Several years ago, as I was naively living what I thought was a rather satisfactory life, a dear friend pulled me to the side, handed me a margarita, waited for me to finish it (which took 3 seconds, because I have skills), and then said: “Everything you are doing is wrong.”
Oh. Well, that sounded rather serious, so perhaps I should hear this out. I started to signal for the waiter to bring another round, but he was already headed this way with a laden tray, unbidden. This is what happens when you frequent an establishment often enough that your bar tabs are essentially paying the salaries of four full-time employees. I turned back to my friend, who shall remain nameless at this point because she already gets enough attention in my other stories. “Please explain.”
She did. “You’re not on Twitter!” This was announced with a serious outrage equivalent to my having done something unsavory with small, furry animals and/or nuns. Based on the horrified gasps from nearby tables, several patrons were equally mortified at my transgressions and/or had just received one of those bar tabs that could cover the cost of a small car.
Me: “Twitter? That social media app where you document your bowel movements?”
Nameless sighed. “Look, it’s more than that. There are all kinds of things going on. I get my news from Twitter. Besides,” and here she paused to pick up her fork and toy with her fried avocado, so I knew something not-good was coming. Neither of us toy with anything fried, we shove it in our mouths with unregulated gusto. “Your blogs don’t have the followers that they should. Your name is not out there. You have to promote yourself.” She then hacked off a healthy chunk of the sizzled avocado and shoved it in her mouth, experiencing a small orgasm as she did so.
The nearby patrons, who clearly hated me for simply sitting at a table, didn’t have a smidge of a problem with Nameless throwing her head back and curling her toes. (Side note, in the interest of fairness: The fried avocados at Esparza’s are beyond real, and they will change your life. This means nothing to my story, but you really should genuflect at appropriate moments. They are stuffed with either beef or chicken, your choice, and both versions will make you see Jesus.)
Still, Nameless had a point. I was doing nothing in the self-promotion category. At that time, I still innocently believed that simply composing interesting stories and then proffering them up on a primitively-designed website would lead to eventual recognition and glory. This is the default belief of many writers. If you write it, they will come, or some such. But they don’t. Way back in the digital day, when blogging first reared its multi-faceted head, and most people were still struggling to understand the basics like “internet connection” and “click here to bookmark”, there were some break-out stars. Random people could upload a two-paragraph missive about potting geraniums and suddenly they were getting more exposure than the discovery of a new solar system.
Now? Instant success doesn’t happen, at least not for writers. (Flashpoints of attention still occur in other professions, with starlets “accidentally” posting nude photos of them riding a farm tractor or disgruntled Senatorial staff members releasing an eye-opening email.) But for the common folk, it’s a long road to travel from obscurity to minimal recognition. You have to do things that you don’t really have any interest in doing.
And at the top of that list of unsavory activities? Self-promotion. I’m just not cut out for that. I’m not the person that wants to be the center of attention at a social gathering. (Unless drinking is involved, and that’s a whole different playground.) I don’t want to be the center of attention anywhere. I’m an introvert. (And I say that with full pride and no shame. I just want to be let alone, as Greta Garbo famously uttered decades ago, yet so many people still don’t get it. It’s not that introverts necessarily dislike people, they just prefer to be in situations where other people are not involved.)
My flashback reverie dissipated. Esparza’s and orgasms were gone, replace by my mundane home office.
I turned to the woman on my right, a woman that I did not recognize and knew nothing about except that she had stolen my partner’s chair from his desk and rolled it over to mine. (No idea where my partner might be. Did Madonna release a new album? He’s probably out getting a copy.) There was a man with a slacker ponytail standing behind her, aiming a camera at me and the Home Intruderess. “Who are you? And how did you get into my house?”
Trudy just beamed, apparently trained in the art of explaining things to slow people who didn’t pay attention. “The little short guy at the door let us in. He said his name was Scotch? Or maybe he was ordering a drink. I didn’t question it, because he ran off to claw on something and he left the door open. That’s all it takes these days to get legal cause to come into your life and mess with you. Something to do with that Citizens United ruling when the Supreme Court lost their minds, or at least a privately-funded majority of them, and the country got screwed. With me so far?”
