We’ve been Word Maven-ing for almost 15 years. When our first edition of The Dictionary of Jewish Words was published in 2001, Mark Zuckerberg was in high school and tweeting was for the birds.
We’ve had to learn how to share our thoughts with the world using social media. So we tweet, post, follow and friend as fast as we can. In the beginning we got it wrong sometimes, like when we sent one of our daughters a Facebook post asking if her sloppy roommate was still leaving dishes in the sink. “Mom,” this daughter said, “I need to teach you how to send a private message on Facebook.”
Sometimes we get it right, like when one of our sons complimented us in a direct tweet: “Hi mom. Nice use of the trending hashtag. You might also want to add #Yiddish or #Jewish.”
Thanks, sweetie. Now we know to use hashtags for all our important messages: #Supermoms #IJustPutMoneyInYourAccount #CallGrandmomOnSunday.
On our personal Facebook pages we have a respectable number of friends, but we know most of them. They are our actual, living friends in real life (or “real time” as they say). But on our Word Mavens page, it’s a “business page” according to Facebook standards, we have followers who claim to “like” us – – even though we don’t actually know most of them.
When we clicked on the statistics to see where our fans come from, we were surprised that 179 of them hail from Turkey. Ellen took a family trip to Istanbul last summer but only talked about The Word Mavens to the hotel desk clerks. Even more surprising are our fans in the Middle East – 24 in Saudi Arabia, 20 in Iraq, and 4 in Gaza. (Facebook lists it as Gaza, Palestine). We can’t imagine that those 4 people are interested in our hamantashen recipe. And what about the 2 fans we have in Bosnia & Herzegovina; we had to consult the map to figure out where that even is.
We aren’t surprised to have 7 fans in Israel. We probably know them. On the other hand, only 4 people in Wynnewood like us – guess that’s Ellen’s husband, daughter and two sons. But what about our friend Gary who lives in Wynnewood? We know he likes us!
There’s something fishy about these statistics.
Twitter numbers are equally confounding. Celebrities have millions of followers but they only follow 3 people – their agent, their yoga teacher and the sushi restaurant that delivers. That’s what makes them famous. If that numerical equation is true, then we’re a little bit famous – because we also have more followers (1,285) than people we are following (454). But who are these 1200-plus people? That kind of puts the pressure on us, when we think that there are more than a thousand people breathlessly awaiting our next words….
When Twitter recently sent us a link to our demographics, we were surprised. According to their stats, the top cities for readers of the Word Mavens are:
Kiev, Ukraine: 53%
Minsk, Belarus: 26%
Philadelphia, U.S.: 4%
New York City, U.S.: 3%
Los Angeles, US: 1%
Who are all these followers from Kiev and Minsk? If it were 100 years ago, they’d include our great grandparents and their whole mishpachah – members of the tribe who are actually interested in knishes and bagels and the holiday doings of the Word Mavens.
We cannot explain our current popularity in the Soviet bloc. Perhaps it has something to do with the global conspiracy to hack into American computers. Maybe it’s because we used a credit card to pay for a jar of borscht at Petrovsky Market in Northeast Philadelphia.
When we perused our list of followers, we understood why @EstherK, a writer who describes herself as “pretty darned Jewy”; @HebrewWithNaomi, a Bar Mitzvah tutor in Ontario; and @KosherEye, a guide to all things kosher, would follow us.
Buy why does someone who describes himself as a “fly fishing maniac from Iceland,” or a pizza parlor we’ve never been to, follow us? They must have been farblonget and clicked on the wrong button.
Even if we wouldn’t recognize our fans in the supermarket, we are happy to have them. It’s always gratifying when the “likes” for one of our funny Facebook posts hits triple digits. The statistics tell us that our posts about food are the most popular – musings about the great shnecken vs. rugelach debate, our road trip to Economy Candy on the Lower East Side, and Giant supermarket’s parve holiday cakes all reached more than 1,000 people.
That’s the advantage of the Internet – connecting to people all over the globe through their computer. We would have to present our Shmoozing with the Word Mavens program to a lot of sisterhoods and senior groups to get a thousand people reminiscing about chocolate Hanukkah gelt.
But Twitter is the exact opposite of our book talk, where we speak for 50 minutes about holidays, traditions and Jewish food and audience members share their childhood memories and favorite Yiddish words. We often shmooze and chat with our audiences for over an hour. Imagine limiting that to 140 characters.