Monday, September 14, 2009

How did we ever watch the VMAs without tweeting?

Before Twitter’s 140-character update tools, we had to watch the VMAs and comment and converse with the people sitting next to us, or the people we were “friends” with on Facebook—people who we actually knew.

Last night was different, of course. As mentioned by MTV News during their post-VMA report, over one million people with anonymous Twitter accounts “tweeted” about the VMAs: the drama, the performances, the winners. That is a lot of people, but, “so”?

Twitter is talked about in the news more than ever these days, and it is mainly due to the famous people who are using it. Anyone can follow celebrities on Twitter. You don’t even need a Twitter account to see what they’re “tweeting”. This is better than any tabloid, this is an instant connection to the stars. It is also deemed by the public to be truly published material, with Twitter-verified celebrity accounts and tweets such as “I’m about to go on stage”.

Yes, sometimes Twitter is used to talk about a tour or an album release, but these actors, singers, athletes, and reality stars are people, too. They can tweet without being professional about it. So, when the millions of anonymous Twitter users started flooding Twitter with their instant opinion about the surprise encounter on stage between Kanye and Taylor Swift, I waited to watch for the opinions of those in the industry, those who are fortunate to be on the stage, or in the immediate audience, just as I did during the MTV Music Awards in January—which was the same day that I discovered Twitter.

This is not post-published rumors complete with bad photos and speculation. This is live TV paired up with instant, true, opinionated posts from the people themselves.

I was drawn to Twitter by this aspect, actually. I was curious to see what celebrities, in their chaotic and famous lives, had to tweet about, perhaps hoping to see even more into their everyday lives. What people often fail to miss is that these celebrity Twitter pages are being followed by millions of people. I am not their “friend”, only a “follower”. Herein lies the difference between Twitter and Facebook. Anonymity has always been a great aspect of the Internet, but most people prefer actually knowing their “followers”. That is why Facebook has done so well.

However, Twitter for celebrities is “brilliant” as Lily Allen would put it. Lily Allen would know. She tweets more than she could ever sing, and she stirs things up by fighting off nay-sayers daily. In the same boat is Katy Perry who tweeted, “F*** U, Kanye. It’s like u stepped on a kitten” as a direct response to the way Kanye stole Taylor’s award moment at the VMAs. I’m not surprised, as most of Allen’s and Perry’s tweets that I read are yelling at or about another person.

Celebrities never liked tabloids, so now they have a direct connection to fans and can say whatever they want. Is it better? I’d think agents would put some sort of censorship on it, as many of these tweets could become terrible P.R. moves, in my opinion. Defending yourself and entitlement to your opinion is one thing, but when a few tweets stain your entire public image, that is another.

Following the famous is fun but the instant “drama” gets somewhat exasperating. What was our life like before famous people could tweet? Are we just now realizing that they are not more than human, with fingers to type and tweet, and shame themselves?

Most people use Facebook and, according to Tuesday’s USA Today, Twitter is very annoying to a good size of the population. It must not be a coincidence that the word “twit” became a popular British slang word in the 1950’s and 60’s, meaning “foolish, stupid, and ineffectual person.”

I can see where Twitter got its strange name. It is appropriate. I can also see why “normal” people with Twitters may feel inferior to the celebs with a million followers, but it doesn’t stop them from tweeting about the most mundane events such as “loving [a] chocolate mocha”. I hardly use my Twitter. If I do, it is to read the tweets of my friends and, when curious, the celebrities. I usually have more to say than 140 words allow, anyway.

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