Twitter is not a happy place to begin with, but Book Twitter gives “toxic” a whole new meaning. Anyone who has spent more than a few minutes in this community, dominated by vocal fans of the Young Adult (YA) genre, knows how quickly petty conflict escalates into ruined reputations and careers. The population’s “wokeness” and fierce competition for attention yields an environment where drama is constant, dissent is trampled, and the tiniest slip-up yields a swarm of disapproval and a swift cancellation.
Book Twitter’s cancel-happy tendencies have been documented before (the articles focus on YA Twitter, but at this point Book Twitter and YA Twitter are virtually synonymous given the latter’s monopoly over the community). The rate of accusations and subsequent cancellations has only accelerated since, buoyed by the community’s collective willingness to follow the whims of the first person to launch an accusation. Participants are not inclined to critically examine the charges against the accused—it only takes one unsubstantiated tweet to launch a wave of pitchforks, especially if the “b” word (bigot) is involved. Forget judge, jury, and executioner: Twitter eschews the trial and proceeds directly to the guillotine.
I wanted to take some time to talk about some recent cancellations in the community. In some ways, these are nothing new: the community has been dominated by groupthink, rumor-mongering, and cancel culture for a long time now. But that’s exactly why I think it’s important to keep talking about it, and to bring some balance and nuance to the conversation. Part of Book Twitter’s problem is that it’s very niche and thus often insulated from outsiders, so virulent community behaviors have been normalized. The more these behaviors are brought to light, and the more people realize how unproductive they are, the more people will be willing to speak up and try to change the prevailing culture. So let’s talk about some recent events.