Following William Shatner.

"I have 1.6 million mates"

1.6 million people follow William Shatner on Twitter. 1.6 million! To put this into context, it is the equivalent of Wembley Stadium at full capacity twenty times over, a fifth of London’s total population, or a line of uber-virgins stretching from Edinburgh to Birmingham; the most likely to make up this collection. William Shatner. 82-year-old, possible toupee wearing, Jewish-Canadian actor, and butcher of classic songs such as Rocketman and Common People, able to connect with a mass army of people; and I am not exactly sure why he has attained so many followers.

Don’t get me wrong, the former Captain Kirk comes across as a likeable, entertaining guy. He seems genuinely at ease with himself, doesn’t take life too seriously, and to achieve the kind of success he has – especially in an industry as brutal as the acting profession, needs a host of smarts and dedication to both get there, and even more so, survive its burning cauldron of sharks and piranhas. William Shatner took a golden opportunity, and made a living out of it; he is undoubtedly, a success. The problem is, do any of these points actually necessitate following him on Twitter? 

Lets suggest you are a genuine fan of his work; and we all know how obsessive/loyal to the cause Trekkies are. What exactly is gained from receiving his regular updates? Is there some kind of fulfilment in reading his public conversations with other celebrities; about random shit which only makes sense to old Bill, and the people who actually know old Bill? I cannot see how the possibility of posts to the black guy in Deep Space Nine saying “The world just wasn’t ready to have a brother lead the Enterprise”, or “I’d have made Janeway cook my dinner for me”,  have any relevance to anything outside his private life. It is the same philosophy with his collection of ‘twit-pics’. Unless he ever drops a massive turd in his toilet, posts a photo of it with the meme “Captain’s Log, 101”, I am not interested. I like his acting in Star Trek, but that to me is more than enough. Besides, it’s not like he’s going to invite 1.6 million people over for Budweiser and Tribble burgers to celebrate Labour Day weekend. 

Twitter is fan-mail in real time; another means in which to live vicariously through the famous. It does have its uses, and there are a few famous people who I feel use the tool in a progressive manner. Stephen Fry and Ricky Gervais are examples of this; who interact regularly with their fans, and seem to understand the slightly ridiculous nature of Twitter, as much as they do with life itself. Of course, these are two examples of very intelligent people who - regardless of fame, are independent minded, witty, have an ability to make others laugh, think, and often both. They use the social network as an open gateway for fun and growth; as opposed to the fragile ego boost used by other ‘stars’, to keep their dying light aflame. 

In fairness to Shatner, I don't place him in this list; even without Twitter, he is still a very active, household name, who doesn’t need an account for publicity purposes. And yet regardless, it constantly propels the famous above all else; the sole reason being, because they are famous. Anytime I type in a specific hashtag, the top comments are always from famous people. This is all well and good, if you carry the idea it makes sense to worship the words of human beings who happen to be on television or in magazines. But some dude from Glee’s opinion about civil unrest in the Middle-East? Or which brand of Shreddies Rio Ferdinand had for breakfast? Are these posts really so profound and meaningful, they have to overrule every other comment from ‘the general public’?

After examination of my original question, I come to this conclusion. The reason 1.6 million people follow William Shatner on Twitter? It is not for his pictures, his posts, his points, or even his highly credible possible toupee. The answer is quite simple really – people follow him, because it’s William Shatner. That’s it. He could write fifty updates a day talking about his love of collecting used toilet rolls from houses of other celebrities, or make constant jokes about Commander Worf slapping his knob over Captain Picard’s bald head, and the numbers will still only grow. I guess it’s nice for Shatner as a way to interact with his fans, but it all seems too discardable for my liking. I am not against social media, but I do believe it is a fad of a media driven, celebrity obsessed age; two decades or so down the line, it may seem crazy societies followed entertainers with such passion - the court jester has never been afforded so much power as he has today.

I log-on to Twitter, once again. Three fresh names appear to my left, and are offered as potential  ‘follows’; Commander Riker, Captain Spock, and Bobby Davro. While I respect all of their varying successes – I cannot say I have much interest in what they had for breakfast, or opinions on civil unrest in the Middle-East; purely because they are human beings who are on television and in magazines. But hey, maybe it’s just me. The notion of following is an alien concept; online, as much as in life. Sorry Bill. Maybe you need to post a few Captains Logs...

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