Martha Stewart follows 5,014 accounts on Twitter. This is objectively a lot — it takes almost 30 minutes to scroll through the list, if your coworkers keep interrupting you — but it is also not enough to vault her into “I follow everyone” territory. 5,014 is not a bot number; someone looked at the millions of accounts on offer and decided “these, but not those.”
The first question is: Who is that someone? Does Martha Stewart run her own Twitter account? It is not a given that a 75-year-old, 1.0 lifestyle guru would be fluent in the ways of the internet. And yet, here is a video of Martha confidently clicking around on a Match.com profile. Here is an internet obituary that was at the very least dictated by Martha — an assertion I’m comfortable making because there is no way that anyone on this earth would put the words “I was not at home, but I was told she choked on something she ate” in Martha’s mouth. Here is an extensive chronicle of many disgusting, poorly lit photographs uploaded to Martha’s Twitter account. (The piece was written in 2013; Martha remains an avid Twitter user, but the photo quality has not improved.) No professional social media consultant, no matter how lazy, could stay employed with this level of output. It is Martha driving this car.
These are the first 10 accounts that Martha followed, in order, back in 2009:
- Barack Obama
- Cute Overload
- Snoop Dogg
- Jimmy Fallon
- Sean Diddy Combs
- Ashton Kutcher
- Margaret Roach (a former executive for her company)
- Urlesque.com (a since-shuttered meme site)
- Farm Forward
As a concise summary of Martha’s interests (agriculture, crafts, rapper–entrepreneurs), this is a logical start. Martha is a woman who knows what she wants from life and from Twitter. The next 10 follows include Rachel Maddow, Emeril, and the Daily Wag — all fairly straightforward, brand-friendly, “I met someone at a dinner party” Twitter choices. Home Depot cracks the top 40. It all makes sense. But at Follow 50 or so, things shift. The bios get more earnest; the faces are less familiar. It is the Land of 4,000 Moms, and the only requisites are that a Twitter user: (a) be kind to Martha, or (b) have enough going on in her life so that she’s not obsessing over Martha or adding “Martha followed August 3” to her bio. This is not a stan situation; this is a community of like-minded, mostly female, placemat-using adults who have never met. Four thousand of them.
What could compel Martha Stewart to follow 4,000 strangers? Maybe it is the same thing that inspired her to follow a host of mostly inactive corporate accounts: curiosity. Vegetable bloggers; childcare bloggers; Just Jared; the Miami Heat; an ONTD affiliate that provides no useful ONTD updates; Melissa Joan Hart; the Pot Princess; a Qdoba in Herndon, Virginia, that last tweeted in 2011. They all have a friend in Martha.
Here are some thoughts that Martha Stewart has had in the past decade, in the sense that she clicked “follow” on an account and presumably had to think about it for at least a half-second:
- What is the best blog about Myanmar? (@myanmarblogs)
- How can I make between $8,000 and $10,000 per week with binary options (on stocks)? (@gpbhas)
- I wish that I were more up on hip-hop news. (@HipHopNews01)
- Mike D’Antoni should be fired. (@FireDanPhony)
- I am in the middle of a casino and I do not know how Roulette works. (@roulettedude)
- I wish that I could talk to my dog, Genghis Khan, so that I’d know if he enjoys his pet food. (@healthypetfood1)
- Do Canadian Twilight fans behave differently than American Twilight fans? (@TwilightSagaCan)
- I need a job in Huntsville, Alabama. (@HuntsvilleJob)
It goes on. Martha has wondered about healthy eating and where to stream movies; Martha needs an easy, quick weeknight recipe. Martha is looking for some couture baby gifts. Martha needs a coupon code. Martha’s renovating her house. Martha has heard about artisan pickles and wants to know more. Martha has some questions about her AOL desktop. Martha was bored and read your tweet — yes, yours.
It is possible to interpret Martha Stewart’s Twitter follow list as a abandoned mess of regional business accounts and people who begged for a follow-back in 2009. You could use the most recent 200 follows — pop stars, politicians, media accounts, almost all of them verified — as a sign that Martha “figured out” Twitter, and just never went back to fix her follow list. But I prefer to read it as a diary entry spanning seven years and thousands of experiences. Here is where Martha was (Central Canada, mostly); here is what captured Martha’s heart (recipes, nice people). Here is what Martha saw and learned. Here is how Martha learned to connect to people.
What will you leave behind on the internet? Will it be a deeply curated Twitter account that reflects your least offensive professional opinions? Will it be an Instagram profile that only documents staged happiness? A family-friendly Facebook page? Or will it be a record of life lived — of questions asked, friendships made, recipes learned, and deals gotten? Martha knows the answer. It only took her 5,014 clicks to get there.