I’m an animal lover, so when I learned that a peahen escaped from the Bronx Zoo, I was a little excited. Why? Because of the inevitable Twitter account!
The story goes that yesterday afternoon, the lady peacock was spotted on top of a van on Morris Park Avenue. Her handlers tried to catch her, and she flew off. Since Twitter handles are now considered standard issue for escaped Bronx Zoo animals, @BronxZooPeacock was born, and as of this writing has 3,457 followers (including me). This follows on the tail of the @BronxZooCobra phenomenon (242,215 followers), which also yielded @BronxZooHBadger (1,533 followers), who has updated his bio to note that he is now hunting for @BronxZooPeacock. (Yes, I know there are other honey badger Twitter accounts out there, but I think @BronxZooHBadger is the funniest.) Beyond the zoo, there’s @NYURedtailHawks (1,314 followers) for Bobby and Violet, the hawks living at New York University’s Bobst Library, who became parents on May 6 when one of their three eggs miraculously hatched a little later than expected. And on the domestic side, many people have Twitter accounts for their pets. One of my favorites is @boscolefever (136 followers), a growing puppy with a penchant for trouble, and I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my own cat, @arfurtaylor (5 followers).
All of these accounts are pretty much just for fun, but they interest me because I think they point to something larger: Twitter as a testing ground for writers. Every Twitter account has its own character and narrative, which are the same elements we often look for in the form of fiction, journalism, plays or poetry. Each tweet is a piece of a larger story, and not only do you get to craft it without any editorial oversight, but you can also gauge how interesting your writing is to other people, and learn how to take and hold your reader’s attention. (There’s a marketing lesson in there too.) The reason only five people are interested in @arfurtaylor is because his feed was created as an inside joke, and doesn’t make much sense to people who don’t know him. @BronxZooCobra, somewhat ironically, wanted to be found online, and a lot of people were interested in the setup of a cobra touring New York City. Even though the actual cobra is now back at the reptile house and @BronxZooCobra is tweeting very infrequently, the Twitter account still has over 240,000 people interested in what happens next.
So, aspiring writers, go forth to Twitter! Teachers, try this in class! And the rest of you…keep exploring.
Follow me on Twitter: @emlong