On Going Viral…


Yesterday, this happened. Or to be completely accurate, this is still happening, the screenshot’s from this afternoon and likes and RTs continue to build by the second. The whole thing took me slightly by surprise. My children found it hilarious, texting friends to say ‘Now Mum’s trending in Canada!’ ‘Now Mum’s trending in San Francisco!’. I don’t think their friends actually believed it, and I don’t blame them. It’s completely bizarre! It was about a toilet seat, for goodness’ sake! (Although I’ve been informed that some people have copied the tweet word-for-word as their own, except for substituting, say, ‘coffee table’ for ‘toilet seat’, which is an odd thing to do, especially as coffee tables aren’t intrinsically funny.)



I’m a writer, but I don’t tend to use Twitter for self-promotion that much (yes, I do usually mention if I have a new book out, but I try not to go on and on); I don’t carefully craft or target tweets, I just chat to friends, post pics of my cats and share things that have sprung to mind that amuse me. Most of the people who follow me I assume do so because they are fans of Doctor Who (I write a lot of Doctor Who stuff) or are fellow chronically ill/disabled folk, and while I expect many of the new followers I’ve suddenly gained will start unfollowing me once they realise that, I’m suddenly feeling huge performance anxiety – it’s that difficult second tweet. What can I say? Will the crowd start baying for blood if I only give them cat pictures?

(Although talking of self-promotion – well, why not, as you’re here. Two of my older Doctor Who audios are currently on offer at the bargain price of 99p, so if you want to dip a toe into my writing, that’s not a bad place to start. Here’s Doctor Who and the Pirates, a nautical tale featuring none other than Bill Oddie (but you have to put in code redballoons here to access the discount). Out of recent stuff, The Missy Chronicles anthology in which I have a story is rather a fun book. And if you want to hear me ramble on for a bit, here’s my recent appearance on the hugely fun podcast Looks Unfamiliar chatting about nostalgia that no one else remembers. Of course, the fact that I recently decided to branch out in a different direction and attempt to do a proper, grown-up novel – current WIP – means I was running around going ‘why couldn’t I have got all this attention when I have something to promote?!’, but have decided that there isn’t all that much crossover appeal between a tale of identity and disability and a tweet about toilet seats, even if I am putting jokes in it, so never mind.)

All of this has just been so weird. Right at the beginning, the actual Carol Drinkwater from All Creatures Great and Small saying the tweet had made her day! (That was nice.) An old boyfriend seeing the tweet and getting in touch! (Also nice. Also a reminder of the time we had a romantic picnic in the middle of an active crime scene and didn’t notice until we went to leave and found the police had hemmed us in with DO NOT CROSS tape.) A follow from a comedy writer I admire! (Super nice.) My BFF Jules’s celeb crush liking the post! (Vicariously nice.) Having turned off all notifications when it started to go over a thousand likes (ah, the nostalgia of those innocent times when that seemed HUGE!), I’m tending to discover who’s been RTing it when people start replying to both me and the RTer. The excitement! Suddenly someone’s talking to both me and Rufus Hound! Then me and David Baddiel! (I’m such a comedy geek. RTed by someone out of The Mary Whitehouse Experience had me all aflutter.)

Up until now I’ve always tried to reply to or acknowledge anyone who tweets me but this soon became pretty much impossible, which has made me feel very rude. Sorry. This must be how multi-million-follower Twitter celebs feel all the time! How can you possibly keep up? Most of the people tweeting back are saying it made them smile (which makes me smile too), many sharing similar marketing experiences (the poor, poor person who kept being urged to buy more funeral urns after a bereavement) and some making jokes back. There were even poems! I’ve never got a lot of abuse on Twitter, but with (currently) 1500 replies I suppose some was inevitable. Nothing too terrible. Some mild stuff from people who think I am incredibly stupid because I don’t understand that Amazon uses algorithms and seem to believe I am ‘whining’. It just amused me! I thought I would share! That was all! Quite a few think I’m lazy for getting a home-delivered toilet seat in the first place instead of supporting local shops. I did reply to one of the early ones explaining that I’m disabled, but that started to escalate as people turned on the tweeter, so I wasn’t going there again. Others are very anti-Amazon and therefore anti-me for buying on it, and while I’m not a fan of Amazon’s tax-avoidance and employment policies the fact that it helps me make a living and is a godsend for housebound people means we have an uneasy truce. As a left-leaning veggie who has boycotted companies for less over the years, I accept my hypocrisy, but I’m not sure why people think shaming or shouting at strangers on the internet is a way of influencing their behaviour in your favour.

