the interest of building my platform, I have reluctantly become active on Facebook, put up a website and am contemplating a blog.  I draw the line at Twitter, though.  All three of my children, ages 9-18, scorn Twitter as a stupid waste of time.  They've all tried it and rejected it.  I agree that we're all connected and social media is a great place to promote oneself, but I'm hoping that some of the more extreme stuff will burn away over time when a whole generation finally realizes what they've lost.  

  • Glynis Jolly

    I don't have a "little" computer, just my PC. I have a Kindle Fire on a shelf right beside my desk that is still in the box. It was a give-away when I signed up for Charter Communications (cable you know). I have my blog posts automatically tweeted along with getting them of 2 other media sites. Twitter is where I spend the most time when it comes to social media, but that's only once a week. And even at that, I rarely do one of my own tweets. I'm replying to others tweets. I haven't figure out what is worth mentioning on the site.

  • Pam Webber

    I empathize with every word of this!

  • Lloyd Lofthouse

    I think I'd suggest that there is no need to worry because, "Better late than never"---but then if you want to worry about not having a digital platform, go ahead and worry.

    There's always time to learn and since you are a millennial, that means you are maybe half my age and probably have a lot more time left than I do, and I can assure you I'm still learning everyday and plan to keep on doing it until that last breath.

    For instance, about this time in 2013, I didn't know how to use Twitter properly and I only had about 400 followers and most of my Tweets were automatically sent from my four Blogs that I didn't start until 2010---I published my first novel in December 2007 that took almost nine years to write and launched the first version of my first static website about the same time.

      
    After that first novel was published, it took more than two years before the Blogging bug bit.

    Now, two years on with the Twitting thing that was learned along the way, I have more than 11,000 followers and I have sent out more than 102-thousand Tweets. I also belong to several hash tag ReTweet groups: #ArchiveDay and #HistorySaturday on Saturday, #SundayBlogShare, #MondayBlogs and #EdBlogNet everyday.

    I was a public school teacher from 1975-2005, so I Blog and Tweet about education on one of my Blogs. Before that, I served in the U.S. Marines and I am a Vietnam Vet so I blog about that topic on a second Blog. I visited China about ten times between 1999-2008 and I blog about China on a third Blog that has almost 2,000 posts and 600,000 views.

    Worry if you want, but I'm convinced you can do it too because I was late with my digital platform too and look where it is today.

  • Yep, I just signed up with Twitter (really late) and already I'm feeling overwhelmed. Follow me, Following, on and on every day now in my emails. I'm spending too much time suddenly looking and approving or not approving them when I should be writing. The ones in foreign languages blew my mind and, of course, I delete them. I can't read them! Sigh. I'm an old dog, self-publishing and eBooks, Createspace, Facebook were hard enough for me to master...but this Twitter thing is too much for me. I've been thinking of dropping it.

  • Julia Harmon

    I agree completely and still am trying to find the balance between social media and the real world. About Twitter -- I am still hanging in there, but it's not my preferred social medium. What I am doing now is sharing posts from blogs I follow, things I think will be helpful to others, plus an occasional profound or witty thought I have myself (these are few and far between!). I have gained followers this way (usually three or four each time I share something) and am continuing to learn other ways to use Twitter to its best advantage.

  • Steve Levin

    What a great post. Tweeting now. Sorry....

  • Mary Ellen Wall

    Oh my, I AM living in the remote woods in a cabin, isolated from all others. I've published four Sci-Fi books and have one in its 10th or so draft while the one after that is in its 2nd draft. I have never signed up for Twitter and make sad use of Face Book, finding it more annoying than anything else. If I didn't need to come it to town and come to this job, I'd be a real hermit since I have no phone, internet or even TV at the cabin. Plan? I have been commenting on blogs to get in the habit. I am preparing scads of entries for reviving my author blog. I have entered contests. And I might, just maybe, try Twitter, all during lunchtime and after hours here at work. To me and my trusty 'fingers do the walking' phone book, that seems like progress! Also, I heartily agree with your points on the electronically addicted folks I see all about me. My writing is informed by my widely varied real world experiences (Navy nuke mechanic, world traveler, worked in controversial jobs, maker of all manner of things). Where I go, I watch culture and learn from what I see, hear, smell, feel. Can you get that from screen?

  • Ashley Moss

    Love this post. I'm old-fashioned as well. I also still use phone books too, lol. Can't wait to read the sequel to How to Kill A Mockingbird this summer, AND Toni Morrison's new one next month. I agree with the disconnect between today's generation of young people. I haven't had a cell phone in months, and I'm okay with that. P.S. I'm also a teacher.