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. Yeah, using Facebook and watching Star Wars doesn’t make you a geek, in my opinion, but maybe there are degrees of being a geek, right?
    I don’t want to go down the path of judging the very people who have judged me my entire life, just because they suddenly like some of the same things I like.

  2. Agreed. I sounded pretty judgmental there for a moment, didn’t I. Yikes. Well, onward and upward!
    Oh, and since you respectfully replied to me, twice, during your extremely busy day/life…I’m telling everyone we are BFF’s. 😛 Shine on you crazy Wheaton.

  3. i like the tweets even if you don’t respond back, i understand i am an american indian and not many of us get talked to anyways by non indians…lol…jks

  4. I admit it. I started reading your weblog lo these many years ago because I’d heard of you. I’d watched ST:TNG. Wil Wheaton… didn’t he play Wesley Crusher? He has a weblog? I wonder what he says. Hey, he’s funny and smart and he writes really well.
    When Twitter came along and I learned you were @wilw, that gave an extra boost to Twitter for me – it must be good if Wil’s on it. And he’s funny and smart and interesting in 140 characters too. (Not everyone is.)
    I continue to follow you because you continue to make me laugh and because the Twitter @wilw and the Blogging WWdN both seem like someone I’d enjoy talking to in real life.
    If the 56,000 followers starts to get to you, just take a deep breath and think about stephenfry; he’s hit twice that, with half of them in the past week or two. The next FailWhale I see, I’ll have to blame one of the two of you! :-)
    Thanks Wil for being _you_. I’m happy you’re here.

  5. I actually follow you and feel like a stalker for doing so. I felt even worse when I @you a picture of my Xmas card with a picture of my boyfriend, myself and you and another with my boyfriend, myself and Jonathan Coulton. However, I follow you because your twitters are usually funny and I’m a nurse and I deal with a lot of bad in my life and so a lot of funny ends up being good. I’m also pretty sure that last sentence was a run-on.

  6. see, now i’m tempted to reference you on twitter by a DIFFERENT character you played. but that’s because i want to see more of WALTER on CSI. (totally one of the best homeless guy minor characters they’ve had. i could see walter becoming like a huggy bear “THE WORD ON THE STREET IS…” kind of guys. you all scruffed and skanked up chatting in the interview room with fishburn in his suit? aww yeah.)
    i mean, i *won’t* because 1. i’m not a dick (or at least not that kind of dick) and 2. probably too obscure and unfunny outside of my head.
    um. yeah. clearly i need to get out more. or something.
    maybe coffee will help.

  7. Hi Wil,
    I recently (today actually) started to follow you on twitter and started to read your blogs because a good friend told me you were a great writer not because of any shows you have been on or characters you have played. I am super excited to read your tweets and blogs, I am already amused and I’ve only just begun!!

  8. “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.”
    “…there are about 53,000 people following me on Twitter. If I think about it too much, like right now, I get freaked out.”
    If that freaks you out, wait until some creepy dude starts following you around Penguicon hoping to catch you not wearing any underwear under your skirt.

  9. I’m probably among the new “follows” but that’s only because I’m relatively new Twitter user.
    Mostly choosing to follow you b/c I’m a fan of your blog. Random, cool, geeky and silly comes with the territory. :)

  10. I follow you because youre funnier than hell,love the icon and i liked your tweet (my other mother loves me).My other mothers a mini van lol

  11. I could (and started to) write a novella apparently on why I follow. Yea, I fell in the whole “holy crapmuffins. Isn’t that Wesley Crusher?” line when I first saw some reference to your tweeting somewhere. Then I read. And read. And I started reading the blogs. And now I’ve gone from “Wesley freakin Crusher” (which for some reason, always makes me think of the late Wesley Willis) to “That Wil Wheaton is one funny muthafucka” and I actually enjoy seeing your tweets pop up in the middle of some other people’s arcane BS that’s not even entertaining. Stay Wil and stay strong. (Not that 50,000 people telling you why they follow your tweets isn’t going be hella freaky as is. ^_^)

  12. I used to enjoy your updates, then I started to follow too many people. Think I need to take a leaf outa your book and cleanse my follow list – either that or give you your own feed in TweetDeck. Mmmm, interesting…
    BTW, Love the idea of @wilsmom, I know you(sorry she)’ll probably won’t do anything with it – but I just had to follow 😀

  13. OK, so it’s hard to write a comment on a celebrity’s blog (face it, you are one) without sounding like a complete tool… I don’t count myself among your Thousand True Fans, but I have to say I wouldn’t have started reading your blog if it wasn’t for your tweets, which are funny and genuine. So, thanks.

