In which I pretended to be a Lion, and caught the eye of the director of Looper.
For the past month or so, I have pretended to be a lion on Twitter in order to amass a large number of followers and become a momentary internet sensation and thus the most famous person in the world. On these highly immodest goals, I failed spectacularly. Nonetheless, my narrative might seem impressive to people who don’t understand how the internet works. I managed to draw the attention of a handful of minor celebrities and the appreciation of a few people who found what I was doing mildly amusing and forgettable. However, since I only ended with less than 50 or so followers, and no one on Yahoo! News wrote a story about me, I must only live to fight again in this very, very stupid way.
I began with a simple hunch: people like lions. I also began with a highly speculative and supremely uninformed hypothesis: that only the stupidest of parody accounts become wildly popular. Therefore, I decided to Roar at people and hope that they retweeted me. That’s it. It’s even dumber than you imagined.
Though the length of the roar and the number of exclamation points would vary, all my communications would take the form of roars. Nothing coy or silly like, “Tired of lion around all day! :<>” No references to The Lion King. I would not find a zebra or a gazelle and digitally chase them. I wasn’t going to get in a pissing contest with Tony the Tiger. My ambition was to become immensely popular on Twitter by doing as little as possible. My enduring hope was that my creative bankruptcy and general laziness would be taken for high concept cleverness and that I would have one million followers by lunchtime.
To a small but slightly significant degree I was right about the yuk value of a lion using social media to make his or her presence known. I decided to target known quantitites, mostly those who had “verified accounts” and over 1000 followers. The less globally known celebrities – local news anchors, stand-up comics, and radio personalities, for instance – would probably pass me along to their larger-than-average audience. My first hit was some dude who had something to do with the BBC:
Next, one of the bimbos dedicated to selling misogynist body spray responded:
Slim Pickins’, I realize. No one was going to call me the best thing in the history of the internet because one of the bozos who get paid to tweet for Axe retweeted me. But I had a little more luck the next day:
If you aren’t a film buff or an academic, these names aren’t exactly “Beyonce” or even “Jerry Mathers as the Beaver.” But Ian Bogost is a superstar among critics: a brilliant thinker who has changed the way we think about video games. Rian Johnson directed Looper, which captured the Fall 2012 zeitgeist more than any other movie. Brad Bird directed for The Simpsons and most recently directed The Incredibles, Ratatouille, and Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. When these three luminaries retweeted me, their audiences retweeted me as well. At this point, I was thinking: my new address would be easy street. Douglas Rushkoff would call to interview me and we would have a lucid conversation about the nature of online communities. I would become friends with Will Ferrell. Obviously, this didn’t happen, but I will now describe the minimal successes I had, one of which was confounding because it came so close to fulfilling my ridiculous, distracting ambitions.
First, if I were asked to lecture a group of wide-eyed social media would-bes, I would tell them to target a twitter force who will transmit you to his or her mass audience. My white whale was Justin Bieber, or at least the social media arm of his empire. Since Bieber is basically a kid, I thought he would find the idea of a roaring Lion on Twitter amusing enough to briefly mention. From there, his 4+ million followers would give me their endorsement, because they are teenagers, and because they think lions are funny. However, neither Bieber or the person who decides what to tweet for him recognized my activity. That’s the key, kids [kids feverishly take notes on their Newtons]: becoming an internet phenomenon is all about kairos, being noticed at the right moment. I’m still convinced that if Biebs, Rhianna, or Taylor Swift had heard me ROOARRR!!!!!, as opposed to my transmission becoming lost in a sea of spam and praise, I would be making arrangements to build a flying mansion.
Here are some things that happened
- Two of the young stars of Modern Family found me funny
So did nice guy character Peter Gallagher, who seems to have a genuine love of lions:
Also: some soccer player, some stand-up comic, Joe Mantegna’s daughter, and fanboy extraordinaire Harry Knowles. Hyland particularly opened me up to a wider audience, but not enough to make a sensation.
- Normal people loved me
I figured this would happen. People would hit me up to roar at them, and I delighted them by typing ROOOARRRRRR into the a small box on my computer screen.
Even if Alice Cooper or Anthony Weiner didn’t retweet me, people would retweet me retweeting them. Also, roaring at Kevin Spacey led to some intense and amusing theorization by Uruguayan intellectuals:
Since I don’t know Spanish, I’m led to believe by Google translate that this exchange has something to do with the fleeting nature of communication and the symbolic possibility that a lion using social media is evidence that the apocalypse is upon us.
- Here is the one that came very close to the fourteen seconds of fame I so furiously desired:
JIM FREAKING GAFFIGAN! Social media superstar and big-time stand-up comedian! The most famous person to ever make a joke about Hot Pockets! However, you can see what happens: Gaffigan only favorited my tweet, which means that it doesn’t show up in his feed. Whenever Gaffigan tweets about his lunch, 5 gazillion people retweet him. Had the Gaffmeister retweeted me, I’m sure that you’d all be talking about those few minutes in Mid-December when a digital nation was captivated by the online adventures of the king of the jungle. But since the Great Gaffigan only favorited me, this tantalizing door of internet celebrity closed as soon as it opened. As it shut, forever, I could see that rotund weirdo who does gangnam style sipping Pinot Grigio with the “Charlie bit my finger” kid on streets of internet gold. And then the angelic hue was replaced by my wife asking me why I wasn’t spending more time on my dissertation.
What would I do differently? I wouldn’t roar so much. A typically day of activity featured me roaring at about thirty celebrities a minute – remember that I chose this idea because it required so little effort. I needed to be more patient: maybe three roars a day at carefully chosen subjects. Also, I wouldn’t tell my wife about it, because she made fun of me mercilessly for doing this.
And what did I learn? Nothing. I learned absolutely nothing. I suppose this makes it a metaphor for the internet, but even that seems too valuable a conclusion to result from pretending to be a digital lion.