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. @wilw, I don’t blame you one bit. Even I have trouble keeping up and my number of followers and follow-ees are only at about 150. Your list of followers just kicks it up to notches unknown to mankind.
    And no, I wouldn’t use my phone to follow anyone, except in special circumstances. But the phone makes a handy input device to Twitter, again, in the right circumstances.
    You do what you do, and I’ll do what I do, that voodoo that we all do so well, and we’ll just keep on rolling, er, tweeting.
    @erbo out…

  2. Wil, as everyone seems to be saying, stop worrying and keep doing what you’re doing. As one comment said “I started to read your blog and twitter BECAUSE it was such an amazing look at husband/geek/stepdad.”

  3. When I was younger, i thought, hey, here’s this kid who, even though he’s an actor, THINKS. Now, I’m a lot older than I was, and i still read your twitter for the same reason. you THINK. I like your writing, your insight into things. It twigs just about perfectly to the way *I* think. you became, through your writing, one of those people I relate to, that i enjoy reading.
    keep it up, man, you’re a hell of a human being. and i enjoy your perspective on life.

  4. Wil, there’s nothing to feel self conscious about this. In fact, I think you managed to sum up the sentiments of more than 90% of those of us that use twitter. I can’t tell you how annoying getting tweets telling me to tweet more (and I have fewer than 30 people following me). If the nagging scaled with the number of followers I’d either go all crazy-man-in-the-woods or just start ranting constantly.
    And I’d like to call rule #37 on your rule #4. :)

  5. Your probably (okay, very little probably about it) one of my favorite people to follow on twitter. Its also your fault Im addicted to the thing. Thanks for that, btw. Its the soul purpose that my next cell phone will have a QWERTY keypad (and a txt plan…Do you have any idea how much I hold back because I still have to pay $.10?? Yeesh!), about a fourth of the reason Im going to break down and get the iPod Touch with tax refund (no, I dont want the phone).
    As far as #6 and 7 go, ones common sense (though thats apparently lacking these days), and I think Ive mentioned the thing with my moms dislike of Jerry Orbach, so Ill leave it there.
    You, sir, corrupt people in odd ways. No, thats not a bad thing.

  6. I got into twitter after I kept seeing it on my Flist on LJ.
    Then I saw you were into it and since I’ve been following you since 2001 (Under the name Miss Kitty Fantastico) I thought what the heck.
    You’ve since introduced me to David Lawrence (You should ask him privately what he did to me last night- cheeky bugger) Ex Vee Eye Eye and his assistant in all things cool Ann (who shares my love for all things BSG).
    I love twitter. I really do. And I thank you for adding fun at being able to see what’s up with you every day.
    I never expect you to add me (I’m now a twitter-holic so my daily spam is funny to some but not all) and I would have words with anyone cranky that I don’t add them all back.
    But your #4 is just crossing the line (kidding- Ann and I are having a riot over this right now)

  7. Hey. New reader and all. You run a good blog, Mr. Wheaton. This’ll be on my RSS feed list from now on.
    Anyhoo, you still seem a tad perplexed about your new surge of readers. I may be able to explain why (you can yell at me if someone’s told you this before):
    A few posts ago, you presented a comically edited TNG vid that you found. That vid was, in part, created by Andrew Hussie, creator of MS Paint Adventures (http://www.mspaintadventures.com/). He found out that you had posted the vid on your blog, and being the famous man you are, he linked to your blog. Now, MS Paint Adventures has quite a following, so I wouldn’t be surprised if a few people followed the link.
    How can I assume this? Well, I myself did just that. I had actually known about your blog for a while now, being a TNG fan and all, but I hadn’t thought to actually see it until MS Paint Adventures posted the link. I’m glad I came, though. Like I said before, you run a good blog, and I like the cut of your jib. I’ll be sticking around. =)

  8. Those who don’t understand your trying to set things straight likely have issues of their own.
    Personally? I actually stopped following LeVar and Brent due to the exact opposite of #5 (maybe they’ve grown out of that since then… I don’t know). By comparison, tweet floods I can easily deal with :-)
    Here’s to continuing success for you.

