I obsess over my number of Twitter followers. I'm fairly sure that most people do - well, my Mum probably doesn't, but you know what I mean. I check how many I have every day (5,455 seeing as you asked) and will have a monthly check that most of the people that I follow still follow me back, such is the breadth of my ego. Of course, everything I say is hilarious and enlightening, so why wouldn't they?
I've stumbled upon a problem recently. I've staged a couple of silly Twitter-based stunts in the past, the daftest of which was saying that once I get to 5,000 followers that I'd have three of my followers Twitter handles tattooed upon myself. Thanks to the support (I say that, it was more a bit of retweeting with an idle thumb) from people much more famous than myself, I now have this tattoo. Luckily it reflects my followers fantastically: One is a comic book artist, another in a punk band, the third a Leicester City supporter. Chosen at random that makes me feel that cyberspace is a brilliant place to be.
I even got two Twitter names inked on me from the two people most responsible for gaining me those followers: Al Murray and Rufus Hound. They're not close personal friends; Mr Murray has been kind enough to perform at a show that I was running at the Fringe and retweet some of my alleged "jokes" in the past. Mr Hound is a nice chap that I met in Wolverhampton six years ago whilst I was doing an open spot in front of 100 people at a charity show in an out-of-town motel. Oh, the glamour of my life.
Thing is, when they both retweeted my plan I gained 3,000 followers rapidly. Was excellent for me initially (it gave me a decent follower base from which to plug my two Fringe shows, blog and so on) and my poor comedian's ego swelled considerably. Life seemed pretty good, even if I had to get another stupid tattoo to match my others - among which I have lightsabers on my fingers, Ron Burgundy on my arm, a previous Edinburgh show title on my stomach... you get the gist. I'm an idiot.
When I announced the dubiously-titled "winners" I immediately lost 180 followers, dropping me below the 5,000 threshold. Ah. And asides from a quick flurry of recovery (550 new followers over a weekend when I appeared on BBC Five Live and promised I'd change my name by Deed Poll if I reached 10,000 followers - I am now banned by my fiancée from ever coming up with such ludicrous ideas ever again), I am now losing more followers than I gain on most days. I can literally watch the number and see them dropping off.
My Dad - he's on Twitter, @DaddySmallman - has a theory about this, reasoning that I'm too curmudgeonly and miserable via social media, and people hate this. Let's examine that and other ideas about why I'm losing followers quicker than the Reverend Jim Jones.
1: My Dad Says I'm Mean
I think my father bases this on the fact that I dislike very broad swathes of the Great British public. Specifically - from looking back through my timeline - Anyone who has ever been in an advert or written an advert or casted for an advert; Everyone who is on a train at the same time as me; And anyone who enjoys the TV programme Mrs Browns Boys. My own Dad is included in that. I can't help such rage. It's easy to use a mere 140 characters to lambast something that I despise, but much harder to use the same space to write lovely things about daffodils. I bloody love daffodils.
2: Lack of Fame
After being endorsed by comedic royalty thanks to their retweeting, I imagine some of my rapidly gained followers may have been under the misapprehension that I am in any way famous. I was once a daily radio presenter in my hometown of Leicester, plus I've won awards at this comedy lark and yet I've only ever signed three autographs. And one was to my nephew as a joke. I could be sat next to you now, as long as I have the aforementioned tattoos covered up. You wouldn't have a clue it was me. And then by the time you've figured it out I'd be gone, leaving a faint smell of Lynx Dark Temptation and menthol chewing gum. Despite a ton of tattoos, a weird face and standing in front of audiences every night, very few remember my name. And it's a bloody stupid name! Of course, I want to be famous. I will not rest until I'm on 50 Top Celebrity Dog Fouling Incidents. Then followers wouldn't abandon me, because I'd be one of the 500,000 people in the UK who are famous for being on TV at least once. Shut up, I am not bitter.
