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Posted at 11:32 AM ET, 04/27/2009

Are Celebrities Ruining Twitter?

By Liz Kelly

Oprah's Twitter feed. (Screengrab by Liz Kelly for washingtonpost.com)

It's early on a Monday morning East coast time, but like any jeans-wearing idiot busy contributing to the downfall of western civilization, I'm checking out the Twitter scene. Already I've tweeted an utterly unimportant bit of news about my cats and done a circuit of some celeb twitterers -- Kal Penn (he's not around yet), MC Hammer (he's posting pix) and Sarah Silverman (who posted a pic of her evening snack with the message "Goodnight, Strangers" about eight hours ago.)

This morning, though, I'm curious to check in with Twitterer-come-lately Oprah Winfrey, who with much pomp launched her own feed a little over a week ago. She doesn't seem to have stirred since Friday when she last announced to her 635,949 followers "no i'm not wearing a weave." (She didn't say anything about a wig, though. Think about it.)

What, if anything, does it mean that Oprah has followed Hugh Jackman, Demi Moore, CNN and even the fossilized Larry King down the Twitter hole? Are celebrities ruining the upstart social media site or giving us unprecedented access into their lives (assuming we really care about Oprah's non-weave or Sarah Silverman's yogurt)? And what message is CNN sending when it uses Breaking News e-mail alerts to both warn the public about a possible Swine Flu epidemic and the fact that Ashton Kutcher beat the news network in a race to one million Twitter followers?

Some posit it means, on the most superficial level, that Twitter has jumped the shark. Especially when many celeb Tweets have been outed as the work of ghostwriters and some have made their pages the go to place to air dirty laundry (Lindsay Lohan, I'm looking at you). But, as Deanna Zandt points out in a piece on Alternet, no one is being forced to follow Oprah or the rest of the celebs suddenly crowding their way into the Twitter-sphere and that the site's best use is still as a facilitator of conversation for social networkers.

But is the average person's Twitter feed possessed of a gravitas or meaning unattainable by celebrities? Would George Will approve? Doubtful. More than likely we're all just Twittering into the cacophony of an increasingly absurd world. The fact that Peggy Noonan is now apparently following my feed only magnifies that absurdity.

My favorite Twitter feeds come not from celebrities or even friends I'm hoping to keep up with, but from anonymous wits who have managed to use the platform to create something new, and usually funny. F'rinstance, this feed, pointed out to me by sometime Celebritology contributor Mike Corones. Oh, and of course, Gene Weingarten's endearingly banal missives. (Hmm, maybe that last one counts as a celebrity.)

Which celebs, if any, do you follow on Twitter? And, if you don't mind giving me a little insight, why? Or why not?

p.s. You can find my Twitter feed here.

By Liz Kelly  | April 27, 2009; 11:32 AM ET
Categories:  Celebrities  
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Comments

I'm not on twitter. I'm not on facebook. I do not have a blog. I cannot figure out who has time for these things during any given day.

Then again, I do not own a portable electronic communication device that patches into the 3G network either, mostly because I'm cheap.

So, I'm waiting for the first Cabinet or Surpreme Court nominee to go before the Senate Committee to face the chairman, who says, "So, I've been reading with great interest your Twitter messages over the past few years and I have some questions..."

Posted by: mdreader01 | April 27, 2009 11:55 AM | Report abuse

tried twitter, the last time i tweeted, it took 3 hours to post my tweet to my facebook page, by which time, the tweet made absolutely no sense.

fonzi on skis? possibly.

i don't follow anybody on twitter... not that interested in who has a waxy yellow buildup on their kitchen floor.

Posted by: memphis1 | April 27, 2009 12:20 PM | Report abuse

I don't tweet. I have other things to do besides update people all the time on what I am doing. I'm doing, not talking about the doing. Plus, it's tough to be consistently witty in a limited number of characters.

I barely remember to update my facebook and myspace (for my law practice only) page.

Posted by: epjd | April 27, 2009 12:30 PM | Report abuse

Okay, I'm an Internet consultant. And I don't Twitter.

This does not mean I don't see the value for certain businesses. For example, restaurants are using it now, which makes sense. People can subscribe to a favorite restaurant's feed, which can be updated to note specials, opened tables from last minute cancellations, stuff like that. If you are in the neighborhood and it pops up on your cellphone, then you can go over. You get service, they get a customer, everyone wins. Good sense.

