The double edged sword that is social media–particularly in the bookish sphere–has been wielded, honed, sharpened and swung for years now. That social media is a complex beast isn’t new. But, in light of seeing boundaries broken once again, I wanted to dive into this here; take a moment to break it down and open up the chance for discussions.
I come to this discussion a a very privileged white writer who is involved in bookish social media as a blogger and hopefully-one-day-published author. I’m focusing mostly on Twitter, since that’s the main platform I use, though it wouldn’t surprise me if the problems I’ve witnessed here extend to other social media platforms. I recognize that this privilege protects me in many ways from what BIPOC authors experience and are at risk to.
What Sparked This Discussion
Most recently, an individual on Twitter attacked Tasha Suri when she discussed villains and how she doesn’t like to write misogynistic villains, so any villain romance must be a perfect knife edge balancing act. This random person on twitter responded by quote tweeting and labeling her books “boring as fuck”.
This is an asshole move, plain and simple. Readers are allowed to believe whatever they want about books, obviously. Reading is subjective. As a huge fan of Tasha’s work, I definitely disagree with this reader’s claim. But, even if I agreed with their assessment, I certainly disagree with their conduct.
It should be obvious on why this is wrong. Because:
- Authors are humans, with feelings, emotions and complexity. They deserve to exist and use an online space without fearing harassment or being randomly attacked.
- Telling an author you absolutely hated their book is poor taste, poor manners and just shit character on your part. There are spaces (review sites, your own personal blog, etc.) for you to write about those emotions that the author can avoid. Coming at them in their own space takes away any choice from the author to protect themselves or set boundaries.
- Just because the author is accessible through social media–and you are able to put distance between yourselves using screens–doesn’t mean that you can suddenly do fuck all.
Yet that’s what happens, isn’t it? The false protections of hiding behind a screen has taken away any respect, any filters or semblance of boundaries that should absolutely still exist.
Authorial Expectations on Social Media
Authors are expected to be present on social media. Many authors have the responsibility and pressure of marketing their own books placed on their shoulders. All too often, the failure of a book’s success is placed on the author by publishing, when publishing itself refuses to give adequate marketing support.
This becomes even more crucial and unfair when the author is female, queer, a debut or an BIPOC author, as publishing automatically values these authors less and gives them less support as a result (yet puts even more expectations upon them than they do their white male authors to perform).
And that’s the double edged sword. Authors are expected to be on social media, to promote, to be accessible, to create a persona that connects with readers and markets their books. Yet that publicity invites opportunities for being attacked, whether it’s in the form of random call outs or 1-star review bombardments or being forced to out yourself to fit publishing labels and demands. Authors are expected to be present, to have a say in every debate and discourse, yet the minute they mess up, it’s out to the wolves–nuance? Never heard of her. Even if they are just living their lives online and sharing something they wanted to, like Tasha Suri, it’s always an option to be attacked, without the attacker ever considering respect, boundaries or nuance.
This, obviously, is a problem.
Where Do We Go From Here?
I wish I had the answer; the magical if we just do this, then social media can be a safe space for all catch-all, but of course I don’t. It’s honestly disheartening, seeing a space that allows us to speak with our favorite authors (!!) turned into a place that is so hard for them to set boundaries–let alone have those respected–and put their safety, mental health and identities on the line for sales; to be treated like machines or unfeeling robots when they are people.
I honestly don’t know where to go from here. I know that where social media is right now is not okay.
Further Reading and Resources
I wanted to provide a few resources on further reading about social media and how it affects authors, in particular, to offer other perspectives:
- Sam Hawke’s Twitter Thread in response to the attack on Tasha Suri
- Rin Chupeco’s Twitter Thread on callouts and nuance
- Kacen Callender’s blog post on social media and mental health
- Kate @ Your Tita Kate’s post on bookish social media and the erosion of boundaries
- Megan Jayne Crabbe’s blog post on the wider affect of social media (not tailored to bookish social media, but just as apt)
Also, I recognize this piece focused on what authors go through (and is written by an outsider involved in publishing, but not in these shoes, yet). I recognize that these experiences aren’t reserved for authors alone. Book bloggers have been attacked by authors. Readers have had boundaries broken. Hell, to have a social media account with any sort of substantial following built up is to invite yourself up for attack. I recognize that this isn’t a bubble experience. However, I wanted to focus specifically today on the double standards publishing places on authors with their (oftentimes) forced relationship with social media and how that’s problematic.
Also also, I completely recognize that there are times where things need to be called out. Problematic authors and content should absolutely be called out and stopped. That goes without saying.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, friends! In particular, I’d love to hear your thoughts on what we can do to make social media a safer platform for all. Thanks for reading such a lengthy discussion! And please remember to support everyone whom I linked and mentioned above. They put themselves out there to talk about these things.
Finally, you can buy Tasha’s books here.