I’m not above admitting this. It was a teeeensy bit of an ego-thrill, the day after Paste ran my review of Adult World, to get this robot-message:
“John Cusack is now following you on Twitter.”
Had he read the review and liked it? How freaking cool would that be?
Actually, I hate social media. Seriously. I was the last person in the northern hemisphere to set up a Twitter account, and I only did it after a lot of prodding by people in the writerverse, for whom Twitter and Facebook are basically the company water cooler, and apparently not having a presence there is like being a malingerer.
I used to ask my husband why he used it. “Because there’s interesting stuff,” he said. Yeah? There is interesting stuff at the museum as well. And the garage. Which you’d know if you’d help me clean it. But, like, whatever.
He offhandedly remarked that he had hundreds of “followers.”
“Followers? For what?” It just sounded so … Jonestown.
“You know. Wine. Restaurants. Music. Surfing. Stuff.”
“Wait. So, you just ‘tweet’ whatever random thought flits into your head about whatever thing, and this generates a ‘following?’”
“And what does that do for you exactly?”
He shrugged. “It’s a community.”
But I finally bit the bullet and set up an account. Then I tried to ignore it as best I could, because the rapid scroll of publishers touting their Darlings of the Month, none of whom were me, gave me an awful hamster-wheel feeling of my life passing me by. And all the wine people I “followed?” Let’s just say I soon started feeling the intense need to have something coquettish and fruit-forward from Rutherford at ten in the morning. It was like in Adaptation, when every time Nicolas Cage sits down to write, his internal monologue starts chatterboxing about muffins.
But there was no denying it—the spouse was right, too. Once I got used to the bombardment, I began to enjoy it. I’ve met a scholar whose work I’ve admired for years and was able to tell him so. That was wonderful. I’ve found literary magazines I didn’t even know existed. Chatted with winemakers in Alto Adige. Electronically high-fived my favorite chef who’d opened a new place.
And then I wrote a review of this film co-starring John Cusack, whom I like quite a lot. A lot of people of my era do—we were exiting high school when he scored his first major hit with a mild-mannered teen rom-com. The film was honestly pretty forgettable, except for his performance, which was awesome and included a scene so iconic I won’t describe it because you already know which one I’m talking about. We ate him up with a spoon, boys and girls alike. He spoke to us and, actually, also for us. Every sharp-but-self-conscious, geeky-with-potential, antihero-worshipping iconoclast I knew—and that was most of the kids I knew—related to that guy. And he was, let’s be honest, pretty stinkin’ cute.
I am not a crazed superfan—in fact, I think he’s been in some crap-fests. I’ve never even seen Hot Tub Time Machine. But the performances of his that I love, I love. There’s just something about the guy—I guess because he was sort of emblematic of my teen years and seemed significantly smarter than the average Bratpacker—that has always felt familiar to me, like I knew him from somewhere.
Which is why I asked him out. Like, publicly, in the review. I didn’t mean it stalkery-like. I’ve had a stalker (quietly) and so has he (famously), and that’s not karma anyone wants. Plus I just think the odds are overwhelming that significantly famous people have really torqued personalities that are highly unusual. But I suspected he might be. Unusual. Or that at least we’d have lots to talk about.
So when I got the notification that the man was “following” me, I did something I had not done, which was actually visit his Twitter page. Oh. Wow. John Cusack was following about 300 people, and one of them was me. But that wasn’t the number that blew me away.
1.4 million. That’s how many Twits were following him. Yes, I am naïve and a nebbish and a total fossil. I had not given one second’s thought to what it would be like to have 1.4 million people tailing you through the ether. And what it is like is this:
These stats are approximate. I would say that John Cusack fields an average of two to 45 daily requests to stand outside someone’s window hoisting a boombox with Peter Gabriel blaring from it, and one to 18 requests for mix-tapes. There will usually be up to ten references to kickboxing and The Clash. Depending on the day’s news, four to 39 people will pick fights with him about politics, and around that many people will tell him they had a dream about him or that he is their ultimate sexual fantasy. There are a couple of people who apparently do not sleep, and literally respond to every single Tweet from him—usually with a non sequitur along the lines of PLEASE SPEAK TO ME! PLEASE PLEEEEEASE.
Is it weird that this had not occurred to me? Ew!
I private-messaged him saying I hoped he had a bunch of personal assistants and bots parrying all that garbage and that if he didn’t was sorry for adding to it. He replied: “Nope—just me.”
Sometimes I’d respond to a tweet issued by, or retweeted by, His Eminence. Sometimes he would reply back. That’s not the weird part. The weird part is that every time he spoke “to” me, my account gained two to six followers within seconds. There were people following me purely because this actor addressed me. Sometimes, people egged me on—I mean, I appeared to have John Cusack’s attention. I should ask him a question. You know, like he was the Oracle at Delphi or a priest or something. I said I had asked him a question, and he’d been quite gracious about it in that he had not set the hounds on me.
“What question was that?” Cusack broke in. Uhhh … had he not read that article? Because what other reason could there possibly be for him to “follow” me? Somehow I didn’t think it was because he had admired my latest contributions to Poetry Northwest. (That’s not a dig; I remain fairly certain that he pays more attention to art and literature and culture than a lot of people in his profession. But seriously.)
There was a weird incident where he posted an image of an M.C. Escher piece I’d had a print of in my bedroom when I was in high school—and I happened to say so. At which I was “called out” for “fangirl BS.” By, presumably, a, um, fan. Girl.
Whoa. I’m sorry, but if I were a “fangirl” given to “BS,” why wouldn’t I just cut to the chase like the other fangirls and remind him that what was most important about him was a lightweight flick he had made twenty-five years ago? Again with the boombox thing? Really? I wondered if it depressed him. I mean, he’s made kind of a lot of movies since 1989, many of which are much less ridiculous than Con Air. And he’s even done other stuff. Off screen. I was grossed out. I gradually stopped responding. And at some point—I hadn’t noticed when—John unfollowed about 150 people, one of whom was me.
And nothing changed.
And in “nothing” I include my slight chagrin over having added to the megaton of asinine trollery and inane adulation the guy for some reason chooses to put up with, by inviting him to go out with me.
Which is not to say I take it back. I think he made a bad call, honestly. Not as bad as Pushing Tin or anything, but I think he should have taken me up on the dinner offer. The unfollowing thing? I really never wanted a “following” in the first place. When I publish things, I hope people will read them and some people will think they’re good. Not so much with the solipsistic feedback loop, the online peanut gallery, or the random blindside attacks by overgrown playground bullies that pepper the social media platforms. I mean, I get it—there is a sense of connection. In a way.
But it isn’t real, at least not most of the time. I have made some professional connections and one actual—and wonderful—friend, whom I would probably never have met without Twitter. I owe it my gratitude for both. But, I don’t know … they say brevity is the soul of wit and all, but I don’t think most people are shown to their best advantage, or able to truly communicate, in 140 character increments.
Which is why the dinner invitation stands.
Amy Glynn is a Super Famous Poet. Her interests include non-plagiaristic suicide, pet psychiatry, Peter Gabriel, The New Yorker, Italian wine, Grant Achatz, the President of Paraguay, Federico Garcia Lorca, home beekeeping and serendipity. You can follow her on Twitter, where she has a long way to go to reach 1.4 million followers.