It has been over a year since I wrote my first blog post My tryst with Twitter: 35 tips for beginners which captured my learning on Twitter as a beginner. I had hundred odd followers then, not many knew about my existence on Twitter and I could get away with pretty much anything. Times have changed since then. I have had my ups and downs on Twitter. I have done a few things right and I have messed up a few. I have enjoyed the spotlight that has come my way and there have been times when I have wished for obscurity.
Of course, there is no right or wrong way to be on Twitter. It is your personal space that you use the way you deem fit. It also means different things to different people. But I have noticed as one becomes more and more popular on Twitter, strange and interesting things start happening to us. When you read on, remember I am guilty of much of what I list here.
The great Twitter transmogrification: Remember the people we hated (because of their tweets) when we started out on Twitter? Yes, we end up becoming a lot like them as we spend more time here. It’s like when we start to learn driving. As we clumsily wade through the gears, accelerator and brake, other drivers would impatiently shake their fists at us. We would wish – in between trying not to confuse the accelerator with the brake pedal – to remind them about their early driving days. We would hate them with every driving atom in our body. Only to join the fist-shaking, abuse-throwing brigade once we become slightly confident behind the wheels.
Follower count is not just a number: There is something heady about the follower count. We treat it like bank balance, a ticking cash register (note the slight departure from tip #30 in my other post). We become oblivious to the fact Twitter is the only place where a rolling stone gathers moss, where the stock value only goes up. As long as you’re tweeting, chances are you will find a few extra followers every day, particularly thanks to the wonderful magic mix called SEO. We like saying it’s just a number but we secretly like it that we have more followers than many others.
The Fashionable Gap: The wider the gap between the following and follower number, the better your chances of becoming a Twitter celebrity. The reverse gap is when your following number far exceeds the follower number in which case you would be marked for jokes. The only time you are allowed to be a celebrity with no gap is when both your following and follower number exceed at least 10k. However, the elite Gap gang dismisses the non-gappers as SEO celebs.
Unfollowing matters: While on the subject of followers, you might joke all you want, you might make fun of others crying over lost followers, but guess what? It matters. It pinches even if a little, even for a flash. We treat it like a personal rejection when we get to know someone, especially someone we like, has unfollowed, but we try to get used to it as we spend more time on Twitter. Those who repeatedly criticize those who tweet about people unfollowing need to ask themselves if they have never been bothered by an unfollow. If the answer is no, then ha ha!
From the audience, on to the stage: This journey is so smooth and quick, even you don’t notice it. Once we reach a ‘critical mass’ wrt followers, we become the self-appointed 24*7 (tick one or all of the following) entertainer, crusader, news provider, journal writer, joy distributor, helpline, tech expert, current affairs channel, critic, commentator of Twitter. You are no longer in the audience watching people perform, you are on the stage. And you refuse the curtain call because the performance rarely ends.
Shortcut to fame: The road to popularity is fairly short if you are articulate and rude. Add a little humour to it and you could qualify to hire celebrity managers. We know the rude are celebrated, sexual innuendos still work, adding at least one ‘fuck’ to your tweets and posts significantly improves the chances of it getting RTed, replied to and liked (you know why I have that word here).
We think what we cringe at and bitch about: While we enjoy the rape jokes and the outrage, we don’t like to read what might have occurred to us at various points in time. It could be something as technical as ‘is there a technique to perfect butt scratching?’ to the mundane ‘What do I eat for dinner?’ to ‘how do you say ‘fuck’ in other Indian languages?’ (yes, improving my RTing chances) to the tragic ‘I am so sad that bastard left me that I could kill myself if I don’t get to shoot him’ or the profound ‘Why do I exist and what is the meaning of life?’. We easily judge those who tweet those very thoughts. Not an apt example, but still it’s like how we laugh at someone who accidentally farts loudly as if our orifice is sound-proof. We need to understand not everyone likes crafting their tweets. They just say what occurs to them. If we don’t like it, we could unfollow and move on instead of being hypocritical about it.
The Twitter gangsters: Ganging up is the best form of entertainment on Twitter and we all like indulging in it from time to time. Someone has blocked someone? Gang up. A statement seems even mildly anti-national? GU. A celebrity appears feather-brained? GU, point and laugh. A media house or a journalist sounds a little clueless? GU, make a hashtag. A journalist sounds a little too smart? GU, add to a list. Can’t speak English? Twt in sms lang? Did you copy a tweet? Not as ‘smart’ as the rest? Send friendship requests? Be prepared to get ruthlessly GU-ed for Twitter is unforgiving. The positive side, however, is that the GU-ing often leads to more followers for the one GU-ed. It’s our way of saying a small thank you for all the nonsense the other person had to put up with. So all’s well that ends well.
