Twitter can now count me among its millions of users. Never one to miss out on a trend that involves naming rights, I actually became a registered Tweeter (Twiddle?) months ago, but didn’t really know how it worked or what its purpose was (and still kind of don’t) until recently.
This isn’t the first time I’ve claimed a name online prematurely. A week before getting engaged (keeping a surprise under wraps has never been my husband’s strong suit), I secured an e-mail address with my future married name. Two months before giving birth I locked one down for my daughter (she’ll thank me in 12 years). I registered on Facebook about a year before I actually started using it. The souvenir Arizona license plate with my name on it that I got at the Phoenix airport 23 years ago is still in my possession (which has nothing to do with an online name, but I like my name on stuff nevertheless).
After much thought and minimal research, I finally decided to start following people on Twitter: my husband, Sarah Silverman, Michael Ian Black and Gail Collins (although I realized a few days ago that Gail hasn’t Tweeted since Nov. 12, 2008, so I’m not sure she really counts).
I wanted to follow David Sedaris, but when I saw that he was following Kim Kardashian and Ricky Martin, I concluded it wasn’t the David Sedaris I had in mind. Not that David Sedaris the writer is necessarily incapable of watching reality shows on E! or listening to Menudo, but if you’re a fan of his, chances are you sort of hope he doesn’t do either.
Lately there are other Tweeters whose pages I look at somewhat regularly, too. Like the cast of MTV’s “The Hills” (particularly the secondary and tertiary characters). But it’s really not cool to admit that, so far be it from me to officially follow them.
From the little time I’ve spent on Twitter, it seems that unless you’re super famous, super infamous, super rich or super funny (like some guy called @S–tMyDadSays), you pretty much have to follow lots of people in order to get lots of followers. Nevertheless, I’d like to be the exception and just keep following my four people (although Gail Collins will likely be replaced soon if she doesn’t Tweet anything new) and have people follow me en masse anyway even though I am none of the above.
Last Saturday, I decided to follow Barack Obama after seeing he had more than 2 million followers and was following about three quarters of a million people. I figured the chances he’d follow me were quite good (one in three, I thought). But when he didn’t jump on my Twitter bandwagon after a few hours I unfollowed him. It was sort of empowering to dump the leader of the free world. This must have been how France felt in 2003.
It’s not entirely surprising the president didn’t opt to follow me, though. Nine Tweets into my Twitter tenure, I’ve said nothing witty, insightful or even remotely interesting.
On my smattering of followers, one is doing it just because we have the same name. Another, I’m pretty sure, is just following me so I’ll click on his porn links. At least three of them don’t seem to know me or update their accounts, so I suspect they’re following me by accident. My husband has to follow me because that’s what marriage is all about.
It was surprising to me that my husband signed up for Twitter and actually uses it a fair amount since he always claims to be averse to technology (although a Facebook account and a BlackBerry later, he should probably stop saying that). He has a decent Twitter following (or, more than three times as many followers as me). Not that it’s a competition, of course. (But as of presstime I do have 12 more Facebook friends than he does.)
What I’m really supposed to be doing on Twitter is a bit of a mystery to me. And what I think I’m supposed to be doing I don’t think I should do — after all, there’s nothing more embarrassing than an ordinary Joe trying to be pithy and droll and failing.
The founder of Twitter was the subject of a New York Times piece last week about how he’s made no money on the site and is just trying to build its value. I’m pretty sure that’s code for he’s puzzled about its purpose, too. As far as I can tell, Twitter is for people more sophisticated or popular than me, or for those who really, really want to ensure that if their tree falls in the forest, someone will read about it in 140 characters or less.
Follow Meredith on Twitter @MCCarroll and e-mail questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.