‘Penn State Football Is Kind Of All I Do’: Penn State Alum Finds Twitter Fame & Builds Online Fan Community
Caroline Bixler didn’t want to go to Penn State for her undergraduate degree like most of her family. Instead, she wanted to go far away from her hometown of York, Pennsylvania, and chose the “rebellious,” road less traveled to South Carolina.
At 17 years old, Bixler committed to the swim team at South Carolina after a successful recruitment visit and enthusiasm about the Gamecocks’ sport and entertainment management degree. She dove into athletics at South Carolina headfirst and competed as a freestyle and butterfly stroke swimmer.
While, on paper, Bixler’s two first years at South Carolina seemed great as a student-athlete, she wasn’t satisfied and needed to make some changes. After the end of her sophomore year, Bixler decided to end her swimming career, switch her major to accounting, and essentially begin a new chapter of her life.
“It was kind of like my undergrad was two different experiences,” Bixler said. “The first one was pretty chill, I’m doing sports stuff and having fun on the swim team. Then I quit and changed to accounting and I [had to] put my head down in the library 24/7 to catch up.”
Bixler finished her remaining two years of school at South Carolina and, despite fleeting thoughts of perhaps transferring to Penn State for her master’s of accounting, decided to commit to the Gamecocks’ accounting program for her fifth year.
Her decision to stay in Columbia seemed like the obvious choice in regard to scholarships and ease of transition, but once the thought of heading north to Happy Valley was suggested, Bixler started having second thoughts about the following year.
“I have one really good friend there that was in my accounting classes and she knew how miserable I was and I didn’t want to be there and [how] I just couldn’t wait to be done and she’s like, ‘Why are you staying here next year? You hate it. I know you’re miserable. Why don’t you just go home and check out Penn State?'” Bixler said.
Just like that, Bixler earned a spot in the Smeal College of Business’s master of accounting program and found herself as a Nittany Lion in 2016.
Bixler quickly fell into place at Penn State and became close with her accounting classmates and her sister’s friends, which eased the transition of being the only student in the master’s of accounting program to not complete her undergraduate degree at Penn State.
“It doesn’t matter who you are. If you know anybody, we’re all family here and we’re all going to have a good time and it was really, really something that I needed after a kind of bad two years to finish off South Carolina,” Bixler said.
Bixler graduated with a master’s in accounting in 2017 and moved to Philadelphia shortly after for work. In an accounting job with long days and lonely hours, she began listening to podcasts like “Pardon My Take” to pass the time. Though not an active Twitter user at the time, Bixler responded to one of PFT Commenter’s tweets during the NFL season, was retweeted by the Barstool personality, and received lots of attention for the response.
In a monotonous day job, Bixler found enjoyment in interacting with PFT Commenter and the Barstool fanbase on Twitter and began gaining traction on the platform. Almost a year later in 2019, Bixler met PFT Commenter and he suggested that she begin blogging in order to solidify herself as a Twitter personality in the hopes of one day working for Barstool or something like it.
“So like two days later, I wrote a blog,” Bixler said. “And it just kind of went from there.”
Bixler blogged and tweeted about all things NFL and college football in an attempt to get noticed by Barstool, but soon realized that what she truly cared about was just Penn State football. She wanted to remain an authentic fan rather than spread herself too thin covering teams that she wasn’t fully invested in. So in 2019, Bixler fully committed to her Penn State roots and began gaining attention on Twitter and social media from the blue and white faithful and college football fans in general.
From creating and meeting internet friends over the last four years to traveling solo to away games, Bixler has made Penn State football a lifestyle and is well-known in the online Nittany Lion community. She has over 10,000 followers on Twitter and garners massive engagement throughout the year when discussing Penn State football or athletics.
“It’s kind of what keeps me sane at the end of the day because my job is not what I’m passionate about,” Bixler said. “It’s Penn State football and making people laugh. Having that Penn State community interaction is kind of what is my escape from the jobs that are fine and pay the bills.”
Though the funny, meaningful memories throughout her time as “Caroline from Twitter” have piled up, Bixler’s experience at the 2023 Rose Bowl tops it all. She had the opportunity to interact with Penn State football players and their families and get to know the Nittany Lions outside of their helmets and face masks, which she believes transcends any support she could offer from the stands.
“They know who I am and I get to talk to them like a person and not just see what they do on the football field,” Bixler said. “I think that’s kind of what makes it special is that opportunity for all of that.”
For now, there are no signs of slowing down Bixler’s authentic love for Penn State football on Twitter anytime soon. Although she’s based in Nashville for work currently, chances are high that she’ll be a familiar face in Happy Valley on gamedays.
“I’m a single, 28-year-old with no one to worry about but myself so Penn State football is kind of all I do,” Bixler said.
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