In pursuit of my mission to become a significant cyber-presence, I opened a twitter account last summer. My Sister-in-Law, Patti [her real name], assured me it is an essential social media component of my online profile, or something. Patti was my first follower. Within a few hours I had a second, when I was picked up by a woman who operated a personal porn website. After a few weeks, the porn lady dropped – or “unfollowed” – me. No explanation. No goodbye. Such is the harsh world of the tweet. One day, you’re being embraced by a porn star, the next it’s just you and your sister-in-law.
I think I sent out two tweets. I didn’t need to, really. Patti was right there across the table from me.
After a few months of neglect, I lost touch with my twitter account. I forgot my password or my twitter name, probably both. I made periodic unsuccessful efforts to get reconnected with my account and my one follower. Eventually, I gave up, believing that my twitterdays were over.
But, you know, you’re allowed to have more than one account. And, they’re free. So I opened a new one. I’m back in business.
Twitter, as everyone knows, is the fruit fly of literary forms. If you follow a healthy number of twitter tweeters, you will have innumerable short, bursts of brilliance scrolling past you on your mobile screen – all day, all night. It’s length limit make it the ideal platform for aphorists, less ideal for those of us with epic pretensions.
Most tweeters fire ‘em off casually, almost thoughtlessly.
They’re like smoke rings – and let me tell you, I produced some extremely impressive smoke rings in my day. [Now that I think of it, I should start smoking again, just to blow smoke rings, it was something I was very good at. And smoking really was great. And so cool.] A tweet is like a smoke ring – no matter how really cool and interesting and well-crafted it is, a tweet’s brilliance is short-lived. A tweet has its moment, and is gone.
Some people, however, can make great use of the tweet. Kelly Oxford is often called a “Twitter Sensation”. She’s a mother of three young children who blogged, then tweeted from her home in Calgary. She has more than half a million followers. Her twitter musings launched her writing career. She has moved to L.A. and writes screenplays. She has published a book – Everything is Perfect if You’re a Liar – which I understand, is a “best-seller”, though I don’t know how many books you have to sell to get that designation. More than I’ve sold, I’m sure. She is also extremely hot. Being good-looking is essential to success in any field of endeavor, I’ve come to believe.
The Dalai Lama [@DalaiLama] has over seven million followers of the twitter kind – but follows no one. Eminem, with fifteen million, also follows nobody, though that’s less surprising. He doesn’t appear to like anyone. The same can’t be true of the Dalai Lama – maybe he just doesn’t know how to click “follow”. Conan Obrien has eight and a half million and follows one person – a woman named Sarah Killen in Michigan. I have no idea. Jim Carrey has over eleven million, also follows one – his daughter, I assume.
And, of course, the little crown prince of the Twitter is the Biebs – with over forty two million hanging on his every digital eruption.
I have ten. Eight are people I know personally, two of whom actually live right here in the house with me. Only two or three of my followers actually ever read a tweet. I can reach as many people talking to myself, as long as I speak out clearly, as I can tweeting.
So, when Justin Bieber tweets “U gotta work for greatness. Take nothing for granted”, as he did the other day, more people than live in all of Canada read and are enriched by it.
When @rossknows writes “I think I saw that Snowden guy at Safeway this afternoon” it is seen by four people, at best. I know all their phone numbers. I could just call.
Mostly, in the twitter world, I’m a consumer, not a producer. I scroll through it a few times a day. I get most of my news from it. I follow all the news and magazine twitter feeds – and most of the Canadian political pundits. I love my twitter.
But I want more. I don’t want to be just a passive observer, like so many millions of Beliebers, I wanna be a player. Twitter is a way of speaking to the entire world – without having a lot to say. The twitter is perfect for a guy like me, who can’t put two thoughts together, but can handle one thought at a time with ease. However, you need more than ten followers to be a twitter force.
