Social Media is the Anti-Hero in the Story of Fandoms

            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.

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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”.

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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?

The Social Implications of Going “Facebook Official”

Ever since the dawn of social media, it seems that society is more keen to share with the general public everything about their lives – from where they just grabbed a delicious barbeque sandwich to pictures from their high school graduation, a whole smorgasbord of personal information floods Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Tumblr, etc. But why is sharing all of that information so important? Why do we have to notify our friends every move we make? Is it because it all boils down to everyone simply seeking approval?

Relationship statuses on your favorite social media site are important (depending on the sort of user you are). If you were mostly engaged in social activities for the sake of spreading word about how your life is going to friends and family, it would be important to share details of your engagement and eventually marriage. If you’re lying about your identity, however, lying about your marriage is key. Either way, as TIME online discussed in its 2009 article Your Facebook Relationship Status: It’s Complicated by Claire Suddath begged the question – is your relationship status official only when someone makes the change on Facebook?

To some, keeping friends and family attune to your personal life involves your relationship status so why not update them on the gruesome details like when you switch from engaged to single? Others would argue that it isn’t so binding – fake marriages and engagements are rampant among teenagers who are more commitment –phobes than ready to admit to anything official.

Without warning, Facebook made it easier for those in the dating world to gauge their relationship. Holding off on changing your status to “in a relationship” from “single” can hurt the partner to the point that they wouldn’t like to have any semblance of a relationship. Jumping the gun, meanwhile, can also lead a person to break it off simply because they weren’t ready for anything serious.

How “serious” can an online relationship status be when so many people joke about being married to “Batman” or “Christopher Walken”? Or is it possible to be tricked into thinking your crush is single simply based on his relationship status on the internet? According to Adam Hyde et. al, collaboration online has also led things like the loaded term “friendship” on social media sites which “cost[s] us richness of our social life” (Social Media Reader pg. 59). Something as delicate as an intimate relationship, then, can be hampered by technology: “…there is no way for software to elegantly map the true dynamic nuances of social life” (pg. 59).

Going “official” can mean a plethora of things to various people and can make or break a relationship. Back in high school, I asked my (now ex-) boyfriend not to post anything about us getting back together after months of being separated. My friends and family would be enraged that I’d taken him back. I remember him joking that that meant we weren’t official – not sharing it online was the equivalent to not having a public relationship in society to him. And – he was right. I was trying to hide the relationship not only online but in real life too.

What does Facebook official mean and why is it so important compared to your relationship status in physical society?

For fun, here’s a video to illustrate the absturdity behind going “Facebook official”: