Social media changed the world. It disrupted the way we connect and communicate with each other. It also provided a platform to chat to people with whom we might normally not have access to, i.e. celebrities.
Unfortunately, the perceived anonymity and subsequent lack of repercussions has given rise to an uglier side, where people use these platforms to torment and harass others. As a result, more and more celebrities are limiting or deleting their accounts altogether. Just look at the recent Twitter exit of Will Poulter as an example.
While most comic book creators don’t share the same level of fame as A-list Hollywood celebs, they also have their fair share of nonsense to navigate through on social media. Recently, Batman writer Tom King had to respond to fans who questioned his CIA credentials. Fellow creators and fans banded behind King, but it was still an unpleasant experience for him as he had to dispel a silly rumour that started on Tumblr – the undisputed bastion of hard-hitting journalism and rational thinking.
There’s a post going around questioning whether I served in the CIA. Which is odd, cause I did, and there’s a way for employers (like DC) to check. Anyway, here’s a picture of me in Iraq in ‘04 and an email from when I was getting Sheriff reviewed by the agency. pic.twitter.com/agvztmTJrn
— Tom King (@TomKingTK) January 2, 2019
Venom writer Donny Cates also had to put a few of his “fans” in their place. First off, there was an outrage that Cates wasn’t shipping Symbrock enough. When Cates pointed out that he’s happy with his stories and if someone doesn’t like it it’s okay, he was accused of being a bully. Then, Cates publicly denounced Comicsgate, but that wasn’t good enough for some. According to some of his followers, he should’ve done it sooner, when they wanted him to. Apparently, Cates is forbidden from choosing what he decides to post on his timeline, because the Orwellian Twitter Police should have final approval.
No one is bullying you. I genuinely hope you like the book. My friends and I have all worked very hard on it. But hey, if you don’t? That’s OKAY. We don’t need to fight. No one is making you read it, and I’m NOT going to course correct because 6 people on tumblr don’t like it. 🤷♂️ https://t.co/xquLGHFsnD
— DONNY CATES (@Doncates) December 28, 2018
These are only a few of the examples out there, as there have been numerous in the past year. While you might be thinking “why don’t they just block the idiots?”, that also appears to be an issue. Unfortunately, creators get the short end of the stick if they block trolls, as they get accused of not understanding criticism or freedom of speech. Frankly, this shows how most people fail to understand that the concept of freedom of speech doesn’t mean freedom to harass. You are not entitled to other people’s time or response. If someone consistently emails you, telling you how bad you are at your job, you’d probably block them, too.
We’re entering into dangerous waters here, as you can tell there’s been a shift in how most comic book professionals communicate on social media. There’s a fear of posting too much, or saying something that’ll be taken apart by the fandom. They’re uncomfortable – and this isn’t right.
In 2014 ScienceDirect published a research paper confirming something we’ve all long suspected: trolls possess the “Dark Tetrad” of personality traits: narcissism, Machiavellianism, psychopathy, and sadism. In short, there’s no point arguing with these people since they’re the equivalent of arrogant pigeons. Unfortunately, with the nature of the internet, trolls will remain.
As a community, though, we can make a difference. Instead of becoming part of the hive mind, we need to realise that creators are people, too – with their own dreams, insecurities, quirks, and points of view. If we fail to do this, there’s a good chance that they’ll turn their backs on these toxic social media platforms and choose their sanity over the opinions of rabid trolls.