January 29, 2009

On Mr. Stephen Fry and my own Self-Absorption.

Posted in Lunacy at 11:43 pm by the Green-Eyed Siren

I have been easing into the world of Twitter. It seemed prudent to basically hang back and observe for a while, tweeting sparingly, following a very select group of clever and observant people and learning the boundaries of proper behavior from them. I mostly kept to myself (with the notable exception of my experience following Poppy Buxom, as chronicled here) and, when I did offer a tentative tweet to the world, attempted to sound less dull than I feel.

Eventually I felt like I was getting the hang of it, so one afternoon this week as I watched CNN covering my insane now-former governor’s rantings I decided to follow Rick Sanchez, who is the host of their 2 pm (Central) show. He uses Twitter and other social networking sites to receive real-time input from viewers throughout his broadcast, and he also builds his audience by tweeting them prior to and after the show. It’s an interesting marketing model, one that proved irresistible to me on a day when I needed to take a shot at sharing this with the world: “Illinois to Blago: Oh, shut up.” Because, really, it was time for us to be done with this embarrassing sideshow.

So I tweeted to Mr. Sanchez (didn’t make it on the air, of course) and figured that was the end of it. What I had not anticipated was how that single tweet would alert others to my presence; several people with whom I have no connection whatsoever, and who almost certainly didn’t decide to seek out my Twitter feed from my blog, were suddenly following me. It was a very odd feeling, really, probably the more so because there were men showing up. What on earth would random men want to follow me for? Will they really be interested in the fact that my son eats only the tops off of his banana muffins and thus requires three to start the morning? My tweetings are hardly scintillating.

But, you know, that’s OK. They can follow me if they like. I took a look at their feeds and decided that they really didn’t relate to my life, so I’m not following them in return, which probably means that they will drop me soon (if the banana muffin tweets don’t cause them to pull the trigger on me first). It is, I have discovered, quite likely that these gentlemen are among those who follow others in order to build their own followings, and when they see that I am not returning the favor I will be swept away like so much digital dust.

I was still interested in checking out some other streams, though, so I noodled around for a bit yesterday. After looking for actual human beings I know personally and failing to find any, I added Anderson Cooper, a few political reporters, Al Gore, and Mimi Smartypants. I also added Stephen Fry, whose blog I’ve been following since he started his podcast. I just love Stephen Fry. He’s such a keen observer of people. It’s an easy decision to invite him onto my iPhone to keep me company throughout the day. Clearly many, many other people are of the same opinion, as is evidenced by his 88,000+ followers.

When I picked up his feed yesterday it was the middle of the night in Britain, so I didn’t hear from Mr. Fry until this morning. He did not disappoint. What a delight to see a Chekhov quote, a comment about the new iPhoto release, and his annoyance over having failed to charge his phone flash across my screen! Nice and quick, they were lovely little pick-me-ups to help me through the morning slog of finishing up the lunches and getting my kids to school. I found it very charming. Thank you, Mr. Fry!

He offered, however, a fourth tweet, more mysterious than the other three: “Not a manifesto or rulebook, but perhaps useful, especially to new followers. http://tinyurl.com/frytweet Sent with love x”

What did that mean? I was curious, so I clicked through and found myself at his blog, where he has posted a kindly meant explanation of how, despite the sincere appreciation he has for his followers, he cannot realistically return the favor and follow all of us. There are, it seems, divisions within the Tweeting community: those who feel insulted if they follow you but you do not reciprocate, and those who are happy to follow but don’t mind when others choose to be more discriminating in whose mumblings they will tolerate. Some of the easily insulted had apparently made their opinions known to Mr. Fry.

Now, it would not occur to me in a million years to feel that Stephen Fry, with his 88,000 followers, would be the slightest bit interested in following my Twitter updates. I find it utterly astonishing that anyone other than his dearest friends would expect him to do so. So when I first read his very cordial and detailed statement about how he views Twitter, I thought, “Well, of course, that’s totally reasonable, it’s too bad he feels like he even needs to say anything at all.” And I hit the road with the kids to take them to school.

As you probably remember (because I do go on about it a bit), I have something of a long drive to get my kids to their morning destinations, and then I make the same long drive home again. That leaves my brain some idle time, as the kids are not always chatty, especially if they are eating breakfast in the car due to sleeping late (as was the case today). So my mind wandered toward the Stephen Fry non-manifesto, once again thinking, “What rude, obnoxious, self-absorbed goofballs these people are! I wonder what happened to make Mr. Fry decide he would need to write such a thing.”

That’s when my addled brain hopped on the express train to Paranoid City.

Simple observation: “Gee, what a coincidence that he would post this piece right after I started following him.”

Little humming interlude: “Hmm, hmm, hmm…

The lightbulb moment: “Oh, crap! He posted this piece RIGHT AFTER I started following him!”

Full-blown panic: “It was ME! He’s talking to ME! All I did was click ‘Follow’—I didn’t do anything wrong! He should know that I know he doesn’t care that I have the keys to the second car in my purse so it’s a good thing my husband was taking the train in the morning! I’m sorry! I can un-follow you if you prefer! Really, it’s OK, I understand!”

Yes, Paranoid City. It’s fun to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there. Fortunately I spotted a detour pretty quickly and got the hell out.

What a total idiot I am. I claim to be insufficiently egotistical to believe that Stephen Fry should be following my tweets, and yet my ego is healthy enough to come to the conclusion that I was responsible for his decision to tell the world he can’t follow us. It’s self-absorption taking the form of paranoia rather than the more obvious choice of grandiosity. Always count on me not to take the obvious choice. At least I’ve got that going for me.

You can see why those long drives are not particularly good for me.  I think I need to get going on those audiobooks. Perhaps something read by Stephen Fry?



  1. Unfocused Me said,

    You’re a loon.

  2. Green Eyed Siren's Mom said,

    Have you considered getting muffin top baking pans?

  3. Jeanne said,

    Everyone’s a loon sometimes, but not everyone is as entertaining about it.

  4. Hugh said,

    Have you read his books? “Moab is My Washpot” is a very compelling memoir, and I just finished “Writing History”. “The Hippopotamus” was his first, though I haven’t gotten around to it.

    On a related point, I trying to force Hugh Laurie’s “The Gun Seller” on everyone I know.

  5. I haven’t read his books, but I should. And we bought “The Gun Seller” over Thanksgiving. Haven’t read it yet, but it’s in the queue!

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