I am deleting my Twitter account today. No more. The key to living a good life is knowing when enough is enough. With Twitter- I have already exceeded my enough is enough point. It is time to come down out of the trees and stop with all the tweeting.
I gave Twitter my best shot. When I started tweeting over a year ago I told myself that I would not allow Twitter to become another fixation like Facebook was. Like someone who quits drinking alcohol and takes up marijuana instead, I thought that Twitter would be a less addictive addition to my life after quitting Facebook. I was wrong. At first I only tweeted once or twice a day, but what captured the majority of my attention was that I could actually read the live time thoughts of various musicians, actors, writers, comics and artists that I admired. I would get excited every time I logged onto Twitter because in some strange way I felt like I was communicating with these minor and major celebrities whom I had always wanted to get to know. I felt like I was apart of their life in some strange way. This was my first mistake. I will come back to this later in my narrative.
From the beginning I knew that I was good at Tweeting. I felt like my tweets had substance, style, depth, originality and a brazen honesty that was like nothing else on Twitter. The name of my Twitter account was The Confessionist and in my bio I explained that I was using Twitter to engage in a radical transparency art experiment. I was not going to hold back. It was my intention to give an honest and uncensored portrayal of the various machinations that go on in my inner life. I did feel like I was over exposing myself, but this slight discomfort was a minor price to pay for my art.
After the first six months on Twitter, without any significant efforts to gain followers, I was proud and satisfied with the fact that I had achieved 98 followers. In my twenties, when I was an unpublished and unrecognized writer (which, to some degree I still am) I always used to say that if I had just one reader that would make all my efforts worth it. So I was grateful to have 98 readers. Well kind of grateful. Ok, well maybe I wanted more. A lot more. Maybe I got greedy.
I could not help but notice that some of the people who I followed had hundreds of thousands of followers. People like Marc Maron, Damien Echols, Raymond Pettibon, Yoko Ono and the lead singer from that band The Flaming Lips all had more followers than I could wrap my head around. Their tweets were no better than mine, they were less prolific tweeters than I, hardly as honest but they managed to have more followers than I have blood cells. I realize that they are all public persons, which exposes them to a wider audience and I am more of a suburban hermit- but still I began to feel like having 98 followers was hardly anything to feel good about. My accomplishment of achieving 98 followers almost felt like a failure in comparison to what these other tweeters had attained. They were like those birds in the trees who have hundreds of birds singing a long with them while I was a bird on a leafless branch with a few birdies looking at me wearily as I tweeted my tune.
The one thing that I read again and again while trying to educate myself about how to get more followers was that a tweeter needs to have patience. Successful tweeting was all about perseverance. Like a long uphill climb, you got to keep going even though you think that you can’t. So I stuck with it despite the fact that the number of my followers had started to dwindle down to 89. I tried not to take the lessening number of followers too personally and I carried on in the dark. Little did I know that a trend had begun.
I started tweeting more. Some days I was the loudest bird on the branch, generating one profound tweet after the next. I was convinced that one day my tweets would be seen for the genius that they were. They would be collected in a book and finally I would get the recognition I deserved. I accepted that for the time being I was a kind of underground, indie tweeter telling it like it was, while very few people had the intelligence or the understanding to grasp what I was saying. Such is the case with most fringe artists. I could live with this. I would tweet things like:
The only thing wrong with people’s mental health is that they do not spend enough time in nature
The only problem with watering in the front yard is that I am exposed to the neighbors
The thing about Twitter is no one misses you when you’re gone.
It boggles my mind that I would rather stare into an iPhone screen than look up and watch the sky.
I wonder if Thom Yorke does his own dishes?
Ok, so as I look over my tweets now I realize that maybe they were not an expression of genius. But they were good enough. Honest fragmented thoughts spelled out nicely on the digital page. I would write one tweet after the next and rather than gaining followers, I noticed the strangest thing happening. Like an airplane slowly falling out of the sky, I was losing followers. At the rate of a few a day! Before I knew it, I was down to 51 followers and I had no idea what I was doing or saying to precipitate this loss. I tried not to think about it.
I was like a man who was gradually drowning in a lake filled with Twitter. I tried desperately to grab onto whatever I could. In a tired effort to get my number of followers back up to a non-humiliating number, I started following random people whose profiles presented them as someone who might have something interesting to say. Some days I would follow hundreds of random people and then spend an hour or so the next day unfollowing them. My hope was that they would follow me and not notice that I had unfollowed them. I know, a manipulative strategy but I was desperate. Every time I looked at my dwindling number of followers I felt like I was doing something wrong. I felt like I was failing and that my failure was being publicly announced to the world on my Twitter page right beneath the word FOLLOWERS.
Then my wife informed me that the minor and major celebrities whom I followed, those lucky people who had hundreds of thousands of followers and whose tweets I enjoyed reading because they gave me a feeling of knowing them personally, were being paid per tweet. “Paid per tweet?” “Really?” I was shocked. “You mean they are not Twitter obsessed tweeters like myself but instead are tweeting so often because they are paid per tweet?” In the words of Marc Maron, “What the fuck?” Somehow this seemed unfair. It felt like I had been the unknowing victim of a manipulative magic trick.
Twitter pays these people per tweet so that all the rest of us unpaid tweeters feel like we are on the same level as the celebrities we admire. Or even worse it keeps us tweeting because we want to be more like them! Twitter presents all of its fellow tweeters as equals in the Twitter universe. But its bullshit! Tweeters are not created equally and those whose celebrity status affords them the ability to have more followers than the average person are getting paid to create the impression that they are just like all the rest of us. Like a bird on a branch whose tweeting gets all the other birdies to tweet along! No thanks.
I had no choice but to unfollow all of the minor and major celebrities that I was following, which left me feeling all alone in the Twitterverse.
Gradually the amount of followers that I had dwindled down to 32. 32! For some reason this number seemed to stabilize at 32. I stayed at 32 for months. I have a feeling that these 32 followers are people who have deserted their Twitter accounts. They left their Twitter accounts active but no longer come around anymore. So I have become a lone bird who is tweeting in a tree to the skeletons of birds that once were. Great.
My time on Twitter has awoken me to the harsh realization of my non-celebrity status. I suppose that before Twitter I thought that I had the potential for fame in me and it was only a matter of time before others picked up on this. But now I see that not only am I a non-celebrity but actually I am a non-non-non-celebrity since I lost the majority of my very few followers on Twitter. To think that back in the day when I had 98 followers was the height of my fame, is a rather sobering thought with regards to my artistic and literary accomplishments in this world. Maybe I am not meant to be one of those people who have thousands or hundreds of thousands of followers. As hard as I have tried, it seems to just not be my fate in this life. Now I need to come down out of the branches, stop tweeting out loud into a larger world that does not want to hear my song and realize that at the age of 42 my fame extends not much further beyond my wife, my dogs and those darn mosquito’s who seem to be addicted to taking a bite out of me every night when I am asleep. Goodbye Twitter.