trick or tweet

So­cial me­dia show up stars rather than show­case them at their best.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - ENVIRONMENT - HAU BOON LAI

IT’S be­com­ing clear that celebri­ties’ use of so­cial me­dia has be­come a dou­ble-edged sword. While their spon­tane­ity and abil­ity to com­mu­ni­cate di­rectly with their fans have thrilled, the im­me­di­acy of the lat­est tool Twit­ter has re­sulted in sev­eral mis­fires that have brought them noth­ing but trou­ble. Rapper 50 Cent was re­cently de­nounced by ac­tivists, twice, for tweets that were re­garded as anti­gay, one about vi­o­lence against gays and the sec­ond, a sug­ges­tion that men who don’t sleep with women should kill them­selves. The singer has de­nied that he was mak­ing anti-gay state­ments and stated that it was a case of his jokes be­ing taken out of con­text, but it is clear that the tweets have not gained him any new fans and might even have lost him some old ones. As they are able to tweet from their mo­bile phones, celebri­ties of­ten by­pass their pub­lic re­la­tions ad­vis­ers when post­ing their mes­sages, and therein lies much of the prob­lem. Be­fore Twit­ter, celebri­ties have com­mu­ni­cated with their fans through a screen of pub­lic re­la­tions ad­vis­ers, and for good rea­son. Many are clue­less about what they should and shouldn’t say to their fans, and of­ten sur­prise and shock when they are too fast and loose with their prej­u­dices or ig­no­rance. The in­flated egos of many celebri­ties mean they have a ten­dency to re­act badly to crit­i­cism, whether they are from ri­vals or from fans. Their ver­bal wars with other celebri­ties and even fans of­ten sound spite­ful and some­times even child­ish. And in the heat of the moment, it is all too easy for celebri­ties to say things they do not mean, have no idea are of­fen­sive, or have not thought through yet. Take triple Olympic Gold medal­list Stephanie Rice for in­stance. The Aus­tralian swim­mer had tweeted her joy at her boyfriend’s rugby team’s hard-fought win over the South Africans, call­ing the losers “fag­gots”, a pe­jo­ra­tive word for gays, and im­me­di­ately get­ting flak for it. In re­ac­tion, Jaguar ter­mi­nated its re­la­tion­ship with the sports celebrity and took back the car it had pro­vided her un­der a spon­sor­ship agree­ment. Tween queen Mi­ley Cyrus said that she shut down her Twit­ter ac­count last year af­ter she re­ceived streams of hate mail over her sup­port for gay mar­riages, in re­ply to an in­ter­viewer’s ques­tion. To crit­ics, how­ever, it was clear that she had done so in re­sponse to her bat­tles with blog­gers over neg­a­tive com­ments about the then 16-year- old’s love life. Be­ing a tar­get of crit­i­cism prob­a­bly played an im­por­tant part in mu­si­cian John Mayer’s re­cent de­ci­sion to can­cel his Twit­ter ac­count, on which he had over three mil­lion fol­low­ers. While he at­trib­uted it to the lack of any “last­ing art” cre­ated by those who posted on Twit­ter, it is surely no ac­ci­dent that the reg­u­lar tweeter had been con­stantly cas­ti­gated by fans for kiss­ing and telling about the many celebrity girl­friends he has dated over the past years. Many are still sore at ac­tress Amanda Byrnes over her “I’ve re­tired” from act­ing one month and “I’ve un­re­tired” tweet the next ear­lier this year. The tra­di­tional me­dia are dis­turbed that Byrnes had by­passed them in mak­ing her an­nounce­ments while some fans are not pleased that she was so flip­pant about her re­tire­ment. At the young age of then-24, Byrnes, the star of such teen hits as She’s The Man, was al­ready a mul­ti­mil­lion­aire and able to re­tire from work at any time, so her ac­tions were seen as boast­ful to some and thought­less to those who don’t have a choice but to work their whole lives. Singer Chris Brown thought he was funny when he tweeted that a male pho­tog­ra­pher “looked like” talk show host Wendy Wil­liams, who was not amused. Brown then tweeted that it was a joke, which raises ques­tions about his crude sense of hu­mour, but the al­ter­na­tive is that he was be­ing im­po­lite. Ei­ther way, it does not place him in a good light. Even though Hong Kong ac­tor Jackie Chan did not tweet spon­ta­neously, he still got into trou­ble with his fans. The ac­tion star came un­der heavy fire for his post ex­press­ing un­der­stand­ing of the Philip­pine po­lice’s ac­tions dur­ing the re­cent hostage tak­ing in­ci­dent in Manila in Au­gust that led to the deaths of eight Hong Kong tourists. Chan had to is­sue an apol­ogy to en­raged Hong Kong fans who be­rated him for dis­loy­alty to his own peo­ple. He ex­plained that he had wanted to em­pha­size that he didn’t hate the Philip­pines for the tragedy but that this fo­cus was lost af­ter his com­ments were trans­lated and posted through his Amer­i­can as­sis­tant. And even when they are say­ing the right things, the sus­pi­cion is that this could be or­ches­trated and that these celebri­ties are re­ceiv­ing in­struc­tions from their PR ad­vis­ers on what to tweet. In other words, it’s like celebri­ties can do no right when it comes to Twit­ter. Fans, how­ever, are lap­ping up all the tweets with great in­ter­est, and not just the con­tro­ver­sial ones. There are more than 10 mil­lion fol­low­ers of singer Lady Gaga’s some­times heart­felt posts on Twit­ter. Brit­ney Spears’ gush­ing tweets dur­ing the film­ing of her ap­pear­ance as a guest star on the mu­si­cal drama Glee was a hit with many of her six mil­lion fol­low­ers and Gleeks, and were widely re­ported in the main­stream press. In fact, the tra­di­tional me­dia has be­gun to treat Twit­ter and its 140word-limit post­ings as yet an­other av­enue for news. The so­cial me­dia tool was cre­ated in 2006 and gained pop­u­lar­ity only two years ago, but peo­ple have taken to it like fish to wa­ter and it is like tweets have al­ways been a fact of life. Celebri­ties will con­tinue to tweet be­cause it of­fers them un­prece­dented ac­cess to their fans and a chan­nel to com­mu­ni­cate di­rectly with them. Among the more cyn­i­cal, con­tro­ver­sial tweets are yet an­other way for celebri­ties to grab the head­lines. What­ever the mo­ti­va­tion, fans are set to be pro­vided with yet greater tricks and treats from celebrity tweets. n In this col­umn, writer Hau Boon Lai pon­ders the lives, loves and lib­er­ties of celebri­ties.

Faith­ful fol­low­ing: There are more than 10 mil­lion fol­low­ers of Lady Gaga’s some­times heart­felt posts on Twit­ter.

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