@AnneTDonahue on How Twitter Is Like the Food Court at a Mall and How She Learned to Use it Right

Anne T. Donahue is a writer and comedian from Ontario, Canada. She’s written about pop culture and feminism for a wide variety of publications including The A.V. Club, Death & Taxes, The Guardian, Buzzfeed, and Hello Giggles. She’s also written for the CTV sitcom Spun Out, hosts the weekly podcast Bevs With Anne, and co-created the web series Women at Work. Recently, Donahue showed me three of her favorite tweets and told me about how much she likes award-show Twitter, what she has in common with Drake, and why she stopped @-replying Zachary Quinto.

Donahue: Terry Richardson is pop culture’s real-life equivalent to Voldemort. But then again, that is also insulting to Voldemort. And I don’t think any actor we can trust wants to play Terry Richardson.

What are your favorite pop culture things to tweet about?

My love for all pop culture things is real and true, but out of everything Twitter-oriented, I love award show nights. And I don’t care how cool any of us pretend to be: we all love award show nights. Twitter is a goddamn mecca of jokes and laughs and Adele Dazeem shout-outs, and it’s as close to hanging out with a bunch of strangers as I’m willing to get.

Also, the day I am finally blocked by Leonardo DiCaprio will be a great one.

Do you have a favorite thing you’ve seen on Twitter?

There are a few! That giant pig and/or those snapping cat … emoticon things (are they pigs?) will always make me laugh because I’m a monster, and my friend Julia Davidovich has a trove of “my son” jokes that are the best. Also: my friend Daniel Ralston once tweeted a simple, “Just walked by a gym. Not for me.” And that’s since become the slogan on my family crest.

THIS WAS THE WORST (she said, pretending for a second that we live in a world free of real and actual problems). One minute you’re listening to your illegally-downloaded library and the next, you’re listening to free music that somebody just gave you. Is this the nineties? Are we record executives? Was U2 hoping we’d take a listen, barge into a record executive suit-meeting and shout about them being the next big thing? How dare they. I mean, sure we can just skip the songs we don’t want to listen to, but who wants to do that? Could buddy from The Godfather skip past finding that horse? Exactly. YOU WOULDN’T DOWNLOAD A HORSE. Which is EXACTLY what those commercials were about.

When you compose a zeitgeisty tweet like the U2 one, do you notice yourself approaching it differently from one that’s not attached to any event? For instance, do you make a conscious effort to differentiate from other Twitter users’ tweets on the same subject?

I like to think so! I hope so, anyway. I think when a U2-esque thing happens, it’s like a hashtag game: there’s a subject, and then you can take it in any direction that you want. Hopefully that direction is your own. One of the things I like best about Twitter is the trends we buy into. Like, “Actually it’s about ethics in games journalism” is great example (happening now) because you can apply it to almost any tweet and it’s also a meme in response to some bullshit misogyny. So I may use the trope one way, but somebody will use it in another, and even though it’s the same closing line, it’s also different. If that makes sense. (And it still makes me laugh every time.)

I also think there are different tiers. I remember when Rob Ford said he’d smoked crack this time last year and it was just a scramble to make a joke. Which in that case I think was a combination of, “OH MY GOD I AM REACTING TO THIS BECAUSE HOLY SHIT,” and, “Well this is fun – people are going to say some pretty hilarious things, and I want in!” So it’s rapid-fire. Which, actually, I think breeds uniqueness a little bit more because you’re not overthinking, you’re just doing you.

“I’m doing me.” - Drake

Do you have a preference when it comes to writing topical tweets vs. timeless ones? Do you prefer reading one or the other?

Topical, definitely! Topical tweets make it feel like we’re hanging out and talking shit and it’s all very, “ME TOO!” where timeless ones – for me – usually come from procrastinating or waiting around or something. So I’m usually writing those as an outlet or out of boredom, and less out of “OH MAN GUYS BUT WAIT DID YOU HEAR THIS ONE?” And yes, I absolutely treat Twitter like the food court of a mall we’re all working at.

I love going into people’s houses and being given detailed instructions on how to spend my time there. Because don’t let the typography fool you: these words are not requests, those are orders. LIVE. LAUGH. LOVE. Presented like the mantra of The Hunger Games. Do you volunteer as tribune? Too late: we are all participants.

Has the way you use Twitter changed very much since you first had it, in terms of the stuff you tweet or who to follow?

God, yes. First, when I got Twitter – back in 2009 – I was very, um, misinformed about what Twitter was. I really thought that if I tweeted about how “cool” my life was, it’d be only a matter of time before I was swooped and awarded jobs and dollars. So I basically followed celebrities, @-replied Zachary Quinto endlessly, bragged (“bragged”) about my “hip” (nope) life, and waited for Tina Fey to hire me on 30 Rock. Then, when I started focusing on music journalism, I was all, “GOING TO A SHOW” “THIS BAND SUCKS” “I AM VERY AWESOME.”

So: it was terrible, and I have no idea how I got or kept any followers at all. Finally, around 2011 and when a couple things changed my personal and professional life, I started using Twitter to make jokes. That’s when everything started clicking: I started following funny people, I learned what is and isn’t the makings of a joke (turns out that complaining just reads like you’re complaining), and I met a lot of the friends I have now. Also, unlike before, I follow mostly comics or writers – or basically anybody whose thoughts I’m interested in hearing. Have also stopped @-replying Zacharay Quinto, which I’m sure has upset him greatly.

Do you see Twitter changing very much in the near future, and are there things you’d want to change about it?

I really like the way Twitter works now, and I hope it doesn’t really change much, to be honest! I also think it’s getting better. People are really, really, really funny on the Internet, and their Twitter game is tight. So I hope I see even more tight Twitter game? Yes. That’s it. Basically, I like to either laugh or think, so doing more things that allow for that in 140 characters or less is key. And I haven’t been followed by Leonardo DiCaprio yet, so that’s something I’d really like change.

Jenny Nelson writes and lives in Brooklyn and works at Funny or Die.

@AnneTDonahue on How Twitter Is Like the Food Court at […]