The reason I joined social media was to build my author brand and to sell more books. I know. Ugh.
I grew my ‘Twitter Following’ one person at a time while pimping my books. I’d often retweet novels and highlights of others hoping they’d reciprocate. The more Followers they had, the better — oodles of eyeballs for my work.
Caught up in the game of you retweet my stuff, I retweet yours. I also collected followers through the I follow you, you follow me scheme. The bulk of my contacts turned out to be other writers. Not a bad thing, at first.
Then I was hacked. Promoting a self-published book when a creep found it fun to target me— as if I were into kids. Weird shit, with no idea what was going on nor in the body of those Tweets (unable to see them from my account).
Things remained funky the rest of the day. I received messages about my tweets, but was working and couldn’t pay attention. A few found the tweets funny and off-color, others vulgar and distasteful.
What’s happening? Again, I figured the thing to blow over. Ya know, my fifteen minutes of Internet fame would come and go until the next flavor of the hour.
A ‘best-selling’ romance author who specializes in purple prose and moral authority demanded an apology — to her and the entire platform over my offensive tweets. Since she’s higher up in the Amazon Rankings and had more followers, she assumed she had the clout.
My folly failed to reach ‘trending’ or hashtag status, but I did receive more buzz than ever on Twitter. A few were kind enough to DM with a belief I’d been hacked. Kudos to them.
Good thing I logged on, ’cause once on my page, the culprit struck in real time. As they tweeted, I deleted. Once that happened, the shark swam off and trolled their next victim.
The next round of messages came from the boobs who missed ‘my tweets’ in the first place. They wanted to know where they could read them. Un-freakin’-believable. Really?
Fair enough on the trial by Twitter-fire, but you don’t know me. None of you do. Not one of my 1,211 ‘friends’ at the time knew who the frig I was. Instead of giving me the grace of a break, I was reported, unfollowed, and blocked.
Twitter suspended my account while they investigated. After reviewing my feed prior to the hack, Twitter discovered nothing offensive and restored my page.
Since that episode, my Twitter usage has changed. I’m more vigilant on how much time I spend on the platform and who I follow. I often change my password and always make sure I’m logged off.
Up until the purge, other writers made up 98% of my ‘friends’. The other 2% were publications. Flash fiction, short stories, and the rest, anybody’s guess.
As I began posting on Medium and tweeting the links to those articles, I did find followers and people to follow back in other areas, as well as more writers.
All of my time on Twitter remained a trade show for an infinity of books. Every visit to every feed felt like a venture into #TwitterBookFair. Thousands of authors, posting and retweeting. Go figure.
Them: Buy my book!
Me: Yeah, why not? It only has 9 freakin’ hashtags.
Them: Are you ready to be swept away?
Me: By your onslaught of adverbs and adjectives, or that godawful, cheesy-ass cover?
Them: I love retweeting, don’t you?
Me: Thanks, but no thanks. I don’t want that garbage on my landing page. If an agent comes across this, you’ll sink us both. Yuck!
Them: Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram and like my Facebook page!
Me: WTF am I doing here?
Besides abbreviated sessions, my overall Twitter experience sucked. With each log in, less value and more hawking. Not to mention, my own attachment to this derby.
Why am I so caught up in the numbers? The amount of followers? The ratio of engagements to impressions? Reads, shares, and likes? Who needs this?
I’d judge my tweet’s success on stats and analytics. If not up to par, more disenchantment as I deleted those bum tweets, only to start over again.
Instead of writing, I’d strategize future tweets, incorporating those bang-for-your-buck schemes. Brainstorming while hunting that elusive golden ghost, yours truly — ‘going viral’. Pathetic, right?
I never bought followers, and often thought of purging, but too afraid of the consequences — like, losing my ‘hard earned’ numbers. Hint — they’re not dollars in your bank account.
Like most things in life, less is more. It often seems improbable in the moment, but always finds a way to prove this axiom true, again and again.
Meanwhile, I couldn’t take it anymore. Trapped in this bottomless pit of virtual book world. An echo chamber I had to escape.
Don’t get me wrong — I did this to myself. I’m the reason I felt locked up in this state of malaise. Joining the crowd and signing up for carnival barker only served me right.
After all this, I decided to purge. Instead of nuking 1,744 people with a new account, I entered my following page. I faced every profile, deciding then and there.
There were folks who I haven’t corresponded with in a long while, but remembered pleasant exchanges. I kept them. Others seemed interesting and engaged. I kept them too.
A bunch I relished cutting. The ones who followed to be followed, then sprang me loose. Many who DM’d their book deals and couldn’t give a rat’s ass about me once I followed back — money in their bank. No more DM’s with links to their website and Amazon page. I have those too, if you bothered to check.
Of course, I’d been axed as well— too many tweets pimping my books. Now I get it. No biggie — what goes around, comes around. Live and learn.
There were many who never reciprocated after sincere and multiple retweets. Hit the road, Jack — no more free love for you.
Others I hadn’t even remembered. No clue who they are — outside the lockstep of you follow me, I follow you, years ago. Nothing in common except that we both like to write. Later, Gator.
I whittled the number from 1,744 to 150 and feel dandy. I’m now ready to leave social media rehab and enjoy Twitter.
I’m looking forward to meeting different people and exploring new ‘pockets’. As 1,783 followers begin jumping ship, I’m supplying the rafts.
Instead of watching my numbers rise, I’m watching them dive — and love it. If I’m not doing anything for you, I’m dead weight. And once this article is published, I’ll post the link on Twitter.
Not for kicks. I always tweet my Medium articles and hope this one reaches my ex-tweeters. To let them clear my profile from theirs, if they choose.
Reflecting on the hack and the reason I was slaughtered: No connection with my followers, nor them with me. Zilch, nada.
To each other, we were numbers. If we were engaged, they might have thought differently and provided that proverbial benefit of the doubt.
The other half is a no-brainer: Had my real-life friends and family learned of this, they’d charge to my defense. That’s who they are and how they feel about me.
I know who I am, and so do the people in my life who really matter. This is why I laughed the whole hacking episode off. It was a nuisance, not a threat.
Since the purge, I’m laughing again. My tweets have already gained better traction, since it’s truer traction. I’ve also made better connections. People I could learn from and hopefully provide value in return. Quality over quantity — go figure.
I’m more engaged as well, taking the time to answer direct tweets and DM’s. The quest to recreate my social media has begun — and I’m happy as a bluebird.
Why I Purged My Twitter Following was originally published in The Ascent on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.