Those of you who grew up with old school television sets where you actually had to get up to change the channel only got to see your favorite celebrities once a day; when you invited them into your living rooms to deliver the evening news on TV. You looked forward to seeing them, and probably felt like you knew them. And especially if you grew up in a small town, spotting them at the grocery store was like running into a member of your family.
Today, you can “see” your favorite news and media celebrities anytime you like. They are far more visible — and more accessible, 24/ 7. As a career prosecutor, I have prosecuted plenty of stalking cases that arise from the obsession of friends, fans, and followers-turned cyberstalkers. But for the scores of healthy, law abiding Twitter users, spirited interaction facilitates conversation and camaraderie.
Only a Tweet Away: Celebrity Connection
Researchers Kim and Song note that social media is a form of communication that is used with increasing frequency by everyone from pop stars to politicians. They point out that it differs from traditional media outlets, however, because it is direct, personal, and unfiltered.
In a 2016 study, Kim and Song found that celebrities who share personal details on Twitter can foster a sense of intimacy with their fans and followers. They explain that increased social presence stems from celebrities sharing details of both their professional and personal lives, and fans retweeting.
Social media facilitates exactly that type of interaction — the famous mixing freely with the anonymous — many of who can relate to the personal experiences of the famous. Regarding such celebrity-fan identification, Click et al. (2013) note that Lady Gaga cultivated rapport with her fans through social media, touching the hearts and minds of strangers who were moved by her expressions of self-acceptance.
Not only fans benefit from virtual relationships. Research reveals that Twitter usage provides satisfaction for both the fan and the celebrity.
A Virtual Cocktail Party Where the Anonymous Rub Elbows With the Famous
Stever and Lawson (2013) examined celebrity use of Twitter as a way to communicate with fans. They acknowledged that although Twitter provided a way for fans to communicate directly with their favorite celebrity, such access was limited. They concluded that even if a fan occasionally received a reply from his or her favorite star, the Twitter relationship is still parasocial, a type of interaction defined as “the unreciprocated interaction between individuals of differing status and knowledge of one another.”
On the part of the famous tweeters, Stever and Lawson found that celebrities used Twitter to talk about their work as well as their personal lives. Similar to other users, they shared likes and dislikes, including information about personal activities of the type that are not typically shared in other settings. In addition, their research showed that celebrity tweeters engaged in dialog that was meaningful, serious, and impactful.
A Public Candidate Forum
Politicians similarly benefit from Twitter-facilitated familiarity. Research by Sanne Kruikemeier (2014) explains that Twitter allows candidates to communicate directly with voters, without journalistic interference. She notes that Twitter is a way for candidates to talk about their personal lives and as well as their professional lives, sharing thoughts and emotions as well as professional activities.
A study by Lee and Shin (2014) explained how exposure to the Twitter page of a high profile politician impacted the perception of having direct conversation with the politician, which heightened intention to vote for him, among people with high transportability — tendency to become absorbed (transported) into a story.
However, not all cases of familiarity breed contentment. Some research found that personalized Twitter messages increased the perception of intimacy with a political candidate only among people who were more affiliative.
Connectivity Breeds Familiarity
Uniquely distinct from other social media platforms, Twitter demonstrates how visibility and accessibility breeds familiarity. Twitter fosters a sense of connection among users — from the famous, to the infamous, to the anonymous.
This article was first published in Psychology Today.
Wendy L. Patrick is a career prosecutor, named the Ronald M. George Public Lawyer of the Year, and recognized by her peers as one of the Top Ten criminal attorneys in San Diego by the San Diego Daily Transcript. She has completed over 150 trials ranging from human trafficking, to domestic violence, to first-degree murder. She is President of the Association of Threat Assessment Professionals San Diego Chapter and an ATAP Certified Threat Manager. Dr. Patrick is a frequent media commentator with over 2,500 appearances including CNN, Fox News Channel, Newsmax, and many others. She is author of "Red Flags" (St. Martin´s Press), and co-author of the revised version of the New York Times bestseller "Reading People" (Random House). On a personal note, Dr. Patrick holds a purple belt in Shorin-Ryu karate, is a concert violinist with the La Jolla Symphony, and plays the electric violin with a rock band. To read more of her reports — Click Here Now.
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