Monday, November 14, 2011

Academic analysis: I tweet honestly, I tweet passionately

I recently read a study on how Twitter users imagine their audience and how they adjust communication from face-to-face conversation to imagined audiences online. Some users say they tweet for their friends, family, and their fans. Some say they tweet just for themselves, using Twitter as kind of a "live diary" of sorts. These types of Twitter users dislike the notion of having an audience, the study found, because it's not authentic to who they are. The study also finds that "ideal audience" is often a mirror-image of yourself. This creates the concept of the "micro-celebrity" which I find so interesting and so accurate from my time spent on Twitter.

People with absolutely no "traditional" fame can become "Twitter famous" through various means, whether its posting inspiring quotes or being the biggest fan of a celebrity. These people gain over 50k followers for no discernible reason. I think this can change and warp the way we look at celebrities as a whole and blur the lines between "normal" people and the more famous people we put on a pedestal. This can also have an adverse effect for journalists who are not supposed to respond to or interact with comments made on their news articles. With Twitter, people can come at you via your account and try to discuss the article with you, which goes against what I was taught at The Lantern. We're taught to never engage with our audience, but Twitter is starting to change that notion.

This is one of the reasons why The Lantern doesn't put its staff members' Twitter handles underneath our bylines because there have been issues with this before. This is an issue pressing all writers across the world. "New media has changed the broadcast model of the audience, decentralizing media production and distribution." And social media is changing it even further. The implication this could have on society is astounding, because it warps a lot of what we already think we know about audience management. We often think of audiences as being in the shadow, not being able to reach out and communicate with us. Social media has effected that permanently. More and more celebrities, reporters, and politicians are feeling the backlash of being too candid with their Twitter accounts because their audience is right there.

Social media isn't going anywhere, so users will have to adjust and figure how to relate to their audience and navigate the waters of the Twitterverse more carefully.

Marwick, E., Alice, Boyd, Danah. (2010). I tweet honestly, I tweet passionately: Twitter users, context collapse, and the imagined audience. New Media Society,13(114), 19. doi: 10.1177/146144481036531 Retrieved from


  1. When you mention 'Twitter Famous' in your response,it immediately made me think of YouTube celebrities. For me, I think it's basically the same thing, only on YouTube, your 'followers' can actually see your face and you stalk you easier. But that aside, I think it's a little crazy that you can become famous for something that you said in a 140 characters (or maybe 280 characters if you're really feeling adventurous). Obviously, one tweet isn't going to launch you into the heaven that is fame, but I have a real issue with the idea that you can become attached to something you can't see. Maybe I'm just nitpicky, but I just don't get it. Then again though, I believe Twitter is the lazy person's Facebook. No matter though, they both have the ability to suck you into the never-ending abyss called SNSs.

  2. I think the point you and the article made about tweeting to a specific audience is very true, and I also think it establishes the different uses of twitter and social media in general. Celebrities may be writing to a large group of fans and trying to promote themselves in a positive light or be entertaining, but a student might just be tweeting to friends about their day to day lives.

    As for opening communication between journalists and the audience I think there are positives along with the negatives. I worked on The Lantern as well and this new open communication could create more opportunity for conflict, but I think involving the audience in the news can be a good way of hearing more than one author or one paper’s take on a subject.

  3. I started out as a skeptic of twitter because I thought it was a generic version of Facebook. I joined twitter myself a couple years ago and now, I like it better than Facebook. It is more interesting to read what celebrities, political figures, journalists, and other people across the globe are saying rather than what my friends are doing with their daily lives (typically they are doing the same things that I am doing). I also follow a couple people on twitter that you have become what you called “Twitter Famous.” Good for them. Though I am not sure I will ever see them on television, they entertain me and I am glad that Twitter introduced me to them.

  4. This is a very interesting post. I really like how you brought up the idea of the audience being interactive now. I never thought about the differences in new news media and old news media before. It’s weird for us to think about not being able to comment on a news video or an article online because that has become the norm. With newspaper and TV news shows, there is no immediate feedback from the audience. It would be a lot scarier as a reporter to write a story and know that as soon as its up there, people are going to be posting comments about what they think. Things are changing. Good post.
    -Kevin Fry

  5. I liked this post a lot as a person who of courses own a twitter account and also most of my friends own a twitter account. What i found most interesting is the issue that people are always mindful of what they are tweeting. This again reminds me of the uses and gratification theory that we all do things for different reason and different audiences. Social networking sites and things posted are shared with so many people however i feel that social networking sites should promote the privacy settings they have in place in order for people to as you say "tweet passionately, and tweet freely"