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How to Help Writers Leave X
A milestone for The Reframe, another milestone for The Reframe, and advice to readers on helping writers who are looking for a Twitter X-it.
The Reframe turns two years old this Monday.
I know! Newsletters grow up so fast. It’s all got me feeling ruminative enough to dash off a quick midweek state-of-the-newsletter email.
A reader recently asked in comments how much time I spend on each weekly essay; in answering, I realized that, while the amount of time isn’t insignificant, I don’t really think about it like that. I wake up in the mornings (which is when I write) thinking “I get to write this morning,” and then I do so, for as long as it takes. It’s an energizing experience, and honestly? Right now I feel as if I’m just getting started.
And here’s a big part of the reason why.
That’s right, the follower count for The Reframe just recently moved past 10,000. Now that’s a number that just blows me away. For a sense of scale, at the start of the year it was at about 4,000. It’s been a good nine months so far.
You guys did that. All of you. Amazing and thank you.
At the same time, there remains one big cloud on the horizon: the platform formerly known as Twitter remains the most effective promoter of The Reframe, by far. It’s a simple statement of fact that without Twitter, I wouldn’t have gotten to 10,000 subscribers. In fact, I would probably not have even gotten to 100, since Twitter is how I, like so many writers, built the base of my readership that led to all the rest.
And that’s a bit of a problem, for reasons I’ve laid out before. The short of it is, the owner is actively working to dismantle the site, or at least dismantle whatever it is that makes the site effective for writers. New stories of new disastrous and bafflingly foolish decisions come every day, and there’s just no reason to trust it to keep existing in a usable way in the long or maybe even the short term.
But the trouble goes beyond the practical considerations into matters of conscience; the owner has also revealed himself to be just as flagrant in matters of authoritarianism and white and anti-trans supremacy as he is in matters of incompetence, and every day brings worse proofs. These days he’s verifying openly Nazi accounts and blaming the Jewish-led Anti-Defamation League for the fact that he’s losing sponsors, using the exact same rhetoric as Nazis used and use when they want to blame Jewish people for causing all their problems. This has historically always been step one on the way to murdering Jewish people, in case you didn’t know. As with his mismanagement of the platform he overpaid for, so with the increasingly blatant antisemitism he tries to pass off as free speech: whether it’s intentional malice or unintentional ignorance hardly matters; the results are the same1.
All this builds within me a powerful urge to step away from the site. In fact, I have stepped away to a degree; I certainly don’t post there like I used to. I think a lot of writers and creators feel the same, and many already have cut it off completely. Everyone’s making their own calculations; it’s not like other platforms are uncompromised, and some (including this very one upon which I’m writing) have serious problems that may also need addressing, but none have such a severe toxic trajectory, I think, as the site that has come to call itself X. So we all make our calculations, but the math is getting harder.
And so I know many writers who have built a readership on Twitter are looking to X-it.
To a degree, I guess this is obvious. To a degree, I think it’s valid to wonder about all the hand-wringing from me; if you want to go, go. And I agree with this.
Eventually, as the site continues its slide into hate, it seems increasingly likely that leaving will be the result, and I’ll lose whatever generator of readership it still represents. I’m not one given to huge “I’m leaving now” pronouncements, so the departure may be more a continuation of my slow withdrawal rather than a promoted event. Nevertheless, eventually I expect I’ll have to pay whatever cost attends leaving Twitter behind.
But I’d rather make the guy who is doing the damage pay first—first, and as much as possible, while all of us who built something good there take away the value we built, leaving him holding nothing but the putrid bag of shit he’s offering us, on the narcissist’s assumption that people will pay for anything he has to offer simply because it came out of him.
I have some advice for how readers can help writers do that.
All this applies to me, but I’d invite you to apply it to any creator whose work and voice you value.
The first thing to do to support the writers you appreciate is something you’ve already done, and it is 100% free: be a reader.
