Tuned In

Damon Lindelof and Why Twitter Is Not Always for Everyone

The Lost creator joked, interacted, and lived out the fallout of Lost's finale online for over three years--until now

  • Share
  • Read Later
Damon Lindelof
Jeffrey Mayer / WireImage / Getty Images

Writer/producer Damon Lindelof arrives at the Los Angeles premiere of 'Star Trek: Into Darkness' on May 14, 2013, in Hollywood, Calif.

Monday afternoon, screenwriter and co-creator of Lost Damon Lindelof vanished–from Twitter, anyway. He issued one final tweet–“After much thought and deliberation, I’ve decided t”–and then his account was disabled. Gone, poof, cue black title card with the blurry inscription “LOST.”

As in many of Lindelof’s creations, there was a mystery—Why?—and Lindelof is not talking about it. But there were clues enough left behind, exhibit A being a confessional essay he wrote upon the ending of Breaking Bad, which he loved. A lot of other people loved it too, and felt compelled to express said love by going on Twitter to tell Lindelof how much they felt, three years later, the Lost finale sucked in comparison (@-replied, to make sure he’d see it).

And that, he wrote, forced him to confront what he’d been doing since the series ended. His career moved on–Prometheus, Star Trek, a series in the works for HBO–he, like Jack, kept having to go back. He kept getting online flak for Lost’s finale, reading it, engaging it, retweeting it. “Alcoholics are smart enough not to walk into a bar,” he wrote. “My bar is Twitter.” But no more, he wrote: “I will finally stop talking about it.” And maybe unplugging Twitter was the only way to make sure he stayed clean.

[Note: I had issues with the last season of Lost, but I loved the show, still do, and I thought the finale was powerful and moving. You can read what I wrote about it. I'm not really interested in re-arguing it right now, but God knows I can't keep anyone else from doing so.]
It’s a shame, and it’s probably for the best. Lindelof belonged on Twitter: he was nimble, easily funny, generous with his attention, and a hoot to follow. (Example? Google “Lindelof Justin Bieber hat.”) Lindelof had no business being on Twitter: he was a target and he fed the trolls from a bucket.

Yeah, I know: look at the professional critic telling people not to complain about a TV show! But much of the vitriol aimed at Lindelof–by a tiny minority of Lost watchers, I’m sure, but an intense one–was viciously personal and relentless, even after years. And I know this because Lindelof relayed so much of it. (Not all the hits came from random tweeters, either. When George R. R. Martin trashed the Lost finale, Lindelof took his hurt wryly public: “In related news, my therapist just hit the jackpot.”)

It wasn’t that it all rolled off his back: it very clearly didn’t. Anyone who spends much time online goes through a version of this experience: maybe you shouldn’t get in that Facebook politics argument, maybe just don’t reply to that e-mail. But it doesn’t last years for most of us (even magazine columnists who write something someone hates). It did for Lindelof, and he didn’t have to engage–his Lost partner Carlton Cuse is on Twitter but generally didn’t. Yet it seemed like he needed to.

Maybe it was therapeutic. Apparently it wasn’t therapeutic enough.

I’ve been on Twitter for over four years; as a writer and a pop-culture fan, I couldn’t at this point imagine not being. It builds a community. It allows a running conversation. It turns an often-solitary act into a party. But it also empowers a small, select, petty group to become professional grudge-holders. It allows them to act on a mentality of entitlement and CAPS-LOCK betrayal–you owe me for all my hard work watching a TV show!–and to pop up from the shadows, again and again, for years, like picketers outside someone’s virtual house. (You’re supposed to call them “haters,” but “hate” is too deep a word to waste on such mean-spiritedness.)

For a lot of TV creators, the good stuff about social media far outweighs the bad. Shonda Rhimes conducts a kind of fan happy hour on her feed, and Twitter helped grow Scandal into a hit. Bones’ Hart Hanson, Girls’ Lena Dunham, Parks and Recreation’s Mike Schur, and many others seem to thrive on the give and take.

But for others–especially the creators of dramas with intensely invested fans–a judicious amount of “don’t read the comments” applies. David Chase made The Sopranos finale–luckily before the rise of Twitter–and got the hell out of Dodge. David Simon stays off Twitter on principle, and probably all parties concerned are happier that Aaron Sorkin never more than dabbled in the medium. (Then there are the Dan Harmons and Kurt Sutters, for whom Twitter is a place of intense connections and more-intense verbal brawls.)

Lost, though, was a show that always existed in conversation with its fans. It makes sense, then, that for Lindelof that conversation had to continue, even when it turned ugly. Not all ugly, mind you, or even mostly; since the news of his leaving, I’ve seen much more regret and good wishes than “Don’t let the door hit you” reaction. (That’s the thing about Twitter; what you experience is often what you choose to see.) It’s been fascinating, though, watching Lindelof work publicly through the need to worry at his wounds. And mostly, I’ll miss the mini-updates from a brilliant, imperfect guy who makes me laugh.

