He still works a 9-to-5 job in human resources, he hasn’t made a penny and his kids say they don’t really care.
But when South Minneapolis resident Bryce Tache types into the Twitter interface on his iPhone, his forceful, declarative sentences about the president of the United States are broadcast to more than 180,000 followers — 93% percent of whom, an algorithm has told him, are not computerized bots but real human beings.
Tache has more followers on the platform than Mayor Jacob Frey and Minneapolis’ 13 City Council members combined, and the thoughts he has during his bus ride to and from his downtown office are routinely shared thousands and tens of thousands of times by people around the world.
What’s been foremost on Tache’s mind since 2016 is the political meltdown in Washington, and Tache’s online popularity derives, in part, from his ability to articulate the rage of the American left in simple, insistent, authoritative language that both denounces evil and offers reassurance.
Like many other Twitter users, Tache shares hokey jokes, viral gifs of cute animals, encomiums to his favorite musicians and photos of his husband’s baked goods. He publicly grieves his late father and boasts about his two adolescent sons. He spreads optimistic bits of newsy chatter about climate activism, the fight for LGBTQ rights and ordinary acts of human kindness.
Yet the message he projects the strongest, one which he has been repeating again and again since shortly after the inauguration, is that “Criminal Trump” is an aberrant figure who needs to be removed from office.
“I don’t know when articles of impeachment will be drafted,” Tache wrote on Oct. 18. “But I DO know they will be so indisputably damning that any Republican who votes not to impeach & convict will forever be known as a traitor to the United States of America.”
Tache’s appeal rests in his ability to maintain this mood of high-urgency indignation month after month and tweet after tweet, using hashtags like “#QuidProQuoTrumpsGottaGo” and “#TrumpBooed” and asking his followers questions like, “Who else thinks Trump is going to have a really, really, REALLY bad week?” He said his follower count blossomed in the months after the election when he started getting retweeted by celebrities like Rosie O’Donnell.
In person, Tache is warm and gentle, with an affect somewhat more hesitant than his Twitter persona. He said his time on Twitter helps him ward off the “hopelessness and despair” he feels when he learns that his country’s leader is “locking kids in cages” and pressuring other nations to interfere in U.S. elections.
In the summer of 2018, Tache started the #StandOnEveryCorner protest movement near his home by Pearl Park. The movement grew to include people in more than 40 states demonstrating against the Trump administration’s family separation policy by waving hand-drawn signs on street corners.
Since then, Tache has received multiple offers to speak at larger-scale protests, but he said he prefers not to be “the person yelling.”
“My Twitter voice is stronger than a voice that I would share in a public protest,” he said.
Choosing how to engage
Local residents like Tache who’ve acquired large followings on Twitter can find themselves in a strange state of quasi-celebrity.
“It’s taken my anonymity from me,” said John Edwards, a soft-spoken Lowry Hill East resident whose pro-development, pro-transit Twitter account, WedgeLIVE, has attracted more than 5,600 engaged followers and many vocal critics. “I don’t think I wanted to be a public figure.”
While Edwards has had a few uncomfortable in-person encounters while walking in Uptown, he said that 99% of the attention he’s received has been “pleasant and non-threatening.”
If he engaged more with national politics, he thinks things would be different.
“I find that local Twitter is a lot more tame and enjoyable than if you subject yourself to tweets about national politics,” he said. “[Then] it’s a bunch of people who couldn’t possibly run into each other on the street, and so they say some pretty terrible things. It feels much nastier.”
Jana Shortal, a KARE 11 anchor who lives in South Minneapolis, said people online continuously make gross comments about how she presents in her gender.
“It’s pretty well documented that any sort of minority or marginalized community is going to get it worse on Twitter,” she said. “People are more emboldened for whatever reason by having a nonpersonal engagement with a keyboard — you can be far more aggressive than you can in a face-to-face encounter.”
Shortal said the dark side of the internet hasn’t stopped her from sharing personal opinions with her nearly 40,000 Twitter followers, but she makes a conscious choice to limit how much she weighs in on national political conversations.
“I have never talked to Rudy Giuliani, I have never talked to the president, I have never talked to Nancy Pelosi,” she said. “I’m not an expert, so my opinion in that genre doesn’t really matter.”
She’s decided it’s best not to respond to every daily outrage, but she refuses to stop speaking out.
“I will voice my opinion on things that go to the national scale if they affect me as a human — as a human queer person, as a female, as a Jewish person. ‘Can LGBTQ people be fired?’ is before the Supreme Court. I have not stayed silent on that, but you’re also not going to see me tweet about it 35 times.”
‘An accidental influencer’
Tache said having a high-profile online presence has had its benefits — when he tweeted that his 13-year-old son had been bullied, RuPaul sent the boy an affirming message — but he also feels a heightened sense of obligation to make sure he gets his facts straight and to only share articles vetted by the mainstream media.
“I have sometimes passed along information that was not true,” Tache said. “There have been some fake photos that quickly went viral and [I shared them] not realizing they were fake. I’ve apologized and said I was wrong.”
Emily Vraga, a University of Minnesota journalism professor who has studied misinformation on social media, said people with large online followings should be especially careful to only share accurate information.
“Once we accept something as true, it’s hard to dislodge it,” she said. “A lot of people are going to take what you say at face value — they’re not necessarily going to follow the link or read more on the topic.”
Tache said that while he believes it’s important to broaden his view of the world by seeking information from as many sources as possible, he doesn’t want to “pretend to act like a news outlet.”
He describes himself as “an accidental influencer” and said he has a responsibility “to amplify other voices and help other people whose messages resonate with me gain followers as well.” He tries to keep tabs on Twin Cities Twitter users — no easy feat when you follow more than 90,000 accounts — and he takes partial credit for Mayor Frey’s recent surge in Twitter popularity amid a public spat with President Trump over the security bill for his Target Center rally.
Yet despite being recognized while volunteering at an Elizabeth Warren rally, Tache denies that he’s a celebrity, and he still geeks out when his posts are retweeted by B-list stars like Debra Messing or Kathy Griffin. Tache’s New Year’s resolution was to tweet less, and he’s now down to under three hours per day, though his son Xavier maintains that “he’s on it too much.”
Ultimately, Bryce Tache is a goofy guy whose global following is the result of a strange twist of fate.
“I invite G7 leaders to have the next Summit at my home in Minneapolis,” he joked on Twitter after Trump announced plans to host the G-7 summit at his Florida resort, in violation of the Constitution’s emoluments clause. “You’ll have more fun. It isn’t against the law. And my husband is a great baker! See you soon?”
The heart-shaped “like” icon below Tache’s quip was tapped by more than 7,000 people — though, who knows, a few hundred of them may have been robots.
Tache said the secret to his popularity is that he “tweets from the heart.”
“What’s surreal about it is likes and retweets — none of it really matters,” he said. “So it’s kind of funny.”