Twitter, a micro-blogging site founded in 2007, has become the most talked about social networking phenomenon this year. The world has seemingly become obsessed with its simplicity and stripped down status updates (known as “tweets”) just 140 characters long.
Although the site has been up and running for several years, Twitter has recently been thrown into the limelight thanks to celebrity pulling power. As a self-confessed celebrity buff, what could be better than knowing what your favourite actor or singer is doing at all times?
He does it
I don’t seem to be the only one with this opinion as serial “Twit” actor Ashton Kutcher has gained over a staggering 3.5 million “followers” since joining. (I believe the reason the former Punk’d star became so popular was because he infamously added a “Twit Pic” of his wife Demi Moore in her underwear!)
From a bit of light-hearted entertainment to an outright fixation, cue Miley Cyrus. No stranger to controversy, Cyrus has been the centre of tween debates across America and the UK ever since she posed topless last year at age 15 for renowned photographer Annie Leibovitz.
Not so smiley
Until recently the teen sensation had gained over 2 million followers in one short year eventually ending in her feeling the need to delete her account due to the pressure she felt to keep her fans updated twenty-four-seven. So we are already starting to see two sides of Twitter, the light hearted funny side and the dark and potentially damaging one.
With MTV’s Teen Choice Awards handing out a prize for Teen Choice Twit, it’s no wonder that teenagers can’t help but become sucked into the viral fad. There’s a fine line between curiosity and obsession, but where does it lie?
In a world where celebrity culture defines what we watch on TV, what we read in magazines and even what we wear, it’s not surprising that soon they’ll influence the way we think and act.
Perhaps this is something that Miley Cyrus realised and she couldn’t cope with the burden of influencing so many young minds across the world.
Following my theory that celebrities influence us hugely, it’s not hard to imagine that there might be more than a few impersonators on Twitter. Yet entering a fantasy world where you’re a superstar and people care about what you say could be dangerous.
While I was on my placement year at Public Eye, a similar situation presented itself. One of our high-profile clients found someone impersonating them on Twitter. Within Twitter’s Rules and Policies, it states that parody is accepted, but pretend to be your favourite celeb and you’re looking at a permanent suspension.
So how did I manage to get Twitter’s attention and let them know they were hosting a fake? Though it took a good two weeks to get an initial reaction, I was pleasantly surprised with their response from then on. Two days later the fake account had been taken down.
What I couldn’t quite believe in the first place was just how easy it is to actually set up a fake account and gain followers. All you need is a few pictures of your chosen celebrity, knowledge of their latest movie or tour and away you go!
I can’t help but wonder though, with it being so easy to trick unsuspecting fans, will Twitter suffer a backlash? How long will it take before Twitter becomes so full of fakes that we can’t distinguish between the genuine and the phoney?
With social media developing every year and the competition between sites becoming fiercer by the day, how do we know Twitter isn’t just a passing phase? On one side of the argument, celebrity users pretty much endorse the website simply by having a presence (or even by leaving). On the other hand, with their stereotypical temper tantrums and need to be associated with “what’s hot”, it might only take a few more high profile names announcing they’re leaving for Twitter to suffer another media circus and ultimately a backlash. So which will it be?
It’s just the start
Personally I believe this is just the start for Twitter and that it has longevity. From US President Barack Obama tweeting about the health reform debate to Transport for London letting travellers know about planned engineering works, this is one the most versatile communication platforms to date. Anyone and everyone can use it and in this current economic climate, it’s the perfect tool for marketing, communication and promotion as well as interacting. The possibilities are endless.
To re-tweet this piece in fewer than 140 characters:
I tweet because of the celebs; even a departure brings Twitter more attention. Despite the dark side it’s the future of online communication. Better get used to it.