You’re in a junior high school cafeteria. I know it’s an unpleasant place to picture yourself, but just do it.
There are rows of tables under harsh fluorescent lights. The air smells of bleach and ketchup. You’ve lined up, you’ve bought your hot dog or square pizza, or, if you were at my junior high, a knish, which was the hot thing to buy at lunch at that time. You’ve made it out into the room without dropping anything (yet), and you look around, grimacing so it looks like a smile.
“Can I sit here?” A stare, a shrug. You sit at the edge of a table, and hope to hang on to the ragged end of some scintillating conversation that you feel the cooler kids are having right in front of you. They might nod in your direction once in a while, but mainly, you are ignored.
Not to Lady Gaga, mind you. Not to Rhianna, or even my husband, who has 1,315 followers! 1,315! These people don’t know that in real junior high he was in Mathletes, for crying out loud. So I guess it’s not exactly the same.
I have 109 followers. Yesterday I had 110, I don’t know who I lost. But I resent that person all the same.
It’s not so much the number of followers I have that dismays me about Twitter, that makes me feel like an edge-sitter in a cliquey, judgy world. And Twitter has its uses, I know. It’s a good way to connect with people who have similar interests, I suppose, and it’s a great way to get quick blasts of news. For example: I found out, through a British comedian, that Ray Manzarek died. I learned about a body scrub that can double as a pretzel dip. I love pretzels. And I learned what my kindergartener did at recess (got traced in chalk as at a crime scene). That’s all great.
But what I really want, and am not getting out of Twitter, is for celebrities to pay attention to me. Even for a brief second. And though I tweet, and tweet…they never respond. And it seems like they answer other people all the time. I can see that. I’m sitting right here. Whoops, I just spilled my chocolate milk.
WHY? What is wrong with me? Is it my bangs? Does my avatar seem like it would not have good bangs in real life? Is it the tone of my acid-wash bookbag? Too much? What is it? It’s not like I am tweeting at (at? is that the right preposition?) Katy Perry or Barack Obama or any of the other major-league popular kids. I’m talking niche celebs. Cyclists. British Comedians. These are the kinds of people I am interested in mingling with. Do I shame them here? Nah, they’ll ever read this anyway. I’ll just gather up the remains of my knish and go to orchestra class with the rest of the nerds.
Why is it even important to get these celebrities to acknowledge to me? Why do I meekly seek this kind of recognition? A British comedian I like, David Mitchell, said something in his podcast, Soapbox, that I think explains it. He was talking about the validity of asking celebrities for autographs. What does it prove? he wonders. That a celebrity can spell your name? There’s not a lot of meaning behind that type of connection. He recalls receiving an autographed copy of a book by an idol of his, Alan Bennett. And he appreciated the autograph, because he felt, “that I had, for a second and a half, changed [Bennett's] life…If I had not existed, the story of his life would not be precisely identical to the way it is now, because for two seconds of it, he wrote my name down.”
Of course. It’s always the same story. The need to belong, to matter. To feel a part of the conversation, even for a short time. That even if I am sat at home, folding clothes while babies sleep, that I am connected to the world at large. It’s why most of us do mostly anything.
Don’t get up from the table just yet, I just have a quick story. I’m pretty sure it has a point: I was watching Italian TV coverage of Giro d’Italia (cycling + Italy, everything I could ever want in a TV show) , and the woman who hosts the wrap-up was wearing this heavy, pendulant necklace, made of dangling letters, and I noticed the letters spelled out: “Bleah. Slurp.”
Bleah. Slurp. Really! And my first impulse was, I must get me to Twitter and fake-casually blurt out, “any one notice this? so weird, am i riiight?” And then maybe David Millar, or some other cyclist that seems cool based on his dashed-off digital thoughts, would be sitting in a cafe in Brescia or somewhere and see it and say, “Wow. That is hilarious. Well done, you, for noticing.” Validation, in fewer than 140 characters. I’d go about the rest of my daily chores with an additional spring in my step.
But I didn’t do that. I didn’t do anything. What I should have done is think of the friend that I do have, the living, breathing friend that I studied with in Italy long ago, and haven’t seen in years, and call him, because he, of all the people I actually know, would appreciate an Italian wearing a necklace that says Bleah. Slurp. That’s what I would have done before Twitter. And I haven’t. But now I will.
Oh and by the way, I’ve tweeted to David Mitchell, to ask him when the new season of the show that he was promoting on Twitter, Peep Show (which is the funniest TV show in the world, by the way), would be available in the US.
AND HE NEVER RESPONDED TO MY TWEET
Bleah, slurp. Bleach and ketchup. Tweet me later, you guys, I gotta go.