Reading Reflection: Microcelebrity

Today the term ‘microcelebrity’ is an interesting concept indeed as the line between microcelebrity and genuine celebrity becomes increasingly blurred as Vine stars are invited to the Oscars and Youtube vloggers get major book deals. When does a person stop being a microcelebrity and start being just a celebrity.

I think the concept of microcelebrities is interesting but I don’t know if I agree that everyone is one. I for one do not count myself as one, except perhaps on one social media platform. I do however, think that everyone behaves like a microcelebrity. I myself have become a master of manipulating the selfie, using angles that flatter myself, using a number of clever tricks with Instagram filters even though my profile pictures on Facebook rarely get more than 2 likes, if any, the same for Instagram.

While praise on Instagram and Facebook may be lacklustre there is also dating apps, however, and this is where these tricks come in handy. On Tinder I put a lot of effort into impression management as this app has shallowness written into its very design; Tinder is a lot like pitching a film really, you have a small window (6 photos and a 250 characters) with which to convince someone to approve you or be rejected.

As Alice Marwick’s article I tweet honestly, I tweet passionately describes microcelebrities must take feedback from their audience (followers) and use this to alter their online image and behaviour to elicit a positive response. I do this on Tinder by carefully curating my profile to include the best photos of me and the best one first to make a good first impression, in fact this kind of impression management is so key to Tinder that a feature has implemented called “smart photos” which analyses which of your photos is the most attractive to other users and place that photo as your top photo to maximise matches.

Marwick’s article describes the phenomenon of context collapse, the way that social media platforms like Twitter flatten multiple audiences into one and how microcelebrities must strategically use their posts to target multiple groups at once. I think this phenomenon is part of the reason I’m not really a fan of twitter, I like to behave authentically on social media, but I also like to have control over who can see my authentic self, this is why I enjoy Facebook’s privacy settings which allow me to hide certain statuses (for example a vulgar joke) from family members for instance.

The article also describes how users with fewer followers tended to see their accounts as more personal, whereas those with more followers saw them as professional; I actually find the lack of response I get on sites like Facebook quite freeing, as it allows me to unapologetically say whatever I want knowing that there’s basically no chance it will ever leave my own timeline and even there very few people will see it, although I am in the habit of deleting certain statuses after time has passed; Even users with few followers are aware of the long term dangers of leaving controversial content on a social media account for potential employers to see.

Getting back to what I stated earlier, I do not believe everyone is a microcelebrity, because online followers or friends do not equate to devoted fans like celebrities have; for a time  recently I had over 700 Facebook friends recently, mostly friends of friends or acquaintances, and they treated me as a stranger. No one was eagerly awaiting my next status or profile picture so calling me a celebrity in any form would be inaccurate.

Something I found interesting is that Marwick describes how social media users write to an imagined audience, like a novelist does, as unlike a speaker they cannot physically see their audience, they cannot gauge their emotion. However, technology and language have developed recently to make the connection between user and the audience of their posts more similar to a speaker than a novelist; on Facebook rather than simply being able to “like” a post, which was always emotionally ambiguous (does liking a sad post mean you are showing support or enjoying the person’s pain?), you are now able to “react” to a post, with a selection of cartoon faces representing different emotions.

This allows users to more easily gauge their audience’s emotional reaction to their content, and this development comes from the rise in popularity of emojis in recent years, text/picture symbols popularised by the iPhone; today emojis can be used to convey complex emotion that is often difficult to describe. To paraphrase the idiom “an emoji is worth 1000 words”.

Andrew Sheller is a Media Production student at Coventry University. You can see more content from Andrew at their Facebook page through this link.

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