Social media is the reason fandoms are alive and thriving in a world that may have completely forgotten about them. Snail mail and newsletters just were not up to snuff with the rest of society, which had switched gears to a faster way of communicating. People not only couldn’t leave the house without their cell phones but e-mail engaged the thoughts of the entire world, becoming a popular medium for individuals, businesses, and institutions but also for fandoms. Technology and Web 2.0 saved fandoms from extinction and, according to Jon Accarrino in his article “How Social Media Revolutionized ‘Fandom’ Forever”, “Social media has changed fandom forever”.
But with the shift of celebrities going from just a celebrity to becoming their own “community manager”, fandoms can be a little trickier to maintain and control. Being a celebrity in this new digital age has its benefits and repercussions.
In class, we talked about how celebrities on various social media platforms can be trampled over simply for tweeting about their opinion on a film they were or were not a part of or because their fans suddenly realized just how anti-feminist their writing was for a massively popular science fiction series like Doctor Who. Steven Moffat, Doctor Who’s new show runner and an acclaimed screenwriter underwent some flack from fans who appreciated his work but didn’t appreciate the way he wrote his female characters. Instead of taking stock in his fans comments, however, Moffat retaliated with arguments that backfired in the only way digital communication could – he didn’t mean to say this-or-that that way. After fans challenged him to more and more debates, eventually, Moffat closed his Twitter account completely.
What can one learn from this? Can you blame social media on the demise of the reputation of one celebrity? Or do you blame the fans for sticking out their necks and proclaiming their opinions simply because their faces and voices couldn’t be heard, just read? In class, we’ve also discussed how people find it easier to blast others with heir opinions and start fights online than it is to speak about issues in real life. But, even if social media gives fans a way to communicate easier and others the ability to share their opinions safely, how safe is it for celebrities? Minorities?
Social media utilized by a celebrity can go an alternative way: a representative employed by the celebrity acts as the head of the communication online. For example, when actor Dominic Monaghan first came on to the Twitter-sphere, a personal assistant or publicist was the first to tweet a message about how she/he would tweet regularly about Monaghan’s life and career. If Monaghan had time to tweet himself, he would end the tweet with his initials “DM”.
While I don’t see any fault in this manner of using Twitter both for fans and to establish a presence online to publicize a celebrity, I can see why many fans might disagree with the method. Fans, now satisfied by real tweets from celebrities such as Lady Gaga and Kim Kardashian, were longing for the same relationship with a popular actor such as LOST star, Dominic Monaghan. In their eyes, if a personal assistant was the middleman, there was no relationship at all.
Do you agree with the fans? Would you feel cheated out of a fandom if a celebrity never tweeted what he/she would actually say? Are social media platforms appropriate for fandoms where people’s love and attention can be flipped at the tweet of an opposing opinion? I say onward with web 2.0 in fandom communities! Just like Accarrino said, “Mass communication with a niche community, or even the entire planet, is now direct, easy and instant” making my daily dose of news about my favorite celebrities faster and easier. Who wouldn’t want that?