Zach Braff: actor (Scrubs, Garden State), producer, director, comedian, & political activist (just to name a few). But which of these roles does his Twitter convey? He has many identities, and one would think that it would not be possible to show them all on a singular social networking site. And if this is true, why does he convey the certain role or roles he has chosen? (On a side note: Scrubs is one of the funniest shows I have ever seen. WATCH IT!) So, first let’s analyze his often used twitter profile.
There is no mention of him being an actor or producer in his information. Instead, Braff hints at his comical side right from the start with the statement, “As a teen I sometimes dry-humped pillows.” (Thanks for letting us know that wonderful information, Zach.) But seeing the number of followers he has and the check mark meaning “verified,” one could assume this guy is important in some way, even if the viewer does not have the knowledge that he is in the movie and television business. Also, linking to his Facebook account provides more information if one so desired to find out more. It is also important to note those that Braff follows: comedians, actors, and political twitters. So, basically those like himself.
What I find most interesting about Braff’s account, and why I decided to analyze it, was the content of his tweets. He writes in full sentences with proper grammer and capitalization, hinting that he is well educated. The content of Braff’s tweets is not the movies he is in or what project he is working on, but at this time, most are about politics (RT @LOLGOP) or jokes (Justin Timberlake joke). And when I say politics, I would say he leans more to the left. He has been live-tweeting the debates, making fun of Romney (and here, Romney’s son), and RT-ing Democratic twitters. Also, Braff often RT or @ replies his fans, hinting that he may actually be a nice guy (seems like that’s impossible in Hollywood). So, my question is, why does Zach Braff present himself in this way: a comedic very-liberal person of some hidden importance? Why is there little to no mention of him being an actor?
Hugo Liu in Social Network Profiles as Taste Performances writes that what we like or dislike communicates who we are and how we fit into the social world. Taste is like a matchmaker, matching us with others who may love or hate the same things. So, for Braff, by tweeting so much politics, he may be presenting himself as an involved Democrat and thus, wanting others to be like himself or accept his views. Also, by showing likes of comedy and politics, is he purposely not presenting himself as an actor for a reason? By looking at two of the last few pictures he has tweeted one can see the sides of his identify he has chosen to showcase:
Comedic side: The “ducky face” – obviously a joke
Political side: Campaigning with Democratic nominee, Elizabeth Warren, for Senate
Does he not want acting to be his role in the world, believing that politics, for example, may be more important? Or he is looking to be unique from other actors and, thus, portraying Lui’s idea of differentiation? Although many of those he follow are actors themselves, and probably friends of him, Lui argues that “…users tended to differentiate themselves from their friends, rather than identifying with their friends’ tastes.” (271) By being so politically-active on Twitter, Braff may be looking to differentiate himself from others in his same profession.
Alice E. Marwick and danah boyd, in I tweet honestly, I tweet passionately: Twitter users, context collapse, and the imagined audience, write that “the audience is often imaged and constructed by an individual in order to present themselves appropriately.” (115) Identities online are a collaboration between the user and his or her audience. Here, Zach Braff seems to be imaging his audience as a mirror image of himself. So, as explained before, what seems to be most important to Braff now is politics or the supporting of President Obama and so who his imagined audience must be as political too. Many of his RT’s show this, like one of his followers tweeted him the “binders full of women” tumblr (showing how she has the same viewers).
But as Marwick and boyd do argue that there are always nightmare readers that limit personal discourse. Braff seems to RT and even makes jokes at his nightmare readers to show his ideal readers the ridiculousness of them. So, nightmare readers do not actually stop Braff’s personal discourse.
Lastly, Zizi Papacharissi writes in Without You, I’m Nothing: Performances of the Self on Twitter that one’s performance on social networking sites is portrayed through acting. So could this be just another role for Braff? I am not saying this is true, but maybe he is not actually that funny or does not have so much hatred towards Romney. Could he be using Papcharissi’s idea of play? Play is “the restructuring of behavior to impart a light-hearted or playful context.” (1996) Braff is clearly not going to be too serious on his Twitter, as shown through his often making of jokes, even involving politics, a serious subject. Social networking sites are arenas of play, so it is a place for Braff to connect with fans and make jokes.
So, in conclusion, Zach Braff appears to be showing only certain sides of his personality and life: comedic and political. Through his tweets, he is connecting with his imagined audience who are mirror-images of himself and able to laugh at his nightmare audiences. So whether this is a role for Braff or just a site where he can have some fun, his readers are able to see a more personal side of him.