Jan 142015
A buddy and I had a brief exchange recently about twitter follower counts, and at one point he expressed admiration for mine.  Now, I’ll be the first to admit I don’t get it.  Sure, I used to perform work that drew in quite a few of the curious, but lately I’ve just been bellyaching about my health and taking potshots at politicians.  You know, typical cranky old guy stuff.  You’d think the crowd would have gotten off my virtual lawn by now.

I’m grateful for every person following my pointless ramblings anywhere but also glad the twitter number isn’t much higher.  I’ve had to block and mute a number of people over distracting drama like the so-called “GamerGate” debacle that’s seen a handful of decent people, mostly female geeks, endure inhuman harassment at the hands of uncultured sociopaths.  I had a few tense exchanges with some of the latter before abandoning the drama completely, but lack of actual celebrity kept me at their radar’s far fringe.

I’m not famous enough to be fouled.

Celebrity itself seems to be a magnet for twitter rage, and I confess to being on the wrong side of it at least once.  An “entertainment” reporter managed to convince twitter that comedian Sarah Silverman was throwing her weight around at an airport one day, and like a lemming I joined the herd that gave her grief for it.  Whereupon Sarah launched a fast volley of direct messages my way that had me quickly humbled.  Turns out she was having the same sort of bad day that everyone has, but her notoriety as an edgy wit made the story of a “demanding, entitled star” easy for the non-discerning to accept.  In a lapse of critical cognition I bought into it, and deserved the resulting backlash.  Mea culpa, Sarah.

There are many celebrities actively engaged on twitter, and it’s often as entertaining following their twitter exchanges as it is their actual work.  William Shatner is a perfect example.  He’s extremely active on twitter, has a huge following, and attracts a great many trolls.  It’s amusing to watch him toy with them for a few tweets and then drop the block boom.  Yet I can’t help but wonder if the simulated swordplay is as fun for him as it seems.  He certainly seems to enjoy it…

Then there are famed persons like Matthew Modine, who takes a largely low-key approach to twitter when not campaigning for Marvel superherodom or excitedly sharing news about projects like the very cool Full Metal Jacket documentary.  I don’t know if Matthew has had to suffer the slings of many trolls, but I don’t see him drawing quite the degree of challenges enjoyed by Shatner.  They’ve got different personalities, which means different reactions.

I’m sure that if I preached to a specific choir I could ramp up my follower count dramatically.  Many on twitter have done exactly that: demagogues appealing to a select but significant-enough set who provide an ego-boosting echo chamber.  But for me, diversity is one of those things that makes a venue like twitter really interesting.  That may well mean my fewer followers tend to be as scatterbrained as I am, but so be it.  The experience works for us.

I doubt I’ll ever have to worry about attracting the large following that true celebrities have, but I do often wonder what it would be like.  I have to confess I’d probably be much more like Shatner than Modine, and take on a troll now and then.

Good thing for my followers that I’m just a nanocelebrity.

Addendum: this article wound up kicking off a lively and highly entertaining exchange on twitter– led by none other than William Shatner and joined by Matthew Modine.  It was a blast!  Based on how my timeline blew up, I can only imagine what those guys deal with every day.

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