One way of expanding one’s reach is to be “retweeted” – where one of your followers,- preferably someone with more and different followers than you have, sends out your tweet to all his or her followers. I remember very proudly the day of my first, and only, retweet. Ed Kapp a friend of my son’s, retweeted a line I sent out in response to the scandal surrounding Toronto mayor Rob Ford’s drug use – “Does this crack video make me look fat?” That tweet was actually one half of a twitter set – the other being “Does this senate resignation make me look fat?” [an obvious reference to Mike Duffy’s departure from the Tory caucus] – but Ed retweeted only the first. And so, with a little flick of Ed’s fingertip on his smartphone screen, my tweet was sent out to his 250 followers – thus potentially expanding my twitter empire twentyfivefold.
It was a short-lived glimmer of hope. None of Ed’s followers picked me up. I blame myself. Fat jokes are mean, I guess.
Another way of attracting attention is by replying to the tweets of others. It’s easy. You just click on the little “reply” arrow and your pithy comment gets broadcast to your followers and to the person who sent out the original tweet. If the first-tweeter is impressed with your reply, it could pay big dividends.
Well, I had some success with this method. I replied to a tweet sent out by Steve Murray. He works for the National Post. His profile says he does “cartoons and columns and junk for the newspaper”. He’s a very funny guy and a prolific tweeter [25,000 tweets sent] with a substantial following [13,200]. He sent out a tweet responding to the news that the U.S. Supreme Court had, essentially, opened the legal door to gay marriage. He wrote, “If we allow gay marriage we’ll soon have men marrying dudes and bros marrying guys and fellas marrying joe blows and gents marrying chaps an …[he ran into the 140-character tweet limit]
There was a lot of twitter activity on this subject that day, so I decided to weigh in with a particularly “Saskatchewan” take on the subject by replying to his tweet with this: “One thing that gets forgotten in all this celebration is the increasing threat of the ‘double mullet’ wedding.”
To my surprise and delight, Mr. Murray replied – “we must draw a hairline in the sand” and he became my tenth follower. With a nod of approval from this heavy twitter hitter, things would take off. No doubt.
That was a month ago. Nothing.
Yes, this is becoming pathetic.
But more pathetic has been my unrequited tweet-obsession with the Sun News Network. As you may know, Sun News is the Canadian cable news channel very much in the style of Fox News in the U.S., with the same mission: to make their fevered viewers feel threatened, pissed off and smugly superior, all at the same time.
SunNews tweets incessantly. Because I have so few people to twitter to – I thought I’d twitter responses to SunNews’s offerings and see if I could get any attention that way. Perhaps begin a constructive dialogue. Maybe get myself invited on Sun News to be grilled by their chief agitator Ezra Levant – who would no doubt kick my leftist ass around the block.
So far. No.
Sun News has been ignoring me. Like the rest of the world. The more they ignored me, the more determined I became. Sadly, most of my efforts were of the “you suck” nature, though never that crude or straightforward:
SunNews – Dancer kicked out of Royal Winnipeg Ballet for doing porn.
Ross – Oh. You are my Sunshine. I love the trash. Never change.
SunNews – Woman who hid loaded gun in vagina gets 25 years.
Ross – Thank you my sunshiney friends. That was a story others were not covering.
SunNews – Baby left in car while parents shopped for sex toys: Cops.
Ross – So true to the Sunshine credo to take a tragic story and make it trashy. Stay classy Sunshine News.
SunShineNews – How did Jesus get banned from the Calgary Stampede?
Ross – Once again, the Sunshiners pursue the stories the lamestream media won’t touch. No wonder Jesus loves you. You’re awesome.
This is just a sampling of my near-pathological engagement with Sun News Network, with, so far, nary a peep of a tweet in return.
Most of the time, SunNews tweets speak for themselves, they can’t be improved by snarky commentary. I leave you with this one that I saw last night and immediately retweeted, delighted by its timeliness:
SunNews – SICK: Registered sex offender accused of flashing genitals at boy in Walmart.
Say no more.
I encourage everyone to get on the twitter and view my fruitless SunNews stalking for yourself. See how I descended from promising new-comer to mere troll. And, for the love of God – follow me.