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Whedon’s Wisdom

On May 4, 2015, the Monday following the wildly successful opening weekend of Avengers: Age of Ultron, writer/director/producer Joss Whedon deactivated his Twitter account.

JossTweet

 

 

 

 

 

And the Twitterverse went WILD, attributing his departure to everything from him receiving death threats, to militant feminists’ anger over his depiction of the Black Widow character in Avengers: Age Of Ultron. But several days later, Whedon gave an interview at Buzzfeed denying those reasons.

His real reason?    

“I just thought, Wait a minute, if I’m going to start writing again, I have to go to the quiet place. And this [Twitter] is the least quiet place I’ve ever been in my life. … It’s like taking the bar exam at Coachella.”

(Bolding mine.)

“The quiet place.” Remember that place? I do, quite fondly – but with every day that passes, it seems to regress farther back in my memory banks.

In our day-to-day lives, we are deluged by media, by digital media in particular. Between time spent writing, and then promoting via Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr, YouTube, Snapchat, blogs, blah blah blah and whatever the hell pops up next to infinity and beyond amen, the idea of a quiet brain, a quiet place, seems…almost quaint, doesn’t it?

Social media can be a wonderful way to create community, and for readers and writers to connect, but let’s be honest: it can also be tiring. Time-consuming. Guilt-inducing. Overwhelming.

It can also be addicting. Again, Joss Whedon:

“The real issue is me. Twitter is an addictive little thing, and if it’s there, I gotta check it. When you keep doing something after it stops giving you pleasure, that’s kind of rock bottom for an addict. … I just had a little moment of clarity where I’m like, You know what? If I want to get stuff done, I need to not constantly hit this thing for a news item or a joke or some praise, and then be suddenly sad when there’s hate and then hate and then hate.”

Will he ever come back? 

“I think the articles that I found [via Twitter], I can find elsewhere,” Whedon said. “I’ll miss some jokes. Maybe I’ll have to go out to a club to see jokes! I think that’s already an improvement in my life. … I need to go out, do the research, turn the page, see the thing, hear the music, live like a person. I’m not great at that. So, oddly enough, because I always feel like I’m the old man who doesn’t get the tech, right now I’m the man who thinks he could do better without it.”

Whedon clearly had the wisdom to realize he’d hit the wall, and he’s far from the only artist who’s made the decision to disconnect in order to preserve their creativity or their health. Neil Gaiman once took a six month social media break so he could better focus on his writing. Comedian Louis C.K. shut down his Twitter account because he kept regretting his tweets and found himself growing depressed. Actor Simon Pegg turned his social media accounts over to his official fan club because he simply didn’t enjoy digital engagement any longer. Comedian and actor Stephen Fry left Instagram, and briefly left Twitter, saying he felt “hounded” and “unsafe.” Feeling hounded and unsafe is, regrettably, a rather common occurrence for many high-profile women on social media these days – women whose only ‘crime’ is daring to state an opinion in public. 

It can be really rough out there.  

Where’s the happy medium? Where’s the personal “Goldilocks Zone” of not too much social media, and not too little, but just right?  How can we create healthy boundaries, preserving sanity, safety and self, in this era where creativity and commerce often intersect? Where direct contact with readers (and other writers) is not only desirable, but pretty much a job requirement?

Whether you’re a reader or a writer, I’d love to hear your thoughts about the pros and cons, the ups and downs, and the expectations and pleasures, of using social media. Do you have any tips or techniques for finding your quiet place in this noisy digital age?

-tammy

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