“I will be performing my identity on limited engagement between birth and death.”
—Mat Johnson tweet
If you are on Twitter, then you know that a person’s clout and social status are reflected in the proportion of followers to following. If you are extremely famous and bad-ass, then you follow no one, or a handful of people, while teeming hordes follow you. I currently follow 705 people. Almost double my following. I’m not proud of this ratio, but I am who I am. And I’ve gotten more selective about who I follow, because I want to keep the fraction under control. It’s a dignity indicator. Still, if I only followed people who follow me, some of my favorite tweeters would be eliminated.
These dear people are the boulders in my twitter stream. Some keep me thoroughly entertained, informed, and connected to ideas that inspire and engage. Others make me LOL, consistently. Still others serve their own random purposes and don’t bother me enough to be unfollowed. I even keep some pretty annoying personalities rolling through . . . to make myself feel better? Maybe. Annoying personalities include “digital motivational speakers” who give me unsolicited advice about how to be creative and productive. Actually, I think I am going to go unfollow that guy right now.
Okay, I’m back. Even found time to retweet something by Mat Johnson. Occasionally I find myself retweeting one person’s tweets so often that it starts to feel like plagiarism. Write your own funny tweets, lazy! So I back off for a while. But I also know that retweets are a “fix” that tweeters need to relax in their stream. It’s all good fun until someone loses an eye.
BOULDERS in my TWITTER stream: a partial directory
Roxane Gay (@rgay): Her twitter feed is all-knowing, self-effacing, and inquisitive. She is definitely a high revealer. She tweets about what goes on in her daily life, her moods, her social anxiety, her career. Also she does a lot of live tweeting during TV shows that I don’t watch. I enjoy these TV tweets just the same. She is not afraid to mumble, rant, point fingers, lavish praise, and generally discuss.
Followers: 13.9 K
Sample Tweet: “I am literally sitting here FROWNING with stress. My face is CRUNCHY.”
Elizabeth McCracken (@elizmccracken): Some funny tweeters rely on clever one-liners, sticking strictly within the one tweet/one joke structure. So you are really getting the joke AND the punch line when you read a tweet. Elizabeth McCracken doesn’t do this. Her humor is often situational, and autobiographical. She sets it up tweet by tweet until she is finished. She’s always in complete control of the story and the main character, herself. You’ve got to admire her chops.
Sample Tweet: “Tonight I was served a glass of iced tea that tasted exactly like St. Joseph’s chewable aspirin for children.”
Raymond Pettibon (@raymondpettibon): His tweets are scary, confrontational, alienating and often obscene. Half the time I can’t even understand them because he is so committed to the 140-character rule that he has made up his own shorthand, much of it expletive. He really does not give a shit what he says on Twitter or who sees it. That much is clear. Refreshingly hostile.
Followers: 10.7 K
Sample Tweet: “cutting bck cuzz gout n ulcer. Scks. Wake uyp w/new ailment evry morn. What next? Fck iyt—taking shot o gin 4 pain.”
Ben Greenman (@bengreenman): Ben Greenman takes chances. It’s like he wakes up with an idea, or comes up with one in line at the grocery store, and throws it out there to the twitter-sphere. Hey guys, is this funny? Is this interesting? At all? A little bit? Enough for a response? Enough for a retweet? Is this cheesy? How about this? It’s a good mode to emulate, I think. A volume game. The shotgun tweeter, rather than the marksman.
Followers: 14.3 K
Sample Tweet: “Bands that overtly imitate ELO tend to sound more Beatley than bands that overtly imitate the Beatles.”
(Right? That’s brilliant!)
Andrew? (@yielding_light) Andrew is very open about the ups and downs, the mechanics of spending fifteen hours a day on twitter. He doesn’t pretend that there is no platform. The platform is twitter. And we are on it. He tweets in an abstract, mystical vein. Pop culture koans and dreamy, non-dualistic sentence fragments. I have tried other “spiritual” tweeters, a few of them on Andrew’s recommendation, and they were just too much. Andrew strikes me as a casual, half-assed Buddhist who occasionally tweets on the john.
Sample Tweet: “introversion is a requirement for entry”
Maria Popova (@brainpicker) Popova has a great name and she is an ideas machine. I suspect she has ivy-league elves helping her, but I haven’t seen them mentioned or credited anywhere. Still, I bet they tweet on her behalf. And no doubt you already follow her, so I don’t have to say much. She and I seem to have all the same interests and cultural apertures. It’s eerie. Me and about half a million other people. So much for being unique. Not that I was kidding myself about that.
Sample Tweet: “Toward freedom is the direction that the artist takes. Art work comes straight through a free mind–an open mind.”
(she is quoting someone here, she usually is)
Mat Johnson (@mat_johnson) A witty, big-hearted word warrior. He often tweets about his life as a writer and a teacher and a black man. He comes up with amusing literary gags that roll out slowly, but he’s also a master of the conceptual literary joke/tweet. That sounds easy. No, it doesn’t. Fortunately, writers do a lot of sitting around at their computers thinking shit up.
Sample tweet: “I got into reading and writing to avoid human contact but somewhere along the way it went horribly wrong.”