Most importantly, be a reader somewhere other than Elon Musk’s cesspool. Find the people you appreciate on the other platforms you frequent, and as much as possible, follow them there.
Some writers may be greedy for money, but all writers are greedy for readers. We’re writing because we want to work out our own thoughts, perhaps, but I think it’s because we want to touch other minds.
If you’re like me, there are writers whose voices you depend on. But I now know from experience, the writers depend on you, too. There is something powerful about knowing that what you write will be read by people, and that it will matter to people, and that some of them might even tell you. A lot of you do that for me, every day, and that’s a huge part of why I wake up so energized to write.
It’s also why it can be hard for writers to leave X, as long as Twitter2 represents their primary platform for building readership.
Again, not your responsibility. But you CAN help.
I think what Twitter writers need most of all is for readership to find them elsewhere.
Here is where you’ll find me.
If you have a favorite you want to see writers active on, make sure you go find them and follow them and interact with them there. The more you do that, the more likely they’ll be active in the spots you prefer.
If you want to help, do what you’re doing. Be a reader. And, if you have the time, let the writer know that they’ve had an impact. It really matters.
The second thing to do is also free: spread the word.
Most importantly, spread the word somewhere other than Elon Musk’s cesspool.
Make a habit of this: if somebody writes something you like, even if you see it on Twitter, go somewhere else to point it out. The more you do that, the more writers will naturally migrate, because the readership will be growing somewhere else—which will make all those somewhere-elses more effective platforms, and X a less effective one.
Incidentally, I suspect there’s a method that’s even more potentially powerful for growing readership than social media: sharing writers you enjoy with people you know.
Newsletters seem particularly well-suited to this. If you read something from an email newsletter and it makes you think of someone else that you know would enjoy it, you can forward it on to that somebody—maybe with a personal note, so you don’t turn into somebody’s FW:FW:FW:FW uncle. The more that organic growth happens, the more the writer’s audience will grow, and the less those of us who depend on Twitter will depend on it.
But however you do it, please do: spread the word. Tell the people you know about the writers you value.
The third thing you can do for writers is the money thing.
This is the least of the steps. The truth is, the money doesn’t really help me get off X, because X doesn’t make me any money.
However, the money does make doing writerly things increasingly more possible for a writer, and I guess that’s what paying a writer will get you: more. As I believe I mentioned, I feel like I’m just getting started. I’ve got about 12 files cooking in drafts, and I’m thinking about other things to layer in, like maybe audio versions of selected essays; and I’m giving serious consideration to pulling together a book of essays, as a gift to entice new and renewing paid founding members, and also for general sale.
I believe strongly that people who can’t pay shouldn’t be frozen out, which is why my model is free and pay-what-you-want. (It’s also what makes libraries so important in the public sphere.) I think people who can pay probably should, but many models of doing that have broken down and fallen upon individual buyers to act as patrons, and I know there are only so many writers to spend on. Suffice to say, anybody who has chosen to spend $10 or $1 a month, or somewhere in between, has done me a great honor that I appreciate so much that for once I don’t have the words.
So if you want to do the money thing, OK, the link’s right down there.
Or maybe there’s another writer out there who you like well enough to pay; I’d encourage you do do so.
If you can’t, do the important things, which are free things.
Be a reader. Spread the word. You’ll help immeasurably.
And either way let’s see if we can leave that toad in his swamp.
Thanks again, and see you out there.
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Somebody somewhere recently pointed out that the new X logo pretty easily turned into a swastika if you put the hooks on, and while there’s no proof that this is what Musk was thinking when he made the baffling move to demolish the brand he spend $44 billion on, such a rationale aligns smoothly with the ideology with which he’s aligned, and it is exactly the sort of toxic Nazi-glad-handing-dog-whistle bullshit that he would think of as both sly and clever and exceptionally hilariously “epic.”
I’m going to call it X when I’m talking about the evil bullshit; whatever the users built that is still good and fine is still Twitter to me.