what to expect if you follow me on twitter (or: how I’m going to disappoint you in 6 quick steps)

Yesterday, my friend Alan tweeted a link to this story of how Twitter was born. If you use Twitter at all, you should totally check it out because it’s awesome. If you don’t use Twitter, you should totally check it out, because a lot of what you may have heard about Twitter is probably filtered through the traditional media lens, and Twitter is off in a completely different direction.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Twitter lately, mostly because I have a whole lot of fun using it, but also because the number of people who read my stupid messages on Twitter has exploded by several thousand in just the last few days. Yesterday morning I said Things I didn’t expect to see when I woke up today: 4714 people have looked at a picture of my socks. 51000 people are reading this. Um. I also said Now I have self conscious performance anxiety. Don’t say it don’t say it don’t say it don-PENIS! Sigh. Dammit. Ha. I slay me.

The truth is, that’s really weird to me. Even accounting for the damn spambots that auto-follow everyone, that’s a hell of a lot of people. I bet a lot of them don’t read my blog, and only know me as Gordie LaChance or Wesley Crusher, or the gangly kid who played those characters and was a lot more concerned about whether girls liked him than he was being honest and true to himself. The problem with being in the public eye is that the media always filters everything you do, highlights every stupid mistake you make, and aren’t as interested in showing people what you’re really like as they are in printing the story that will sell the most papers.

On Twitter, and on my blog, you’re seeing me, the husband, geek, and stepdad. You’re not seeing the kid in the Bop poster. (I don’t currently own that many watches or Batman painter’s caps, among other things) or the guy who is occasionally on your TV. This disconcerts some people — not a lot, but enough that I feel compelled to write Wil’s Quick Guide To Following Me On Twitter, mostly so people know what they’re getting themselves into, what to expect, and how much I’m going to disappoint them. (Pro Tip: No one is ever going to publish a tell-all biography about my life. Except maybe Wired, if I’m really lucky and earn it.)

Oh, and if I can make something painfully, embarrassingly clear before I begin: my whole idea here is to manage expectations and explain my own personal limits. I’m not trying to go on and on about how fucking cool I think I am and how you have to follow rules to follow me, or anything like that. I’m saying this now because some of the things down below, you may not want to hear. It’s not you, it’s me, and I hope you believe that.

So. We cool? Cool.

Message begins:

Hey there, @you! Welcome to my Twitter thingy. I’m @wilw, and I’ve been using this service for a long, long time, because my friend @seanbonner told me that it would be fun. At first, I didn’t understand what the point was, until @warrenellis said that our mutual friend @rstevens was fun to follow on Twitter because he was this constant stream of jokes and puns and wry observations. It was then that I realized that Twitter didn’t have to be about What are you doing? but could be about What’s on your mind right now? It was, as the saying goes, a light bulb moment for me, and I started using Twitter for off-the-top-of-my-head thoughts that didn’t warrant their own post here on my blog.

Since that day, I’ve sent out nearly 4000 updates (also called Tweets, because some people got together and decided that we needed a term that was even sillier and more embarrassing to say than ‘blog-o-sphere’) to a bunch of people, including, probably, @you.

I’m not going to tell you what Twitter is, or how you should use it. As @Pogue said in his NYT column about Twitter, The Web is full of “rules” about the proper way to Twitter, and a lot of them are just knowier-than-thou garbage. I couldn’t agree more, and encourage you to ignore them all, choosing instead to use Twitter however it amuses you.

Now, having said that, if you plan to follow me on Twitter, here are some things you should probably know, so you know what to expect from me:

1. I send out a lot of Tweets, frequently about stupid stuff that’s just amusing to me. From time to time I will send out several in just a few minutes. You probably shouldn’t follow me on your phone, because it’s going to get annoying. I have friends who are so prolific, I don’t follow them on my phone, and they’re my friends! I have friends who don’t follow me, because I tweet way too much for them. It’s cool, I know text message charges can be expensive, and I wouldn’t follow me, because I use Twitter a LOT. I don’t plan to change that, either. It’s fun and I like it.

