Wednesday, June 8, 2011

A Retweet Is the New Autograph

By Mark Smith

I’ll admit it. I love being retweeted. There are times when I have a quip or an observation, and I’ll actually be disappointed when it doesn’t get retweeted. How can this tweet pass without one person thinking it was as awesome as I did when I typed it? You know what I’m talking about. You don’t have to hide. We’re an open community here, and we don’t judge. Well, Bill judges, but the Twins suck so we don’t care about his opinion. Anyway, back toward something that resembles the title of this post. Retweets give everyone a sense of accomplishment. And this sense of accomplishment has led to the phenomenon of trying to get players to retweet you.

When I first saw this, I thought it was entirely pathetic. What exactly are you gaining? “Hi, I’m your biggest fan, and it’s my birthday. Retweet me!” First of all, you aren’t their biggest fan. Second, Happy Arbitrary Day of the Year When People Sort of Acknowledge Your Existence in a Special Way. Third, you realize the actual thinking and emotion that goes into the athlete reading the 59 characters (yes, I checked) not including his/her handle and clicking twice to retweet is like a mouse running on a wheel in a cage, right? Obviously, that’s a little harsh, but I’m not a sentimental guy. It made no sense until last week.

My roommates and I headed to the Cincinnati Reds-Milwaukee Brewers game in what Dave Gershman called Happy Greinke Day. Before the game, we were walking around the stadium, and per usual, there were people standing around the dugouts, hoping for autographs. Autographs have never made any sense to me. All it proves is that a celebrity of some sort signed an arbitrary object for you. It proves that, for one moment, you and this person were in close proximity, and due to the buying/selling and inheritance of these objects, that isn’t even necessarily the case. You and the person aren’t friends. You probably said no more than 6.73 words (the point 0.73 is the stuttered utterance or involuntary gag when you realized it was actually that person you were next to) to each other. What exactly do you gain?

You might gain some money, but I firmly believe you just gained a pleasant memory, a sense of nostalgia. As I said, I’m not a sentimental guy, so this arbitrary moment would have little to no meaning for me. But it does for a lot of other people, and I’ve realized that it’s not a bad thing. I have a Chipper Jones bat with his autograph, and while it was a birthday gift bought off E-Bay, it holds some special meaning. Part of the meaning is the symbolic gesture from my brother and sister-in-law of their affection for me, which is always nice because it indicates that they know me (I’m completely ruining this gift, aren’t I?), but the other part is the memory of my favorite player. Whenever a woman realizes how awesome I and baseball are, she will ask who that is, and whenever that woman realizes that there needs to be more of me in the world, our offspring will ask who that is. And what little sentimentality there is in me will tell them while recounting the joy he brought me as he won a World Series, tortured the Mets as they yelled, “Larry! Larry!”, and made the Hall of Fame (this obviously in the future but in the past of this hypothetical moment), and that will bring me momentary elation. This convoluted thought process led me back to retweets.

Retweets are yet another example of our attempt to connect ourselves with those we admire. We seek them out, use whatever we can (birthdays, children, boobs, etc.), and ask for some acknowledgement of their realization that we exist. It doesn’t exactly gain anything, and it’s a little bit of a plea for attention. The retweet is the autograph, and we have verifiable proof that it happened. We can show others it happened, and the retweet is our sense of accomplishment that we feel when we get the signature and the rest of the stadium who didn’t spend the time and energy to walk down to the dugout didn’t.

The difference is obviously the physical distance. An autograph puts you within a certain physical proximity of the idol, but because of a complicated process that involves globalization helping people become fans of teams despite distance and that distance actually inhibiting our ability to get to see actual games, we seek these “autographs” through Twitter as it makes interacting with athletes easier. Because many fans cannot physically or economically make it to games, they can make use of Twitter to get the same gratification that our grandfathers could only get at the stadium.

Innovations like Twitter are interesting to me. They obviously physically change what’s actually happening, but they don’t really change the root emotions going on. We’re still seeking acceptance. We’re still seeking something most don’t have. We’re still seeking a pleasant memory we’ll be able to share with others that will symbolize our love of the game. It will help explain why we like baseball or why we like a certain player. And, you know what, I’m okay with that. That doesn’t mean I’ll be any happier when it pops up on my timeline, and I won’t understand the actual degree of joy it seems to bring people. But I have a better handle on it than I used to, and to be honest, I’m kind of glad it happens if it introduces/keeps people interested in baseball and shows at least an ounce of humanity and humility by the athletes. See, even I can admit there’s a human aspect to the game.


Chip said...

Mark -

I mean this is the nicest possible way, but you are the biggest Twitter whore in the world. I feel I can say this because I'm not far behind you. #cakerules


William Tasker - Caribou, ME said...

Well done. I like the way you worked through all of your thoughts to come to some honest conclusions. I'll be looking for your tweets to retweet.

Mark Smith said...

I'm just glad someone else was able to follow my thought process. :)