I’ve been keeping a secret for about four years now…
On February 4, 2007, I signed up for Twitter; a few days later, noticing nobody had occupied the “@homersimpson” handle, I took it. Back then, Twitter was about a year old, hardly anyone had heard of it and those who did really didn’t care about it. There weren’t any “trending topics” and hashtags hadn’t been widely adopted. Twitter was basically a glorified Facebook status update.
I remember discussing @homersimpson with my then-other-half over dinner about a month later. He’d asked me why I’d taken the @homersimpson name. I told him I had a feeling Twitter was going to be big someday. “It’s kind of like Virb.com – nobody cares about it now, but it’ll catch on. It’s a good product,” I recall saying.
Turns out, Virb.com flopped as a social media website. But Twitter didn’t.
About a year after I started my, and then @homersimpson’s, Twitter account, I was hired by a local FOX affiliate in California. With a little over 30,000 subscribers and having only tweeted from the account a handful of times, Homer proved to be a great tool for us at FOX. Whenever we were having a particularly crappy day on the web, I’d tweet out a link to a photo gallery on our website as Homer — stupid signs, or funkiest cats or whatever. My boss at the FOX station was in on it, and by and large encouraged it.
Was it a cheap way to get page views? Yeah. Did it work? You bet.
Though Homer didn’t really tweet very often, I feel like, as Homer, he was as real on Twitter as he was in the show: He really didn’t have a clue what he was doing. So unlike the official FOX account, which launched as @HomerJSimpson about two years later, Homer didn’t have a team of writers behind him writing clever one-liners or publishing quips in real-time with the Emmy awards. It was very clear, both in the quality of the posts and in the frequency at which they were published, that Homer was clueless when it came to social media, and I get the feeling that’s pretty close to how Homer would really react if anyone gave him a smartphone or a computer and simply said “Hey, use this.”
I get the feeling, if that ever happened on the show, Homer would write…
…and, for about three weeks, that’s all you’d hear from him (probably because he’d forgotten to charge the iPad or because he’d forgotten his username and password).
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from playing Homer Simpson for the past four years, it’s this: He’s loved by thousands, if not millions, around the world. People have “at replied” Homer from all corners of the globe — Australia, the United Kingdom, Canada, different parts of the United States. And then there are the mentions in foreign languages — most of which I had to use Google Translate to read — from places like Egypt, Libya, Russia, Mexico, Colombia, Ecuador. That kind of admiration and loyalty is something no amount of money can buy or take away.