One of the first items on my big List of Stuff I Never Wanted to Try for this blog was Twitter. I couldn’t see the point of it and couldn’t imagine how anyone else could either. It’s been 2 ½ years since I made the List and I think I set up a Twitter account some time that first year (then forgot the password and didn’t go back to actually tweet anything).
Last November, I decided to finally figure Twitter out for real. My husband told me it would probably have to be a long-term experiment as I built up followers, so I was ready to be patient. I wrote my first tweet and immediately felt self-conscious about it. At least on Facebook I know if I say something dumb, my friends are usually nice enough not to call me out on it, and if they do, they usually do it nicely because they are my friends. Twitter seemed scary because it’s full of strangers. Also, I wasn’t sure how the whole thing worked. Are hashtags required? Does anyone even use them anymore?
After dropping that epic tweet, I spent some time browsing. Who knew there were so many Onion articles? I usually saw them here or there if someone posted them on Facebook, but following The Onion on Twitter meant I had instant access to every new article that came out. (Yes, I realize I could just go to the website, but I’m too lazy for that.) I also got to vote on the New Yorker caption contest and scroll through drawings of celebrities standing on sandwiches, you know, enriching stuff like that.
For the past year, I’ve occasionally tweeted, usually about new blog posts or bad customer service. Most of my whopping 29 followers appear to be either my husband or people wanting me to follow them back because of some business or service they are promoting. If I’m bored, I’ll browse maybe once a week, but I’m still not sure I see the point of it all. I also feel like an 80-year-old on there because I can’t seem to figure out how to trace replies back to the original tweet. I know how it should work, but it feels like a whole lot of effort.
Every once in a while, during a week where I’m not sure what to write about, I’ll think, well, there’s always Twitter – have I invested enough time in it to finally write about it? Then I realize there’s nothing much to say. Nothing to say until now, that is…
I’ve mentioned before that my son Fritz is a bit quirky, to say the least. Well, five weeks ago, as I was cleaning out his backpack, I found (after almost throwing it away) a funny thing he’d written for school: “For my Halloween costume I want to be Jim Gaffigan. He’s so funny he says that ranch dressing is made from Buttermilk and sadness. He says that according to his wife donuts are inappropriate for a trail mix.”
I thought it was pretty funny, so I snapped a picture of it and tweeted it, tagging Jim Gaffigan. (Is it called tagging on Twitter? Or @-ing? I don’t even know.) He liked my tweet, and about twenty of his followers did too. Fritz thought that was super cool.
Then Halloween night, I posted a picture of the finished costume, again tagging Jim Gaffigan, who then retweeted it.That was awfully nice of him. I really only tagged him because if a kid liked me enough to dress as me for Halloween, it would make me happy to see a picture of it, and because Fritz would love to hear that the Jim Gaffigan had seen his costume, but suddenly my ipad would not shut up. I was getting notifications of likes and retweets from all of Gaffigan’s followers nonstop. I had to turn off the Korean drama I was watching and shut down the notifications just to get some sleep. Within an hour there were already hundreds of likes. After 24 hours, there were over 950 likes and 73 retweets of Fritz’s costume. It was crazy. He was ecstatic.
Unsurprisingly, the interest waned after 24 hours. The world moved on, and I realized that all this attention didn’t really change how I feel about Twitter. I like Facebook because it connects me to friends, especially those who live too far away to see in person. When I get likes on Facebook, I don’t look at the total number, but at each person on the list. I think about each person and get nice feelings about him/her (cheesy, I know, but true). I realized as I got notification after notification from strangers that the numbers don’t seem to mean a whole lot. As nice as it was to get words of encouragement from lots of strangers, I still think “friend” sounds and feels a lot more personal than “follower”.
Also, all of the positive responses piled on so quickly, dozens at a time, in what felt like a whirlwind. It was exciting at first, but then I started to think about how it would have felt if it had gone the other way. What if the comments had been negative? There were so many thrown at me in such a short amount of time, the thought of being on the receiving end of a negative Twitter dogpile suddenly seemed much more real. No wonder some have decided to avoid the platform altogether.
Fritz has enjoyed the attention and I’m glad I have a reason to write about Twitter so I can finally cross it off my list. I’ll probably stick around because I follow some pretty funny people and enjoy reading it periodically, but I don’t think I’ll ever become a hardcore Twit. (Is that what they’re called? Because they totally should be.)