My, my, look who’s following me
I am being followed by three real people. Or, to be more precise, three “Verified” people. These three have been Verified as being who they say they are, so I think it’s appropriate that I consider them real.
The unlikely trio of Margaret Atwood, Bif Naked and Chris Brogan are the only Verified people amongst my 800 and some Twitter followers. You may know that Twitter assigns a little blue icon with a check mark in it to show that people are Verified. I’m not sure what kinds of proofs Twitter demands, but as with any online activity, one has to suspend any significant disbelief and go with it.
It’s likely that these three followers have never met one another. Perhaps, sometime, I could make introductions. “Peg, this is Bif. Bif, meet Chris. Chris – Margaret.”
Of course, I’m taking some liberties here. It’s not as if I even know these three. I’ve heard that Margaret Atwood’s nickname is Peg, but it’s over the top to pretend that I’m on a first name (let alone nickname) basis with Canada’s preeminent author (and famous Tweeter).
I would stumble a bit, too, in introducing Bif Naked. Wikipedia tells me that her name is a reworking of her birth name Beth Torbet, so among friends, does she use Bif or Beth?
Chris Brogan, I am pretty sure, is just Chris Brogan. I’ve never met Chris, a hugely popular blogger and author specializing in social media. Likewise Bif Naked, an edgy song writer/ performer out of Vancouver (via Winnipeg, New Delhi and other points east). I have at least been in the same room as Margaret Atwood, some decades ago, at a couple writers’ events and readings.
But not having met in person is typical of Twitter. I guesstimate that I have met about 100 of my followers and a handful are close friends. Yet it’s a bit of an artificial divide to start categorizing Twitter connections as real or unreal based on whether you have seen them in the flesh. All of them are real enough to me, or I wouldn’t be following them.
As is the case in face-to-face interactions, one allows a certain amount of wiggle room on Twitter for people’s adopted personas. An introvert like me might be able to pull off a little more of an extroverted front on Twitter. Someone who is not particularly quick-witted might appear more so, given time to conjure up his or her witticisms. Certainly, judging from the tweets I read, life on Twitter is a few degrees happier and bouncier than what I see out on the streets, in ‘real life.’
But in defense of social media posturing, what’s to say that we’re not all doing the same in our daily lives, behind the masks of our faces, clothes, cars and houses?
Some ‘tweeps’ may be totally unlike their online presence but, of the ones I have put to the test with an in-person meeting, the broad brush strokes of a person’s personality show through. You can pick up sincerity levels in 140 character tweets just as you do in fleeting moments of eye contact (or lack thereof).
So with both my followers and those I follow, the possibility of knowing them in person is not a necessary condition for followship. I follow a few Verified people – Steve Martin, Roger Ebert, Susan Orlean and Rosanne Cash. Frankly, however, I follow those four because they have demonstrated an uncommon mastery over those 140 (or less) characters that Twitter allows us. If all the online Steve, Roger, Susan and Rosanne turned out to be charlatans I would still follow them.
I don’t expect people with tens or hundreds of thousands of Twitter followers to follow me back. As the whimsical Rosanne Cash tweeted recently, “If your ‘dream come true’ is for me to follow you on Twitter, you are aiming far too low. #AlsoPerversityPreventsMeFromObligingIfAsked” Gotta love that perversity.
I do, however, feel honoured and a bit intimidated that Margaret Atwood, who is followed by 91,000 plus, but only follows 105, is now following me. That happened when I displayed a little bit of my own perversity. Twitter regularly posts a Suggestions: Who to Follow list on my profile page and in its wisdom Twitter’s algorithmic engineers kept suggesting I follow Atwood.
One day I sent out a tweet saying I wouldn’t be following Atwood until she followed me. You guessed right. Very shortly, the Verified Margaret Atwood showed up on my list of followers. Suddenly, I felt the need to up the intelligence quotient in my tweets.
So I’m under pressure not to let down my three Verified and very famous followers. Twit Pressure, you might call it. Which makes me think of Monty Python. Maybe we’re all just competing for Upper Class Twit of the Year, chasing each other around.