At some point in the not too distant future the Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders will have to be completely rewritten to account for all the ways social media has driven us insane. And when it is, there will be subsections dedicated to the myriad archetypes we encounter online every day: the Reply Guy, the Mentions Pest, the Quote Tweet Likes Scraper, and the Fishing Trip Avi Racist to name a few. Another particularly obnoxious category of social media compulsive comes in the form of people who practice the Follow/Unfollow Gambit. It’s a move that’s been nearly perfected by Ryan Hintze a nice young man from Florida, whose name you might not recognize but whose shirtless torso you probably do.
Hintze is a 23 year old former football player at the University of Southern Florida and a model. He stands 6’6” and weighs 230 pounds, as his Twitter bio points out, and he has been in business marketing brands and running social media accounts since he was 14, he says. Above all that, he just really, really wants you to follow him back online.
Hintze was “The most interesting man at USF,” as SB Nation’s The Daily Stampede blog called him back in 2016, in a piece touting his business acumen in running accounts like the now defunct @amazingvines, which had 106,000 followers at the time. "Follow him on his personal account on Twitter," the article said. "He's got over 7,000 followers." Today that number stands at 202k.
I tweeted yesterday, after Hintze had followed and unfollowed me for maybe the 50th time, that I was never going to follow him back. He’s young, jacked, and has 250k followers already. What could he possibly need my follow for? A dozen of my friends and followers quickly chimed in, saying he does the same to them. What is this dude’s deal? I called him to find out.
Tell me about yourself. What is your deal?
I want to preface this conversation by saying I apologize for probably following you a thousand times in the last year or so. I’m from Bradenton, Florida. I’ve played sports my whole life, played college football. Now I’m running my own company that I started when I was 14. I do all kinds of stuff—e-commerce, graphic design, social media management, drone photography. I started to realize I could gain a lot of followers on social media platforms back when I was making parody pages on Twitter. I have an account called I am Danny Tosh, it’s a joke account about Daniel Tosh. My biggest page had 500k followers. In 2013 I monetized—I had like two million followers over 30 accounts—by posting links to my website that had ads on them. I had gallery websites like Top 10 Ab Workouts, stuff like that. I got the clickthrough rates going pretty well because each page was a different slide of the gallery.
After I realized I was pretty good at building audiences on Twitter I decided to do the same routine but with my own brand. I would post pictures of myself with quotes on them. That’s basically free content that I already had with my modeling.
You’re vlogging now too.
I do a mix between fitness instructional videos, how to do proper form stuff, and daily vlogging. I just vlogged a few days of what I was doing. I’m up to episode seven. I have 13 in the process of being edited. I probably only get like 300 views per video. I do zero promotion. I don’t post them to my Instagram like an idiot. I’m just trying to let it grow naturally. I’ve always watched what people like Gary Vee and Casey Neistat are doing. If one of my videos catches on people will go back and watch the others. I’m not worried about the views right now I’m just worried about getting content.
So be honest with me, you said you do Twitter by hand when we DM'd. Do you really?
I have a few tools I use. It’s all done on the Chrome browser, and everything is free. I don’t pay anyone to do anything. As a verified person I have permissions a regular account would not have. I can follow an unlimited amount of people every single day and also unfollow an unlimited amount. Otherwise might think you’re a spammer or bot. The limits on Twitter for an account that’s not verified is 1000 follows per day. After that you’re risking getting banned.
I have Chrome extensions that follow people all day long. I’ve found it better to follow verified people because that’s what I’m trying to do, to connect with as many verified people as I can. I guess they’re better people to be followed by. I’m followed by like seven to 8000 verified users on Twitter. Some of the notable people are Jake Paul, Logan Paul, Amanda Bynes.
You know one verified account who doesn’t follow you though, right?
Do you care that people are annoyed by your following and unfollowing?
Honestly I don’t. I’ll never bother them again if they block me. If they just complain about it and don't block me I guess they just want to cause problems. I don't really care what people think. I’m just trying to get eyes on me. It’s a big attention game online. The more people that see my content and the more people that I either follow or engage with the better it is.
OK, but what’s the end goal?
Honestly just to build my audience. I’m not even in the stages of monetizing, I’m just trying to build an overall brand. I’m not even sure what direction I’ll take it. It’s mainly just to create an asset for myself that I can use down the road.
You mentioned Jake and Logan Paul. Is that the type of career you’re after?
Not necessarily. I want to take it more into a tech focus whether that would be reviews on YouTube of gadgets or things like that. That’s really where my true passion is. I guess it could be a spinoff of what the Pauls do. Not just dumb stuff on YouTube, more logical.
Do you ever think it’s unethical to use social media the way you do?
Honestly, I don’t even use social media. I’m just putting content out there. I don’t use it like I should, or [like some people] to only have my friends on there and count every person I have and take it to heart whether or not someone follows me and get all sensitive about it. It could be seen as unethical to just mass follow people on Twitter. But the end goal for me is just be on as many screens as I can. That’s the way I can achieve that, utilizing my resources, and doing what I do. It’s nothing personal to anybody I follow. Since 2015 I’ve gained around 230k followers.
In our DMs you mentioned VICE has you blocked?
Yeah they blocked me because I followed them so many times. Journalists and writers get pissed off the most. I have Buzzfeed people all pissed off, GQ. If you search my name you’ll see verified accounts saying "Why do you keep following me?" I try to joke about it and play it off, like, "I’m just trying to see what you're up to today!" to lighten the situation, but they're actually angry that I followed them. I just don’t really have any emotional attachment to the whole thing. Some people are really too involved. It’s kind of funny.
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This article originally appeared on VICE US.