I know what you're thinking: "And you're proud of this???" Yeah, I am.
Mainly because I started following Justin Bieber, who turned 19 today, back when he automatically followed any Twitter user who followed him on Twitter. In other words, before he was Justin Bieber.
That was back in fall 2009, when I was a way-too-relaxed college senior and Bieber was a 19-year-old emerging pop singer who had just released a song called "One Time." My favorite radio station in Tucson, Ariz., had been playing the catchy tune nonstop for a week, so I decided to find out more about the recording artist. I must confess I was surprised to learn the person behind "One Time" wasn't, in fact, female, but then I remembered boy band Dream Street sounded like a bunch of little girls in the early 2000s and was likable anyway (at least to 13-year-old me).
I started following Bieber when he only had around 30,000 followers. Now he has more than 35 million, and though he has much more name recognition now than he did 3.5 years ago (and by more name recognition, I mean everyone from my 4-year-old nephew, who frequently voices disdain for the Biebs, to my 89-year-old grandmother, knows who he is and that he wears pink underwear sometimes), he still resembles the dude I followed on Twitter as an undergrad.
You don't need me to inform you that there's a lot of hate directed at Bieber. People have argued he's annoying, bratty, unintelligent, insufferable, you name it. I'll tell you one thing, though. Like PolicyMic pundit Jazmine Woodberry, I kind of adore the kid. He comes from a single parent household and rose to the top by pure talent (sorry, but you can't deny that he has moves), not by having famous family members give him an unfair in like so many other smug celebrities these days. Nothing was simply handed to him, and that's part of what makes him so great. Bieber also frequently expresses appreciation for fans and "Beliebers." He genuinely feels lucky to have so much support from listeners, and he retweets followers whose lives are made by grabbing his attention on the internet. Regardless of what you think about his crazy, obsessive fangirls, he's a solid person for showing gratitude. Not every celebrity does.
Some will never be sold on Bieber. He's always going to have haters and disturbing psychos plotting his death, but nothing changes the fact that he's a person who came from little and made a huge name for himself. And that rocks.
So, Bieber, happy 19th birthday, and thank you for continuing to follow me on Twitter (along with 120,000+ other lucky souls). If nothing else in life, at least I'll be able to say I managed to get the Biebs himself to give me a place in his Twitter feed.
For old time's sake, let's all sing along to "One Time":