But otherwise - don't understand the *need* for Twitter. I do get why celebrities have feeds though - most people in the spotlight are narcissists at some level, so of course they are going to embrace a technology that enhances their cult of personality.

I admit to having a Facebook page, but I've blocked the extraneous apps and use the "Facebook Purity" script so I don't have to see anybody else's quiz and app results. I just have the page because my friends back east post all their kids' pictures there - nobody e-mails them anymore, or I get one photo at Christmas.

Posted by: Chasmosaur1 | April 27, 2009 12:35 PM | Report abuse

Twit: The noun meaning "foolish, stupid and ineffectual person" is first attested 1934 in British slang, popular 1950s-60s, crossed over to U.S. with British sitcoms. It probably developed from the verb sense of "reproach" but may be influenced by nitwit. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/twit

'Nuff said...

Posted by: kabuki3 | April 27, 2009 12:37 PM | Report abuse

Wait chas, you say you can avoid those horrible Christmas pics & letters by just getting a Facebook page?

I may have to rethink my "no Facebook/MySpace/Twitter EVAR!" stance.

I don't need updates on the minutae of Oprah's everyday life, or anyone elses for that matter.

I post on a few message boards for various things & that's enough for me.

Posted by: wadejg | April 27, 2009 12:44 PM | Report abuse

I don't twitter, or follow anyone on twitter. I barely facebook- and I just have enough time to do "Celebritology". Plus, really, my life is NOT that interesting that anyone would want to know what is going on.

Posted by: Guest1234 | April 27, 2009 12:47 PM | Report abuse

Plus, really, my life is NOT that interesting that anyone would want to know what is going on.

Posted by: Guest1234 | April 27, 2009 12:47 PM | Report abuse

Yet so many people do the same on their cell phones...


Posted by: jezebel3 | April 27, 2009 12:52 PM | Report abuse

"I'm not on twitter. I'm not on facebook. I do not have a blog. I cannot figure out who has time for these things during any given day."

But yet I have time to read Celebritology and post comments. LOL

Posted by: jkblodge1 | April 27, 2009 12:52 PM | Report abuse

Being witty in a limited number of characters is one thing, finding people who care enough to subscribe is another.

At least with Facebook, you can put a photo with the name (as I have done with at least three of you hilarious people). And it's all I can do to keep my page updated. But even then I am subject to the postings of old college friends, all of which I am too lazy to have to regulate individually. Thus I get, from one person:

"I am taking my child to the beach."
"We are arriving at the beach now."
"My daughter has to go to the potty first."
"Daughter just picked up a jellyfish"
"Daughter says OW Mommy!"
"Daughter wants to bring the beach home."
"Daughter is SO CUTE!"

Followed by 8,000 photos. I mean, the kid is cute, but ENOUGH.

Unless your Twitter post begins with, "I just cured cancer," "Free Utz Chips, Delivered" or "Penelope Cruz is in front of your house" I'm not interested.

Posted by: td_in_baltimore | April 27, 2009 1:01 PM | Report abuse

"I'm not on twitter. I'm not on facebook. I do not have a blog. I cannot figure out who has time for these things during any given day."

But yet I have time to read Celebritology and post comments. LOL

Posted by: jkblodge1 | April 27, 2009 12:52 PM | Report abuse

Celebritology is safe, taken as directed, and is not habit forming. Nine out of ten doctors recommend Celebritology to put a little Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah in your stimulus package.

Posted by: jezebel3 | April 27, 2009 1:07 PM | Report abuse

wadejg:

I don't know that you can avoid the Christmas pics and letters - the people who send the really horrible ones will always do so ;)

But, for example, I have a friend with a 4 kids (a little girl and triplets!). She and her husband both have pretty busy careers - between professional lives and personal lives, all they have time to send out at Christmas is a Shutterfly strip with a pic of the kids.

Now I can actually see more than the one chosen shot and see what silly things the kids are up to, since I don't see them on a regular basis anymore. (For example, a recent trip to the Cherry Blossoms resulted in complete strangers constantly walking up to their little family and asking to have their picture taken with the triplets - the progression of pictures was hysterical.)

As long as you understand you don't have to put your whole life on Facebook, that actual friends will understand if you hit the "Ignore" button on lots of app requests, and using Firefox in combination with the Greasemonkey FB Purity script will keep the annoying posts to a minimum, FB can be a nice way to keep in touch with friends you don't see daily.

