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Fake Joan Didion dupes the Wall Street Journal

Or: Why you always read the Twitter bio of the person you're writing about.


Miles Klee

Internet Culture

Posted on Jul 11, 2013   Updated on Jun 1, 2021, 11:37 am CDT

It’s a shocking day for the 10,000 followers of a gimmick Twitter account channeling acclaimed author Joan Didion. First of all, Didion, as voiced by copywriter Erik Stinson, is finally quitting the social media service after repeatedly threatening to do so.

my last full day on twitter

— Joan Didion (@JoanDidion) July 11, 2013

It’s unclear, then, whether she’ll take a half-day tomorrow or just delete everything at midnight. The initial announcement prompted a slew of replies, most along the lines of “we’ll miss you” and “why?” To the latter, “Didion” offered a comprehensive list of reasons:

im quitting twitter because, on twitter, bad guys always win

— Joan Didion (@JoanDidion) July 11, 2013

im quitting twitter because i can’t connect with my fans in a meaningful way here

— Joan Didion (@JoanDidion) July 11, 2013

im quitting twitter because celebrity culture is the opposite of book culture – books are supposed to make us feel ok about being alone

— Joan Didion (@JoanDidion) July 11, 2013

im quitting twitter because there’s no way to communicate meaningfully without context

— Joan Didion (@JoanDidion) July 11, 2013

im quitting twitter because i don’t understand how twitter helps anyone do anything

— Joan Didion (@JoanDidion) July 11, 2013

im quitting twitter because “interaction” isn’t valuable, when compared to deep communication

— Joan Didion (@JoanDidion) July 11, 2013

Nothing if not thorough. So thorough, in fact, that the Wall Street Journal reported that the real Joan Didion, who isn’t on Twitter at all, was officially quitting Twitter. That story has since been updated and the original blog post deleted (but not really).

Perhaps a closer look at the unverified account’s description—or relatively paltry follower count—would have aroused some journalistic skepticism over there:

Joan’s tweets inspired by Joan (she dislikes [micro]blogs) and edited by a chill dude who writes and works in advertising (@erik_stinson).

Stinson himself took some pleasure in the newspaper’s mistake:

my work is done for today https://t.co/odAdEed1dK

— Erik Stinson (@erik_stinson) July 11, 2013

Stinson also spoke with the Daily Dot by email, further explaining his motivations, future plans, and mixed emotional response to the success of @JoanDidion.

I started the account because I knew she would never use Twitter. It was profoundly funny and awkward that people thought she would. It’s a testament to her wide and committed readership. 

I work in advertising, so part of me just wanted to see if I could be her mouthpiece in the social space, to fill the void created by her obviously wise absence from Twitter. Social media is a kind of artificial void that these companies want us to fill. She chooses not to, like a lot of people. 

I am deleting the account on 7-12-13 – it feels disingenuous to continue. There are a lot of people who really feel like they are @ing Joan, and I have a specific sad emotional response to that. Book people, especially older ones, are really sensitive. 

It was fun to try to translate the tone of a talented writer onto Twitter, and to get to know her wonderful fans, but also sort of misguided and crass. 

Anyway, farewell, “Joan.” It appears you and Twitter just don’t “get” each other, and weren’t especially inclined to try. The good news is you can probably write a memoir about that.

Photo via @JoanDidion/Twitter

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*First Published: Jul 11, 2013, 2:02 pm CDT