If you’re my age, 20, and you haven’t heard of Taylor Swift’s new album, you must be living on another planet. This girl’s name is everywhere now. From her controversial relationship with a Kennedy four years her junior to being back on the top of the music charts, this girl is not going away anytime soon. Taylor’s new CD “Red” just came out this week and if you haven’t heard about it, you must not be one of her 20 million followers on Twitter, the 35 million checking out her Facebook page, the three million followers on Instagram, or the 773,000 subscribers to her YouTube channel.
Taylor’s Twitter username is @taylorswift13. If you are one of her fans (yes, that includes me) than you know that 13 is her favorite number. You also know that she is insanely excited for her album. Her tweets are constant promotion for her album release.
Yet as a follower/fan you don’t feel the constant bombardment of tweets or think of her as an egotistical promoting celebrity. There’s excitement exuding from her tweets and she just seems very authentic to her audience. Her authentic identity on Twitter relates to what Hugo Liu writes about in Social Network Profile as Taste Performances. Liu describes an authentic profile as one that “projected a relaxed feeling” with the “display of slight imperfections” (264). Taylor is invested in her career, but her profile isn’t pushy or verbose. She is very relaxed in her tweets. Meaning, she doesn’t look like she took her time debating how to construct her tweets. Her grammar isn’t always correct. She uses a lot of punctuation marks like when counting down to her album release or she uses many of the same letters is a word to stress her enthusiasm . Her authenticity stems also from her close connection with her fans. Her retweets are mainly from her celebrity friends, but she will usually retweet a fan that writes something about her lyrics or about her album. This may come off as inauthentic by promoting herself, but because she is so genuine in public, she doesn’t come off as egotistical. Everyone knows the famous Taylor Swift look and if you don’t, it’s basically her covering her mouth in pure shock when she wins an award (She’s probably won a 1000 by now). She gives off this authentic persona outside of her social network sites; I think it’s important to her to give off the same impression on her social media sites. The way she handles her twitter account allows her fans to connect with the same authentic person they see on TV or in the magazines. Taylor also tweets pictures to her Instagram page, another site that makes her come off as authentic. Her pictures connect her to the fans, making us feel as we are on this crazy adventure with her.
It seems important for her to connect with her fan base. Her pictures are anything from cats to her band to her view from the stage. It’s clear that her manager isn’t the one uploading her pictures and writing comments. Her pictures are what seem to be her interests (cats pictures, family, music) and her comments, by using incorrect grammar, all caps, or increase use of exclamation marks, separates her from a prestige profile.
On the other hand, her Facebook page is what Liu would call a prestige profile. A Prestige profile will represent the best side of a person, is very coherent, using correct grammar and spelling, with the look of being mainstream and up on the trends. Her Facebook page uses correct grammar, spelling, and language. It is clear that she isn’t the only one writing on it, even though the page is called Taylor Swift. Her team posts about where Taylor will be, such as the Ellen DeGeneres Show or to promote her brand.
At points there will be the first person tense like when Taylor, although we can never be to sure, is posting about where she is giving a concert . This page is clearly for a Taylor Swift fan, eager to consume her products. The “about me” section seems a little forced, starting with “Hi, I’m Taylor. I love the number 13.” This unrelaxed nature is one not seen in authentic profiles.The section seems tense unlike her Twitter page. Her “likes” are brands she is affiliated with such as, Covergirl and Taylor Connect. Marwick in “I’m a Lot More Interesting than a Friendster Profile”: Identity Presentation, Authenticity and Power in Social Networking Services discuses the idea that social media sites “encourage people to define themselves through the entertainment products they consume” (9). By limiting her likes to a few things, this page is showing her fans the limited products she identifies with. Although some, like myself, will just see it as a requirement of brand promotion and being affiliated with those products. She is being paid to like this stuff on her page. The page is filled with pictures of her album cover. Her Facebook profile picture and her cover photo is of her album and her YouTube channel screams her album “RED.” The difference is seen in her twitter picture, which is a photo of herself, making her seem more relatable and authentic to her fans and not just seen as a promoting machine.
It is clear through these pages that her imagined audience is her fans. Marwick and boyd discuss the idea of the imagined audience in their article, I Tweet honestly, I tweet passionately: Twitter users, context collapse, and the imagine audience. When discussing an audience, they write that “in the absence of certain knowledge about audience, participants take cues from the social media environment to imagine the community” (115). Taylor is constantly getting tweets from her fans about her music and her life. This helps her construct her identity when she thinks about who is reading. Taylor gives off an innocent persona, never writing anything controversial. While she may be self-sensoring herself for her nightmare audience, I think this is highly unlikely. Her imagined audience also seems to be her ideal audience, which Marwick and Boyd describe as “the mirror-image of the user” (120). She writes about country music, family, celebrities, and posts pictures of her band, cats, her home, and all things she’s interested in and believes her audience is interested in as well.
While I mentioned the increase publicity centered around her album on all of her sites, she does have an element of playfulness seen on her Twitter account. It’s not all about business for Taylor! I think it’s important for her to show personality on her twitter. Otherwise, she would come off as a salesperson. Through her pictures and tweets, but also through her playfulness, which Papacharissi refers to in his article Without you, I’m Nothing: Performances of the Self on Twitter, she forms her social media identity. He explains that play “affords make-believe performative space to try on roles and identities by combining, remixing, and rehearsing restored behaviors.” Being playful on a social network site create narratives that support how you want to be seen. This is important especially for a celebrity who wants to seem real and relatable. Many of Taylor’s tweets have an element of playfulness, from her stories to her grammar.
Marwick and Boyd also discuss the idea of micro-celebrity practice which “assumes an intrinsic conflict between self-promotion and the ability to connect with others on a deeply personal or intimate level” (127). Micro-celebrity can come off as inauthentic, but not with Taylor Swift! I may be naïve, but she does seem like one of the few genuinely kind and authentic celebrities around (yes, I’m a big fan, sue me) and on Twitter and Instagram she creates the same identity.
Taylor may be one of the biggest country stars today, but she comes off true, relatable, and authentic. I mean how can you not love a girl who seems surprised every time she wins an award. So either she is the authentic girl seen on social media sites or…she’s just a brilliant actress.