Twitter

Dear Internet,

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I quit Twitter and it was a big story.  But (with the exception of the first story, on Comics Beat) I did not read any of the coverage until yesterday.  It was Halloween, so I was looking for scares.  Wow.  That was interesting.  I want to take a minute here to correct some inaccuracies I saw reported again and again.

The ASK ME ABOUT MY FEMINIST AGENDA cover was not an alternate cover.  It was the primary cover.

Issue 8 did not come out last Wednesday.  It came out the week before.

I had not just posted the cover image.  That image has been floating around for months.  

I had not just announced that Mockingbird had been cancelled.  That’s been public knowledge for awhile.  

I did not get blowback for asking people to buy the comic to send a message to Marvel to make more comics books with women super heroes.  That tweet was over a week old, and met with a lot of support, at least to my knowledge. 

One of the remarkable things about reading the coverage was seeing how it twisted the information in the Comics Beat story, which - despite a hysterical headline - was fairly accurate.  I guess this is what happens when stories get reported without talking to anyone involved and rely on other stories for facts.  

Here are the facts, from my perspective.

I quit Twitter.  I deactivated my account Thursday, after receiving several misogynist and/or jerky comments the night before.  SEVERAL.  Not dozens.  Not a deluge.  One is too many.  I was tired of wasting energy dealing with the constant low-level misogyny and meanness that pollutes a certain kind of comic fandom. I posted some comments reflecting my frustration.  The next morning, when I logged on to deactivate, I saw that I had lost approx 1500 followers overnight.  I also saw that my notifications were filling up with new followers.  I saw that comments were flooding my feed.  I had no idea what was happening.  I had never seen that kind of activity on my account.  But I figured it wasn’t good.  I went through with the deactivation. I assumed I had been trolled in some kind of organized sense, but I didn’t know.  (Still don’t.)  Frankly, I didn’t care.  It was moot.  I was done.    

I felt…relieved.  Like I had backed out of a burning house. 

Then I started getting texts and emails from people expressing sympathy and outrage.  “Are you okay?” they all wanted to know.  “What’s happening on Twitter?”

“I’m fine,” I kept saying, baffled.  

I figured by the way the story was blowing up and by the DefCon 5 outrage that there was some really horrible stuff happening on Twitter, and that I was somehow at the center of it.  But as I said in my previous post about this, I didn’t see any of this.  I was gone.  

It is a strange thing to become a hashtag.  The #StandWithChelseaCain movement (or whatever) had nothing to do with me.  I couldn't see any of those missives of support.  I’m not on Twitter.  I was incredulous at how widespread it apparently was and how everyone in my entire life seemed to know about it.  I think it’s an important statement if it means “Let’s Be Less Jerky on Twitter and Stop Normalizing Sexist Blather.”  

Yesterday as I was sitting here still reeling from the bizarre coverage I had just read with its made-up facts, pictures culled from my Instagram account, and comment sections filled with New People Who Hate Me, I saw someone post a question on my Facebook feed. (I’m paraphrasing.) 

“Is the whole Chelsea Cain thing really about the feminist tee-shirt on the cover?” 

I wanted to respond.  But I didn’t know the answer.  What “whole Chelsea Cain thing” was he referring to?  Everyone I ever talked to loves that cover.  (Well, there was one guy who suggested it be changed to ASK ME ABOUT MY MISOGYNIST AGENDA.) But maybe people had lashed out against it once I had left Twitter?  See, I don’t know.  Then I saw that someone was typing a response.  I waited, hoping to gain some clarity. But the person who responded just referenced the coverage.  

I also saw, yesterday in the comments under a made-up story I read about myself, some people accusing me of making this whole thing up. 

ME?

HA!

I have not given a single interview about this.  I’m probably the worst person to ask about the “whole Chelsea Cain thing” because I’m so out of the loop.  

Clearly this story touched a cultural nerve.  It’s an important conversation to have.  But it also revealed, to me, how misinformation and hysteria can spread so swiftly and convincingly as the media chases after whatever is trending and tries to find something to say as click bait.  

I thought long and hard about posting this.  Because I really don’t want to feed this story any more oxygen.  But I also wanted some truth to be somewhere on the Internet.

