Sunday, July 6, 2014

Why Stephen King is bad at Twitter

Stephen King needs no introduction. He is, beyond debate, one of the most successful novelists of all time.

But King is lousy at Twitter. He has been lambasted for inadvertently revealing spoilers about films, and making other faux pas:


"King’s Twitter account has got him in trouble aside from spoilers: he dismissed Dylan Farrow's sexual abuse allegations about Woody Allen as "palpable bitchery". He apologised at length on his website, but put the precis version on Twitter: “Still learning my way around this thing [Twitter]. Mercy, please.”  
It is true that, even in internet time, King is still a Twitter infant. So a single tip, Stephen: follow a few more people – although you follow a group of erudite Twitter pros, Neil Gaiman and Margaret Atwood among them, they number 19 in total. You’ll learn more by multiplying that by 10. In the meantime, try to keep the spoilers down, as one of your own followers pointed out: how would you have felt if someone had tweeted the ending to a Stephen King novel?"

A few observations:

1.) Not every novelist should try to be an Internet celebrity. The skills involved in blogging, tweeting, and YouTube vlogging are very different from the skills used in writing long-form fiction. 

Novelists can spend months, even years, planning stories. Social media requires one to write frequently with minimal preparation. (Blogging, tweeting, and vlogging also take a lot of time, if you're going to do these with any consistency.)

King, moreover, really has no need to jump into social media in a big way. He already has name recognition, publishing contacts, and an established audience. 

2.) Writers who blab their political/religious/philosophical viewpoints online take risks. Some are unprepared for the backlash. And (trust me on this) if you opine online, sooner or later, someone is going to come after you. Twitter, Facebook, comments threads and YouTube give everyone an easily accessible microphone.

There is some debate out there on the question of whether or not writers should "be political" in an overt way. 

Of course, a writer's politics always inform his or her fiction. But in most works of fiction,  politics are subterranean currents, allowing the writer room for ambiguity, or even plausible denial. When a writer starts blogging/tweeting etc., this wiggle room disappears. 

Stephen King has so much money that it probably doesn't matter what he does at this point. However, given the (leftwing) partisan nature of his views, he would probably do well to keep quiet--assuming that his goal is to increase book sales even further. 

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