The Best I Could Do on Twitter (So Far)

Clueless Detective Pikachu!

The internet in microcosm: strangers in varying garb, a few of whom actually like being around each other.

I’ve been online for nearly twenty years. I’ve been on Twitter for 9½ years. MCC is nearly eight years old, though I blogged intermittently for six years before that in an even tinier space. I’ve scampered around the tunnels of Usenet, dallied in several message boards, volunteered as an unpaid moderator/admin on one site for nine years, tried the untamed DMZ that is comics discussion sites before running away screaming, and learned quickly that comments sections on major news sites were even larger sinkholes. My internet experience has been a rewarding, exhausting, surprising, discouraging, uplifting, heartbreaking search for the right environments and vehicles for my expressive impulses and my feeble attempts at what those who fit in with others call “networking”.

Luckily for me and my shifting moods, the internet offers a variety of writing formats that suit my ideas, topics, styles, visions, objectives, and wordiness vibe on any given evening. In recent years I’ve carved out comfort zones for myself in two primary outlets: Twitter and this very blog. Each option has its pros and cons. Each yields different rewards.

On New Year’s Day I covered MCC’s 2019 stats and sorted the most and least notable among a year’s worth of writings into High Fidelity-style lists, as I’ve done every year since I started this joint because I like stats, ranking things, and noting my results so I can high-five myself for what worked and learn from what failed. Or at least grumble about my failures until I’m over them and ready to move on and forget them altogether, until the next time an evil little voice in my brain decides it’s time to knock myself down a peg with those harsh little memories that sting.

I’ve been meaning to do the same for my tweets for some time now. Put them in lists, I mean, not sting myself with the worst ones. There is indeed one that might’ve qualified as The Worst One, but maybe that’s an anecdote for another time.

Twitter helpfully provides tools any user can use to collate their own stats, search their own feeds using definable parameters, and compile their own performance reviews. I’ve proceeded to do those very things, drawn from the past several years’ worth of searchable tweets. I’m not convinced the search results went all the way back to 2010, but the sampling size was large enough to glean some useful tallies nevertheless.

My tweets that have garnered the most Likes over the past 9½ years divide neatly into four categories.

TWEET CATEGORY ONE: OUR CONVENTION EXPERIENCES. Anne and I do love our comic/entertainment cons. If we share sufficiently fascinating photos, so do the Viewers at Home. Our indelible moments in this category came courtesy of C2E2, Ace Comic Con Midwest, Wizard World Chicago, and Motor City Comic Con.

The Detective Pikachu tweet remains an all-time champion not just of my Twitter usage, but of my two decades online, period. When I posted that live from C2E2 last year, I had no idea the Clueless cast reunion panel would be such a big deal in the mainstream press. Twitter admins thought it was; created a “Twitter moment”, which is their version of “headline news”; and roped in relevant tweets from assorted users, including my amateur self. That tweet’s total impressions in one week exceeded MCC’s entire, grand total, 8-year traffic count to date.

This is my 2,150th blog post on this site, spanning hundreds of thousands of words — heck, possibly over a million words by now. Longtime readers known I’m not one for 50-word entries. At my current popularity rate it’ll be years before this entire URL catches up to that one silly photo.

TWEET CATEGORY TWO: REPLIES TO OTHER, MORE BELOVED PEOPLE. I follow a number of creators and reporters, as well as a handful of certified Hollywood participants. I don’t follow everyone whose work I like, and I follow a few people more for their entertainment performance on Twitter itself than for their works. On rare occasion I’ll feel inspired to reply to them, mostly because a joke response has popped in my head and demands to be set free. 999 times out of 1000 I’m ignored, the joke dies, and life goes on. I don’t do it to become famous by association or in hopes that so many spotlight moments in a row will turn me into a highly coveted social media influencer (UGH).

I do it because in that weird moment, that’s where the writing impulse led me. On rare occasions, charitable folks reach down into the Peanut Gallery, extract one of my scribbles, and give them a happy boost. Benevolent souls in this category have included one well-known comics writer, a film critic who does a great job of holding Film Twitter discussion groups, and two writers I didn’t know who were each retweeted into my Twitter feed.

It’s fun because it’s fun. It’s not like I expected them to follow me back or give me a writing job. Random, fleeting connections are cool as long as you have no fantastical expectations and you’re not a sinister drooling monster toward them. I see far too much of that going around and I don’t get those people. At all.