  14. Some of us just follow you simply because you speak geek. You make us laugh, and provide actual content.
    You don’t ever tell me how to get 1 billion followers in 20 minutes, you don’t promise me network marketing secrets, and don’t tell me how I can enlarge parts I don’t even have. BONUS

  15. Stuff like this are the reasons I follow you Wil. Somehow you always seem to connect to that 15 year old geek that’s still hiding somewhere inside of me.
    I honestly don’t remember why I first started following you on Twitter. I probably saw your name and had that “brush with celebrity” feeling. But I continue to follow you because you make me laugh out loud at inappropriate times far too often, and you have a knack for writing stuff that resonates with me.

  16. Wil, I follow you precisely *because* you aren’t a typical celebrity, but rather someone I can admire because you’ve made it through your Hollywood experiences and still remain a true, down-to-earth, honest-to-God geek. Your tweets are alternately hilarious, thought-provoking, informative and incomprehensible and I read most of them, which is more than I can say for some of the people I follow who I actually know. I only wish I weren’t asleep in Europe when you are out having fun in the evenings.
    Keep up the good work and as I’m sure you will, stay true to yourself.

  17. This post absolutely captures exactly why I not only follow @wilw (okay, it was initially because I’m a Trekkie), but really love his tweets.
    I’m glad we’re on the same page. Carry on then, carry on.

  18. Well really Wil all of that makes plenty of sense to me, not to mention the fact that trying to keep everyone and their dog happy would drive anyone insane. I’m currently following you on Twitter for a couple of reasons. Partly because your tweets amuse me as they can be random as hell which is always a good thing in my mind.
    Partly because you don’t come off as some pretentious ass but a normal bloke, well… I use the term normal loosely when applied to anyone.
    And lastly because of this post right here, you call em as you see em.
    On the odd rare occasion I might find myself replying to one of your tweets it’s either because you say something interesting, amusing, or I’m just full of devilish whimsy and can’t help myself but say something random.

  19. I just signed up for Twitter, and you are one of the suggested twitterers…twits? that are preloaded unless you uncheck them.
    Yep, you and Al Gore.
    That could account for the Twitter explosion.
    I let you stay because I actually have been reading your blog on and off for a few years, not because I’m a crazy stalker type person.

  20. I’m @sspaz1000 on Twitter, and I started to follow you because I follow writer @jamesmoran. I was looking at the people he follows, and I came upon your name because I remembered as a little kid watching Star Trek: TNG. As I got older I always wondered what you had been doing.
    So I found you on Twitter and your blog. I love the fact that you post random information. Yes at times it’s a lot, but most times, it’s a good little imponderables and they make my Twitter page more exciting.
    I don’t think this entry came off wrong at all. I understand completely where you are coming from, and I hope you continue to use Twitter in the way you use it already.

  21. I follow @wilw because I’m a geeky Gen-Xer who grew up with ST:TNG as her avenue to geekdom. I started reading Wil’s blog a few years ago and used it as a case study for my grad class on Contemporary Mass Media. I’m pretty sure Wil’s blog got me an A.
    I’m also that much of a geek that friends and I drove up to Montreal to see Wil at a book signing at this little hippy pagan bookseller. It was a crazy time, with F1 cars and Madonna in town to boot. Got my own copy of “Just a Geek” and Wil was kind enough to inscribe it with “Get your geek on!”
    As I’ve followed Wil’s tweets I’ve picked up some new strategies for Munchkin and Fluxx and realized that there are other people out there like my husband and I. While we’ll never make it into Wil’s inner circle it’s great to experience bits of his life vicariously through Twitter. He’s a great author, funny guy, and definitely worth a follow. If you can’t handle his Tweet stream, you’re probably not cut out for Twitter.

  22. You know that feeling you get when you read/hear/watch something that’s really awesome? You don’t? Okay, well here it is.
    I just felt that after reading this. Wierd, huh?

