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.







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?


23 responses to “Whedon’s Wisdom”

  1. Elisa Beatty says:

    Wow….that’s fascinating.

    I confess to being on Tumblr, and when Whedon dropped out of Twitter, there was indeed mad speculation about it.

    I love the idea of a “quiet place.” Maybe I need to find more of it for myself, too.

    • Tamara Hogan says:

      Elisa, as soon as I read what Joss said about “the quiet place,” something inside me went *click*. I blogged maybe three years ago about how I occasionally take a digital detox, just closing the door on my office and backing away from the computers for a weekend, but then I went and bought a Kindle with wireless access, and voila! Twitter is available everywhere the tablet is! And it’s always close at hand.

      I find myself reaching for the tablet unthinkingly, autonomically, scrolling, scrolling… Looking for what? It doesn’t matter; like Joss says in his interview, “If it’s there, I gotta check it.”

      His words struck a little too close to home for me, so I’m doing a boundary check, especially since so much of what I see on Twitter makes me, someone who hasn’t released a book in nearly two years, feel REALLY inadequate.

  2. I have to say, it’s kind of nice to hear that Joss Whedon is human. His ability to create stories and character seem so amazing, you know? Nice to know we all need a quiet place sometimes.

    I’m on Twitter, but the little snippets of seemingly random conversation drive me bonkers, so I don’t spend a lot of time there. I do, however, get sucked into Facebook. I’m usually good at staying away until I get an email that someone’s shared or commented or invited. Then I find myself responding and suddenly, twenty minutes have gone by. Major time suck. I’m trying to be better at that.

    As for quiet places… I don’t have much of that in my daily life anyway, but I’ve worked to tune out distractions as much as possible, or find ways to get back into the story as quickly as possible when the distractions hit. A constant challenge, though!

    • Tamara Hogan says:

      Anne Marie, unlike you – unlike any parent – the scales are distinctly tipped toward “quiet” in my real-world, day-to-day life. I telecommute for my job, I live in a rural area, I don’t have kids…I’ve crafted my life so I get the silence and solitude I require. But what that means is that I primarily engage with the outside world digitally, and there comes a point where I feel like I’m drowning in bits and bytes. So I’m trying to find a balance, find my personal “Goldilocks Zone.” I feel a little off-kilter right now, and I’m trying to figure out how to right the ship. 😉

  3. jbrayweber says:

    I cannot tell you how many times I have considered deleting my Twitter account. I really do not like Twitter. I don’t watch my stream and frankly most of it is other authors or industry hawking their wares/services. So I’m not even reaching the people I need to reach, anyway. Also, if someone responds to one of my tweets, I’m probably not going to see it until it hits my email inbox. So what is the purpose? With this post, I may just cancel my account, too.

    I’m a Facebook, gal. I love it. But it is a complete time suck. I get lost there, losing so much time better spent writing. However, it also acts as a mindless de-stressor, for me. What to do, what to do?

    The problem here is that we are to be active and engage in whatever social media platform we prefer in order to be viable to the public. *sigh* It’s a double-edged sword.

    Great post, Tamara!


    • Tamara Hogan says:

      Jenn, I loathe seeing all the author promo on Twitter, too – and then I beat myself up for being such a hypocrite, because with ENTHRALL ME releasing this fall, I’ll be adding to it. ;-( Yes, there comes a point where you see SO MUCH PROMO that it becomes really easy to ignore. It just turns into just more hissing static.

      Scroll, scroll…

      Speaking of hypocrisy (!), I reluctantly created an author page on Facebook a couple of years ago, but I rarely use it, and it shows. That’s the account I’d delete, if any, because I find so many of Facebook’s business and development practices repugnant.

      One reason I DO like Twitter is that if there’s breaking news, it breaks there first – and sometimes it breaks in a way that contradicts the prevailing media narrative. If I didn’t feel I had to promote my novels there, I’d still use it in my personal life. But as you say, it’s definitely a timesuck, and sometimes the Haterade is overwhelming.

  4. Amanda Brice says:

    “Like taking the bar exam at Coachella.”

    HILARIOUS! And this just solidifies why I’ve never jumped into the Twitterverse. Like I need another distraction.

    • Tamara Hogan says:

      Amanda, at the time this happened, I had just returned from a week in Silicon Valley, where I took some certification exams for my technology job. While I have never taken the bar exam, I tried to imagine taking these exams in the middle of Coachella and laughed my ass off. 😉 Nuh-uh.

  5. I’m pretty offline, but Facebook gets my attention a few times a day. And I hate it, because I know what it’s doing. I’m fully conscious of why I like it, why I go there: I get to feel like I am close to people to whom I rarely actually speak.

    It’s an illusion of intimacy, and it’s the reason why so many of us feel so “connected” and yet so alone.