Posted by: Chasmosaur1 | April 27, 2009 1:10 PM | Report abuse

wadejg:

I don't know that you can avoid the Christmas pics and letters - the people who send the really horrible ones will always do so ;)

But, for example, I have a friend with a 4 kids (a little girl and triplets!). She and her husband both have pretty busy careers - between professional lives and personal lives, all they have time to send out at Christmas is a Shutterfly strip with a pic of the kids.

Now I can actually see more than the one chosen shot and see what silly things the kids are up to, since I don't see them on a regular basis anymore. (For example, a recent trip to the Cherry Blossoms resulted in complete strangers constantly walking up to their little family and asking to have their picture taken with the triplets - the progression of pictures was hysterical.)

As long as you understand you don't have to put your whole life on Facebook, that actual friends will understand if you hit the "Ignore" button on lots of app requests, and using Firefox in combination with the Greasemonkey FB Purity script will keep the annoying posts to a minimum, FB can be a nice way to keep in touch with friends you don't see daily.

Posted by: Chasmosaur1 | April 27, 2009 1:10 PM | Report abuse

Hw do I avoid the above long winded, annoying post?

Posted by: jezebel3 | April 27, 2009 1:15 PM | Report abuse

Jeez....what's with all the surliness today? Did everybody's weekend suck?

Carm down, people! Don't need no BKD here!

Posted by: memphis1 | April 27, 2009 1:22 PM | Report abuse

Last Friday's episode of Talk Soup had a funny montage of all the celebs saying twitter and tweet in just the past week.

Posted by: buffysummers | April 27, 2009 1:23 PM | Report abuse

jez:

Don't read it.

Posted by: Chasmosaur1 | April 27, 2009 1:26 PM | Report abuse

No twitter here either. I don't follow anyone nor do I have one myself. I have a facebook page largely because a bunch of my extended family and friends I don't get to see as much anymore have them. It's fun and you can do as much or as little as you choose. Which is why I like it. My husband, who is in the tech field, has none of these things.

Posted by: Vienna8425 | April 27, 2009 1:30 PM | Report abuse

jez:

Don't read it.

Posted by: Chasmosaur1 | April 27, 2009 1:26 PM | Report abuse

Red flag warning alerts at the beginning of your yawner posts would be greatly appreciated.

Posted by: jezebel3 | April 27, 2009 1:31 PM | Report abuse

And jez, "zzzzzzzz" at the beginning and end of your posts would help the rest of us.

Posted by: td_in_baltimore | April 27, 2009 1:34 PM | Report abuse

And jez, "zzzzzzzz" at the beginning and end of your posts would help the rest of us.

Posted by: td_in_baltimore | April 27, 2009 1:34 PM | Report abuse

ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ
Good writing tip. I'll combine the zzzzzzzs with the Obama family farts thread.
ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ

Posted by: jezebel3 | April 27, 2009 1:40 PM | Report abuse

Liz, Thanks for the link to the MisFortune Cookie Twitter site. I think that an appropriate use has finally been found for Twitter.

Does anyone Twitter on the $**tter?

Posted by: sasquatchbigfoot | April 27, 2009 1:40 PM | Report abuse

The very terms themselves, twitter and tweet, are so affected, precious and sissified.

Posted by: trwv | April 27, 2009 1:45 PM | Report abuse

I don't think Twitter has jumped the shark as much as Humanity has jumped the shark, and I mean that in all seriousness. I think it's REALLY telling that more public figures (politicians and celebs) use twitter than average joes (and joettes.) It seems MOST people recognize Twitter for the deluge of banal TMI that it is, unless you happen to outsource your decision making to a PR department. (Exhibit A: I have a friend whose employers is struggling in the current economy. His boss has been telling all employees to get on Twitter without explaining how it's going to help them, but Everybody Is Doing It, so it must be a good idea.)

I totally second your thought Liz, the best uses of Twitter so far are the random, creative ones like the fortune cookie feed and the Christopher Walkin feed (even though it turned out to not be C.Walkin himself, the posts have been brilliant.)

Posted by: ishkabibbleA | April 27, 2009 2:12 PM | Report abuse

The only twits I know about are those who represent my district in government. I think it is cool that celebs are reaching out to twit with the common person. Gives warm fuzzies who pay $10 each or more to go see the celeb in a movie.

In all honesty, you can have your own private Twitterville. My life just is not that important and I don't ever want it to be.

