Today something very unusual happened. Dame Helen Mirren started to follow me. I wasn’t walking down the road in London or Los Angeles where the Oscar-winning actress spends most or her time. Rather I was seated at my kitchen table, in my Somerset barn looking at my Twitter account as I usually do and saw that @HelenMirren_DBE was now following me. Or at least I thought she was. Of course, I can’t be sure that it is her, because it is so easy to be anyone you want in the virtual world.
In fact with only 200 or so followers, I expect it is someone known as a “troll.” Trolls are individuals who take delight in disrupting communication by posting offensive comments or pretending to be someone else. I expect my Helen Mirren is a troll but for one moment my heart skipped a beat as I thought that my adolescent crush was taking an interest in me.
There used to be a trivia game called “Six degrees of Kevin Bacon” where one had to identify how any actor could be linked by their film roles to the actor Kevin Bacon. I think that Twitter is becoming like a souped up version of that where anyone can be connected to anyone online by their twitter following.
There is also something very accessible about Twitter in that anyone can follow their heroes. I think this creates an interesting social phenomenon where we feel an intimacy with others who we would never have the opportunity to meet normally. But this also creates problems. I have noted how strangers feel that they are on familiar basis with those they follow. Not so very different from celebrity stalkers who are deluded in thinking that they share a life with their victims. I will be writing about this further in my forthcoming book, “The Self Illusion,” but for the moment I wanted to share my delusion that a great British actress would bother with a lowly like me.