I sighed. “Scotch is a cat. He has no legal jurisdiction over anything that happens in this house. I want you to leave. I want everyone in this house to leave unless I’m sleeping with them or I take them to the vet so they can be checked for worms. Go!”
Trudy smiled again, less beamingly. “So you won’t answer the burning question that our drug-addled viewers want to know? How is it that you can claim to be introverted and press-shy when you’re trying to write a book for fame and fortune?”
I’d had enough. I went Norma Rae. I powered-down my laptop, climbed on my desk, and waved a sign that I had hastily scribbled on a piece of cardboard ripped from a box of organic carrots. “I’m not in it for the fame, I’m not in it for the glory, I’m in it for the hope that one day someone will find one of my books in a dusty corner of the library, brush it off, take it home, realize they have something that speaks to them, and just revel in the word dreams. That’s what formed me, that’s what I want to give back.”
Trudy grimaced. “As touching as you might want that Hallmark moment to be, the shape of your primitive sign ruined it all. In case you haven’t noticed, we do TV in landscape format and not portrait. We’ll have to redo this scene.” She turned her head to address some underling presumably standing in what used to be my private-property hallway. “Are the makeup people here? I need to be freshened.”
I jumped off my desk. “Get out of my house. And take Ponytail with you. And the people in the hallway. And that fool that is digging around in my fridge, there’s nothing in there that he can have. What is wrong with you people?”
Trudy sighed. “Fine. We’ll go, but only because I just got a tweet from somebody in Legal that there was some paperwork that didn’t get signed. This is what happens when you outsource to India.” She then stood up and trounced out of the room, not bothering to roll my partner’s chair back where she found it, so you know she came from a bad family. Ponytail followed her, along with several other people who scampered out of places in my house they shouldn’t have been, joining the parade. (That’s how Movements start these days. One person does something and then everybody else starts doing it because they don’t read books or think for themselves.) The cavalcade traipsed across my front porch, stomped down the steps, piled into nondescript vehicles and drove them to another location where they could presumably annoy more innocent people. Oh wait, there was still one strange car in the driveway.
“That would be mine.”
I turned to find my editor standing next to me, the editor I don’t really have but I often pretend that I do because it’s a convenient plot device for my stories. “You’re here as well? Is there a sign for free beer in my front yard?”
Editoria smirked. “Well, if there is, it needs to be taken down. I’ve already checked the stock in the fridge and the pickings are dismal. Has it ever occurred to you to pay more than four bucks for a six-pack? There’s some greener pastures out there, buddy.”
Me: “I’m busy. Why are you here?”
She: “Well, since you are once again rambling far and wide with this story instead of getting to the point, I thought it was time for an intervention. This could take a while. Do you have any hors d’oeuvres? I’m a bit famished, having to drive to this quaint little part of town where you gays are doing marvelous things with… whatever you do that makes property values rise. A quiche would be nice, aren’t you people always making things like that?”
Me: “There’s nothing in this house for you to eat, in more ways than one. Could you possibly get to your point before… I don’t now… there’s bloodshed of some kind.”
Editoria sighed, something she had clearly practiced on many lonely, unsatisfied nights. “Very well, if you insist.” She plunked herself down in my partner’s desk chair, an action which seemed to be the latest rage in my domicile. (Where the hell was my partner? Was the new Madonna CD on backorder? He was not going to put up with that.) Editoria scooched her Eminent Domain chair closer to mine. “This thing you’re working on, with the rambling, let’s wrap it up. I have places to be.” She picked up a jump drive on my desk, one fashioned in the loving image of a storm-trooper from Star Wars, made a face, and then threw it on the floor. “Twitter. You are supposed to be writing about your experiences with Twitter. This has not happened so far.
Me: “Yes, it has. There were several critical paragraphs about how I-”
Editoria cut me off with a demonstrative hand gesture that would make even reputable drag queens gasp in admiration. “Sweetie, we’ve talked about this before. You have focus issues. Now, I want you to start a new paragraph, one just below this whole section that I am going to edit out before we go to print, and we are going to have some structure. Let’s make a nice little sub-heading, in bold, and then we are only going to write about things in that sub-heading, preferably with numbers to indicate the distinction between your points. With me?”