Flying in the face of my Dad's observation, I find that every time I tweet about my happy romantic situation - engaged to the woman of my dreams who I stalked on the Internet for six years (persistence works, you there, hiding in the bushes) - I lose followers instantly. Myself and the other half have reasoned that it could be for one of the following two reasons:
A: A horde of jealous women are leaving my Twitter realm as they know they can't have me (this was her suggestion)
B: People hate happy people (my suggestion and much, much more likely)
To make things all the more infuriating, my wife-to-be has over 12,000 more followers than me. As she's a model, this figure doesn't include the thousands of men she blocks for asking for her phone number or trying to send her pictures of her penis. I never did that, by the way. Just a tip.
4: Too Many Tweets
Sometimes I'll tweet a lot, especially if something amuses me or winds me up. This can first be seen in a game me and my mate Danny played via Twitter - #footballingwrestlers. Combine a footballer with a wrestler, it's easy. "Macho Man" Robbie Savage. "Stone Cold" Dean Austin. Diomansy Kamala the Ugandan Giant. The more obscure the footballer, the better. I tweeted loads, retweeted loads more and had complaints for filling up people's timelines. Was the same during the royal wedding - I got carried away writing jokes about it and some people may have giggled. Lots more just clicked "unfollow" because scrolling down their screen to read Stephen Fry's tweets was too hard for their tiny girlish wrists.
5: Too Few Tweets
Someone actually took the time to tweet me to tell me they were unfollowing me because I'd only tweeted 8 times in a week. Who does that? Well, that guy, obviously. But who sits and counts? Does he have a spreadsheet for that? Why does it matter if the quality is good? It wasn't, mind. 6 were about wrestling and the other two were aimed at the centaur women on the Muller Greek yoghurt advert. God, I hate those women. Why do they need to pick their kids up? They're CENTAURS. They can gallop. You don't need to collect them in a Range Rover.
6: Not Funny
You run a terrible risk when describing yourself as a comedian, because everyone in the world then seems to expect you to be funny at all times. I am barely funny for the minimum amount required each day, and I'm being paid for that. When I'm off the clock and sat in front of the TV shouting at centaur women I'm wearing pyjama bottoms and a t-shirt and have no intention of even making myself laugh. I can understand that every tweet may not be funny for every reader, in the same way that not every joke onstage can make 100% of an audience crack up. I accept that I poke a lot of fun at the people of Coventry and I'm not likely to be as popular there as Michael McIntyre. I'm probably less popular there than Jim Davidson, although not for the same alleged reasons. What hurts is when a new follower tweets you to tell you that you're not funny based on one tweet, without having seen you perform. Do you think I want to worry and stress about 140 characters being solid gold every time I tweet? I can't be that concise, the pressure will make me explode. My tweets are like Bruce Willis films, every fifth one has some merit and every tenth one could be brilliant. Maybe stick along for the ride through Hudson Hawk to get to Pulp Fiction?
7: You Don't Follow Me
That is the pettiest of all reasons. If you tweet me asking me to follow you I might, but I already follow 300 people that I like and I can only read so many references to the Great British Bake Off each day. If you can't spell I'm a lot less likely to follow you too. And why should you be so petty? It's not like I unfollow people because they've stopped following me...
Oh, hang on.
8: It's That Bug In Twitter
This is brilliant. We all know there's no bug in Twitter, but we've all used that excuse when we've stopped following someone, haven't we? It's the best bit of hive mind invention ever, and the only excuse that nobody ever argues with as long as they quickly get an email telling them they have a new follower. You check that person in a day. They're gone again, curse your luck with the bug. The bug has never been fixed because THERE IS NO BUG, but nobody shouts too loudly. We need that bug for sanity.
One of two things will have happened now that you've read this article. You'll either unfollow me to be a smartarse, or you'll follow me for a week then leave and break my heart. It's your call. I'm going to start my own religious cult with a core group of fanatical REAL followers. We invited you, but you might not have got the email. There's a bug with our system.
Follow Jim Smallman on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jimsmallman