Sure, those can all be fairly nice occasions, but when you come right down to it, does any other rite of passage in this Tweet life compare to the joy of getting your 1000th follower on Twitter? Thanks to Mr. Brad Paisley -- or as I like to call him @paisleyofficial -- I recently had the chance to answer this pressing 21st century question for myself. As it turns out, the answer is . . . HELL NO.
That's because all those other meaningful human experiences tend to be shared largely with people you really know, people you actually spend time with, people who see you as you are and not merely as you choose to present yourself in 140 characters or less at a time.
Sure, flesh and blood friends and family are well and good, but if you're ever going to become the semi-charismatic leader of your very own digital cult, you're going to need some followers. So earlier this year I started tweeting at @wildaboutmusic -- named after my really annoying high school paper record column -- and yes, Virginia, there really were records back then. I was inspired in part by my lifelong hero Neil Diamond who I was working with on a TV project. If He could be bothered to tweet, what was my excuse?
Somehow I avoided this social media stuff until recently. I have no interest in Facebook, possibly because my face is not my best feature. Okay, I technically have no best feature, but I have found that I do have an attention span and fleeting personality that's only good for about 140 characters.
When I hit 500 followers a month or two ago, my older son said, "That's creepy, Dad." I asked why, and he said, "Because you don't even know these people." How could I explain to this smart kid that's exactly why I love them so much -- and exactly why they might find me worthy of following.
Okay, my followers include some people who I actually have known: My best college buddy. My lovely prep school girlfriend -- soon followed by her husband who very wisely follows me even more closely. Eventually, my own beautiful wife started to follow me too -- until she lost all interest after about the first 50 characters. And that's okay. Real human contact may have its place in this world, but as a self-obsessed blowhard with delusions of new media grandeur, I'm not ultimately cruising for friends here -- I need followers, damn it! This is my space, damn it, so in the words of John Denver, "Follow Me," or in the words of the Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, "Get Off Of My Digital Cloud."
Here's what I've learned. If you, like me, are a wannabe leader looking for followers, nothing compares to being tweeted by a famous person. In my line of work, I meet even more celebrities than a rehab center receptionist, so it only makes sense that a few famous folks would follow me and even send the occasional tweet my way. Knowing famous people is very nice, especially for a Gold Medal name-dropper like me. But now I have learned the pure Twitter joy of basking in the reflected glow of far more talented people.
See a few weeks back, Brad Paisley -- one of my favorite artists in music today and a great guy to boot -- started to follow me, and even tweeted me about the fact that I'm writing the script for the upcoming Country Music Association Awards -- or the CMAs -- a fantastic annual TV event which Brad will host again with the lovely and talented Carrie Underwood on November 11th. Then this Tuesday night I found myself in New York packing for a very early morning flight back home to Los Angeles. Just before bed, I went on Twitter and noticed that I was only a few dozen short of 900 followers. Secretly, I began dreaming of getting 1000 followers by the end of this year, so I tweeted saying it would be lovely if I could have 900 followers by the time my plane landed the next morning.
With that I turned off my computer for the night, but within seconds, my Blackberry -- set to vibrate -- started a whole lot of shakin'. Brad -- also in New York where he was preparing to play Madison Square Garden -- immediately wrote a tweet encouraging some of his 71,000 followers to follow me as well. Almost instantly, I passed 900 followers, then 1000 followers. Thanks Brad for this awesome display of Paisley Power. Sorry Garth, but apparently it's also good to have friends in high places. As I write these words late Thursday night, I've just passed 1,250 people, most of whom appear to be actual humans, and not the just those come-hither porn bots who will follow anybody.
That was going to be my big ending, but @michellebranch -- another much more famous friend with more than 43,000 followers -- just wrote a tweet to report that somehow my tweets with Brad made the Nashville TV News tonight. I'm not quite sure what the news hook was -- perhaps "Namedropping Jerk Tweets Country Superstar. Details at 11." Michelle noted that they even showed my Twitter account picture on TV. Suddenly, all I can think about is getting even more followers. That Dow 10000 is nice, but what about my Twitter 2000? Suddenly 1000 doesn't seem like enough. When it comes to propping up an ego like mine, sometimes it takes a village, and to me, a village needs a few more people.
In closing, let me dare to ask another one of the truly important questions of our social media times: Anybody out there want to be my 2000th follower?