Posted by: skramsv | April 27, 2009 2:13 PM | Report abuse

I have a Twitter account, but I almost never use it. I only follow 3 people I don't know - Rachel Maddow, Neil Gaiman and Stephen Fry.
I haven't logged onto Twitter in weeks because it's tedious and it would be a violation of my work policies to login to Twitter.
I do use Facebook all the time, I love being able to see what my friends are up to and keep finding people I haven't seen in years, but always wondered what they'd gotten up to since college.

Posted by: MadisonMama | April 27, 2009 2:13 PM | Report abuse

trwv, affected, precious, and sissified could be a good marketing strategy. Look at all the "Precious Moments" figurines that have been around like forever. Does anyone still buy that sh*t?

Posted by: reddragon1 | April 27, 2009 2:17 PM | Report abuse

red flag alert - red flag alert - red flag alert

Wow, am I bored by "I'm too cool to read this blog so I'm gonna kvetch about that for a while" comments.

Posted by: Chasmosaur1 | April 27, 2009 2:28 PM | Report abuse

I'm not on twitter. I'm not on facebook. I do not have a blog. I cannot figure out who has time for these things during any given day.

Posted by: mdreader01 | April 27, 2009 11:55 AM

***

I know what you mean. I got waaaay more blogging done back when I still had a job.

Posted by: byoolin1 | April 27, 2009 2:29 PM | Report abuse

wow, you guys really hate twitter! I think it's kind of fun, like facebook, but with just status updates and no stinkin' quizzes, etc. I follow Paul Feig because he's pretty funny, Wil Wheaton because he's nerdy and Stephen Fry because he's like Tom on Facebook. And because he's a genius with words. I don't follow celebs I'm a fan of. I don't really want too much more insight into their lives than I'm already getting. I just like to occasionally get a text message that makes me laugh.

Posted by: otherliz | April 27, 2009 2:31 PM | Report abuse

i'm kinda with ishka... i dont really want to know when my friends are taking a dump - so i really dont care when Oprah is doing it either.

What sense of self-possession have we come to when we think people must want to know about our nightly snack... (and how sad is it that anyone would...)

oh wait... i read GOOP dont i... nevermind

Posted by: quintiliusvarus | April 27, 2009 2:37 PM | Report abuse

I follow two celebs,Hugh Jackman who recently gave a donation to Charity Water, which is a charity I worked with and Martha Stewart. For updates on the others I come here.

Chasmosaur1 do tell about this Greasemonkey FB Purity code. Can it work on IE as well?

Posted by: petalceleb | April 27, 2009 2:38 PM | Report abuse

Facebook is great for finding old college friends. Nothing makes you feel better than finding out that the guy who dumped you when you were 19 did not age well.

Posted by: epjd | April 27, 2009 2:55 PM | Report abuse

I too am a holdout. I don't twitter, nor am I on facebook. I think it is good if we keep at least some of our thoughts private.

Although I like the commercial that says "right now such and such # of people are twittering" and then there are all those little birds, and then it goes on to say " and 26% of people watching this commercial have no idea what that means". If it weren't for this blog, I wouldn't know what it was either.

Posted by: hodie | April 27, 2009 2:57 PM | Report abuse

petalceleb (oh - jez, you'll be bored by this, probably, so just skip it):

Greasemonkey is a Firefox-exclusive add-on, so it won't work with IE (though there is some limited use in Opera)

https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/748

http://userscripts.org/about/installing

Greasemonkey allows you to download specialized scripts to customize page appearance for a lot of different sites (FB, YouTube, Orkut, etc). Recently it's gotten really popular for the Facebook controlling scripts it provides:

http://userscripts.org/

Posted by: Chasmosaur1 | April 27, 2009 2:58 PM | Report abuse

A lot of the celebs I follow are British Comedians (Mitch Benn, Eddie Izzard) or Authors (Neil Gaiman, Stephen Fry) and their comments are often an astute comment about the people around them or great for a smile.

For the most part the other twitter I follow are close family and friends and we usually just use it when we're bored.

Posted by: mcleve | April 27, 2009 3:16 PM | Report abuse

Liz, let's see if I can actually answer your question--I used to follow Ashton Kutcher, but with that whole CNN thing, he just tweeted TOO MUCH and I lost interest! Like you, I like to follow "anonymous wits who have managed to use the platform to create something new, and usually funny." A couple you might try:

Bizarrobama - example: "At Sunglass Hut w/Biden. Trying to tell him Oakley Blades are passé. He says they're 'tight.' This from the guy in Velcro Reeboks. O. My. G."

and

thesneeze - example: "I'm not saying Susan Boyle causes swine flu. I'm just saying nobody had swine flu, she sang on tv, people got swine flu."

