An open letter from @stephenfry to his 2Millionth follower
“Eat shit, a hundred billion flies can’t be wrong,” the old graffito used to say. “Follow Stephen, two million tweeters can’t be wrong,” I say.
I have always been an early adopter, and many of the services to which I have ardently subscribed have come to nothing or are yet to take off, Buzz, Orkut, FourSquare, Diaspora and Maphook spring to mind … one moribund, the other mostly Brazilian, the rest reasonably hot, but like bubbling under and waiting to erupt.
Facebook I joined enthusiastically in 2007, but soon realised that it wasn’t for me. Etiquette demands that messages be answered, that friend requests be attended to and the whole thing cultivated and cared for: I soon received too many requests for me to handle and disappeared into a secret squirrel FB identity that only my friends know and that, even if it were guessed at, is plugged too tight to penetrated, like a … well, provide your own simile, Jonathan.
With a great following comes great responsibility. It is not hard to see why so many people with goods and services to sell, charities and deserving causes to promote and ideas to disseminate want to piggy-back on the shoulders of those who can guarantee them eyeballs, web traffic and mouseclicks.
Ah, and you fear being deserted, do you? Well, I try hard not to make Twitter a contest. I am not in it for bragging rights and kudos (honest), but I am human and I would be odd if I didn’t get a glow from having so many followers. On the other hand…
The secret of twitter, or at least the secret for me, lies in coping with the trade-off between the need for the sensible management of twitter and the need to try as hard as possible to be me, actually me, not a public image, not an image-massaged celebrity, not an on-display simulacrum, but the “real” me, warts and all.
And yet it’s mostly wonderful here, Jonathan. The majority, the great majority of people are friendly, forgiving and kind. It is a miracle that so much can be read into little messages of 140 characters that offer no personal clues by way of handwriting, styling or formatting. After a while you will be astonished by how perceptively your moods and meanings are interpreted and with what bewildering accuracy. You will be astonished too by the wit. The speediness, elegance and brilliance of some twitterers regularly takes my breath away.
I like replying, I like being involved in twitter. If I’m raw from a recent mauling I’ll stay away and feel shy and nervous of looking at any single tweet or DM, either because they’ll be upsettingly sympathetic and concerned or because they’ll be mean. But mostly Twitter and my two million followers are as good a reason as I know to trust people. To respect people. To believe in people.