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April 23, 2012 | by  | in Features |
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All That Twitters is Not Gold

Finding fame in the banal annals of the twittersphere.

Salient chief feature writer Elle Hunt looks to the stars for what not to do in her pursuit of internet fame on Twitter.

My desires to be internet famous and also gainfully employed have often conflicted. My Twitter account, in particular, is something of a liability, with the snark, profanity and in-jokes of my stream of consciousness likely serving as a disincentive to hire me. Or hang out with me.

But last week, the hurt and anger I felt at my omission from the New Zealand Herald ’s list of the country’s top 50 Tweeters (who are, by coincidence, largely Herald staffers) tipped the balance in the favour of fame. After adding “opinions are my own” to my bio as a catch-all caveat, I made my account public.

Within an hour, I’d gained ten new followers (okay, so one was a VUWSA exec member I’d previously blocked. Whatever) and been retweeted by @2degreesmobile. I tweeted about eating a promotional JAZZ Apple, sent to the media, for the media, and @ JAZZAPPLES_NZ responded, hoping that I “enjoyed [my] media JAZZ Apple!”

It was exhilarating.

To hell with what prospective employers might think of the “impudent” tone of my #worktweets, I thought, giddy. My new-found internet fame could lead to no other future than a TV series on HBO about my groovy lifestyle, establishing me as the voice of my generation. Take a picture, ca-chiiiiick.

My confidence in my imminent celebrity was only reinforced when @NICKIMINAJ jumped ship from the site and closed her account (“Like seriously, its [sic] but so much a person can take. Good fucking bye”)—an indirect acknowledgement that as long as I am in the game, she’d never win.

I’m only partly joking. Loath as I am to resort to such 100-level Media Studies clichés as “the rise of Twitter has benefited democracy”, the rise of Twitter has benefited democracy—kind of. Its chief advantage in this regard is that it represents a level playing field: there is, in theory, scope for mere mortals such as you and I to take up some of Minaj’s slack.

But in theory, communism works. In theory. More often than not, Twitter serves to elevate further those who already have a platform. Lady Gaga, the most popular person on Twitter, has more than 23 million followers. Think about that for a moment. Twenty- three million. And this is despite her largely tweeting nonsense (“i had a long day+ im falling sleepies. princess xena of xanaxland has lil secrets in her inbox…I wanna be the first to show u anyway..”).

Gaga seems to appreciate that Twitter enables her to let loose without the supervision of her minders—a rare privilege for a celebrity, even one (or perhaps because) of her stature. Most interviews given by such media personalities are arranged, overseen and to some extent shaped by public relations personnel; manning her Twitter account herself enables her to connect directly with her fans, with some degree of authenticity.

Sometimes too much authenticity. Music producer Jay Electronica live-tweeted the birth of his first child to musician Erykah Badu: “Water broke. I can see the head, it’s covered in hair.”

Many celebrities who tweet, however, seem to fail to realise that this goes both ways—that Twitter makes them accessible to both their fans and their critics. Minaj is the latest to abandon the site in a huff over less-than-positive ‘@’ replies, treading in the footsteps of Chris Brown, Kid Cudi, James Franco, Demi Lovato, Miley Cyrus, Sinead O’Connor and professional train wreck Courtney Love, among others (many of whom have since come crawling back).

The petulance of some positions them as being too thin-skinned to function in the public sphere; others, such as Matt Lucas of Little Britain, are given legitimate provocation. He closed his account after a 16-year-old teenager “thought to live in Northern Ireland” (try as it might, the Daily Mail fails to penetrate the veil of internet anonymity) joked about the suicide of Lucas’ former partner.

Of course, the flip side of this is that it reinforces how some celebrities need minders. As @aplusk, Ashton Kutcher was the first of what can generously be dubbed the ‘A List’ to make his mark on Twitter, but he was recently forced to quit the site red-faced. He’d expressed outrage at Penn State football coach Joe Paterno’s being made redundant (“… #insult #noclass … I find it in poor taste”), without knowing that Paterno’s assistant coach Jerry Sandusky had allegedly raped a number of children.

