The thought of achieving any form of popularity had always seemed light-years away for someone like myself who is accustomed to mediocrity. I had never found the prospect of widespread admiration particularly attractive to begin with. As cliché as it sounds, external validation has always seemed a little shallow to me. However, I would be lying if I said that I had never stargazed at an empty ceiling wondering how sweet internet stardom might taste. Who would have guessed that 41 characters and 125,000 likes later, I would encounter Twitter fame. An immediate surge of electronic ecstasy followed the rapid attention, but the aftermath showed me that social media ‘fame’ only attracts empty connections.
The tweet was not the child of my self-proclaimed quick wit or any spur-of-the-moment genius. Rather, it was a planned endeavour: I sat down and analyzed the most popular topics on Twitter that week and thought about what people my age would relate to. At the time, the kids from the Netflix original series Stranger Things were trending—a cast who, I happened to notice, bore a striking resemblance to that of the 2004 hit series Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide. Millennials like me feel most special when we’re indulging in nostalgia, and my carefully-crafted tweet embodied the perfect mix of relevance and reminiscence.
The likes and retweets brought my phone to life: Strangers were mentioning their friends and relating to shows that aired generations apart. It was a surreal experience at first, but the more my phone danced in my pocket, the faster my initial social media high dissipated into a need to dissociate myself from the tweet entirely. Turning notifications off required a valiant effort, and it still didn’t stop countless high school peers, whom I had been purposefully avoiding for the past two years, from popping into my private messages, commenting on my newfound fame.
They welcomed themselves back into my life as if I were their comedic benefactor, bringing with them memories I had long forgotten, to bask with me in the success of my Coconut Head–Will Byers mashup. I wanted to say, “Please, Sally—I’d rather you go back to tweeting about how your ex-wife left you for a jar of mayonnaise.” Luckily, they all eventually got the message, but it left me dumbfounded as to how these aliens from my past invaded my current world, only to move on after my 15 minutes were up. I had become a one-tweet wonder.
During this tumultuous Twitter experience, I found the tweet seeping into all of my daily conversations. It’s not everyday that you hit the big time with 125,000 likes. The conversations sent a shot of dopamine mixed with unreasonable confidence pulsing through my veins. However, this high was quickly followed by a crash when the faves stopped rolling in, leaving me with nothing more than a bitter aftertaste. I realized when my retweet record became my go-to pick-up line at bars that I had a problem.
It’s been a year or so since my moment of Twitter fame, and I can honestly say I don’t miss the star treatment. Nowadays, I get the odd retweet here and there, and I will periodically explain to my international peers why the gang from Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide was ever relevant on the twittersphere. In fact, right this moment, I could probably feel the rush of thousands of likes and retweets once again by tweeting some nonsense about how, if you haven’t seen the movie Coraline, you need to seriously reevaluate your life. Instead, I’m just excited for the day that I am old and telling my grandchildren about the time their old Grandpapa Shaaq based his self-worth on a tweet.