Why I Left Book Twitter: Cyberbullying, Cancel Culture, and Internet Addiction

Twitter has a strange, sinister kind of force. It sucks you in. It changes you.

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As some people have figured out, my fabulous Twitter account (@frappesandfic) no longer exists. Here’s the story of why I disappeared from the bird app back in August.

(I’d like to add a disclaimer of sorts before the nitty-gritty of this post: I am technically still on Twitter because I got hired to write for the student newspaper of my university and my editor asked me to create a Twitter for sourcing and promotional purposes. So I ended up creating a new account in September, but it’s just for my job)

Joining Book Twitter

I joined Book Twitter in June 2021, and at the beginning, my relationship with it was not toxic. I didn’t have a high number of followers, I didn’t talk about controversial topics, I mostly just shared links to my blog posts and retweeted the occasional interesting article. I didn’t use the platform very much at first; at that point I was still more addicted to Instagram.

Becoming Sucked Into the Twitter Vortex

Twitter has a strange, sinister kind of force. It sucks you in. It changes you.

Around the end of winter and into the spring of 2022, I started using Twitter more and more often. I was also becoming sucked into politics Twitter, which as we know is the 9th circle of hell. I liked to follow political commentators and ended up spending lots of time entrenched in that kind of American-culture-wars content. I was pretty enmeshed in the whole “anti-woke” shtick. I was also dealing with a lot of stress at this time, and mindless scrolling was my self-destructive coping mechanism of choice.

Pretty soon, I was using Twitter not only to tweet hot takes about books, but also about more general issues, particularly political things. I was also finding myself getting into arguments with random strangers quite often, a bad habit I had always been prone to online, and probably will always be prone to, forever, because that’s just my personality.

That Time I Got Canceled by Book Twitter

Around the end of June, a thread had gone viral on book Twitter concerning a book called The Ones We Burn, which someone on Twitter had accused of being racist and white supremacist. This caused a huge firestorm, with people denouncing the book as a “white supremacist fantasy” left and right, even though not many people seemed to have actually read it.

I quote tweeted the woman whose accusatory thread had gone viral, and I said that for people who hadn’t read the book, it was important to read something yourself before leveling these kinds of really serious accusations. For context, I’ve written extensively about the history of insensitivity accusations that have gotten blown way out of proportion by Book Twitter in the past, so when I saw one possibly beginning right in front of me, I wanted to remind people of discretion.

It seemed weird to me that an author who had a reputation for being very progressive would write a book that was a “white supremacist fantasy”, and there were also some readers, like this reviewer, who claimed that the outrage was misguided.

I didn’t want to say that it was not white supremacist, because obviously I hadn’t read it, and for all I knew, it could have been. I intended mainly to remind people to be mindful of how quickly Twitter things can get crazy.

(I still haven’t read the book, by the way, so I intend to make no claims about its content)

Of course, my tweet ended up with me being designated a racist because I was apparently trying to “speak over black people” about racism, which, of course, I did not intend to do. I immediately was met with a slew of quote tweets on my thread with some very choice words for me.

The fallout only grew worse when some members of the Twitter hive mind went to my profile and began stalking through my posts and reading all of my political tweets. This caused more harassment because I had been saying things about abortion. (This was all happening, conveniently, a couple days after Roe v. Wade was overturned)

I was harassed nonstop for several days in a row before I eventually made my account private. I’ll just insert some of the kind tweets people were sending to me:

And this is only a fraction of the tweets I was getting. I got dozens and dozens of quote tweets, subtweets and replies along these lines for several days.

The vitriolic messages didn’t upset me in any straightforward emotional way; they were mostly generic ad-hominem attacks of the Twitter variety, by and large just insulting me for being white and for being against abortion, neither of which are things I feel particular insecurity about. My race, I can’t change. My opinion on abortion, I can change, and will if I find a reason to, but as of now, it is my moral conviction, and people screaming at me for it doesn’t make me upset. (Actually, I have had some changes to my opinion recently, which I’m still thinking about, and I’m really really flexible in changing my beliefs when I hear better arguments or evidence)

So my feelings weren’t particularly hurt by the things people were saying, but the episode affected my mental health nevertheless. It was stressful to be the target of a Twitter mob, and I felt the need, due to my pride, to constantly respond to these people with comebacks. I felt very angry and on-edge, and I began spending literally every waking minute on Twitter looking to see who else was quote tweeting me and coming up with adequate retorts. For some reason, I felt like it would actually mean anything to these people if I responded back to them. (Most of them just got mad that I bothered to reply back and told me to leave them alone– despite the fact that they were the ones who came onto my page in the first place!)