Kutcher deleted his original tweet and apologised for the misstep, but it was not enough to assuage his outraged followers— especially after, earlier in the year, he’d described September 11 as “the greatest day of the year”. (It’s the start of the football season.)

“A collection of over 8 million followers is not to be taken for granted,” he wrote, omitting the #humblebrag hashtag. “I feel responsible for delivering an informed opinion and not spreading gossip or rumours through my twitter feed.” @aplusk is now in the safe hands of Kutcher’s management.

Twitter is a great platform for holier-than- thou celebrities such as Kutcher who feel that their appearance in mainstream romcoms and a subpar television series gives them credence as commentators. Say what you will about the so- called ‘Twitter uprising’ and its contribution to democracy: the site is at its best when used to distribute meaningless but amusing drivel, and no-one does this better than Amanda Bynes.

The Easy A and She’s The Man star deleted her Twitter at the end of 2010 after announcing her retirement—with the expository hashtag #retired—from “acting” at the tender age of 24. (About a month later, she tweeted, “I’ve unretired”.) But fans of her rambling ‘vlogs’ were overjoyed by her triumphant comeback last year with @MsAmandaBynes_. Her tweets provide a fascinating look into the psyche of someone in the throes of a quarter- life crisis, if not an undiagnosed mental illness:

I’m on my couch and in that movie at the same time. whoa.
2:10 AM Feb 13th via txt

i’m in that movie. it was crazy… I watched it and saw myself in that freaking movie
2:09 AM Feb 13th via txt

I totally just watched Hairspray on ABC. 2:07 AM Feb 13th via txt

In the world of Twitter, this shit is gold— and could well be enough to reinvent Bynes’ ‘acting’ ‘career’.

“If a celebrity’s Twitter is entertaining enough, it can make them relevant again. It’s possibly one of the most powerful tools in the industry today,” wrote Thought Catalog’s Ryan O’Connell of Bynes. “If you’re not starring in any noteworthy movies and your agent is screening your calls, just make Twitter your new job.”

And then O’Connell articulates what I felt at my core when I got tweeted at by an apple company: “If you tweet enough of your insane thoughts, you could very well be back on top again.”

▴▴▴

A Selection of Amanda Bynes’ Best Tweets:

  • ▴  I’ddateaguythathasakidorkidsif we’re in love
  • ▴  I take back that I’m only into dating guys that don’t have kids
  • ▴  I’m into getting married and having kids with my husband
  • ▴  only into dating guys that don’t already have kids
  • ▴  I enjoy reading and writing love quotes
  • ▴  I love tweeting quotes, some I find andsome I write
  • ▴  i always wanted to get married on 11/11/11 but i will be happy whatever day i get married. it doesn’t have to be that day.
  • ▴  i will immediately twit pic my engagement ring and show everybody
  • ▴  i like dating someone i like but i can’t wait to be “off the market” & call my boyfriend my husband.. lots of people are getting engaged….
  • ▴  i only like love when it’s deep
  • ▴  God’s always watching
  • ▴  Magic mushrooms seem exciting
  • ▴  SO quit hating on me because I’m VANILLA and I like CHOCOLATE, ok? Because it just makes you look like a hater thanks so much, bye!!!
  • ▴  FYI if any girls are mad that I like “chocolate” they need to seriously get OVER it. Sorry, you can’t have all the chocolate for yourself
  • ▴  I like black men I’m very attracted to them just fyi
  • ▴  Legitimate newspapers and magazines etc only print the truth and that’s why I read them
  • ▴  I think jeans look good on everyone they are just plain sexy to me
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About the Author ()

Elle started out at Salient reviewing music. In 2010, she wrote features and Animal of The Week, which an informal poll revealed to be 40% of Victoria students' favourite part of the magazine. Alongside Uther Dean, she was co-editor for 2011. In 2012, she is chief features writer.

Comments (2)

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  1. courtney says:

    bahahahaha, using ryan o’connell from tc.

  2. Elle Hunt says:

    I know. I have no self-respect.

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