Grab the Imodium, And Get Ready to Roll With America's 'Tweethearts'
If you want to make yourself just a little queasy, have I got the read for you: it's Vanity Fair's ode to "America's Tweethearts," six women who, if the picture of them is any guide, tweet while wearing only tightly-belted trench coats and high heels.
There's some sort of fantasy (or as Vanity Fair might call it, Tweet-esy) there, but as this is a family social media column, I won't go there. What I will say is that the picture and accompanying story is just the sort of breathless depiction of Twitter as a vapid cultural wasteland that makes it such a turn-off for reasonable people who might otherwise get a lot out of it. This strikes me as particularly misguided right now, when social media is helping us get a feel for the size and scope of the tragic earthquake in Haiti, and spreading the word about donations; and, on a lesser note, is serving as a place to rally support for beleaguered "Tonight Show" host Conan O'Brien.
Here are some of the story's cringe-worthy excerpts, starting with the story's subhead:
"By endlessly typing 140-character messages, Stefanie Michaels, Amy Jo Martin, Felicia Day, and others have gained millions of Twitter followers. It's a new kind of fame - twilebrity - with its own rules, risks, and pecking order.
"Twilebrities are people -- 'tweeple,' in twitspeak -- who spend their days typing 140-character messages into a digital rumpus room of about 55 million monthly users.
"For tweeple, e-mail messages are sonnets, Facebook is practically Tolstoy.
"According to a study of 1.5 million tweets, released this year by Oxford University Press, the words 'cool,' 'awesome,' 'wow,' and 'yay' are among the most common on Twitter -- and it's a safe guess that most twilebrities use them as freely as Laguna High freshmen.
"Those of us who still read are hoping this is a jump-the-shark moment -- could this be the Internet's version of reality TV?"
I could go on, but you don't want me to, do you? Good, neither do I.
I should take a moment to admit that we all know this side of Twitter exists. But stories such as this paint Twitter as hopelessly trendy, not something that serious people should bother themselves with. Using the shorthand that clichés provide, the story's author, Vanessa Grigoriadis, describes the husband of one "twilebrity" as "a real-estate appraiser with horn-rims and a crew cut." In other words, he's the smart one, while his silly wife sits and tweets at the dinner table.
Get it? Twitter is merely a pathway to celebrity. Nothing else to see here, move on.
While I'm on this rant, another thought comes to mind: that the subtext of stories like this is the threat that traditional media sees in social media. Why else would someone write the phrase, "Those of us who still read ...", as though hinting that tweeting makes people illiterate? The very thought that America's Tweethearts could get the followers they do without the need of say, Vanity Fair, or any other channel controlled by traditional media,is in and of itself threatening.
No, this Twitter thing can't be real, can it? Not a chance, so don't bother yourself with it. Go read a book. And make sure it's not on a Kindle.