I didn’t even want to make my account private, even though the harassment would stop– because I didn’t want to give anyone the satisfaction of thinking that they had chased me off the Internet, even as the drama was distracting me from all other aspects of life and causing me to become angry and restless. I lost sleep.

Post-Cancellation and My Continuing Twitter Addiction

After this brief episode, I still remained on Twitter for a couple more months. I had received several supportive DMs from people who agreed with me and were taken aback by the heat I was getting online. I had also actually gained a lot of followers who had found me through the blacklist some person put me on (yes, I finally made it onto someone’s list of people to unfollow RIGHT NOW)

Surprisingly, the episode had actually strengthened my addiction to Twitter. I continued to use the site every day, tweet all of my opinions, retweet every funny post I saw, and spent inordinate amounts of time just scrolling. Every morning, as I drank my coffee, I’d open up Twitter– first thing every morning.

I was completely addicted.

I liked the idea that people were interested in my opinions. I was always checking to see who would like my posts and how many followers I had. I was thrilled when Bari Weiss, one of my favorite journalists, retweeted one of my tweets about her podcast.

I found myself becoming more and more attached to Twitter. I spent a ton of time on it, and I cultivated my Twitter persona more than my actual persona. I found myself going onto Twitter to share whenever an interesting thought went into my head, because I wanted to tell people about it. I tweeted several times a day, every single day, during June, July, and half of August.

Making the Decision to Delete Twitter

I knew that rationally, my usage of Twitter wasn’t particularly healthy or good for me– but I still didn’t want to stop. It was fun, and shallowly fulfilling to share my most random thoughts with the world at any time and gamble with the potential of virality and interesting feedback.

Even after I had my epiphany about social media and deleted Instagram, I procrastinated the move to delete Twitter. I continued to tell myself that, unlike Instagram, I was using the app “productively”– to have good conversations, and express myself.

Finally, I admitted that the relationship I had with Twitter was unequivocally unhealthy and was constantly putting me into a negative headspace. It was also taking up all of my time and shortening my attention span. And ultimately, it wasn’t actually all that valuable.

The cost-reward ratio of Twitter wasn’t worth it. I realized that I was tired of spending my time this way, getting into petty arguments that didn’t matter, and tweeting out every thought it my brain for the judgement of anyone who came across my profile. I knew that my time would be better spent elsewhere, and that it was taking away from the merit of forming opinions to have to say them to everyone on Twitter at all times before even thinking them through. And it certainly wasn’t worth the toxic environment of Book Twitter.

My Life Post-Twitter

After I hit the “permanently delete” button on my account, I felt some regret, but also a smidge of relief. At first, I did feel a bit lost without Twitter. I’d have thoughts pop into my head that instinctively I wanted to tweet, and then remember I no longer had the app.

But as the weeks passed, I felt more and more confident that I’d made the right decision. I felt more relaxed, I had more time, and I was no longer “terminally online.”

There were some drawbacks, however; I lost touch with some people I’d met over Twitter, and I was less in-the-loop about politics and world events. However, I downloaded some traditional news apps to keep myself informed, and set to work rebuilding my attention span.

(If you want to read more about why I’ve pivoted to an anti-social-media stance, read my post about Instagram.)

Are you on Twitter? Why or why not? Feel free to leave a comment below!

Find me elsewhere:

3 comments on “Why I Left Book Twitter: Cyberbullying, Cancel Culture, and Internet Addiction”

  1. People just love labeling others and not actually engaging them in a real conversation. Sucks what happened to you. I stopped going on Twitter because of how sensational it is. People just like playing the victim card, and playing the victim card on behalf of others. You’ll likely never have a real conversation with someone like you would have a twitter conversation. We couldn’t function as a society if that was the case.

    Anyways good article.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m sorry this happened to you – twitter seems to be particularly bad for this type of phenomenon. I’m not part of book twitter, but I’m on twitter through other fandoms and I’ve seen similar things happening there.

    It often feels like there is one correct opinion to have on twitter and if you disagree or offer an alternative opinion, people will jump on you. There’s no nuance, no discussion or debate, no agree-to-disagree.

    I haven’t left twitter, but I’ve definitely taken a step-back from it and I’m careful with who I follow and what appears on my dashboard. I feel much happier for it and I’m glad you’re happy with your choice too.

    Like

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