National Post Barbara Kay: A bubby in the Twittergarden

National Post - Wednesday June 26th, 2013

I'm more than a little embarrassed to have tweeted 1,384 times.

The other day my five-year old granddaughter’s friend asked her why she plays so much soccer. I expected to hear, “Because it’s fun!” Instead, my granddaughter said, “I have to. It’s on the list on the fridge.”

Cute, eh? In the very old days, I would have ‘phoned my husband to share a laugh over it. In the mere old days, I would have sent a family group email. In the medium-old days, I would have put it on Facebook for friends. Now I tweet it to the world. (Instagram is newer still, but I am never going there.)

Social media isn’t in my blood as it is for young people. But my books publicist said it was absolutely essential that I “manage my brand” on as many social media platforms as possible. So a year ago I became reluctant Twitter debutante @BarbaraRKay. Reluctancy soon became enthusiasm. To date I’ve tweeted 1,383 times.

I’m more than a little embarrassed about that. I’m a bubby in Twittergarten, about 40 years older than the average tweeter. In fact, I don’t personally know a single peer who tweets. So even though my young colleagues all have thousands of followers, and I only have 871 (hey, I had 872 yesterday; who’d I offend now?), I’m surprised even to have that many.

On the other hand, my @BarbaraRKay followers are at least all real people. In an article in the Weekly Standard last month, “The Twidiocracy,” Matt Labash writes that there’s a web tool called “Fake Follower Club,” which tracks “zombie” celebrity followers, and claims 70% of Barack Obama’s followers don’t exist. According to Labash, Slate’s Seth Stevenson bought 27,000 fake followers for $202. (‘Fess up, Kim Kardashian: Is your status as the fourth most-followed woman on Twitter human or zombie-based? Pathetic people with no lives want to know.)

I’m not like Tommy Christopher, media correspondent from Mediaite, who live-tweeted his own heart attack in 2010, to wit: ‘I gotta be me. Livetweeting my heart attack. Beat that!’

Demographically, only about 16% of people who use the Internet tweet. A lot of them, like @BarbaraRKay, consider it primarily a marketing tool to raise their professional profiles. You know, tweeters like the Taliban and al-Qaeda. Sometimes, though, I’m moved to share a personal experience like that grandchild anecdote. The other day, for example, I impulsively tweeted that I’d finally quit the popular saga Game of Thrones when I overdosed on the story’s incessant rain and violence (tho doubt violnce wld be prob 4 Taliban GofT reader).

I implied I was hooked on Twitter, but I really can stop any time I want. I’m not like Tommy Christopher, media correspondent from Mediaite, who live-tweeted his own heart attack in 2010, to wit: “I gotta be me. Livetweeting my heart attack. Beat that!” I am pleased to state that I harbour no wish whatsoever to “beat that.”

You will also not find @BarbaraRKay signing on with LivesOn. This is a new app. It studies your Twitter feed while you’re alive to familiarize itself with your recurrent topics and style. Then it keeps tweeting for you after you die. Its slogan: “When your heart stops beating, you’ll keep tweeting.” This is just weird. Mind you, I admit I am amused by the idea of LivesOn continuing to tweet every pit bull attack in Canada, making the pit nutters crazy forever.

You know what the best part of Twitter is? You can block followers who cross the line from hating what you tweet to hatred of you. It’s empowering to just vapourize a follower with a click.

At first, I was reluctant to block anyone, as I didn’t want to look like a wuss. But I also don’t want to be a schlemiel. So I do block, but it usually comes down to the same three reasons: one, for aggressive obscenity. Two, for ageism (even though true, “The good news about @BarbaraRKay is she’ll be dead soon” needs a smackdown).

And the third is any reference to pit bulls as Holocaust victims. (You would be surprised how often Useful Pitiots allude to their beloved landsharks as canine Anne Franks. So it’s good riddance to the guy who tweeted me, “You want to do to pit bulls [via municipal bans on fighting dogs] what Hitler did to the Jews.”)

Twitter is supposedly worth billions of dollars, but I’m skeptical. People would go without food to keep their email and smart phones, but — as I just tweeted (so make that 1384 tweets) — “the Annenburg School of Communication polled 1,900 subjects asking if they’d pay for Twitter. Not a single one would.” Make that 1,901.

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