My high school girlfriend introduced me to many things: how to make a good quesadilla, Regina Spektor, everlasting love and being cheated on. But also, and perhaps most importantly to this column, she introduced me to the online social revolution. As I began courting her, I would religiously check her LiveJournal, eager to read the deeply personal things she would share with anonymous strangers, and to see if any of them involved me. A friendly leg-up on figuring out females? It was like a digital version of Hitch!
In the years since this introduction, the online social revolution has continued to revolt, creating new and even easier ways of stalking people. Which brings me to Twitter. To the less hip readers of my column, Twitter.com is a Web site where you can post brief comments about what you are currently doing (to these same readers: I’ve bought my plane tickets home for Thanksgiving, I’ll be arriving at LAX). Twitter even allows you to “tweet” from your cell phone, so people can read what you’re doing when you’re out and about. But it’s more than just a voluntary version of the agreement I had to make with my mom before going to parties in middle school. Twitter is a way to achieve celebrity, a way to have millions of fans follow one’s every move. Eager to feel like President Obama or the Balloon Boy, and reluctant to write more columns about loneliness, I created a Twitter account several weeks ago. Stardom was but several clicks, an account name and a six-character-minimum password away.
The account name was my first hurdle. I knew my future Twitter followers would appreciate a moniker that truly distilled my essence, that was clever yet subtle. I decided on “ethan kup.” Sure, it was my actual name, but it was a shorter version; I assumed using your full-length name online was hipster suicide along the lines of still liking Weezer or wearing a shirt that breathes. However, once I created the account I realized to my horror that, without the necessary spacing, it looked like “e-thank-up.” Fearful of being mistaken for an uncreative electronic greeting card Web site, I quickly changed the name to ethankuperberg. Although I was now tweeting from my full name, the unnecessarily official twitter.com/ethankuperberg, I conceded that I might be overthinking a program that actively encourages you to dumb down your thoughts to 140 characters.
It was time to build a fan base! “Follow me on Twitter,” I asked my friend Will Stephen. “Okay,” he replied. Though my followers count was still 999,999 short of the goal I had set for myself, I figured the numbers would increase exponentially, not unlike a snowball rolling down a hill. “What are you doing?” Twitter asked me. I could only write 140 characters, so I had to be concise. After several minutes of drafts, I came up with: “Here I am on twitter. Next up on my to-do list: cooking every one of Julia Child’s recipes.” It was witty, to the point, and referenced a Meryl Streep movie. Perfect! I checked my side panel. At that point, I had three followers: Will Stephen, my friend from high school, and the slightly suspicious albeit wonderfully enthusiastic Ronny Marketing. I don’t actually know Ronny, but judging by her profile picture, she is quite the looker! Fans were responding to my humor already.
The weeks that followed were a whirlwind: I was sharing personal information like a lonely kid shares toys. On Oct. 5, I twat: “hey twitter, i’m just listening to some james taylor while i write in my journal!” Another tweet: “im writing an abraham lincoln essay while listening to elton john!” I imagined my Twitter followers on the edge of their seats, eager to find out what my next exciting adventure would bring. I particularly imagined Ronny Marketing, and what she thought of my music taste. She sure knows how to play hard to get.
Yet things grew sour. My follower count seemed permanently stuck at 19, a paltry 39 lower than those following Will Alden. With such a numeric discrepancy between me and Will Alden, I knew I must be doing something wrong, but I was paralyzed. “cant think of anything to tweet” I wrote one night. “You made a TWITTER?” Matthew George asked me disapprovingly the next night. “My spelling is suffering,” I confyded to my dad a 3 nite.
But then I realized: life isn’t about fame. My twitter may not be the most famous, but it’s mine. This is my means of expression, my gateway to the world, and I will not be stifled. How else would I let 18 friends and Ronny Marketing know that I got a haircut?