Dana Schwartz —Millennial Stereotype Example & Exception
Dana Schwartz stands out from the generation of current 23-year-olds. She has two satire Twitter accounts (@GuyInYourMFA and @DystopianYA) with 84,000 and 75,000 followers respectively, she has a young adult novel And We’re Off due for release in May, she has a book deal for a memoir, and she is an Art & Culture writer for The New York Observer. Even in the unassuming coffee shop where we met, she stands out in all-black attire and neon pink lipstick. However, Schwartz also falls into a growing group of millennials who built their careers from their social media accounts.
“Twitter literally gave me everything I have right now,” she said. “Even though it’s destroying my brain and distracting me from any worthwhile prospects, it has been a tremendous help for me both personally and professionally.”
Schwartz leaned on social media as a self-described “self-loathing pre-med student” at Brown University. Feeling that she was lacking in passion compared to the other students, she enrolled in creative writing classes created the @GuyInYourMFA Twitter account in her spare time. The account satirizes a condescending English student who feels a constant need to prove his intelligence.
“I think for me, it really did come about from my own bad habits, inclinations. I think everyone has this need to prove themselves, that they’re smart,” she said. “He’s a character, but he’s something that I think every writer has inside them.”
The account quickly exploded in popularity, which helped her land internships at both CONAN and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, and later her job as an Arts & Culture writer for The New York Observer. In July of 2016, Schwartz wrote an open letter to the owner of The New York Observer at the time — Jared Kushner, who is Donald Trump’s son-in-law. The letter went viral, causing the followers on her personal Twitter account to soar to its present number of over 57,000. The letter urged Kushner to hold Trump accountable to the anti-semitic inclinations of many of his supporters, and to formally disavow them.
“I have no impulse control over the things I feel passionate about. So really, it was a non-decision,” she said of the decision to publish the letter. “All weekend, I had been getting harassed by anti semitic trolls, just awful, vile stuff. Some of it’s in the letter. I was just like, ‘I have to write about this.’ … And I wrote it in this fever state… I had to get it out of my system, like an infection.”
This open letter thrust Schwartz into the mainstream political sphere, appearing on CNN and being mentioned on various other news outlets. Despite not being a political reporter, Schwartz claims that she has always been interested in politics and held strong political opinions. Schwartz grew up in the suburbs of Ohio, outside of Chicago, where she claims that Obama had an immense influence on her when he was only a Senator.
“When he [Obama] was elected in 2008, the Chicagoland area was just electric,” she said. “I was in high school at the time and I had never felt anything it. And the energy of that political moment gave me hope for politics to come.”
Before and since the beginning of the 2016 presidential election campaigns, Schwartz has been increasingly outspoken against Trump’s policies and the antisemitism that she has experienced online.
“I don’t know exactly how to be a good person,” she said. “But I do know that they’re [anti-semitic trolls] not — that part of being a good person is fighting against what they represent, humanity’s worst, most judgemental, most selfish impulses.”
The popularity of both her personal and satirical Twitter accounts also drew the attention of editors from Penguin/Random House, who approached her with the opportunity to write a young adult novel. This offer eventually culminated into the novel And We’re Off, inspired by Schwartz’s experiences travelling through Europe in the first few months after she graduated from Brown University.
“I think part of wanting to be a writer is to give anything back to the world that I got so much from as a kid,” Schwartz said. “If I can give a reader a fraction of what I got as a child, I would be really happy. I loved books so much that I want to live in that world.”
Schwartz also received a book deal for a memoir (CHOOSE YOUR OWN DISASTER), which she proposed to Grand Central publishers as a novel in which readers take “Buzzfeed-style” quizzes, and each answer corresponds to a different self-deprecating personal story. Despite contradicting lazy millennial stereotypes through her professional success, Schwartz said that the negative millennial stereotypes of technology reliance and vanity paradoxically motivate her and drive her career forward.
“If I’m relatable as millennial stereotype,” she said, “it’s because I’m desperate for attention and external validation or else I’ll wither away into nothingness.”