140 characters, plus a few thousand more, on the Twitter hubbub

Uh, hi.  So some of you may have noticed that I recently deactivated my Twitter account.  (Apparently that’s a news story?)  I wanted to clarify what happened.  I write (wrote) an 8-issue comic series for Marvel, called MOCKINGBIRD.  During the life of that series, the tenor on my Twitter feed changed.  Comics readers are 99% the best people you’d ever want to meet.  The other 1% can be really mean.  Perhaps that statistic holds up across humans, in general, but in my experience, this is a different kind of mean.  It’s misogynist and dismissive and obsessive and it thrives off taking down other people.  I’ve blocked 8 people in my many years on Twitter; 7 were on Wednesday.  The first person I blocked, several months ago, had this to say:

“Thanks, @chelseacain for ruining my favorite character with your feminist crap.”

I engage with a lot of people on Twitter, even those with criticism.  But that tweet is not looking for a discussion.  It’s not brutal or sexually threatening.  It’s just a quick elbow to the gut.  

I got used to a certain level of take-down tweets after that.  Every time an issue came out.  I’d get lots of love and support.  And a handful of people who seem to thrive off making sure strangers feel hated. I guess it’s a way of being seen.  It’s not different than what most comic book writers deal with, especially female ones.  The tweets that bothered me were never the ones concerned with content; they were the ones that questioned my right to write comics at all, and were disgusted by the idea of a female hero having her own series. 

Wednesday, I had a bubble of these types of tweets.  Mockingbird had been cancelled, and they were really celebrating. Understand that this is not me looking for mentions.  These are tweets in my feed, people who tag me.  It is not trolling.  I was not being targeted.  It was just a lot of people being jerks, per usual, but in greater numbers.

My husband and our 11-year-old daughter were downstairs watching an episode of Buffy, and I was sitting up here in my home office, blocking some of these people, responding to some of them.  Strangers, yelling at me because I wrote a comic book that they didn’t like, and because I was a woman.  And I got a text from my 11-year-old daughter. “I love you,” she wrote.  

And I just thought, what am I doing?  Why am I up here engaging with mean strangers, who couldn’t care less about me, when the two people I love most in the world are downstairs?

I posted a comment about how I was done with Twitter.  And I went downstairs.

I exchanged a few more tweets with friends later Wednesday night.  

The next morning, yesterday, I woke up to find that my Twitter feed had exploded.  This was before a Comics Beat story ran later that morning, which REALLY got people interested.  Overnight, I had lost thousands of followers.  (I’d gone to bed with about 8500.)  I had gained a thousand new followers.  I had been tagged thousands of times.  Comments were coming in, fast and furious, every second.  I’d never seen anything like it.  I saw a few of them - a lot of support, a lot of people yelling at one another - a lot of people mad at me for being too quick on the block button or too critical of comic book readers or being too feminist.  A lot of them just seemed mad at women in general.    

I deactivated my account.  I got up.  I walked my dogs.  

I did not read the thousands of posts on my page, past the one page I could see without scrolling down.  So I do not know who sent them. Getting 5 or 6 tweets overnight is a big night for me.  Maybe 90% of those thousands of posts were from one person who sat up all night tweeting me over and over again.  Maybe it was bots.  I do not know why so many of my followers unfollowed me.  Maybe their feeds were being cluttered with all the posts.  Maybe they blocked me to protest the 8 people I’d blocked?  

I did know that it was no longer my Twitter account.  It had been hijacked.  These were no longer my Twitter friends.  

I think the larger cultural story is important.  People are trolled.  People are ruined.  And trolls get away with it, because they can take down anyone, if their ire is raised.  There is still a vocal segment of the comic book readership that is dominated by sexist jerks with Twitter accounts. Twitter is still a highly flawed platform that nurtures a culture of bullying.  

I loved Twitter.  I made friends.  I maintained friendships.  I was delighted when I got to exchange texts with my favorite podcaster or a TV actor or writer I love.  And I had a huge network of other comic book industry professionals who offered me daily support and invaluable advice.  I mentored teenagers and exchanged tweets with readers and tried to be funny sometimes.

But know that I did not leave Twitter because of rape threats or because someone had posted my address, or any of the truly vile tactics you hear about.  I left Twitter because of the ordinary daily abuse that I decided I didn’t want to live with anymore. The base level of casual crassness and sexism.  

Sure, by the time I deactivated my account on Thursday morning, the whole thing had imploded.  And I bet that some of the thousands of posts on my feed were really really vicious.  But I don’t know.  Because you know what?  I didn’t read them.  That’s the power we have, right?  If a stranger yells at you on the street?  You walk away. 

Let me be clear: I did not leave Twitter because I was trolled; I was trolled because I said I was going to leave Twitter.  

I left Twitter because, in the end, all the good stuff about Twitter didn’t make up for all the bad stuff. 

Thanks for reading.

c. 

 

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