Thursday, April 28, 2016

Viral

I'm Internet famous. It's like being real-life famous, but with none of the perks and all of the drawbacks. Buzzfeed recently ran an article about my Twitter account. When they told me they planned to do it, I didn't get excited. I don’t react to anything with much emotion. I've been dead inside since child number two. But besides that, I've been on Buzzfeed many, many times. I show up on their periodic lists of parenting tweets because those are the main jokes I do. It's one of the few upsides of being a one-trick pony, although I don't understand why that's a derogatory term. I've never met a pony who could do even one trick, so finding a miniature horse who could play dead or juggle chainsaws would be pretty impressive. But I'm not a glorious circus pony. I write jokes about my kids and post them on Twitter for free. I figured the Buzzfeed article would lead nowhere, just like everything else I’ve done on the Internet. The great thing about being a pessimist is I'm always right.

Except I was wrong. It's the one and only time, although my wife disagrees. She puts the actual number somewhere in the billions. After the Buzzfeed article went live, my follower count skyrocketed. At first, I thought it was a mistake. It's hard to imagine that many people making such a poor life decision at the same time. The article included a picture of me, which should have driven them all away. At the very least, it should have warded off pregnant women and people with serious heart conditions. This wasn't the first time my jokes have spread across cyberspace, but usually it only happens when someone cuts off my name and steals them. Everything seems funnier when I'm taken out of the picture. But this time I got credit for everything I wrote, which after years of being the victim of plagiarism seemed unnatural and kind of dirty. I took three showers that first day. Still, my follower count kept climbing. The situation quickly spiraled out of control, which is the only thing situations ever do when I’m involved.

My tweets should come with a warning from the Surgeon General. They only come in prescription strength.

The original article ran on a Saturday morning. By Saturday night, other major list-based websites picked up my tweets. By Sunday morning, they were all over Facebook. By Sunday afternoon, I had an intense craving for tacos. That doesn't have any bearing on the timeline. I just thought people might want to know. On Sunday night, I heard from someone at a major daytime talk show. Apparently I didn’t do well on the phone interview because they decided not to have me on the air. Next time I won’t get tripped up by trick questions like “What’s your name?” and “How old are you?” I should have made a cheat sheet.

When I woke up last Monday morning, I had emails from major newspapers in Britain. It took them a while to get involved because in their time zone it's still last December. Then other traditional media inquiries poured in. Apparently there's no longer such a thing as real news. I spent the next few days answering interview requests by email on my phone, which involved me copying and pasting my previous replies to other people in a growing answer chain. These were serious, hard-hitting journalists, and I was sending them what was essentially the most unprofessional press release known to man. I could write a book on how to make a really bad first impression at a critical moment in life. No one would publish it because I make a really bad first impression.


Every day, I meet at least one person who is shocked - SHOCKED - that everything on the Internet isn’t real. I hope nobody tells them about Santa and the Easter Bunny.

To the surprise of no one, my brush with fame was about as long as a tweet. When the dust settled, I had over half a million followers, which was twice as many as I had before. The great thing about these new readers is I didn't do anything to earn them. I built my original follower base with a series of bribes and sexual favors, but the new people came just to read my jokes. That made life easier and considerably less sticky. The main reason people followed me this time is Buzzfeed embedded links to my tweets. Many other websites simply post a picture of my tweets that leads nowhere. If someone can click one button to find my Twitter account, they might do it. But if they have to open a separate window and type my name in manually, they won't. Let's be honest: I'm not worth multiple button pushes for all those letters. I wish my parents had made my name an asterisk.

Most people I know in real life have no idea what I do online, and most people on the Internet don’t know who I am in real life. I write under a pen name to avoid getting fired or murdered, but my newfound fame might make that unavoidable. Especially since if I get fired, my wife will murder me, so the two actions are a package deal. I use real pictures of myself and my kids, but without real names it’s hard to Google us. My real name doesn’t show up in the first 10 pages of search results, so I don’t exist. The Buzzfeed article spread far enough, however, that people from daycare and church who have never even heard of Twitter recognized my kids and now know my dark secret. I’m not saying I expect to be excommunicated, but if I get any packages in the mail from Pope Francis, I’m not signing for them.

What’s it like having 515,000 thousand followers? It feels slightly better than having 514,999 followers. Thanks for asking.

My employer is still blissfully unaware of all of this, despite the fact that my face has been on TV and plastered across the Internet. My company’s social media policy is vague, mainly because I never made any effort to read or understand it. At the very least, I’m not supposed to do this stuff while at work, which is what I’m doing at this exact second as I type this sentence. Unless this post is being read at a disciplinary hearing, in which case that last line was a joke. Or if it’s being read after I already stormed out of said hearing and quit my job, in which case it wasn’t.

Going viral didn't change me, but only because I was a horrible person to begin with. There was no one left for me to screw over since I alienated everyone years ago. It would be nice if this sudden surge in popularity led to long-term financial security and success, but given my track record at botching important opportunities that seems unlikely. In the past two weeks, I’ve heard from multiple literary agents and TV producers. One TV show even said they would consider me for father of the year. All they asked in return was that my wife go on TV and vouch me. She refused. That really tells you everything you need to know about me as a father and a human being.