Yesterday, my friend Alan tweeted a link to this story of how Twitter was born. If you use Twitter at all, you should totally check it out because it's awesome. If you don't use Twitter, you should totally check it out, because a lot of what you may have heard about Twitter is probably filtered through the traditional media lens, and Twitter is off in a completely different direction.
I've been thinking a lot about Twitter lately, mostly because I have a whole lot of fun using it, but also because the number of people who read my stupid messages on Twitter has exploded by several thousand in just the last few days. Yesterday morning I said Things I didn't expect to see when I woke up today: 4714 people have looked at a picture of my socks. 51000 people are reading this. Um. I also said Now I have self conscious performance anxiety. Don't say it don't say it don't say it don-PENIS! Sigh. Dammit. Ha. I slay me.
The truth is, that's really weird to me. Even accounting for the damn spambots that auto-follow everyone, that's a hell of a lot of people. I bet a lot of them don't read my blog, and only know me as Gordie LaChance or Wesley Crusher, or the gangly kid who played those characters and was a lot more concerned about whether girls liked him than he was being honest and true to himself. The problem with being in the public eye is that the media always filters everything you do, highlights every stupid mistake you make, and aren't as interested in showing people what you're really like as they are in printing the story that will sell the most papers.
On Twitter, and on my blog, you're seeing me, the husband, geek, and stepdad. You're not seeing the kid in the Bop poster. (I don't currently own that many watches or Batman painter's caps, among other things) or the guy who is occasionally on your TV. This disconcerts some people — not a lot, but enough that I feel compelled to write Wil's Quick Guide To Following Me On Twitter, mostly so people know what they're getting themselves into, what to expect, and how much I'm going to disappoint them. (Pro Tip: No one is ever going to publish a tell-all biography about my life. Except maybe Wired, if I'm really lucky and earn it.)
Oh, and if I can make something painfully, embarrassingly clear before I begin: my whole idea here is to manage expectations and explain my own personal limits. I'm not trying to go on and on about how fucking cool I think I am and how you have to follow rules to follow me, or anything like that. I'm saying this now because some of the things down below, you may not want to hear. It's not you, it's me, and I hope you believe that.
So. We cool? Cool.
Hey there, @you! Welcome to my Twitter thingy. I'm @wilw, and I've been using this service for a long, long time, because my friend @seanbonner told me that it would be fun. At first, I didn't understand what the point was, until @warrenellis said that our mutual friend @rstevens was fun to follow on Twitter because he was this constant stream of jokes and puns and wry observations. It was then that I realized that Twitter didn't have to be about What are you doing? but could be about What's on your mind right now? It was, as the saying goes, a light bulb moment for me, and I started using Twitter for off-the-top-of-my-head thoughts that didn't warrant their own post here on my blog.
Since that day, I've sent out nearly 4000 updates (also called Tweets, because some people got together and decided that we needed a term that was even sillier and more embarrassing to say than 'blog-o-sphere') to a bunch of people, including, probably, @you.
I'm not going to tell you what Twitter is, or how you should use it. As @Pogue said in his NYT column about Twitter, The Web is full of “rules” about the proper way to Twitter, and a lot of them are just knowier-than-thou garbage. I couldn't agree more, and encourage you to ignore them all, choosing instead to use Twitter however it amuses you.
Now, having said that, if you plan to follow me on Twitter, here are some things you should probably know, so you know what to expect from me:
1. I send out a lot of Tweets, frequently about stupid stuff that's just amusing to me. From time to time I will send out several in just a few minutes. You probably shouldn't follow me on your phone, because it's going to get annoying. I have friends who are so prolific, I don't follow them on my phone, and they're my friends! I have friends who don't follow me, because I tweet way too much for them. It's cool, I know text message charges can be expensive, and I wouldn't follow me, because I use Twitter a LOT. I don't plan to change that, either. It's fun and I like it.
2. I'm probably not going to follow you. I follow a few close friends, a few people whose work I really admire or whose Tweets really entertain me, and a couple of news sources. I can't possibly follow all 53,000 of you (it went up since I sent those Tweets yesterday. Weird.) — or even one percent of that number — and still get any work done. I'm easily distracted, so I have to draw the circle very small so I can step out of it when I need to.
3. I do try to keep up with all the @replies to my messages, but most of the time when I'm at my computer, I'm working, and I can't afford to stop what I'm doing every time a reply comes in. (Easily distracted, remember?) The extended conversations at Twitter can be awesome, especially when we're all playing a global Improv game of Yes, and..., but ultimately I have to focus first on what pays my kids' bills and keeps our roof up. Please know that even if I don't reply, I do pay attention, and I thank you for taking the time to respond.
4. There is no number four.
5. If you're expecting some kind of weird "celebrity" experience, I'm not your guy, and this is where some of you can point and scoff and pat yourselves on the back for saying, "Dude, you're not a celebrity! Hurr hurr hurr." That's, um, kind of the point I'm trying to make. If you're looking for a real celebrity, you want to follow someone else, and there are plenty of guides to who those people are. I'm just a geek, and I'm just this guy, you know? No one's following me around with a camera hoping to catch me not wearing underwear under my skirt. I know, I've tried. Sigh.
6. The last thing I want to say really makes me feel like a dick, but it's come up a lot and I owe it to all of you to be honest and open. I'm not going to lie to you, @you, it's overwhelming, really cool, and a little scary that there are about 53,000 people following me on Twitter. If I think about it too much, like right now, I get freaked out. The way I continue having fun with Twitter is that I do what I want with it, and I hope you'll come along for the ride if you think it's worth it. But if you do follow me, please don't @ complain at me about how often I'm tweeting or what I tweet about. I'm not interested in censoring myself for anyone — not for @you, not for @youtoo, and not even for you, @wilsmom. If you're disappointed that I'm not the kid I used to be, or you decide I talk too much, or you just don't think I'm very interesting, that's cool — no one likes everything or everyone. But don't ask me to change to please you. Just unfollow, and we'll each go our own way, cherishing the time we had together and moving on. No regrets. We'll always have Paris.
7. Lastly, a small request from me to @you: I'm not Gordie and I'm not Wesley. I'm Wil. Please show me the courtesy of using my real name, not the name of some guy you saw in a theater or on TV 20 years ago. I hope this explains why I'm sensitive about that, but if it doesn't, think of it as someone using a nickname you really hate. They may not know any better, they may mean well, but it still gives you that little pain behind your eyes, doesn't it?
Finally, on the off-chance that someone who makes Twitter go sees this: please let me give you money. I love Twitter and I really want to support it so it doesn't go away.
Okay, that's it. I hope this handy little guide has made it a little easier to know what to expect from me with this neat new toy. See you in the Twitterverse, @you!
Whew. That was really tough to write, because I'm so afraid of coming off wrong, or being misunderstood. Well, you miss 100% of the shots you don't take, right? I will just hope that this is received in the way it was intended, and not the other way.