Bad Kidneys and Other NFTs: Avoiding the Dark Side of Twitter – A DisConIII Panel

In December 2021, I had the opportunity to attend DisConIII. Here are my other DisCon posts.

The panelists for the titular panel were: Marianne Kirby as moderator, L.D. Lewis, Malka Older, Arley Sorg, Christine Sandquist, and… Okay, this is a little weird, but I actually took a handful of notes WHILE I was on this panel. Here are my first self-referential notes.

The panel description was as follows: The perils of being on the internet have a tendency to create an infinite number of awful rabbit holes to fall into. Our panelists will discuss ways to avoid becoming Twitter’s main character, tools to steer clear from bad takes, and general ideas on good literary citizenship. All in the face of problematic favs and infinite bad actors in addition to the rest of the world’s ills.

What Makes A Good Literary Citizen of the Internet?

  • Be inclusive
  • Be supportive
  • Do your research
  • If you are not — uplift marginalized voices, don’t talk over them
  • Identify your priviledges and use them for good
  • Listen more, opine less
  • Build up voices
  • Strengthen communities — some think they’re helping by tearing others down

What Are Bad Kidneys and NFTs?

Both are examples of viral Literary Twitter stories.

“Bad Kidneys” is a reference to the “Bad Art Friend” in which an MFA graduate donated a kidney as part of a chain, and found out that a distant friend had published a story, “The Kindest” based on it, even quoting her Facebook message about it. The event ended with a lawsuit, and the short story legally being restricted from being republished, a counter-suit, etc. Another author was inspired to talk about “Cat Person”, a story written by a former friendly acquaintance with snippets and private details of her life strewn throughout it, and the very real feelings of violation that invoked.

NFTs refer to “non-fungible tokens” — where you ‘buy’ the digital claim to the ‘original’ of a digital piece of art/music/writing/etc. You don’t own the work, you don’t get money for the sale of copies, you just get the claim of having the ‘original’. There’s a lot of debate about it, but, for most of us, it’s on par with the craze a few years ago to ‘buy a star’ and give it a loved one’s name — and then the companies with the registries went under and that right is now worthless and unenforceable.

In reference to literary Twitter, a group of agents? I think it was, set up a community to register your works and sell the NFTs to your works. There was a backlash, and the agents publically apologized and retracted the whole project.

The difference between these two events is how the people responded — in the first, neither would admit to being in the wrong, in the second, the group took responsibility and apologized without excuses. While the Bad Kidney story is still being told, the NFTs story blew over in under a week.

Arguing on Twitter

  • Dispute subject matter, not people
  • Remember that people are reacting from their own context and trauma
  • People often fall into performative beliefs

Ways Literary Twitter Is Good

  • It’s a way to connect with other writers, agents, editors, publishers, and more [research ‘networking’, but don’t stalk, treat them as people, not a tool to give you success]
  • Twitter pitch parties can get buzz for some writers (#pitmad, #sffpit, #divpit, etc)

Twitter Best Practices

  • Favorite your favorite tweeters, or add them to a list to follow, so your feed is cultivated
  • Set an update schedule — schedule updates if you want
  • If you’re getting overwhelmed — just check your notifications and ignore your feed.

As with all social media platforms, the level of Twitter drama your feed is filled with is heavily influenced by who you follow and who you interact with.

Any tips I missed?

How good are you at side-stepping drama, while networking and being engaged on social media platforms?

Should I skip sharing notes from panels I was on in the future?

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