Though they're not anonymous individuals, TheOnion and NationalLampoon are pretty funny too.

Posted by: anny11 | April 27, 2009 3:24 PM | Report abuse

One good thing about it, I can keep a "long distance" eye out on certain younger family members. I know that is kinda stalker-ish, but when you are afraid someone may be in trouble, it is a good tool. Also see: Facebook, Myspace.

Posted by: Osteph | April 27, 2009 3:32 PM | Report abuse

I don't twitter nor do I know anyone who does, and it so seems to me to be a faux sensation hyped by the media. It just sounds like a bunch of noise to me, so I am curious -- how do you find the clever posts as opposed to people writing about their sandwiches?

Posted by: msame | April 27, 2009 3:45 PM | Report abuse

Does anyone Twitter on the $**tter?

Posted by: sasquatchbigfoot | April 27, 2009 1:40 PM

****

One can always depend on the dependable and Pulitzer Prize-winning geneweingarten:


Went to the bathroom.
10:06 AM Aug 14th, 2008 from web


It's disturbing to know that when sitting on the toilet we are really sitting on two small plastic bumps under the seat, holding it up.
23 minutes ago from web

Posted by: byoolin1 | April 27, 2009 4:17 PM | Report abuse

Geez- I don't twitter so I don't follow any celebrity twits (hahaha). I have a FaceBook page (and I only have that because my west-coast cousin invited me onto her list to share pics of our kids). I barely get on Facebook because it takes forever to load and I'm usually dealing with my 2 squirmy little ones who want to "play" on the computer. That said, it was interesting to read the twits that Liz posted. I love that pic of Liz too w/the dark hair and glasses- sexy stuff, girl!

Posted by: plamar1031 | April 27, 2009 4:17 PM | Report abuse

plamar1031 is on to something. If we have to wait for 10 minutes for something to load up, we're less likely to use it. If we have to have a laptop or desktop available to "Tweet" or keep our Facebook page current, we're less likely to do that too.

I'm not sufficiently equipped for cyberlife in the 21st century. Yet, if the power goes out, I'm good for a few days with my 20th century skills.

Posted by: mdreader01 | April 27, 2009 5:24 PM | Report abuse

i saw a sample of the twitter thread from despair.com, and it was pretty funny. *almost* made me want to check it regularly...

Posted by: memphis1 | April 27, 2009 5:27 PM | Report abuse

How can something so incredibly banal be ruined?

Quote from the article: "...like any jeans-wearing idiot busy contributing to the downfall of western civilization..."

Q.E.D.

Posted by: rmlwj1 | April 27, 2009 6:27 PM | Report abuse

It occurs to me that nobody's answered Liz Kelly's titular question, to wit, "Are Celebrities Ruining Twitter?"

The answer is of course "yes." Just like they've ruined everything else: television, the movies, huge stretches of sidewalk near Grauman's Chinese Theater, the government and, of course, humanity's traditional immunity to diseases like swine flu, Ebola, and stupidity.

So the next time you're stuck at home watching Celebrity Apprentice with a little string of drool running from your mouth to your next Cheeto and you notice you're running a fever or bleeding from the gums, take a moment to tweet, "Thank you, celebrities. Thank you so &#&$(&^ much."

Also, rmlwj1, your use of "Q.E.D." displays a grasp of the use of the language one normally only sees in celebrities like Miss Teen USA South Carolina 2007 or Jessica Simpson. So there's another thing that celebrities have ruined: the Latin-English interface.

Oooh, gotta go: Medium is on. I wonder if anyone will believe Alison's dream the first time around in this episode...

Posted by: byoolin1 | April 27, 2009 10:02 PM | Report abuse

Jack Bauer doesn't Tweet.

End of story.

Posted by: sasquatchbigfoot | April 27, 2009 10:41 PM | Report abuse

I don't care about the celebrities, although I tried following Rob Cordroy (however it's spelled) for a while, and even though some of his comments were amusing, it was a waste of time. I follow the people who help guide this lost soul through the Twitter-zone and various other hot sites for items I find relevent. I'm not on it for my health; I'm trying to (a) sell my book and (b) establish my credibility as an expert with a sense of humor. If you want to follow me, hop on board: lau56

Posted by: lau5 | April 28, 2009 3:50 AM | Report abuse

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