Me: “I have never been with you. I have only imagined you.”
She: “Same thing. Sub-heading, bold print, go!”
5 Things That Annoy Me about Twitter
- The brevity. I’ve babbled about this before on other social media, even though that social media has nothing to do with Twitter. How the hell am I supposed to get my point across in 140 characters or less? I write stories, not bumper stickers. (Nothing against the Bumper Sticker People, of course. I’m sure they are lovely people. And if we didn’t have bumper stickers, we would have nothing to read in traffic.)
- The hashtags. I never know what the good ones are. (I’m just not dedicated enough to be trendy.) So I usually just make up my hashtags, using phrases that I think are humorous, but then no one ever gets to appreciate that humor because they would never think to search for my odd-ass hashtags. Epic fail.
- The vapidity. Some people will tweet about the most mundane things on the planet. “I had oatmeal for breakfast! #yum #oatmeal #breakfast” What’s even more mind-boggling? The 56 people who made that tweet a “favorite” and the 73 people who retweeted it. This is what’s wrong with the election process in our country. These people are allowed to vote.
- The protocol. I never know what to do when someone reacts in some way to my existence on Twitter, whether they follow you or favorite something you tweeted or (this is the real validation moment) they retweet you. Do I send them a thankful Direct Message, do I tweet about the joy of the connection, do I figure out where they live and leave a fruit basket on their front porch? This is more confusing than the absurd bad-choice I made in high school when I signed up for a Calculus class, bumbled along for a month or so as I tried to make sense of it all, then I bailed before it affected my GPA and ran back to Yearbook Staff, because those were my people and I never should have turned my back on them.
- The deluge. If you manage to attract a substantial following of any kind (for example purposes, let’s just envision a number that is greater than the total of your known living relatives), your Twitter feed will explode into a torrent of attention-seeking sound bites. You sign in, start to review the latest updates, and within 2 seconds Twitter is informing you that you have “149 New Tweets”. How can anybody live under that kind of pressure? Yes, I realize that many social-media apps offer the same pitfall. But on Twitter, it’s overwhelming and constant. Twitter is the short-attention-span winner, with all those Oatmeal Tweeters and the people who inexplicably love them.
5 Things I Consider When I Contemplate Following Someone
- The short little bio. You don’t have to win me with this part; it’s difficult to summarize yourself in a sound bite, unless you’re a Republican, because those people have templates. But some folks are very adept at capturing whimsical seriousness, my favorite thing, in a mere sentence or two. You had me at first click.
- The lack of inspiration. As I make my way down your list of tweets, if I don’t feel any emotional response whatsoever within the first 10 items or so, our tenuous relationship is probably over. I realize that we all have mundane, poorly-designed missives from time to time. Nobody is brilliant 24-7, that’s just too much expectation. But seriously, if you keep throwing things at the wall of social media and none of it sticks, you might need another hobby.
- The arrogance. Specifically, I’m talking about the people who say “I don’t do Direct Messages”. Really? Then why the hell are you on Twitter? If you don’t want to interact with people, this is not the app for you. Granted, I’m in the sub-basement tier of Twitter, with minimal (in the grand scheme of things) followers. Maybe the DM’s become intolerable once you become a supernova with 60 billion followers, I don’t know. But in my current situation, as a struggling, self-promoting author, I am thrilled if someone takes the time to send a personal message. Perhaps I’m missing something with this angle, I don’t get out much.
- The arrogance, Part II. This is where we delve into the eye-opening followers/following disparity that you often see on Twitter. It amazes me when I stumble onto a user profile where someone is following three people but they have 56K followers. How are you all that and I don’t even know who you are? Unless you are Stephen King or JK Rowling or the Marquis de Sade, then your follow/follower ratio should be fairly equivalent. If someone follows you, you follow them back, unless they’re an ass (see below). It’s just courtesy. Once you’ve done something important with your life and can afford to be selective and/or elitist, that’s a game changer, but until then we’re all in the same boat and we should row together.