But I shouldn’t get maudlin here: Damon Lindelof isn’t actually disappearing. (Also on Twitter, as on Lost, the departed can easily come back; Sutter has, for instance.) Social media is a rich world, but it’s not the world; and if this helps Lindelof do the actual writing that the rest of us obsess over in 140-character bursts, so much the better. Maybe you liked Lost’s ending less than I did, maybe more, but one thing I took away from it applies here: sometimes it really is liberating to let go and move on.

15 comments
maddog_uk_69
maddog_uk_69

The massive bait-and-switch in Lost, plus the awful, nonsensical pile of toss that was Prometheus, means that I can muster little interest in anything that Lindelof is involved in any more.

bmers
bmers

I will miss the Fancy Feast tweets the most.

Lucelucy
Lucelucy

GRRM complained about the Lost finale? I was mostly disappointed that I'd been right all along - they died. In the crash. The first time. Damn! BUT - spoiler alert but not that kind - you know nothing Jon Snow, many and more, little and less, acres of food, rooms full of people with clothing and sigils described down to the stitches. Those people might have done or said something interesting, but to me they're little more than a pile of coats left in the other room. Why did we follow those people all the way from ... only to ...??????? 

And I'm not even hatin' on him. George, that is. I'll buy the next book and if I'm still alive, I'll buy the one after that. In hard cover. But geesh!

katie1421
katie1421

I liked the Lost finale quite a bit, and I'll miss Damon Lindelof on Twitter. I'm almost glad he's left, though, because anytime things got nasty he seemed to really take it to heart. And that always made me kinda sad for him,  because he seems like a really earnest guy (in the best way). Hopefully a break where he doesn't engage about the finale at all will allow him to come back at some point.

jonnylangemail
jonnylangemail

I don't use Twitter and I don't feel like I am missing anything from my life. In fact, reading stories like this reinforces that. What a bunch of bologna over a tv show.

Jinx
Jinx

It's understandable. As a TV writer, the engagement with fans must be nice, but the jabs might be sour. It depends on your sensitivity, personality and level of attraction to the platform. I hope there are always TV artists who don't want to do Twitter. That way, no one is compelled to promote their "brand." (A word I dislike and I am sure I'm not alone on this.) As you say, it is a rich world, but not the world.

On the other hand, though I've twittercided maybe 3 times, I come back, because there is much interesting information and fun. Not that I have ever done this (er, whoops!) but I think Twitter uses are, or should, be learning to tweet in a manner which would not ever begin a real life duel.

Poppersci
Poppersci

@Lucelucy  They didn't die in the first crash. The sideways universe of the last season was Purgatory. Everything else actually happened, and Jack really did die at the end, with some of the others escaping the Island.  The shots of the plane after the show was over was just inserted by the studio.

maddog_uk_69
maddog_uk_69

@mcnater @maddog_uk_69  Uh, well how about all the threads of interesting mystery that ran through the whole thing, and then at the end it just turns out they were dead. Even though the writers had previously denied that. They were just dead. About 90% of what had gone on turned out to have absolutely no resolution and zero bearing on the story.

They were clearly dangling some big reveal that we were all looking forward to at the end. It didn't come.

Bait. And. Switch.

Lucelucy
Lucelucy

@Poppersci Hmmm...I thought they did. I came away with the impression that they were dead the whole time, a sort of drawn-out "balancing the heart and the feather on the scale" scenario to determine their worthiness. But I'm sure there are large chunks that I've forgotten - with all the confusion of the sideways universe and the smoke monster and the polar bear and the rest of it, I guess that was the simplest story arc I could make of it. Maybe someday when I've really run out of things to do, I'll Netflix the whole thing again. Then again ...:)

maddog_uk_69
maddog_uk_69

@mcnater @maddog_uk_69  I said they were dead. Where did I say they died in the crash?

Please point out where in the show (not some fan-based conjecture) they explain the number sequence? The smoke monster? The polar bears? The whole business with Walt? I'm not against something that poses questions without necessarily answering them, but Lost took the  piss.

mcnater
mcnater

@maddog_uk_69 Sorry, but they weren't dead. See some of the comments below for a longer explanation, but everything on the island happened and played out in real time as we were watching it. They didn't die in the plane crash. You're just confused, which is understandable, but it's not correct to say they died in the crash. 

jamgyal
jamgyal

@Lucelucy@Poppersci That was a major part of the problem. It would probably have been better if they had been dead all along (despite it being flat denied by the creators), but Poppersci is right that it was only the final season's flash-sideways in which they were dead, and this was itself set up to look like a possible alternative time line following the Incident.  It turned out not to be. 

Lucelucy
Lucelucy

@Poppersci Thanks. I suppose I could - and I did read James' review of that show a couple of days ago (not here when he first wrote it) - and I thought, wow. He's referencing a lot of things I've totally forgotten and building an interesting complex meta-arc that I was either too lazy, forgetful, or disengaged to build. Someday, all gods willin' and the crick don't rise, I'll watch it again with his analysis in mind. Me, I went with the much simpler(minded) version - they're dead, Jim.