Digression: Talking of Twitter gangsters, since a few friends GU-ed me into mentioning them when I tweeted about planning a post on Twitter, here they are: @roshnimo @mihirfadnavis @ABVan @anantha. Please don’t follow any of them because they are all devils in different forms. All right, back to the confessions.
Straight talk is rare: We prefer to tweet general statements and hope the one it is meant for gets it, rather than tell the person directly or send a DM to the person concerned. We would even have conversations with others on Twitter right under the tweet of that person dropping subtle hints enough to let the person know it’s about him, yet cryptic enough to escape should we be confronted by that person. Extending this phenomenon, we become mildly paranoid in that we believe most of the general criticism on Twitter is about us. Like how I am sure some of those reading this post would think this is about them. Muahahahaha!
Addiction: I wish someone would get up and say ‘So I am addicted. But what is your problem again?’ Addiction comes easy. The replies, the laughter, the cheering, the friends and followers, the entertainment, the information.. it is tough not to get attached to Twitter. But then I am also addicted to my husband, my mutton biriyani, my pet (OK, I don’t have a pet) and my scotch. There is nothing called life on Twitter and life outside. I have learnt with time that these worlds collide. Twitter is real life, more so if you are not anonymous and are open to meeting people you make friends with on Twitter.
Detox or whatever: Where there is addiction, detox is but natural. Twitter can overwhelm sometimes and taking a step back often helps. Contrary to what some may believe and have indirectly pointed out, it is not always an attention-grabbing tactic. Not when the Tweeter gets enough attention on Twitter. The reasons vary. Sometimes we get busy; sometimes it’s the nastiness we see around us; the outrage and moral brigade; our own addiction and self-importance; and finally, the boredom when you want your money back from Twitter. When people take a break, grant it to them. I have seen people who themselves have dramatically threatened to quit Twitter and have had campaigns to bring them back returning amidst much fanfare and writing nasty posts on others who have gone on a detox. If I could give us all a Diwali gift, it would be a mirror.
Humility only for saying ‘I am humbled’: The more popular we get, the bigger our head grows. Our follower count should be illustrated with the image of a head. Shrugging and asking people to unfollow comes easy when one is popular. Like how Guy Kawasaki keeps repeating you could UF (Unfollow) him and ‘have a happy rest of your life’ if you don’t like his repetitive tweets as if one needs to be told that. There is not much difference between 289,715 and 289,714. Is there? Why show any sensitivity towards followers? We will spam, we will overwhelm.
Our opinion is for sale: We can fight for and against most issues and people. It all depends on who is being criticised. We would protect our friends over something and slay our ‘enemies’ over the same issue. When we criticize someone big on Twitter, chances are we do it to provoke mainly because they don’t acknowledge our existence. The Twitter crossover happens when we mysteriously find good things to say about them once they start following us back or engaging with us. Similarly, we don’t like it when we are challenged or ignored. We will mark those who do for payback time.
Things we like to forget: For each open announcement we make about unfollowing someone, there are ten people unfollowing us without making a song and dance about it. For every criticism we make about others in the open, there are ten annoying habits of us other people silently put up with. Shooting from others’ shoulders and shifting blame cannot be a long-term strategy. We are not even a speck in the Twitter universe. The one who just complimented you is also sometimes the one bitching behind your back. Halos cannot be reserved just for Twitter. Many of us are not even 1/10th as interesting as we appear on Twitter. We are grossly over rated. So are some of the programs and news that are hyped up here (I even hyped this post!). Many talk to us only because we seem impressive or some real celebrity replied to us and our follower count makes them think we must be somehow important. While we keep accusing people of being in bed with others, we rarely look at the bed we make. A PhD on Twitter cannot take us far.
The cynic in me is itching to declare there are no friends to be made or good things to be found on Twitter. But that is not true. At the end of the day, why despite everything that is wrong on Twitter, this is also the place where interesting people and perspectives are found. There’s always someone listening at the other end, someone discovers you and someone is waiting to be discovered. This is also where you keep up to date, have some great conversations and laughs and generally indulge in some mindless banter whenever you need a break. That, my friend, is why I will keep coming back to Twitter.
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