2. I’m probably not going to follow you. I follow a few close friends, a few people whose work I really admire or whose Tweets really entertain me, and a couple of news sources. I can’t possibly follow all 53,000 of you (it went up since I sent those Tweets yesterday. Weird.) — or even one percent of that number — and still get any work done. I’m easily distracted, so I have to draw the circle very small so I can step out of it when I need to.

3. I do try to keep up with all the @replies to my messages, but most of the time when I’m at my computer, I’m working, and I can’t afford to stop what I’m doing every time a reply comes in. (Easily distracted, remember?) The extended conversations at Twitter can be awesome, especially when we’re all playing a global Improv game of Yes, and…, but ultimately I have to focus first on what pays my kids’ bills and keeps our roof up. Please know that even if I don’t reply, I do pay attention, and I thank you for taking the time to respond.

4. There is no number four.

5. If you’re expecting some kind of weird “celebrity” experience, I’m not your guy, and this is where some of you can point and scoff and pat yourselves on the back for saying, “Dude, you’re not a celebrity! Hurr hurr hurr.” That’s, um, kind of the point I’m trying to make. If you’re looking for a real celebrity, you want to follow someone else, and there are plenty of guides to who those people are. I’m just a geek, and I’m just this guy, you know? No one’s following me around with a camera hoping to catch me not wearing underwear under my skirt. I know, I’ve tried. Sigh.

6. The last thing I want to say really makes me feel like a dick, but it’s come up a lot and I owe it to all of you to be honest and open. I’m not going to lie to you, @you, it’s overwhelming, really cool, and a little scary that there are about 53,000 people following me on Twitter. If I think about it too much, like right now, I get freaked out. The way I continue having fun with Twitter is that I do what I want with it, and I hope you’ll come along for the ride if you think it’s worth it. But if you do follow me, please don’t @ complain at me about how often I’m tweeting or what I tweet about. I’m not interested in censoring myself for anyone — not for @you, not for @youtoo, and not even for you, @wilsmom. If you’re disappointed that I’m not the kid I used to be, or you decide I talk too much, or you just don’t think I’m very interesting, that’s cool — no one likes everything or everyone. But don’t ask me to change to please you. Just unfollow, and we’ll each go our own way, cherishing the time we had together and moving on. No regrets. We’ll always have Paris.

7. Lastly, a small request from me to @you: I’m not Gordie and I’m not Wesley. I’m Wil. Please show me the courtesy of using my real name, not the name of some guy you saw in a theater or on TV 20 years ago. I hope this explains why I’m sensitive about that, but if it doesn’t, think of it as someone using a nickname you really hate. They may not know any better, they may mean well, but it still gives you that little pain behind your eyes, doesn’t it?

Finally, on the off-chance that someone who makes Twitter go sees this: please let me give you money. I love Twitter and I really want to support it so it doesn’t go away.

Okay, that’s it. I hope this handy little guide has made it a little easier to know what to expect from me with this neat new toy. See you in the Twitterverse, @you!

Message ends.

Whew. That was really tough to write, because I’m so afraid of coming off wrong, or being misunderstood. Well, you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take, right? I will just hope that this is received in the way it was intended, and not the other way.

235 thoughts on “what to expect if you follow me on twitter (or: how I’m going to disappoint you in 6 quick steps)”

  1. I stopped thinking of you as your characters a LONG time ago. I follow you on twitter because your “BAD MOTHERFUCKER” Tricorder tweet yesterday had me laugh so loud I scared the cats. (Not that this is an entirely difficult thing to do, they are, after all, cats.)
    The whole concept of twitter is amusing to me. The way people are using it to bypass traditional media outlets amuses me. It also amuses me to make fun of the entire thing. Because I can.
    Anyway – well said.