  9. Wil-
    First off…Yes, I ragged on you in Twitter yesterday, but I admit I meant it with a little affection, and a little sarcasm over the Groundhog Day twits…so guess now we are even on that score? (I swear, I won’t call you Mr. Crusher again!)
    Having said that (and hopefully, you’ve not blocked me by now), wanted to say welcome to the Twitter…From reading your blog in the past, you come off as a nice, funny geeky guy. Sort of like my husband…only he doesn’t have any Velvet Crusher paintings…!
    Besides, you got @AliciaWag following you. She’s one of the coolest people I know on the mailing list we are both on:) That makes you autocool in my book. So keep twitting and I will keep following…

  10. Whenever someone says, “We’ll always have Paris” a picture of Paris Hilton flashes through my mind and I /headdesk. Ow.
    Thanks for all the tweets Wil, you really brighten my day! And could you talk @levarburton into NEVER using the term “tweeple” ever again?

  11. Now, see, I follow your twitter and WWdN stuff for this exact reason right here; you’re a nerd/geek just like the rest of us who enjoys this silly stuff for the same damn reasons, because it’s just fun.
    Sure you’re an actor, sure you’ve been part of folks childhood, here and there, but you’re just a guy, too. Dad, step-dad, author, actor, husband, and what not.
    Plus, I gotta admit, you made my solo Super Bowl viewing a whole lot more fun than just sitting around the house, by myself, pointing stuff out on TV to my pets. *chuckles*
    Sure, I’m a fan of your tv and movie stuff, just like I’m a fan of John Rogers, but I follow you guys because you’re solid folk, entertaining as all get out, and about my age, too. Basically, use geeks need to stick together and tweeting is a fun, weirdly named way to do it. It’s long fingering, from UNIX, save less perverted sounding. *grins*

  12. #6 is my favorite because I’ve run into a version of that even though I only have the tiniest percentage of followers that you do. It irks me when people lecture about how I or other people should use Twitter. We should all be able to use it the way that fits us best.
    don’t ask me to change to please you

  13. Serously though people, read Wil’s stuff because he’s an awesome geek, an awesome Dad, and an awesome writer. He’s the guy you’d want to hang with after school, and play Atari with. What someone has done in their past is their history, and it’s ok to have been introduced to that person in that way, but it isn’t always who they truly are.
    I mean, I play a super-hot-body-building-model on the internet, you don’t see thousands of people following me.. 😉

  14. One of the reasons I enjoy reading what you have to say is because you are just a person talking about his life and interests. We happen to have some of those interests in common, as well as a friend or two, and I enjoy the way you write.
    I think the internets is pretty cool for giving me the opportunity to connect with distant people with whom I share these interests and humor. Thanks for being a part of it all.

  15. The reason I found your Twitter and blog was because I’m a TNG fan; I will admit this.
    The reason I continue to follow/read/comment/reply is because you, Wil Wheaton (geek, husband, stepdad, writer, human being), are awesome, are understanding of general geekery and pop culture, and crack me up. And unless you have a major personality change or stop being funny (unlikely), I’m sticking around.

  16. I love how dorky and honest your twitters are. Twitter actually recommended you to me as a “Suggested User” (on the same list as Al Gore and the New York Times) and I’m glad I found you. I didn’t know until after I started following you that you were an actor on one of my favorite television shows. Your musings/rants/insanities provide me with daily amusement. Thank you!

  17. I love how dorky and honest your twitters are. Twitter actually recommended you to me as a “Suggested User” (on the same list as Al Gore and the New York Times) and I’m glad I found you. I didn’t know until after I started following you that you were an actor on one of my favorite television shows. Your musings/rants/insanities provide me with daily amusement. Thank you!

  18. Wil,
    What I expect from following @wilw is for Wil Wheaton to be Wil Wheaton. I should hope you wouldn’t change, because then you woulnd’t be Wil Wheaton that tweets funny, weird, and geeky stuff.

  19. Excellent rundown. And yet another repeat of the best wisdom in Life in general, but specifically on the Internet: You do your thing. I do my thing. If our things intersect, let’s hope it’s fun.
    – Steve M.

