RE: “Why Twitter Parody Accounts Should Stay Anonymous”


This is an edited version of an email I wrote to Matt Buchanan regarding his piece “Why Twitter Parody Accounts Should Stay Anonymous” from the New Yorker website. I’ve removed all of the false criminal charges, slurs and profanity to make myself look better. For the record, Buchanan wrote me a nice response and the war between our villages has since ended.

 

I was onboard with the article until I got to the last paragraph, where you wrote that fame is what “drives the authors of popular parody accounts to uncloak themselves.”

While that may be true, I’d argue that the flash-in-the-pan nature of the cited Twitter accounts mentioned forced the hand of the writers. @MayorEmanuel and @BPGlobalPR were both designed for specific events – the very nature of their creations gave it a short shelf life. You can’t fault the writers for coming out when they see their window closing.

The biggest problem with parody accounts is that there are few that could potentially have a long shelf life. Take the seemingly infinite amount of Hulk accounts on Twitter, for instance. Let’s say a writer decides to create @RoyalBabyHulk. He/she probably has a few jokes ready to go (NOBODY PUT ROYAL BABY IN CORNER!), but a week from now, no one is going to be talking about the Royal Baby (I hope), and the writer won’t have anything new to add. The writer will probably give up because he/she didn’t realize that the most rewarding parody accounts are marathons, not sprints.

@TheBatman and @SeinfeldToday are two great examples of feeds with a potentially long shelf life. I’m not sure about the former, but I do know that the latter feed is open about who is behind it. While I’m sure fame is a factor in outing yourself, I believe that the desire to have some new writing opportunities is probably much greater.

In my case, I revealed myself three years ago because as a writer it was enormously frustrating having thousands of people reading my tweets and not my stories. Plus, I kind of wanted to prove to people that I could write normally, you know, without the Caps Lock. On top of this, because of my geographical disadvantage (an American living in Poland) any opportunity to be the loudest voice in a room full of loud voices like the internet – however ephemeral it may be – is something I had been waiting for. I didn’t expect to be famous. I just wanted someone to see me and take a chance on my work.

Did outing myself hurt Drunk Hulk? Here’s the thing about the internet: people don’t really care. You’ll get the occasional: Oh, I wish I didn’t know Drunk Hulk was just some guy. But what you mostly get is: Okay, fine, just keep making me laugh. And on top of that, because the numbers are always growing (I’ve more than tripled my followers since revealing myself), most people still don’t know who I am. Even when I post a link to my website, even though Drunk Hulk follows only me, most people don’t make the connection because they really don’t care.

They just want to laugh.

And that’s really the agreed transaction between me and the readers on Twitter – whether they know who I am or not. If I’m funny they’ll stick around, if I’m not they won’t. And really, in my case, considering that they’re supposedly reading the tweets of an inebriated Hulk who types in ALL CAPS and poor grammar, I really need to be funny to make up for all that baggage.

I just thought that the conclusion to your piece was too simple, that there’s a lot more going on behind the scenes, even when it’s something as ridiculous as Drunk Hulk.

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About Christian A. Dumais

Christian A. Dumais is an American writer, humorist and public speaker living in Wrocław, Poland. He has published fiction, journalism, and academic articles in several magazines and journals such as GUD, Shock Totem and Ha!Art. His first collection of short stories, Empty Rooms Lonely Countries, was published in 2009. He also created, edited, and contributed to Cover Stories, a euphictional anthology of 100 stories inspired by songs, which was published in 2010. His most recent book is SMASHED: The Life and Tweets of Drunk Hulk.

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