A few weeks ago, I woke up and everyone hated me. Well, hate may be a strong word, and everyone may be a bit of an exaggeration, but there certainly were a lot of people who were extremely upset with me.
Now, before I get too carried away, if you are hoping for a cringey, drama inducing, screenshot-worthy post, I don’t think this is the blog you are looking for. This post (as the #AuthorToolbox name suggests) is to share my perspective on a lesson well learned, and to hopefully help impart some wisdom on others in the process.
Here’s what happened.
On Tuesday, July 3rd, I woke up like I do any morning. Rough. In between getting my life together and dragging myself to the coffee machine, I opened my Twitter to follow up with new notifications. (For those of you who don’t know, I am the host of a monthly Twitter game called #AuthorConfessions, which I run with my cohost, Jessica Julien. Between our game followers, loyal players, and other Twitter friends, I usually have a decent amount of notifications, but this morning, my phone was LIT.
And the notifications were MAD.
Confused, my half-asleep brain quickly began waking up and shifting straight into panic mode. What happened? Did I miss something? Why are all of these people so ANGRY at me?
Panicked, I start scrolling through the mass amount of notifications and see tweet after tweet of people who I’ve never interacted with before who are shockingly and EMPHATICALLY angry. At me, my cohost, and for some reason, #AuthorConfession.
Now, normally I’m a very sparkly person and am all about positivity and building the author community so this sudden backlash hurt. A LOT. For lots of different reasons.
Head spinning, I messaged my cohost, who had been dealing with the situation the whole time that I was sleeping. (Here’s another fun fact: I currently live in Abu Dhabi, which means I’m on the opposite side of the world to practically EVERYONE and time zones are actually the worst). She told me a little bit of what happened and along with the tweets I’d read and some quick sleuthing, this is what I learned.
That morning (which was sleepy-time for me!), Jess tweeted another author in response to a tweet she posted using the #AuthorConfession hashtag to tell her that we use the tag for the game to help us follow the responses of our players. The author responded nicely, but it was obvious that she was upset. Several other authors saw the tweet and also became upset and clearly voiced that they felt it was inappropriate. Not only that, but that tweet launched a full on investigation on our game and we even had people claiming we were trying to trademark the hashtag itself (which wasn’t true, but still, just trust me-when you wake up to comparisons of #byefaleena, you know you’ve screwed up)!
Honestly, it was a nightmare. Reading the tweets, I knew I had more backstory than most; it is our game after all, Jess and I spend hours creating questions, graphics, and interacting with our players, no to mention the countless other things that come with hosting a Twitter game. And, I knew where Jessica’s tweet came from. #AuthorConfession is a popular game, and we’ve had to deal with spamming, content theft, and frustrated players. I also know Jess. I know she wasn’t trying to attack anyone. I know she was 37 weeks pregnant, super stressed with baby health issues, and a few other personal issues that the internet does not know about (and quite frankly, doesn’t need to). I know that my beautiful partner was only trying to take care of our game and players, just like she would her brand new baby boy, and unfortunately, like most new moms, she made a mistake and said something in a way she shouldn’t have.
But that was all information that I had and the Twitter community did not. All they saw was a tweet that was, admittedly, poorly worded and jumped on it and things escalated (and boy, did they escalate quickly!).
Now, to be fair (since I’ve given you a bit of my perspective), I can ALSO understand why people reacted strongly. By this point, you have to be living under a rock if you haven’t heard of the Cocky trademark that’s rocked the romance writing word (and honestly, it DOES have some pretty scary implications for writers everywhere, so if you haven’t checked it out, it’s definitely worth a look).
(Very) Long story short, this romance writer filed a trademark for the word ‘cocky’ based off of the series title of her books. The trademark was granted and the author proceeded to send cease and desist letters to other authors with the words ‘cocky’ in their book titles, threatening legal action if they didn’t change their titles. (It has been a huge ordeal, and there’s SO MUCH more to this, but I will leave it for you to explore).
Needless to say, this author has opened a disastrous can of worms that has torn a rift in the writing world. After all, if someone can (and then proceeds to try to) stop other people using WORDS what does that mean for writers?
People are angry. And justifiably so. And in the middle of ALLLLLLL of this, we have a very badly worded tweet sent into the void.
The spark erupts.
Twitter catches fire.
We. Get. Burned.
(Now, I’m sure you’re wondering how this is getting from point A to point B, but the happy ending is coming–I PROMISE.)
So, I’m sitting there, about ten minutes into waking up in the middle of an ACTUAL disaster, mostly awake at this point, full-on nauseous, and feeling one wrong breath away from bursting into tears, and I do the only thing I can think to do.
Even though it wasn’t my tweet.
Even though I didn’t trademark a hashtag.
Even though there were lots of things that people were saying that just weren’t true, I apologized.
And here’s why.
I was wrong.
It was our game that sent out those tweets. The tweets were NOT a good representation of our game or of us. And ultimately, our actions hurt people.
It doesn’t mater that we had the BEST intentions and that we never meant for any of that to happen. It did, and people were hurt because of it. And for that, we needed (and wanted to apologize).
I spent the next few minutes carefully responding to the posted thread demanding answers. I explained what happened, why it happened, and why I was sorry that it happened. I addressed all of the points that were brought up in the tweet as honestly and clearly as I could (which is tricky when each tweet only gives you 140 characters and you’re not very good at threads).
Then I waited.
And then, something changed. Some of the people who were SO INCREDIBLY angry saw the apology and were not nearly so angry. They were actually quite surprised. And rather lovely.
In fact, the turning point came when Dakota Cassidy (@DakotaCassidy, who is now one of my Twitter friends and gave me permission to include her in this post), one of the most vocal people towards our tweet, quoted my apology and commended it. After Dakota, several others noted the apology and the massive influx of angry tweets began to slow down. We still had lots of other people who were upset, and more angry tweets came in, but we also had people who were defending us (Not to mention our loyal Confessioners who had our backs the whole time–you know who you are, and I love you so much for it).
After that, it still took things a while to settle down, but it calmed. It didn’t erase; there are probably still some people who don’t like us, and if you REALLLLLY want, you can still find angry tweets directed toward Jess and I (internet immortality is no joke), but overall, the situation resolved.
And I’m glad.
For obvious reasons, but also for a few maybe not so obvious reasons (and here’s where that happy ending I promised you comes).
So, WHAT exactly have I spent thousands of words saying?
Be nice. The Twitter writing world is an AMAZING place to be, full of passionate, talented people. You can find your place inside by being kind and building people up.
And, if for some reason, you do screw up, apologize. Own up to your mistakes and make a sincere, honest effort to make aments. You may not get forgiveness from everyone, but you will get it from the people who matter. And you will know that you’ve done the right thing.
And really, that’s what matters most.