It’s easy enough to forget this, but the Twitterverse isn’t entirely composed of journalists making predictions and telling people to read their articles. Twitter, like all social media, is a Petri dish for self-clowning, bullying, and stupidity. Some wiser (or meaner) users take it upon themselves to shame the people for tweeting racism or threats. My colleague Emily Bazelon has argued, pretty convincingly, that they should exercise caution.
FanSince09 exercises no caution. An anonymous account based somewhere in the Philadelphia area, the Fan has adopted the personality of an inscrutable, heartless sports fan who shames people for their ignorance. I’m a native of Wilmington, Delaware, just 25 minutes south of Philly, and was alerted to this account’s existence by a friend who hails from the Pennsylvania side of the sprawl. We got the joke right away: In the hierarchy of jerks, the Philly sports jerk is king. (The “Since09” part of the name implies that the Fan only started caring about the Phillies after they won the World Series.)
The Fan retweets people who have never heard of pelicans.
He retweets people whose style of argumentation is “resort immediately to anti-Semitism.”
He portrays himself as smarter than his targets, yet just as evil.
He reviews the Philly-based movie Silver Linings Playbook.
When in doubt, he finds Twitter users who inexplicably hate their grandmothers.
And he sells merchandise.
I interviewed the Fan via email; his cloaked account was, of course, a joke about traded Phillies pitcher J.A. Happ.
Slate: When and why did you start this account?
FanSince09: I originally started as a commenter on an area blog of note called The Fightins (RIP) in 2010. I was pretty much their best commenter, so when the site went down there was a lot of demand for me to continue on other sites. I tried commenting on a few others, but ultimately found myself moving everything to Twitter in early 2011. The core of the persona is talking about Philadelphia sports, but since that hasn’t been all that fun, it’s sort of grown into making fun of people and RTs.
Slate: How do you decide which embarrassing topics to search for?
FanSince09: I usually search for something timely, but a lot of the times I find one tweet and shift gears to see who shares that person’s sentiments/lack of spelling ability and it snowballs from there. I also RT a lot of racist hockey fans because 99.9 percent of hockey fans are racist.
Slate: What do you think about the people who say racist things and are suddenly shamed by a huge audience? Do you pity them?
FanSince09: People tweet because they WANT an audience. I always find it hilarious when someone says something terrible, and then complain about their privacy. The people I focus on are people who have decided to put their pictures, names, and clues to where they work or go to school right there in their twitter account, because that’s simply inviting trouble. Even the Klan knew to wear hoods. These are people who are representing themselves in a public forum and then being shocked when they’re held accountable.
Slate: Do these people ever get in touch with you?
FanSince09: Mostly people just subtweet something like “If you don’t follow me, don’t RT me!” and sometimes they take my RT as an endorsement and follow me (that never lasts long). I’ve also had a bunch of people try to troll me, insult me, etc., which I just find funny. There’s one guy who used to live in Philly and now lives in Pittsburgh who outright wants to murder me, and I’m also sure I am not welcome in one neighborhood on Second Street in Philadelphia.
Slate: I get where the account name comes from, but how did you settle on it? And on the avatar?
FanSince09: I made FanSince09 my handle on The Fightins just so people knew that when I commented it was based on my knowledge of the Phillies from 2009 (when I started being a fan) on. I can’t be expected to bother learning about the team’s history or researching what any players did prior to when I started watching. The avatar always changes, usually to reflect whatever I’ve obsessed with at the time. I had a Joe Paterno twist on the “you gonna get raped” meme that people seemed to really get mad about for a while, also had a great one of Donovan McNabb throwing up. The current one I have is a photo of a Nats fan who was trying to talk shit to Phillies fans by tweeting us pics of him holding up his Nats t-shirt. Turned out he had tons of pics of him WITH the shirt but not wearing it. How hard is it to put on a T-shirt and take a picture? I really think he was planning on returning it once he was done taking photos and didn’t want it to smell or be damaged. So naturally I had to have someone make me my own version of it. I’m blocked by the guy so I don’t know if he ever commented on it.
Slate: Have you gotten any offers to expand the franchise with a book or something?
FanSince09: No offers but believe me if I could somehow turn this into money I’d absolutely do it. I’ve joked about doing a book called Atlas Shook his Damn Head, which would be a collection of #tcot and other wonderful political tweets.
Slate: What is it about Philly?
FanSince09: Hard to explain, cuz. Philadelphia is just an interesting place. With sports, it tends to be a case of never feeling like we get the proper amount of attention or credit, with NYC so close. But on Twitter, Philadelphia fans are some of the funniest, most creative, and smartest people I’ve ever interacted with, but that insecurity that we’re born with spills into us spending most of our time making sure that everyone knows how great our fanbase and city is.
Previous Follow Fridays:
The U.S. Interior on Instagram
The Most Annoying Man on the Internet
Where Debit-Card Numbers Get Stolen
What Twitter Can Teach Us About Language
The Best Celebrity Parody Account Ever?
A Crowd-Sourced Lab for Collective Nouns
The Ghost of William Shakespeare
A Twitter Feed Douglas Adams Would Have Loved
Terrorists Who Tweet
The Twitter Bot Devoted to a Single Grammatical Error
Shit Girls Say