It's Twitter time! Sometimes comics creators collide and align independently in coincidental ways, X-Men and Doom Patrol, Swamp Thing and Man-Thing, Dennis The Menace, and… Dennis The Menace. This week saw James Tynion IV, Mark Millar, and Gerry Duggan newsletters address Twitter and beyond. Batman writer and Substack exodus leader James Tynion IV writes about his anxiety;
"For years, I stopped feeling present in my day to day interactions. Social Media made that feeling a thousand times worse, with the artificial responsibility to be on top of whatever the day's conversation was, and as I grew in stature in the industry and my follower count rose, there were literally hundreds of tweets a day specifically demanding my attention or investment on top of the abstract demands of the platform. Every day was trying to carve a path through a constant roar, and trying desperately to find time that I could reach the kind of deep focus I require to write, and panicking when I couldn't find it. I would rely on all-nighters as the one time a day where the roar died down and I could just slip into work without anyone or anything demanding my attention, and the cost to my body and my mental health would add up. About three years ago, I took a family vacation to Jamaica. It was the classic story, I had tried to work ahead so I wouldn't have any comics work to do on the trip, but I ended up having about three scripts to write while I was down there. I was determined not to work the entire time, but heading into the trip I was terrified that I would never get to relax and let my mind relax which is what it needed more than anything else. My partner Sam saved me from myself and lured me out to the water on the first day before I was going to sit down and write. Something happened out in the water. There was something about floating out in the rocking waves under the hot sun where the anxiety in my mind kind of just lost steam. My mind cleared, and I was just sort of thinking out there. It was impossible to check my phone or my computer, so I let the thought of checking both of them go. I felt actually present, and my mind cleared. When I sat down in front of my computer later that day, I did so deliberately without coming at it all from a well of anxiety. I finished my work for the trip in the first two days I was there, and spent the rest of my time letting my mind go blank out in the water. About two weeks after that trip, I wrote the first script for SOMETHING IS KILLING THE CHILDREN."
So he is now looking at something new. And not just coming off Twitter, though it is that too.
"I have this one idea that sounds so appealing and so terrifying that I don't know if I'll ever go through with it… But there's a big part of me that wants to start leaving my smartphone at the office when I go home at night. Maybe I'll get a lo-fi, un-smart phone for emergencies that I'll keep on hand. Something only my loved ones and closest friends will have the number to. I would very much like to start reclassifying my smart phone as a tool with a specific purpose, rather than a strange kind of extension of myself. I want to be conscious of what I want to do with it every time I pick it up, and when I'm done with that task I want to put it down. I think the more reasonable first step in this separation is to start leaving my smart phone in the office when I go to lunch. I do have a feeling a few decades from now we'll look back at the ubiquity of smart phones and the "necessity" of always being connected to the hive mind of the internet the same way we look at the thick fog of smoke in every workspace and restaurant in movies from the mid-late 20th Century."
While Millarworld's Mark Millar has talked about coming off Twitter on his newsletter.
It wasn't the endless retweeting of the exact same thoughts on the exact same things, people I know personally who never finished high school lecturing us daily on the intricacies of epidemiology, government trade policy or the war in Afghanistan. It wasn't even the fact that a senior marketing executive at a parent company for one of the big two comic-book publishers told me that only FIVE PERCENT of readers have an active Twitter account and since everyone follows so many people literally every tweet they do has almost zero penetration (though that's interesting).
I left Twitter because of Roblox. Or rather I made the decision when I was telling my 7 year old off because she was playing it too much and I realised I was standing holding my wife's phone (I don't own one) and looking at a comic-book creator randomly and angrily swearing at no-one in particular that they should wear a mask and a hashtag calling for the firing of a lady who reads the news on British TV for something I can't even remember. I actually paused and wondered what the Hell I was doing. I was living in The Matrix, getting angry or delighted by nothing in particular while dead-eyed Jack Dorsey sits back in his giant electric egg and feeds on our passions like they're M&Ms.
Basically, I realised that I was completely wasting my time as much as my seven year old was as she built a house in Brook Haven, but as a man I should know better. So I logged off, handed the account over to our brilliant marketing team in LA (who run our Facebook and Instagram pages) and stepped back into the real world.
Whether coming off Twitter in favour of newsletters or switching off entirely, there does seem to be a new move in this direction. A number of creators taking the Substack shilling have stated as much, but so have those still on the free model, X-Men writer Gerry Duggan writes on his Substack;
The most disheartening thing that hits me while doom scrolling is the way we're abusing our medical professionals. America hasn't met a precious resource it hasn't been horny to deplete. How can these tired souls be blamed for walking away from the job later? Look at what we made them give. If you have not been vaccinated for COVID-19, please go get the shot and mask-up. My purpose in writing this instead of the comic I was supposed to is not to preach to any choir. If even one person says "F-ck it, I'll get the shot" then writing this will have been worth it. I spoke to our local pharmacist this week, and he said he thought they were doing about fifty first-time vaccinations a day right now. That's more than I would have guessed and it gave me hope. Some of the people taking the shot are hiding what they're from their family. That's how sick the country was before the virus. Now we have two plagues to deal with. Misinformation isn't novel, but COVID-19 is. The latter has effective vaccines, the former can only be combatted by quality, true information. We need to break up the social media companies and hold them accountable as publishers of disinformation before it's too late. Meme warfare put us on our knees, our brains are not prepared for the computer-generated deep fakes. Truth is in mortal danger. I haven't had a presence on Facebook for years, and will only be using Twitter as a megaphone for Substack. I cannot in good conscience publish on those places anymore knowing what they have done, and what they refuse to do. If you liked this, maybe share it with someone that has been taught to be afraid of the wrong things.
Will Mark and Gerry join James in dropping their mobile phones as well?