As I scroll through Katy Perry’s social media pages, specifically on Facebook and Twitter, I immediately notice two distinct voices coming out of each page, performing two separate identities. When I think of Katy’s personality on TV, she seems like an outgoing person with a sense of humor and a kind of fearlessness to stand out among the celebrity crowd. Of course, that is my biased opinion based off of random interviews and music videos I’ve seen online.
A public relations team appears to manage Katy’s Facebook page, since the posts are written about her in third person, and mainly ask fans to vote for Katy in awards and buy her latest album. Her tweets, however, seem to be written by her (or give off the impression of being her), and can be interesting to analyze in performing identity.
Katy’s Twitter profile, shown above, has a beautiful picture of the singer, and lists her millions of followers, her blue check-marked verified account, and a link to her website. This is all nice and pretty, but check out her biography. She states where she’s from, but she does not mention that she sings, or really does anything. I believe she tries to illustrate an authentic personality when she writes “…doing stuff. Working on my mom-esque dance moves…How embarrassing.” According to Hugo Liu’s article Social Network Profiles as Taste Performances, those who convey an authentic taste statement “breaks free from form, atypical details…moderately coherent” (263). Katy’s Twitter bio appears to capture this description, since it doesn’t sound like she takes herself too seriously, and even pokes fun at her awkward dance moves. Her syntax is choppy, and her grammar use is not the most accurate. I mean seriously, “California gal…doing stuff,” come on! But I think that’s all part of her performance to seem natural, fun and all over the place. You would think she wrote her bio in 2 minutes and posted it online, but I would assume she spent a lot of time coming up with a bio that best represents her online persona, and probably sent it to her manager to verify that it’s appropriate.
If we take a closer look at her actual tweets, they follow the same approach of performing an authentic identity.
As seen above, Katy tweeted her enthusiasm of singing to President Obama by putting “president” in all caps, incorrectly saying “gave grandma and I” instead of “grandma and me,” and then choppily saying “Best. birthday. ever” without capitalizing the last two words. While there are a lot of things wrong with this sentence, Katy is “strategically appealing to followers…carefully calculated way to market oneself as a commodity,” as Alice Marwick & danah boyd say in I tweet honestly, I tweet passionately: Twitter users, context collapse, and the imagined audience (119). Just as the authors note, Katy seems to be unconsciously speaking to her imagined audience, and in doing so, gives off a level of authenticity. At the end of the day, Katy might genuinely portray her personality on twitter, but she’s still branding herself. The authors aren’t interested in “an absolute sense of authenticity, but in what Twitter users consider ‘authentic,’” and Katy’s profile is the perfect example (Marwick & boyd, 119).
Alright, so when I saw the tweet above, I didn’t know what the heck Katy was talking about or what the tweet was in reference to. After scrolling down her twitter page and looking through the comments on the tweet, I’ll be honest, I still have no idea what this is about. And I think Katy wants it that way. Marwick & boyd point out, “Twitter users negotiate multiple, overlapping audiences by…concealing information, targeting tweets to different audiences and attempting to portray both an authentic self and an interesting personality” (122). Seriously, it’s as if they were talking to Katy directly. When Katy imagined her audience for this tweet, she was directing it towards a specific group of people who I assume offended her with a sex joke. Her tweet about singing to the president, on the other hand, was probably directed to all of her fans, her grandma, and Obama I imagine. In this way, Katy strategically plans what information she will share, with which audience she will direct it towards, and doing all of this in keeping with her “authentic” performance.
From Katy’s tweets (or retweets) above, we can tell it was her birthday. Happy birthday! Moving on, let’s look at what she’s really doing here. First of all, Katy is old-school retweeting, which may say a lot about her ego according to boyd, but I believe Zizi Papacharissi, would say Katy is just being an “informer” to her audience base, in Without You, I’m Nothing: Performances of the Self on Twitter. Papacharissi suggests, “Informers tend to have more followers and tend to refer to others via @replies in their posts more often…expression and connection via Twitter reproduce existing ties and patterns in sociality” (6). It seems that Katy is an informer, because although the retweets promote her own birthday, they still engage with the person tweeting to her. Let’s give her some credit, she’s just saying thank you to her friends. It’s authentic, right? Well, Katy does a great job of sounding authentic even as she informs, because her tone consistently remains sarcastic, yet playful.
Overall, Katy has been consistent with displaying an authentic personality to her fans on Twitter. I can’t know whether she’s 100% sincere by her tweets, but based on various scholarly opinions mentioned above, I can see that Katy has worked hard to define a clear identity of herself on the social networking site, and she will probably continue to maintain that performance with her audience.