Almost prophetically, Jay would soon manage such a girl, as it seems to be just the path recording artist/actress Rihanna is taking. I, and others, can form this opinion with little help from the tabloids. @badgalriri performs consistently on SNS (social network sites) like Twitter and Instagram, and seems to manage her own accounts, giving fans a viewers a mediated view of who she really is.
Rihanna’s Twitter feed consists largely of personal, self-crafted tweets, retweets from fans and followers, links to Instagram photos, and promotional messages about her music and other business ventures, like her new fragrance. Her tweets also sometimes chronicle her activities like wild nights out and the occasional (or daily as it lately seems) use of marijuana, or things not so different from what non-celebs post like tweets referring to mood or state of mind. There are moments where she merges her personal identity and her self-promotion (i.e. “I’m stronger now! Or so I say…. #UNAPOLOGETIC, perhaps making it more acceptable (moreauthentic) to communicate to a broad audience in order to promote oneself. The same goes on in her Instragram account- she posts images of things like her new album and magazine covers and ads for her new fragrance alongside her selfies and pictures of her out with friends. And here too, the different contexts are introduced to each other, for instance when she tags a non-promotional or professionally shot photo of herself with the name of her upcoming album or newly released single. The idea that there are even two noticeably different kinds of content produced by Rihanna can be explored through Hugo Liu’s discussion of taste performance. Of the four he defines, Rihanna most clearly portrays two- authenticity and prestige.
It is hard not to gauge but to confirm the level of authenticity as Rihanna’s performance on SNS is related to her physical life and how strongly they are in accordance with each other. Her public display of connections reveal that she has many followers that don’t know her personally, so we cannot depend on them to be an “implicit verification of identity” as Donath and boyd have pointed out as being one the technological affordances of SNSs. Furthermore, there are no trustworthy testimonials, as the vast majority of her photo comments and retweets come from an audience that does not know her personally. This point is made regarding most SNS by Marwick, who states, “finally, testimonials, originally conceived of as a reputation system, are short messages written by the user’s ‘friends’ that appear on the user’s profile, and are in practice a generally open space for varied commentary by others.” At the same time, if we search through Rihanna’s followers we can verify her prestige, her status as a music industry insider, because other verified celebrity accounts follow hers. The comments and tweets directed to Rihanna verify her prestige as well; they are proof of her influence and relevance in popular discourse.
It seems Rihanna’s SNS presence is authentic, but we must also acknowledge that as someone who produces product for mass consumption she must also be marketing herself to enhance her success. She may be switching between the two performances while sometimes also masking one as the other- particularly performing to seem as though she truly lives a certain lifestyle because creating and maintaining that image supports her business endeavors. In Marwick and boyd’s words, Rihanna could be “tweeting for [her] self,” “suggest[ing] a true-to-self authenticity, untainted by expectations“ while also “displaying [herself] in an easily-consumed public way using tropes of consumer culture” because “we value whatever grabs the public’s attention.” These ideas are evident in what some of my friends who follow Rihanna on Twiiter, Instagram, or both, had to say about her performance on the SNSs…
- “She lives life giving no fucks. She smokes weed.”
- “I think she lives living a reckless lifestyle on the road to self destruction…but at the same time I respect her for living life on her terms and not letting anyone dictate how she lives…I honestly think she could care less who follows her or what we think”
- “…I think she’s a complete real ‘young’ adult. I feel like a lot of people forget that she’s a real person and is allowed to make mistakes. That doesn’t excuse her but people shouldn’t forget. She shouldn’t forget her responsibilities as an artist also though. I think me and her could hang for a day.”
- “…she’s so close in age to me and my friends that I understand her idea of just wanting to have fun and enjoying the present…and she’s confused like we are and is working through things in the same way we are…I think she understands that fans relate to her honesty and transparency because she’s a fan of people herself”
- “I think her team noticed that we were lacking a badass star that dgaf [doesn’t give a f**k] so they put her in that position. That life has been great for her so she’s adopted it as her identity…Also, I think that having such a public trauma messed her up badly…she’s crying for help to people she thinks love her (Chris Brown, her fans, etc).
- “I think she’s on the verge of a breakdown…all she does is talk about drugs, her horoscope or forgiveness…I think it’s probably a performance but more evidence that she’s probably being overworked”
It is clear that my peers accept Rihanna’s SNS presence as authentic because she is relatable, but also because her flaws are visible and not portrayed as flaws by Rihanna but instead observed as such by fans and viewers. She may be trying to assert herself as a “real person” or remind her fans that she too is allowed to explore her adulthood/womanhood as most people do; creating or giving a platform for fans/onlookers to give empathy that she otherwise may live without. She asserts herself as an authentic person as well as or more importantly, separately or in conjunction with her status as a recording artist.