I told my mum that I’d tweeted about a toilet seat and it was very popular. She (bemused) said, ‘oh, did you tell them how proud you were that you managed to fit it yourself?’ (I am notoriously impractical.) Maybe that’s what I should take away from this. 308K strangers liking a tweet – bizarre. And it’s not as though any of them will even remember my name (just as well, or as my friend Jonny suggests I would be known forever as The Toilet Seat Woman). But fitting your own toilet seat – now that’s a real achievement.

Addendum: Over two months have passed and I’m still getting Likes and RTs. Still! Likes went up to 405K but are now down to (as of me just checking) 402, 940. So 2000 people realised they were extremely foolish for liking it and backtracked (or left Twitter, who knows? Yes, I’ll go for ‘left Twitter’. My ego prefers that). The tweet has appeared in what seems like a million articles (usually tech-related) in a number of countries. My favourite was an Italian newspaper, Google’s translation of it is below because it is BRILLIANT and they have even researched me! In biggest ever news, though, not only was the tweet included in Walmart communications, it was apparently mentioned by its CEO in person at a briefing. Wow.

Now enjoy this article (original at https://www.corriere.it/buone-notizie/18_aprile_21/segugi-amazon-jacqueline-rayner-scrittrice-famosi-water-b9e25ba2-4572-11e8-ae70-70c19cb6c123.shtml):

“happy ending
The hounds of Amazon and Jac the writer
Become famous thanks to a toilet
History of how a very funny letter to the sellers of Jeff Bezos projected
author of books and audio in the social world generating a wave of comments

presents itself on the Internet as the happy writer of over forty paper and audio books. He lives in the English countryside, with a husband and two twins. He studied ancient history at the University of Nottingham, worked for seven years at Bbc Books , before starting his own business. His passion is fantasy and stories related to Doctor Who, a popular science fiction character. On its site, jacrayner.com , it does not take itself too seriously. And so he would not take it if many of us admitted they did not know it. Rayner who ? She herself, in these days, joked about the unexpected and “viral” notoriety acquired via twitter thanks to something completely unrelated to writing. “The twins are galvanized – he says on his blog – and they go around saying: mom is famous in Canada, now she’s trendy in San Francisco” …

What did Jac do to collect all those thousands of “likes” in one go? He talked about a purchase made with Amazon. As if he had sent an open letter to Jeff Bezos, the richest man in the world, and his army of postmen. A delicate and mocking letter that goes something like this: “Dear Amazon, I bought a toilet seat because I need it. Necessity, not desire. I do not collect. I’m not a toilet seat fetishist. And no matter how many times you write to me, I think I will resist the temptation to buy another one. ”

This message, started from the @GirlFromBlupo profile , generated a wave of comments. The people of the Net en masse (and a little bit outraged) engrossed in telling tragicomic experiences about the so-called “programmatic advertising”, that thing based on the law of algorithms that allows sellers to record our purchases (and our research) on the Internet. And to come back to look for us, kindly understand, as did the Lieutenant Columbus with his unfortunate suspects. For someone it is a bland and daily form of “digital spying”, for others it is a convenience, even a demonstration of affection towards customers. It happens, after an online purchase, that an object becomes an instrument of persecution. Also via email, as happened to Jacqueline Rayner. Seen how do you become famous? “I also told my mother and she replied:” So everyone will know that even a notoriously unfamiliar person like you is able to screw a bathroom axis “.

The most incredible things have arrived via twitter. «Rosiebita» tells the story of the urn for the ashes of the mother (an object that perhaps should not be purchased online): «For months Amazon has continued to write the typical messages,” if you liked that, maybe you’ll like it too this””. And another funeral urn, in case of breaking of the first or of the departure of another loved one. “At first I was a bit ‘taken, then I thought that my mother would have laughed to tears. A certain Amy said that after the wedding she and her husband (always the same) continued to receive offers of objects for the wedding ceremony. The conversation has also turned on the object «water axis», on the various more or less fanciful versions that exist on the market. Someone reminded a Texas man who last year sold his collection of 1300 hand-decorated boards. Perhaps a lover of the subject, certainly not a reluctant client like Jacqueline Rayner.”