  2. I was lucky enough to find you when I first signed on to Twitter and checked out the Suggested Users tab. “No way that’s really him,” I thought to myself, but, lo and behold, it was. I hadn’t heard anything about you in quite some time (I don’t watch much tv, and I don’t do much ‘celebrity research’ or anything on the web), so I was really excited to so serendipitously find you and see what you’ve been up to.
    You were always my favorite actor growing up, even though I’ve only seen a small fraction of your work (Stand By Me, Toy Soldiers and TNG were enough for me, ha) and I am glad to see that you are still doing some acting as well as exploring other creative outlets. You are fantastic! And your many tweets keep me entertained and actually make me laugh out loud at times (for instance: your iTunes conversations–genious!) The true you seems even cooler than I ever tried imagining in my starry-eyed youth, and that makes you even more my favorite.
    I don’t actually expect you to ever see this, but I just wanted to state my support and fondness for someone I’ve never actually known, haha. But you were a part of my childhood, and I am a very nostalgic person, and I am happy that you turned out as well as you did. Keep up the excellent work.
    p.s. sorry this is so damn long! Can’t help it :)

  3. Okay – so now I think I know what made me start following you on Twitter. Just interesting comments and no “selling me on stuff to help me sell things to other people with new and advanced internet sales techniques.”

  4. Heck, I signed up to follow you because I remember you played Houdini once as a kid — and I heard (albeit, might not be true) that you personally like magic. Me too. Simple as that. JC/jameslclark.com

  5. Thanks, Wil. I’m new to Twitter and am now following you so I clicked on the link in your profile. I’m glad I did. I agree with your “celebrity experience” sentiments. I know what it’s like to get all caught up in the excitement of it. It’s easy to forget that they, and I’m including you in this, are just people. Flesh and blood, flawed human beings, doing what they do for thier own reasons.

  6. Just started following you today, because you’re in the “people you may know” part of the “find people” bit of Twitter….and because a couple of my friends follow you too. I’ll definitely respect #7, but I hope you don’t mind that I’ll gloat to my Star Trek nerd friends and boyfriend that I’m following Wesley.
    so far I love following you, it bashes down that celebrity/human being barrier, even if you’re not as in the public eye as you once were. Follow me if you want, obviously I’m not going to go all rabid “OMG YOU MUST FOLLOW ME”, because it’s your choice. I’m sure once I get used to “tweeting”(Wow does that sound dumb), I’ll be posting tons of stupid crap that could make you laugh. I know I’ve ruined a computer whilst drinking soda and reading something funny, so please be careful. I’m sure you’d like to keep your nose and sense of smell intact xD

  7. Just want to say hi!! I used to have your pictures hung all over my bedroom wall :) your so handsome. I want to say I liked you in star trek the next generation and in Stand by me.
    And your so funny!! I love a guy with a great sense of humor.
    by cutie

  8. I’m rather new to twitter, but a friend reccomended your tweets as pretty entertaining. I have to agree with him. Thanks for lightening the day.

  9. Let me get this straight…you’ve starred in movies and television shows, you’ve published books, and you have a huge fan following on the internet and you…expect people won’t view you as a celebrity? How does that work, exactly? You’re in the public eye because of the decisions YOU’VE made, because of your talent, and because of your hard work. You can’t really expect to do all that you’ve done and then assume everyone’s going to see you as “just some guy”. I’m sorry if the volume of fans you have creeps you out, but that’s the price you have to pay for the kind of success you’ve been looking for. For better or worse, people are going to admire you. Don’t get me wrong, I’m really glad you haven’t let this go to your head and change who you are. Actually, I think the fact that you’re so sincere and down-to-earth is probably one of the reasons so many people appreciate you. I think it’s amazing how much you choose to interact with your fanbase and how you’re able to be yourself despite having so many people watching you. I dare say a number of people might like you in SPITE of your fame. But you should accept that your popularity isn’t something you can switch on and off when it suits you.
    Sorry if this comes off as kind of harsh. I don’t blame you for being overwhelmed and I’m glad you feel like you can talk with us honestly, but I will admit there is something that sort of irks me about what I perceive to be the inherent hypocrisy of wanting people to like you and then being bothered when they do.
    Of course, if I were in your situation, I might very well feel the same way, so maybe I just don’t know what the hell I’m talking about.

