Earlier this week, I joined Twitter. Within twelve hours, the seven people I was following had started following me. I wasn't an Internet sensation on the level of Ashton Kutcher or a cat blowing out birthday candles, but my potential was obvious. Like unexplained fatigue or a strange rash, my Twitter page was showing early signs of viral activity.
Things were going well: a new follower here, a strategic retweet there. I was hoping to have about twelve followers by the end of the week, a dramatic increase of nearly 100 percent. I was sure to attract the attention of the mainstream media.
I know the New York Times is always looking for a trend piece based on one person's anecdotal experience. "So that's what Twitter is," I imagined a Times reader saying before sending his daily check for a million dollars to Nancy Pelosi. Maybe I'd even appear on the cover of the New York Post, with a headline like "TWEET CHILD O' MINE," above a picture of me sending a Tweet to Axl Rose.
I was on the verge of realizing the American dream: becoming famous for no reason. Then everything changed.
My Twitter feed was filled with news about Conan O'Brien. He'd just signed up for Twitter. I went to his page. 17,000 followers. No need to panic, I thought. I'll catch that soon. I returned to trolling the Internet for hilarious links to Tweet to my fans.
But I could barely focus. Soon, I found myself staring at O'Brien's Twitter page. 35,000 followers. 50,000 followers. 100,00 followers. It was a nightmare.
The Times would profile Conan. He would be the one on the cover of the Post, under the headline "CHE-ROD," laughing it up next to a picture of Alex Rodriguez made to look like Che Guevara with a Yankees hat.
Then I read Conan's Tweet. It was funny. I remembered that he's talented and famous. It suddenly dawned on me: I'm not competing with Conan O'Brien. After all, Twitter isn't about being more popular than a celebrity. It's about being more popular than your friends.