  20. I follow you on Twitter because I enjoy your blogging, and how you come across as just this guy, y’know? You have a cool outlook on life, fame, star trek, twitter, geekitude and many other things. If you keep on doing what you do, I’ll keep following. Sorry for contributing to the panic attack thing!

  21. I said this in a @reply to you the other day, but to put it here as well. I have never seen an episode of TNG. I’ve seen Stand By Me maybe twice.
    I started following you on the recommendation of @ImagineBGP who said something along the lines of “down to earth, seems like a nice family guy”. I had no idea who the hell you were at the time, but realised soon after. I actually considered unfollowing becuase I didn’t want to go down the weird fanboy stalker path.
    But pretty soon, I saw your blog and twitter feed for what it was. A nice guy, who I could totally see as one of my friends, writing about stuff that he finds funny and interesting. So, I stuck around.

  22. i follow tweets for the same reason i follow the blog; you have the funny. though i was a big TNG fan and think it’s cool you were part of it. excessive tweeting not an issue; i am an obsessive checker. tweet away, sir.

  23. I first glimpsed the grown-up, geek Wil from your responses to a book review on /. for one of your books. (Can’t remember which one, but it might have been Just A Geek.) From that point on, I was hooked! In fact, I was going to send you e-mail at one point letting you know just how much JAG moved me, but you requested encrypted e-mail (or a signed certificate), and I embarked on a journey to make that possible, but never actually arrived at my destination. :( Curse the shiny!
    Now, I’m a proud Wil fangirl, and I make sure that all the other geeks I know are aware of just how really freaking cool you are! I guess I’m not the only one.
    Thanks for the info on @ replies, though, as I’ve occasionally wanted to let you know that I appreciated something you tweeted, but assumed you’d never read an @ reply from some stranger who’s stalking you on twitter. 😉
    Keep it coming!

  24. Oh, and my creepy twitter experience – someone following me, apparently becuase my name’s Heath. I checked out her profile and she was only following people with Heath in their name. Freak.

  25. Dear @wilw: I like your tweets and I think they are wonderful. Brightens my day to read them. Now, I am @zizban and I use mine to vent at work. You think you tweet alot? trying looking at mine sometime.
    So keep up the good work, @wilw. You are fun to follow.

  26. i see it like you inviting us into a part of your house. as a guest, i would be rude to tell you how to behave in your own house or go snooping in your medicine cabinet, and if i tried, you would rightly ask me to leave.
    besides, it’s the everyday “just this guy” stuff that’s the most fascinating and entertaining. i love hearing about your kids and your dogs and how you seem to get along with itunes way better than i ever tried to. with three young kids, i usually don’t have the attention span to read long blog entries, so tweets fit in nicely. also, you really try to read replies? *gets all warm and fuzzy* :)

  27. I follow you because you are an incredibly gifted writer and I look forward to reading what you have to say.
    I follow several celebrities, but only the ones that have interesting things to say. I don’t want to follow someone whose tweets read like a press release. I want to follow people who are being themselves. This would include noncelebrities as well.
    I haven’t really had any issues with people telling me how often I should tweet, or what the rules are but I can sympathize with you.
    I don’t usually read the tweets until I get home from work. So, sometimes I’m replying hours later to a really cool tweet and I apologize for that if I’ve done it to you. I look forward to relaxing and seeing what I’ve missed throughout the day, though it is getting harder to keep track as I start following more people.
    Also, I don’t have time to respond to everyone ~ and sometimes @ replies get buried amongst the other tweets so I miss them ~ so why should you be expected to? I can’t believe anyone really thinks you should respond to and/or follow everyone. You’d never get anything done.
    As for the weirdness, I imagine most of your followers are cool geeks like the people here that really enjoy reading you stuff. Hopefully that helps things feel less weird, though I understand the weird stalker feeling.
    I’m not a celebrity, but I am a private person. I haven’t had problems on twitter, but on MySpace I have had guys message me telling me I’m hot and it makes me uncomfortable. I have a boyfriend and I don’t feel comfortable having people come on to me like that. Also, I don’t really think I’m that hot. I’m just a gaming girl who loves the works of Joss Whedon.
    Okay, need to stop rambling now …
    Anyway, please keep being your cool self. I love reading your blogs and tweets because you are you. I love all the random, geeky things you say. Especially the conversations you have with your iPod.