- The Jesus lead-in. Nothing against religion in general, mind you. Some fine things have happened when people use religion as it is intended (a path to enlightenment and humanity) and not as a weapon (cherry-picking the parts that appeal to you and then going off-the-rails crazy about those plucked cherries). But if that’s the first thing you want me to know about you, we probably play in different sandboxes.
5 Things I Consider When I Contemplate Un-Following Someone (Or Blocking Them)
We have a raging debate out there concerning the Proper Reaction to People Who Unfollow. In one camp (this is where I live) there are the folks who realize that people have their own reasons for whatever they do, and if someone doesn’t want to be digital friends anymore, the planet is still in alignment and we can all move on. In the other camp (this is where a lot of conservatives live, no surprise), there are folks who lose their minds if you unfollow them. They even have special apps they use, wherein they are alerted the very second that you leave the fold, and then they tweet about how your desertion is proof that you were born of a jackal.
Being of non-jackal origin (as far as I know), I thought perhaps I could help some of the vindictive AWOL-app users get a grasp on why people might leave.
- The vindictive followers. True enough, there are people who will unfollow someone just because someone doesn’t follow them back. These people are only interested in building numbers and not in building a compatible network of like-minded contacts. (This is fine if you’re in it for the vanity or you have self-esteem issues based on unsavory things that may have happened in your childhood.) If I have followed you, I did so for a reason (see above) and I won’t unfollow you unless you annoy the hell out of me (see below).
- The morning after. Appearances (especially digital) can be deceiving, and we all make choices from time to time that aren’t revealed as oopsies until the day breaks. Although I may have initially found a person’s profile and feed to be pleasing and compatible, if I catch a gander of a tweet that is absurd (“Global warming is a lie!”) or Tea Party-ish (“God wrote the Constitution!”) or just stupid (“My kid has a right to take a gun to daycare!”) then we’re parting ways. Irreconcilable differences.
- The morning never comes. If you haven’t tweeted a word since the Battle of Gettysburg, it’s clear that your interests have drifted to other realms. Neither one of us is benefitting from this relationship.
- The thieves in the temple. This would be the soulless people who want you to give them money in return for a “guaranteed” number of followers. Most of these tricksters are easy to spot, with their brazen attempts at money-grabbing right in their profile bio. (“5,000 followers for 30 bucks! Call me, maybe?”) Sadly, some of these people are smart, adding just enough “original” content in their feeds that you may not initially see beyond the mask, enticed by a few witty bits that they probably stole from somebody else. But once I figure out that someone is a circling shark, they are gone, and they are blocked. (Fun fact: Some of these blocked shysters actually have the nerve to then tweet about you unfollowing them. Really? You’ve done something offensive but your response is to slam other people. Did you vote for Mitt Romney?)
- The lack of arousal in our trysting bed. There are often cases where Twitter kindred have enjoyed each other’s feeds in relative anonymity with little direct interaction, nice to hear from you but we’re seeing other people, that sort of thing. No expectations or promises. However, if I have actively tried to hit your social-media erogenous zones with likes and retweets (foreplay) or even target-specific tweets (the real deal), then you should have the decency to acknowledge my existence in at least a minimal way (a chaste “like” every now and then, or a more ribald Direct Message). If you remain frosty, then I’m going to feel chilly myself, and our romance may sour.
I finished typing and turned to Editoria. “Happy now?”
Editoria: “No, not really. The piece runs a bit long, there’s too much filler where you tried to make each of the subsections have the same number of points, and that last item is a little harsh. Do you really unfollow people just because they don’t respond every time you fondle them?”
Me: “Well, no, not really. It does irritate me when I woo someone and they don’t even bother to glance in my direction. But I mostly threw that in because I thought it was funny. Don’t you like humor?”
Editoria: “Of course not. I’m an editor. I take the fun out of everything.”
Me: “Then why am I even listening to you?”
Editoria: “I have no idea, especially since I don’t even exist.”