Cerabino: Dear God, why am I allowing Twitter to punish me?

6:05 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 3, 2018 Local
Illustration by Mark Buzek / The Palm Beach Post

I took a dive into the murky world of Twitter, that social media platform that makes fact and fiction hard to decipher at times.

What got me started was reading a New York Times exposé about Devumi, a multi-million-dollar company founded by a Palm Beach State College graduate and run from an office suite above Rocco’s Tacos on Clematis Street in West Palm Beach.

The company sold millions of fake Twitter accounts to movie stars, media mavens, athletes, business entrepreneurs and any other high-profile people who wanted to appear to be more popular than they really are.

For a couple thousand dollars, you could buy a couple hundred thousand Twitter followers, who would fraudulently inflate your online popularity — which then could be parlayed into career-enhancing opportunities.

There are about 48 million of these fake accounts, making it hard to know what’s real and what isn’t.

I’ve had a Twitter account (@FranklyFlorida) for the past 1o years. It’s where I post some of my columns and comment on the news.

But I’ve never purchased any of the people who follow that account.

Which should be obvious, because I have a relatively modest 5,900 Twitter followers. That’s not the kind of numbers that would catch the attention of the TV news pundit factories.

By contrast, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd has 653,000 followers and Rick Wilson, a Republican political pundit and operative from Tallahassee has 299,000 followers.

So I’m not in that league, and even further from the big leagues of Twitter, which would include President Donald Trump, with 47.3 million followers and the Dalai Lama, who has 17.5 million followers without following a single person in return. That’s gangsta.

My humble Twitter presence allowed me to (foolishly) imagine that I could take solace that the readers of my witticisms on Twitter were actually real, earnest local people who enjoyed my column — not fake bots or unwitting Americans who had their online identities hijacked for vanity and profit.

And that less was more, in my case. Maybe I could even write a column about it. How having fewer Twitter followers was a sign of virtue. That I had quality followers. Actual local readers who were discerning consumers of news.

Well, my moral high ground lasted as long as it took me to click on the listing of my followers. I shouldn’t have done that.

There’s a saying in journalism that too much reporting kills a good story.

In this case, it would have been better to marinate in my ignorance than dig into the people I imagined as loyal readers.

And you could do that with Twitter. The social media site allows you see who is following you, and then to click on their account, to see who else they are following. It shows you how you fit in their world.

But sometimes it raises more questions than answers.

For example, why is a pastor from a Lutheran Church in Lancaster, Ohio, following me?

The Twitter follows for Pastor Jack Davidson of Redeemer Lutheran Church don’t include any other newspaper columnists or journalists as far as I can tell. I’m lumped in with President Trump and evangelist Billy Graham.

That’s disturbing.

On the other end of the spectrum, I’m also the lone journalist being followed by Autumn Colleen, a dominatrix who seems to be all business, and follows such Twitter accounts as “Avery Rose the Goddess,” “Muffy,” and “Princess Luna’s Foot Slave.”

I’m trying to imagine what in my columns appeals to both the pastor and the dominatrix.

I know that people have claimed that reading my column is a form of punishment, but not to this level. And many more readers have suggested I go to hell than heaven.

It was bugging me. I was the only person in common between the Ohio pastor, with his 382 followers, and the rose-tattoed dominatrix, with her 197 followers.

So I sent both of them messages via Twitter.

I got one answer. The pastor explained that he had read a tweet of mine that somebody he knew had retweeted. It was about the joke that Republican religious conservative Mike Huckabee had made after Trump’s State of the Union address.

Huckabee tweeted that Trump’s speech was so long that he could end it by taking Democratic leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi out for breakfast, and then make peace with them as Sen. Elizabeth Warren will “bring the peace pipe.”

I tweeted about Huckabee’s attempt at humor: “Mike Huckabee just lost his standup comedy gig at the Seminole casino.”

The pastor said he thought the reply was funny. So now he’s following me. OK. I feel better about that one, even though that’s a relationship bound to last until my next Trump column.

“Thanks for getting back to me and solving that mystery,” I texted the pastor. “The other follower I’m waiting to hear from is a dominatrix.”

I’ve always wanted to write that to a man of the cloth. Thanks, Twitter.