  10. Wow…I already feel like a total asshole for my last post. You have as sincere an appreciation for your fans as I’ve ever seen, and here I am getting caught up in the semantics as to what defines a “celebrity” and chastising you for having a perfectly natural reaction to the amount of attention you’re getting. I’m sorry.
    I guess one thing I’ll add is that…a lot of people discover you because of your name. But the reason so many people like you is because of YOU. This has probably been the 50,000th time you’ve read this sentiment, but I think it’s worth repeating.

  11. i have been following you for a long while on twiiter now n i look forward to you tweets…..keep truckin along and we wont mind your rambles….thanx….

  12. Very well said Wil. I just joined Twitter a couple of days ago and maybe this will explain the expolsion of your Followers. Yourself and as well Brent Spiner came up as possible people to follow automaticaly. I’m just getting used to Twitter and none of my friends are yet into it. I am encouraging them to do so as I think it will be a lot of fun. Being aware of your work as well as Brents it was easy to say yes to you as a Follow. You haven’t disapointed so keep it up and I would like to continue to Follow whether you Follow me or not. Keep up the good work and best to you and your family. Another good thing is I will now buy your books and encourage others as well. Oh ya! About nicknames you hate. Mine, haggyboy was one given to me many years ago and I hated it for a long time until I realized that those who nicknamed me really loved me and I finally accepted it. One of my newer friends actually calls me the perfect Geek so, Ce la vie.

  13. Thoroughly enjoyed this post! I signed up for Twitter (@butterflysong) for the exact same reason as you. Instantaneous firing off of ideas. My blog is where I put the heavy, focused stuff. I don’t care if anybody responds. It’s all good. Happy tweeting Wil…

  14. I just signed up for Twitter today and it asked me if I wanted to follow you (still not sure what that means). Perhaps that is how you have gathered so many followers. I didn’t know who you were, but liked the cartoon profile picture and your page so I said “follow”…So, where are you leading me to? 😛

  15. Damn. Wish I read this before I started following you.
    Seriously, you’re a prolific tweeter. (Whoever could have imagined this as a sincere compliment?)
    Tweet on; you rock!

  16. I would just like to say I was TOTALLY following you on twitter before everyone jumped on the bandwagon. im old school original!
    and i feel you on the stupid names. My name is BJ, and people think they’re quite original when they make crude preteen jokes about it.

  17. Will, I don’t know if you’re going to see this or not, but I just want you to know that it doesn’t matter what anybody thinks. You are Will Wheaton – the Will Wheaton. You are the guy that I always wanted to be when I grew up.
    That being said, I’m sure you’ve already blocked me on twitter, simply because I’ve sent you some direct tweets that are waaaaaaayyyyyy outa left field. But still, you are the guy I wait for tweets from, and eventually, I’ll be almost as cool as I think you are.
    ….. wow, that was verging on creepy stalker fan.

  18. I follow you because you rock … I follow you because you have the same sense of humour that I have about 99% of the things that are observable in the known universe. And because you grew up, same as the rest of us … I’m certainly not the same girl I was back in the day (thank God … can you imagine the amount of hair spray I’d have used by now keeping the wind-tunnel tested hair do of 1985 going?) and you’ve remained true to yourself.
    I love your Tweets because they provide the necessary distraction I need in my day (I work from home as well and if I don’t have someone dragging my attention away from my work every now and again, I tend to forget to do things like … ooh … eat & interact with my wife and child)
    So thanks for not being your characters and thanks for being @Wilw

