Another Twitter account bites the dust this week, but not for the reasons many would have you think.
Comic author Chelsea Cain deleted her Twitter account on Wednesday, and the media was quick to treat it as if Cain herself died and left the world behind. Looks like South Park was right when they said people treated quitting Twitter like literal death.
Cain was the writer of the now cancelled Mockingbird comic series, which drew ire from some on the Internet for its “social justice” messaging and an alternative cover art with the words “ask me about my feminist agenda.”
Many journalists claimed it was a campaign of targetted harassment against Cain that led to her Twitter departure, but in fact in Cain’s own blog post she claimed otherwise. Despite the media’s hyperbolic claims of what drove Cain off social media, Cain herself says she quit because a few jerks made her realize Twitter is simply a waste of time.
Eder Campuzano of The Oregonian claimed this latest case of “harassment” that drove Cain from Twitter was much like that Ghostbusters star Leslie Jones faced. Jones was barraged with racist threats for weeks and even had her nude images leaked online. He even brought up past instances with Gamergate’s Zoe Quinn, saying “in Cain’s case, there doesn’t appear to be one central agitator. But it’s yet another example of the volatility women in entertainment are exposed to on a regular basis, the most infamous of which was the campaign mounted against video game developer Zoe Quinn in 2014.”
Comicsbeat author Heidi Macdonald says went as far as to say that “the harassment problem isn’t a woman’s problem, it’s a MAN’S problem,” and men need to “make it clear they do not support or tolerate hate, abuse and misogyny. This isn’t a borderline case. It’s clear, indisputable harassment.”
The Washington Post‘s David Betancourt came out swinging, blaming this all on the “cult of cavemen-like comic-book readers” that he says “can be so vitriolic online that the industry now stands to lose the talent of a writer such as Chelsea Cain” and that it is “disheartening.” Mind you that in his piece, Betancourt does not present a single example of harassment, he just shows people that came out in support of Cain.
There is just one thing none of these writers, and many others on the Internet, didn’t do: wait to hear from Cain herself. See, Cain posted a blog update on her website that made it very clear that she didn’t leave because of some sort of targeted harassment campaign. In fact, the worst thing sent to her that she references was a tweet that said “Thanks, @chelseacain for ruining my favorite character with your feminist crap.”
Her reason for leaving was simple, people on Twitter can be shitty and she didn’t want to deal with that anymore. “But know that I did not leave Twitter because of rape threats or because someone had posted my address, or any of the truly vile tactics you hear about,” she said. “I left Twitter because of the ordinary daily abuse that I decided I didn’t want to live with anymore.”
Again, she makes it very clear why she left, in case people still don’t get it: “Let me be clear: I did not leave Twitter because I was trolled; I was trolled because I said I was going to leave Twitter. I left Twitter because, in the end, all the good stuff about Twitter didn’t make up for all the bad stuff.”
Now, we can argue the semantics of what constitutes “abuse” all day, but chances are we won’t get anywhere with that. What we can do, however, is point out that the media rushed to declare this the next Gamergate, when it’s really just another person leaving Twitter, because of the site’s general shittiness problem.
Cain faced criticism, that happens. She didn’t like it, she found some of it sexist, so she decided to leave Twitter. She wasn’t told to kill herself, she wasn’t doxxed, but the media blew it way out of proportion in an effort to blame a larger set of the internet community. Criticism is not harassment, a lesson many in the media should probably learn.