    I wish people would just call one another and talk, and get together to share their lives. Whatever happened to “come over and look at my vacation pictures”? You can’t do that if you already posted them on Facebook. Or watching silly family videos together, in a big group, in person? Nope — everyone already saw it on YouTube. What about having a conversation with your friends in real life with voices and inflections and audible laughter instead of LOLs? What about not having to guess at how someone is feeling based on their emoticon choice or whatever status they choose to put up on Facebook?

    We don’t talk anymore because we have nothing to talk about.

    We’ve already shared it with everyone, right? We’ve already commented and consoled and contributed online. But that isn’t enough. It doesn’t fulfill. That’s why we keep scrolling, hoping for some personal, intimate, important connection that will lift our spirits and make us feel like we aren’t so alone.

    How often do we get that from social media? My answer: only from my writers’ loops. That’s it. That’s where I make online connections with real, honest, intimate conversations.

    So, I’m off to solidify a date for that girls’ night my friends and I have been trying to plan, AND get a sitter for tomorrow so that I can go to my chapter meeting while my husband goes to soccer (his only social outlet).

    • Tamara Hogan says:

      “An illusion of intimacy.” Yep, I think you nailed it, Jamie. I can see where social media can be handy when we’re dealing with, say, a geographic separation, but when the separation isn’t geographic? When digital media becomes the only way we connect? Pretty thin gruel.

      Have fun with your girlfriends! I have a long-standing, once a month breakfast date with a group of women who lived in the same college dorm as me. It’s been thirty years since we graduated, but we’re still meeting the third Saturday of every month at Perkins. 😉

  6. Rita Henuber says:

    I grew very tired of the buy my book stuff on twitter. I am still there but…. I also unfriended people on FB who do nothing but promo spam. Don’t miss any of it.

    • Tamara Hogan says:

      Rita, in some people’s minds, I’m probably a very bad Tweeter. Before following someone, or following them back, I look at their feed. If it’s mainly promo, or RTing other people’s promo, I don’t follow. Life’s too dang short.

  7. June Love says:

    I love this post for so many reasons! Thank you, Tammy, for posting it.

    I have a Twitter account, but I can’t tell you the last time I looked at it or even tweeted something. I have two FB accounts, one personal and one as an author. I enjoy my personal page because it truly is personal made up mostly of friends and family. However, if truth be known, I almost wish FB didn’t exist. Sometimes less is better, you know? Especially when there is a differing of social or political opinion. It’s easier to act ugly in print than face-to-face. Yeah, those are the people I either unfriend or hide their posts. I’d be okay if I never went to FB, but I also realize that some people (my sister-in-law for one) use it as their main source of communication. I just hope we don’t miss our niece’s wedding because I wasn’t on FB. 🙂

    • Tamara Hogan says:

      As a massive, and massively content, introvert, I don’t have personal social media accounts, just my author accounts. I also hate talking on the phone. People in my life know that email and texting are my preferred ways of contact, and that I love getting together for meals and happy hour to catch some one-on-one time.

      But people can be ugly, can’t they? I have so many friends who say that they never realized how bigoted/prejudiced/sexist such and such a friend or family member was before Facebook, and that they aren’t happier for the knowledge. There are definitely subjects on social media that I don’t touch. Feminism, same-sex marriage, and LGBTQ rights? A great book? I’m vocal and open with my support. But religion? The death penalty? Gamergate? Partisan politics? A book I didn’t like so much? Nope. That way lies madness, negativity, trolls and drama. Again, life’s too short.

  8. Addison Fox says:

    Oh I love this post!!!

    There is so much awesome stuff in here, but what spoke to me is that it’s really about finding the balance that’s right for each person. For some that’s shutting it out entirely and for some it’s leaving it for periods at a time to do the detox you mentioned.

    AWESOME post, Tamara!!!

    • Tamara Hogan says:

      Thanks, Addison! For my part, I’m trying to be more mindful about my social media use, and not just blindly reach for Twitter during, say, TV commercials. Maybe I’ll put a notebook next to the Kindle, and sometimes reach for that instead. 😉

  9. Vivi Andrews says:

    This is such a fascinating topic, Tammy. I’m sorry I’m late to the party – but do I get a free pass because I was offline yesterday? I’ve been at a writing retreat and trying to stay away from the internet as much as possible in order to get myself into a good creative headspace. I often find I need a “change of venue” when I get too sucked into internet and I’ll take my laptop somewhere without internet so I can focus on the words. But then I feel guilty for not promoting, not engaging readers, not doing everything I can to make sure my career is successful. I’m not a salesman. I’ve never wanted to be one. I just want to write books. And I think the books will be far better if I can take more blocks of time to step away.

    Side note: I feel like that’s part of why I needed to leave New York. “Quite places” are so hard for me to find there.

    Great post. Thank you.

  10. elise hayes says:

    I saw this post when it came out, but didn’t have time to fully read it. I love Joss Whedon though, so I was hooked and came back (late, but I’m here!).

    Whedon’s point about needing to find that “quiet” place really resonated with me, Tammy (as it did for you). There are so many things that can distract us from our writing…becoming aware of those things, and being willing to do without them (at least for a while) is really important.


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