TWEET CATEGORY THREE: LIVE-TWEETING TV SHOWS. I do love my stories. I try not to force it and make myself live-tweet everything just for, like, self-promotional or marketing or SEO-related purposes. I’m wincing just typing those three phrases, honestly. No, to me live-tweeting is a form of playing along at home while watching shows I like — one part exchanging reactions with other fans; one part MST3K-style riffing on the odder moments as they air live. Every so often, fellow watchers toss up one of my tweets like a beach ball in a concert audience. In rarer moments, whoever’s in charge of running the official Twitter accounts for various channels will share thoughts from the Viewers at Home. I’ve drawn that lottery ticket a handful of times.

I try to hold myself to a few rules. No dry. straight-laced, emotionless golf commentary or one-word thoughts. If I’m not in a jokey mood, I put the phone down. If it isn’t fun to type, then it won’t be fun to reread. If I’m extremely engrossed in what’s going on, I’ll forget I’m holding the phone. If the show is so aggravating that I’m just brainstorming different wordings for “THIS SUCKS”, the phone goes back on the charger in the next room. I lost my taste for hate-watching roughly ninety minutes into live-tweeting the second Sharknado.

For these highest-ranking tidbits, I owe special thanks to fellow fans of Doctor Who, The Flash, AMC’s The Night Manager miniseries, Black Lightning, the 2020 ABC special What Is Jeopardy?, and Worst Cooks in America. 90% of TV live-tweeting is incomprehensible non sequitur gobbledygook when you revisit such in-the-moment thoughts after the fact and far out of context. But they’re my proud gobbledygook that made sense at the time. Admittedly in some cases you had to be there.

In the case of What Is Jeopardy?, that particular in-joke about a classic Jeopardy! moment from a few years ago was retweeted by a renowned Jeopardy! champion/bartender who was live-tweeting at the same time. Honorable mentions go to other shows I’ve live-tweeted whose audiences weren’t quite as interactive: Supergirl, Legends of Tomorrow, the Academy Awards, Falling Skies, Legion, Jeopardy!, and Agent Carter.

TWEET CATEGORY FOUR: POTSHOTS AT SLEEPY HOLLOW. I used to write recaps of every episode of the erstwhile Fox drama purely for fun and no profit. I rarely live-tweeted it because I wanted to save any jokes and commentary for my own full-length entries. But I did make a point of watching the season-3 finale as it aired and kept my phone at the ready. Without re-litigating the entire matter at length, suffice it to say that finale was one of the most infuriating hours of television Anne and I have ever sat through. As I kept recording my increasingly unpleasant reactions, I soon discovered we were not alone.

I devoted an entire entry to its sins and struck a chord in an alarming number of angry fans. But it took a few weeks for all the rage to bleed out of my system. As part of the recovery process, I just couldn’t stop needling it. As it happened, this was the middle of 2016, a particularly fertile time in America for memes and jokes about organizations that make questionable staffing choices. I didn’t do it for the easy Likes. I did it because I couldn’t let it go and I had to do something.

My top 5 Sleepy Hollow tweets chronologically instead of in order of Likes:

…and then the show was canceled and we forgot to mourn. Honestly, I had no idea who those three fashion-mall whelps were when I borrowed that heavily circulated pic. I certainly know them now.

There’s a fifth tweet category that exists for other users but not for me: Original Jokes Out Of Nowhere. I’m a small guppy in the Twitter ocean. Only fish of a certain size can post random thoughts and Dad Jokes and get widespread approval within hours or minutes. It doesn’t help that, by my estimate, at least half my Twitter “followers” either have me Muted, never read anyone else’s tweets but their own, quit the site months ago without deleting their accounts, or simply find me a waste of time but can’t be bothered to unfollow me. I like to think I’m no Arthur Fleck, but without hashtags, I’m nothing there.

And yet…with hashtags, my meager Twitter activity outshines 99% of what I do here in terms of reach, effect, and feedback. 280 characters versus 1000-2000 words. Less typing, higher yield. Academic essays versus Instagramming selfies.

Am I easier to put up with in small doses? Or do I blame 21st-century shrinking attention spans? Am I exerting far too much effort to generate too much product? Is brevity the all-access pass that gets internet writers held aloft on other people’s shoulders and paraded around town? But would I even want attention at that level? Wouldn’t a retreat into the life of a solipsistic hermit be better for my nerves and blood pressure?

One of the alternate titles for this entry was “Blogging vs. Tweeting: Which is Better?” I’m still debating that.

Each scratches a different itch. Each has different uses, strengths, and creative possibilities. But some days, the competition between them doesn’t feel evenly matched.

And yet I keep shoveling away anyway down here in the dark, deserted paragraph mines — creating, evaluating, writing, joking, seeing if it’s possible in a non-physical medium to connect with other humans or at least make a difference in a few split-seconds of their lives. Detective Pikachu was there for me once, but he’s not my mascot, my savior, or my stenographer.

What do you, The Viewers at Home, think?

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