flop /fläp/ [verb] : to fail completely
It came to you like fate. The tweet was so good that it made you forget who and what you were about to text. You stopped fucking around on Gchat and became even less productive in order to frame the moment at which to unleash your genius musing to the masses. The tweet even went through a few revisions. What syntax makes it read best? Does the phrasing "r u" make it funnier than the traditional "are you" spelling would? You probably gave this tweet more thought than any sane person would, but this is what you do. You've gotten money off tweets. You've gotten laid off tweets. You’re not being indulgent as much as you're being cognizant of the expectations from your audience. The pressure's on. You press "Tweet."
Under normal circumstances, it'd be a matter of literal seconds before you realized that you had another hit on your hands. Your phone would be lighting up with notifications to the point that the vibrations and chimes become a distraction and nuisance to those around you. But all is not well in paradise. You refresh your mentions and…there's nothing. Engagements trickle in over time and you’re left with something like two retweets and four favorites. No success. Just suffering.
What now? It’s a question that many greats have to ask themselves when tragedy occurs. When Hitler invaded Poland or when the American stock market collapsed, someone needed to step in with a plan for reparative measures and execute. In my younger, less insightful days (read: two years ago), I would delete tweets that garnered little to no interactions. I would delete replies that never got a response back. Hell, I would delete joints that had orphans and didn't look aesthetically pleasing on the page. Much in the same way Stalin would have images doctored to remove people who he fell out of favor with, you're the benevolent dictator of your own Twitter page, and what you don't want on it shouldn't exist. But I humbly stand before you, as a former tweet deleter, to say that's not the answer to dealing with tweets that underperform.
The thing you have to realize is that everyone sees everything. This is applicable to life in general, but especially on Twitter. While there's some connection, the metrics on a tweet don't say everything about who saw it and who was impacted by it. It's a hallmark of our awkward, tech-obsessed generation, but, these days, tweets are often used as icebreakers in social settings. It's an easy way for people to be like, "Hey, I saw that you think about something. Here’s what I think about it." Whenever this happens, I’ve noticed that the person discussing Twitter with me (disclaimer: Please don’t do this, I’m just going to be vague and enigmatic in order to preserve my technique and aura) had almost never engaged with the tweet online, and, a lot of times, the tweet wasn't even successful from a statistical standpoint. That's when I realized that men lie, women lie, and numbers can, too.
The thought that numbers aren't everything doesn't exactly correspond with the way the social network in question is designed. The latest update to the mobile app automatically puts stats under every tweet, and, at the end of the day, we're all a little bit obsessed with them. If a random follows you, your follow back is usually hinged on not only their number of followers, but their followers to following ratio. If you're innocently creeping a friend's page to genuinely just see what they've been up to, you're still most likely expanding those tweets to see not only what they've tweeted, but how well those tweets have performed. Twitter, by nature, encourages a focus on metrics, and that's fine, but just be aware of the fact that they don't always tell the entire story. Sometimes, tweets wind up winning in unpredictable ways.
Just because a play doesn't make Sportscenter doesn't mean that it wasn't crucial to the outcome of the game.
You don't really know people's habits. Some people barely keep track of their timeline and just go check out their favorite profiles periodically. Some people, God forbid, sleep, and catch up on all the hot, late night tweets in the morning. One of my most successful tweets is one that failed at night and I considered deleting only to have a friend retweet it in the morning, which led to a friend of hers retweeting, which led to Diplo retweeting, which ended up with numbers looking like Jordan in the playoffs. Ever since then, I've vowed to never delete a tweet that I knew was good because, somehow, the universe looks out for you. The quality material will rise to the top, even if it doesn't happen immediately. Not everyone is ready for those gems right away. So, if a tweet bricks, but you know it's great, don't fret. Let that bitch breathe. It's either going to pop off later, or relevant heads peeped it and took note, but didn't feel like hitting you with the yellow star or those green double arrows just to gas you up. You think Kanye calls Drake every time he spits a hot verse? No, because sometimes you can only afford to worry about raising your own stock.
It's like when Jay Z said, "I gave y'all prophecy on my first joint and y'all all lamed out/Didn't really appreciate it ‘til the second one came out." People slept on Reasonable Doubt when it first dropped, but the man behind it always believed in it and now it's universally revered as a classic album. That's the way you gotta believe in your tweets. And when people sweat you in public over something hilarious you posted that didn't even do numbers, you know that even your most overlooked observations are working their way towards classic status. Interactions in the single digits might not feel as good as ones in the hundreds, but you can’t underestimate the value of the few who recognize the point you were trying to make. Just because a play doesn't make Sportscenter doesn’t mean that it wasn’t crucial to the outcome of the game.
Look at it this way, while it smacks of injustice that Yeezus didn't win any Grammys, one always has to consider that it topped virtually every relevant publication’s year-end list. Sure, 400 retweets of some witty reflection is your Grammy, and standard measure for success, but even when you do walk away with those two retweets and four favorites, those six people mean something.
Each person moved by your words matters. Respect the fact that they got it and understood where you were coming from and build your cult gradually. Yeah, there's nothing like a popular tweet at 2pm when nobody is doing anything but looking at Twitter, but don't be afraid to let those 4am tweets fly either. Not only will the insomniacs constantly refreshing their timeline thank you for keeping them entertained, but mad people are going to see it at some later point and applaud your rare use of language and punctuation, whether they interact with it directly or not.
With all of that said, let's not act like numbers aren't important. This manifesto is more about assuring you that stats aren't everything, but the ultimate recognition still comes down to them like with any other competitive sport. An athlete can have a positive presence on the football field, but if they don’t score any touchdowns nobody really gives a fuck about them. When's the last time an offensive lineman got an endorsement deal? Not everybody can be the quarterback, and not every tweet will know how glory feels (unless you're, like, Justin Bieber or something), but a good lineman still gets praise from the people who understand the game, and that's how you have to look at the flops. All of your tweets are a fucking treasure and gift to society, but the level of visible appreciation will, unfortunately, vary.
I know that giving this much attention to a social network is flawed because, trust me, sometimes I look at Twitter for too long and my eyes start to burn because the noise is unbearable, but, obviously, this platform has some semblance of value in our world. When I die, my Twitter page will exist as a public record of the thoughts and opinions I held over a significant period of my life. Drake said, "Worried 'bout your followers, you need to get your dollars up" in an attempt to shade people like me, but, for many of us, the growth of our followers and dollars are positively correlated. And with that comes a certain acknowledgment that, impressive statistics or not, people, in some convoluted capacity, care about what you have to say. So, what do you do when your brilliant tweet flops? Not a goddamn thing. People will realize that your pensiveness is incomparable sooner or later, if they haven't already and just fronted on tossing you a fave.
Ernest Baker is back in New York and listening to a lot of Young Thug. You can follow him on Twitter here.