Monday, January 25, 2010

On Celebrities and Social Networks

I will not be dropping any names in this post, so everything I say will be in abstraction.

The genesis of this entry is a simple one. I have a friend on Facebook, and when I was hanging around the site last night, I noticed that a celebrity had dropped them a line on their Wall. It seemed like more than a mere celebrity to fan interaction (beyond something like Thanks for the Support or any other very general message), it was an exchange that was clearly between two people who had mutual respect for each other and a shared history. I wasn't being nosy at this point by the way. I was just looking at a conversation as it appeared on my feed.

However, I must admit that curiosity did get the better of me and I looked at that celebrity's list of contacts, and I found myself seeing a lot of other performers and such whose work I loved.

Now I had a momentary tickle in the back of my brain telling me to try to befriend that celebrity and then the huge weight of the rest of my personality bore down on that impulse and beat it to a pulp because that is something that is quite frankly, a dick move. Celebrities deserve the right to frequent social networking sites and interact with their friends in peace too, and if I, as someone who is merely a fan, tries to invade that space, well, then I am an asshole, as simple as that.

And I should know, as I've been somewhat on the other side of this issue. You see, back in the early part of this century, I became acquainted with a public figure, and at one point, they asked me to be their friend on that antiquated set of web pages known as Friendster (as if anyone really remembers that one). Well, one day, someone started chatting me up on the site, and we became chummy, and the moment I became Friendster friends with them, well, they sent a friend invite to the figure in question as well. That person basically used me to play leap frog to a celebrity. That made me feel incredibly crappy, because not only was I used, but I feel like I let my friend down too... because basically I was exposing them to someone who didn't legitimately earn their friendship. Conversely, while they had a number of other famous friends, I never interacted with them because in essence, I would have been doing what that one user did to me, and that's totally not cool. Their friendship was enough, and I valued it as much then as I do now.

Basically, the way I see it is if a celebrity wants to interact with their fans, well, they will make themselves available in other online venues to do so. Like if you go to Myspace and interact with a musician or comedian on their specially designed page, well, that's ok. However, if you find out someone famous has a personal page on one of those sites that isn't connected to that, well, then you shouldn't really bother them there. For example, at Myspace, I accidentally came across the personal page for someone famous, and on one level, it would have been awesome to write them, but I know that would have been the wrong move. That profile was for their friends and family, and however I approached them would have been a breach of etiquette.

So, if you run across a celebrity on a social network, and you are thinking about adding them as a friend, perhaps you should think twice about doing so. And consider who is saying this, a guy who writes almost exclusively about pop culture, the media and famous people. I mean, I would love to have that kind of access to the people I write about, but bugging them at Facebook/Myspace is clearly not the way to build an organic relationship, so I just don't do it. Of course, some celebrities are cool about their social networking profiles, but if you aren't sure if they are or not, discretion is the better part of valor in that case.


Arjan said...

this could be copy-pasted directly into general web-etiquette :)

John said...

What a fascinating story.

It's like high school all over again.

Maven said...

I think it speaks more of the asshole in question than your trust (in friending that other person who leapfrogged you). By and large, a good lot of folks mistake kindness and trust as a weakness to be exploited.

MC said...

John: OK, even I am willing to concede that yes, this was a little too self-indulgent, like I was navel gazing. Point taken.

Arjan: Nah... etiquette and myself had quite the falling out years ago, and thus, it likely wants nothing to do with me.

Maven: Yeah, but it has changed the way I approach social networking these days too.

Semaj said...

Loved this post, Side note: I was considering sending a friend request to a certain Adult performer I really am a big fan of, but decided against it. Mainly because it would be very strange. even though I know she friends everyone (so to speak)

I'm wondering if this famous person you are talking about used to have a "Tonight Show"?

MC said...

I will confirm that it is not someone who was in any way associated with The Tonight Show.

Thom said...

I agree with you on everything except MySpace. Maybe it's just me, but I've never seen anything personal about that site - so I've always assumed that any celebrities on there were trying to interact with their fans in some way.

For some strange reason, a very popular blogger whom I follow has popped up on my "suggested friends" page in Facebook. Thought about friending her until it occurred to me that was her personal page not a fan page.