  28. Oh my, that’s creepy. I’ve had a few random people follow me but so far nobody creepy. I can’t believe someone would follow you just for being named Heath.
    I thought Heath Ledger was an excellent actor, but I can’t see following everyone with the name Heath. Definite freak.

  29. I follow you on Twitter because you’re WIL WHEATON! Why, you lifted a city bus once, man!
    Your post was on-point and not dick-ish in any way. And appreciated, honestly. I will continue to follow you with glee, even when I disagree with your I Pod.

  30. About 25 years ago I read a Harlan Ellison novel. It was not my first, nor my last.
    After I finished I was so “motivated” by the finish that I had to reach out. i noted where the blurb said he lived at the time and took a chance. It was just a few miles from Hollywood, where I was managing the apartment building the peterson sisters lived in .(The bangles for you old timers).
    Rather than drive over I used directory assistance and called his number. He listened to me very carefully as I ranted and offered back a thoughtful and polite response. I find his wordsmith skills are rarely matched, and only exceeded by his storytelling itself.
    READ Harlan Ellison if you want a real touch of the future that will shake you to your core.
    Go Harlan!

  31. But I also knew you has Joey Trotta from “Toy Soldiers.” You can blame Sean Astin for that one (fav actor of all time =D).
    Your twitter = me NEVER getting a twitter
    AND… I’m denying anything bad you said about Kurt Warner and the Cardinals… it didn’t happen

  32. Well said, Wil. I would never expect you to follow me. O’course, if you did, I’d explode with happy, but life just isn’t that kind 😉

  33. I am so horribly offended.
    Wait, wait, no, I’m not. I’m not offended at all. Your words make much sense.
    I do feel ripped off by the lack of Point #4, though.

  34. Hey Wil, great post, love the twitter updates, particularly your conversations with iTunes, to be honest they actually made me start putting my iTunes on shuffle… so, yeah, thanks!!!
    I just twittered a reply to @wilw with a screen cap of the ad that followed your post in my google Reader it will make you cringe further but it will make me chuckle for the rest of the day… http://twitpic.com/1biic

  35. First – this post completely rocks. It’s honest, and funny – everything I’ve come to expect from reading your blog.
    I started reading, just as I started following @wilw, because my good friend @clayrobeson said, “You HAVE to read Wil Wheaton’s blog. It’s AWESOME.” I still have the email. He used the caps, I swear.
    I’ve been reading you for years, now, and frankly, your geekier posts have helped me better understand my gamer-geek husband better, so thank you for that.
    I follow the feed because it’s funny, quirky, and interesting.
    I @reply every so often if something you post really catches my attention, and that’s enough. You’re letting a metric assload of strangers peek into your life; I don’t think we have a right to expect you to be any more interactive than you already are.
    I mean, I can barely keep up with my OWN twitter-friends, and I have a ton less. Fewer. Whatever.

  36. Wil,
    I followed @wilw right when I found you were on twitter….because you were on TNG and you were a trekkie. I stayed, because you are a Geek and you tweet…basically the same stuff I would be tweeting…if I had time to keep up with it…and would think of these hilarious things…
    Don’t Change A Thing….

  37. Your guide was very clear and well written. It didn’t come anywhere near something I’d take negatively at all. I don’t understand why someone would complain about the topic of your tweets. No one is forcing them to click the follow button or read them. If they don’t like them.. well then they should just stop reading them or unfollow. Why waste the extra energy to complain and be an ass? I give you props for your very patient post Wil!

  38. wil, you are a great guy to follow. like the other day, work was crappy and i checked twitter and you randomly said penis.. that made me laugh and helped me get through my day. :)

  39. Well, you know, it’s true… people may come here for who you were (myself included)… but they *stay* for who you are. At least there’s that.
    On the side, your twitter has been showing up on the homepage so it may be why the sudden influx of followers, n’est-ce pas?

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