  19. I find it creepy that people would expect you to be anyone other than who you are, especially on something like Twitter. I mean, Twitter is basically a toy; one should be able to play with it as one likes.
    I think it has a lot to do with the false sense of intimacy things like Twitter and Facebook can create for someone like you, who lives a bit more in the public eye than the rest of us. Boundaries…they’re confusing for some people. I’ve had some actors I’ve asked tell me that in SciFi it’s harder to shake the character, but I’m not sure why that is.
    I follow a couple of people on Twitter that I don’t actually know or haven’t met; my friends laugh because I call those people my imaginary friends. I don’t know these people, and have no expectation of ever knowing them. I don’t expect people to “follow” me who do not know me. I follow my imaginary friends because I find them interesting personally. You, for example, remind me of my wonderfully geeky husband.
    But…yeah. It always makes me sad when people have to write things like your post, because…well, it just does.

  20. I have said before and will say again that @wilw is the best single reason to follow Twitter. A stream of consciousness embracing video games, sports, RPGs, movies and all sorts of things the common man (and woman) enjoy but don’t express in as amusing a manner.
    You are the original sauce of awesomeness, Mr Wheaton. Rock on. Or, rather, Tweet on.

  21. I’m pretty lucky that I’m not one of those people that don’t confuse actors with former(or current) characters. I say lucky because, as a person with what I believe is a grounded sense of reality, I would shit myself to death from embarrassment if I was ever caught confusing people with who they aren’t.
    Now, that being said, I also consider myself lucky that you have more, much more, things in common with who I am, and have been, than the characters you’ve played. I game, I wax philosophically online (blog), and consider you more of a contemporary than some ivory tower celebrity, which I have you in part to blame for, to your credit.
    Nice entry, rules that one would expect. Others might have further caveats when necessitated, such as “don’t touch me”, or others that are purely motivated by vanity, like “buy my stuff or go to Hell.”
    I suppose I could think of additional rules to follow, but instead I’ll just be grateful that sort of protocol isn’t called for in cases of people wanting to contact me. I wouldn’t even go so far as to call this kind of article a “pain in the ass” to write, for you, or for me to read. So, essentially, it’s all good.

  22. I follow you with my 1st twitter account because your real. I follow you with my 2nd twitter account cuz your funny
    I also liken your rule #4 to “There is no spoon”
    Keep up the great tweets

  23. I can’t recall with any certainty, but I think I follow you because an owl suggested I should. (Oh, I know I shouldn’t listen to everything the owls tell me.) I still can’t figure out who you are (which probably means you are young, relatively speaking). I do think you are funny, so I continue to follow you. I know I can ignore you anytime I want to, I have teenagers. You mention D&D often. Besides my daughter’s boyfriend, you are almost the only person I have ever heard actually reference the game. My daughters boyfriend is a geek, and I say that with nothing but love! So there you have it. Don’t know who you are, don’t exactly know why I follow you, but you’re funny, so I’ll keep following.

  24. Saw your tweet and tried to DM you. If you like “Better Off Dead” Check his Vampyre series (noir version of vampires w/ it’s own mythology): There are 4 in the series, starting with Already Dead: A Novel.

  25. Hey man,
    I follow because you’re cool. First encounter was a girly crush on Wesley, but what I find online about you here and there is much more interesting, like making fun of the tubes and playing Illuminati.
    Expecting people post/tweet/express themselves any particular way sounds silly, and I’m happy you’re still doing your thing being yourself despite the sillies.
    p.s. yeah I still have a crush on Wesley, but I don’t have a crush on you. You’re just cool ^^

  26. I follow you, Wil, because you share your thoughts like a blurt in a lulling conversation. You like hockey and I get most of your references.
    Doesn’t hurt my feelings that you don’t reply. I usually tweet smart ass comments hoping to make someone chuckle occasionally. That goes for just about all the people I follow.
    godspeed tiny captain.

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