On June 26, 2019, Twitter user @ssavannahkramer, a student from Michigan, tweeted, “Somebody please read the first word of all my tweets over the past few months.”
The next tweet in her thread, i.e., the previous one chronologically, said, “Once you start to believe that a person is more than just a person, you are setting yourself up for heartbreak.”
The one posted before that said, “Told him i don’t want anybody who doesn’t want me.”
Things were starting to sound familiar. Here’s a shot of the first nine tweets with their initial words circled.
“Aha!” many of you are now exclaiming, “It’s the lyrics to the song All Star by Smash Mouth!”
For those of you who don’t remember it from the radio (or from the opening credits of the first Shrek film), All Star begins:
Somebody once told me the world is gonna roll me
I ain’t the sharpest tool in the shed
She was looking kind of dumb with her finger and her thumb
In the shape of an “L” on her forehead
and the chorus goes:
Hey now, you’re an all-star, get your game on, go play
Hey now, you’re a rock star, get the show on, get paid
And all that glitters is gold
Only shooting stars break the mold
Remember the famous quote about Ginger Rogers, that she did everything Fred Astaire did, except backwards and in high heels? That’s kind of like what @ssavannahkramer did here. In order for the hidden song to be read in order, she had to transcribe it, embedded in her tweets, backwards, from the last word to the first.
I pasted the lyrics to All Star into a Word document, which told me that it was 432 words long. (I’m willing to accept that number without independently confirming it.) So for 432 tweets, anything @ssavannahkramer wanted to say had to start with the appropriate lyric that was next on the list. The first tweet in the thread, representing the last word in the song, was dated February 26. This project therefore took @ssavannahkramer exactly four months. That’s a lot of dedication to her art.
Now I know that some of you reading this may be thinking, “How stupid! What a frivolous waste of time and energy!” I absolutely have to disagree.
Looking at @ssavannahkramer’s tweets from early February, before this Twitter thread came to public attention, I see they generally have no comments, no retweets, and in the vicinity of 60-70 likes. As of this writing, her June 26 tweet – “Somebody please read the first word…” – has over 4,100 comments, 69,000 retweets and 167,000 likes. People are making videos synching her tweets with the original Smash Mouth song. Twitter itself commented on her post, saying, “Hey now, you’re an all-star.” @ssavannahkramer currently has 7,009 followers; I asked her how many are new, as a consequence of her experiment, and she said 6,500. I know that I wasn’t aware of her before this stunt, and I suspect neither were you. Honestly, have any of us ever marketed ourselves or our business interests as effectively? I’d say it was pretty brilliant.
All of this reminds me of the famous Mishnaic dictum of Ben Hei-Hei, “l’fum tzara agra” – “the reward is proportionate to the effort.” (Avos 5:23. I used to joke that, at three Aramaic words – six or seven if you include “Ben Hei-Hei says” – it’s by far the shortest Mishna in shas, so how much effort did Ben Hei-Hei invest in it? However, since Ben Hei-Hei’s dictum has been learned by literally millions of people over the course of thousands of years, one can infer that brevity does not indicate a shortage of substance.)
In any event, this is an important lesson. Whether you frame it as “l’fum tzara agra,” no pain, no gain” or “got to pay your dues if you wanna sing the blues,” the idea is the same: what you get out of something depends on what you put into it. It doesn’t matter whether you want to make a siyum on Daf Yomi, complete a marathon, drop 30 lbs. or learn to play guitar: seeing results is going to take effort.
No one can set your goals for you and no one but you can determine whether or not your goals are worth the effort. @ssavannahkramer set a goal for herself. It required not only perseverance but also restraint – not to break her pattern and not to give into the temptation to reveal things prematurely. But she kept her eyes on the prize and stuck to it. Now she can enjoy the fruits of her labors, including a follower base that has increased by a factor of 1,300%.
By the way, @ssavannahkramer’s February 26 tweet? The one that started the thread? It says, “Mold your new self from your old self.” Not only is that pretty good advice, it sounds like she knew what she was doing all along. How often are we as committed to our goals, whatever they may be?
Rabbi Jack Abramowitz is Torah Content Editor at the Orthodox Union. He is the author of six books, including The Tzniyus Book and The Taryag Companion. His latest work, The God Book, is available from OU Press as well as on Amazon.
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.