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