    Thanks for the tweets. You owe me $32 in overage fees. :)

  23. Thanks, Wil. I’m fairly new to Twitter. But I’m trying to only be a noob and not a knob, an occasional Twitter Twit and NOT a complete Twitter Twat. @feliciaday has written several helpful posts (like yours)trying to guide the Twitter Twaffic that follows her.
    I feel strange following folks who I know have little opportunity (or inclination) to also follow me. I feel like a voyeur in a way. But, I haven’t run into porn spam on Twitter yet, which is refreshing. Tweets just read like the Burma Shave signs of people’s day to day lives. Just a few clever phrases with an occasional pointer to something longer and even more interesting, like your blog.

  24. Hi, I’m Reiney, and I just wanted to let you know why I’m following you. I recently started using twitter, and I recognized your name in the list of people that my husband’s best friend follows. I read a bunch of your twitters, and I have to honestly tell you that nothing warms my heart more than your tweets about time spent with your son. It’s rare, these days, for a man to feel comfortable being as frank about his emotions as you are, and that’s just a real treat to get to see. I really look forward to your tweets, and I think you’re an excellent dad. I wish you and your family all the best. :)

  25. You should read – http://www.stephenfry.com/blog/2009/01/29/twitter/ a fellow twitterer who has 226,475 followers.
    I followed you originally because of Wesley (I agree with Xavier Onassis there … the husband and I feel the same way) and have happily found that you have broken the mold and are completely your own person. And follow you precisely because you just are who you are. Plus … the husband and are geeks & parents too. Can’t help but feel an affinity.

  26. Hell, i’d say a good chunk of those rules apply to just about everyone who posts on twitter (tweets?). I hope nobody who follows me expects anything insightful, funny or anything above garbage. I like to just blast out there whats on my mind ’cause if I don’t my ADD will just squirrel it around in the ‘ole noggin until it drives me nuts. If they don’t like it, they can easily remove me from their list.
    I started following you ’cause you were funny and geeky and found out about you on boingboing many moons ago. Now I follow Levar and Brent ’cause of the same. Actually, pretty much anyone who either amuses me, informs me or gels with my need for slack gets followed.
    Now if only “Bob” tweeted…

  27. I haven’t seen a single minute of “Star Trek.” That little factoid gets a lot of stares from my friends but oh well. I just really enjoy your geekiness and your humor.
    Twitter is so weird. I mean, I enjoy it but at the same time, some people take it to levels that are just beyond crazy.

  28. I won’t lie – I never really was into Star Trek but the wife and I began to watch it when it was on G4 when we only had the most basic of cable packages. If it were not for that I would not know who you are. For some reason G4 was one of the 30 stations that we got.
    That being said I understand that you’re not Wesley – and understand you finding people who think you are annoying and scary.
    I started to follow you on Twitter not that long ago because I enjoyed some of the stuff that I’ve read by, of, and about you. You seem like an interesting and entertaining person and this post reenforces that for me. You also have a similar sense of humor to me.

  29. i have to admit out of all the random people on twitter, most of whom i actually know..your postings are the most entertaining and random. and i like your ending quote of “you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take” but i personally like “goals are deceptive, the unaimed arrow never misses”. take care and have a wonderful day.

  30. Good list Wil. I started following you on Twitter because of ST:TNG, but keep following you ’cause I think you’re a pretty cool guy and I enjoy your tweets and blog posts.
    BTW, the WOOT t-shirt you designed arrived today, it looks great! Actually pretty much like the illustration they have of it. Scary…

  31. Wil;
    You didn’t come off as wrong, and you have yet to disapoint me. In fact, my fiance and I both follow you on Twitter (we’re almost as geeky as you.. Almost). I started following you because of the character you played 20 years ago, but I continue to follow you because you’re smart, funny, and witty. You said what you needed to say to make your own peace with the internet cosmos.
    BTW: Your Simpson’s quote day kept me highly amused.

  32. thanks for that post! If i hadn’t seen you on Twitter i wouldn’t have found your blog. reality and media-lity are very different things and i just like to follow interesting people – i’ve helped out at conventions in the UK before so i know the difference but am always surprised when i see people who don’t! Anyway – thanks for sharing bits of your life with us ^^

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