While Lena Dunham has been trying to make in the arts and entertainment industry for a few years now, she was only catapulted to fame with the release of her initially-criticized, but quickly-embraced HBO show Girls. After studying creative writing at Oberlin and releasing her first, full-length project Tiny Furniture, Dunham began to establish herself as a self-deprecating, creative, and hilarious artist whose critics didn’t affect her or her work. A perfect example of her free yet self-promotional attitude is her Twitter account.
On Twitter, @lenadunham tweets relatively frequently for a celebrity that clearly runs her account on her own, ranging from two to four tweets a day. To look at Dunham’s tweets is to notice an interesting and well-managed balance of jokes, observations/statements, and self-promotional micro-blogs; part-personal Twitter account and part-advertisement for her show, tweets fluctuate between funny remarks and tweets or retweets regarding Girls in some way.
Hugo Liu’s work in his article, “Social Network Profiles As Taste Performances” is vital for understanding Dunham’s Twitter, or really any celebrity’s for that matter. Because celebrities who reach out to their fans—the consumers— via social media, it is essential for their taste preferences to accurately represent the celebrity persona they take on in all other forms of media. Consuming/fandom is an expression of taste, so that taste must remain somewhat constant throughout all connected channels of a celebrity or other “taste expresser.”
Fans who flock to Lena Dunham’s Twitter would be disappointed if its humor and commentary wasn’t on par with her honest, goofy self and if it didn’t talk about her show, the vehicle which brought her so much fame. Her Twitter, therefore, conveys both authenticity and prestige— she wants to she her fans her real self at work, in pajamas, overeating, in funny and relatable situations. But her work is where she writes, directs, and stars in her own show, which she continuously promotes in slightly casual ways. She shows the behind-the-scenes Lena Dunham to combine her stardom with her “self-dom.”
This is very much a “performance of the self,” as Papacharissi would call it in her article, “Without You, I’m Nothing: Performances of the Self on Twitter.” The way in which Dunham engages with her fans is particularly interesting— she selects a particular random tweet from an unknown person which mentions either her or her show, and RTs it, answering a question or thanking someone for their support in a very casual way. Here, she is performing a humble version of herself, as this gesture is in fact very complicated. Not only does the act of doing this encourage that fan for reaching out to Dunham on social media, it also encourages all other fans that one day, if they keep talking about and supporting Dunham, that they too might receive a brief but direct moment of celebrity contact. Furthermore, this affective emotional gesture shows Dunham to be a humble and nice, average person, thanking someone for praise and taking the time to stop and talk to her fans in some form.
While it can be said through Liu’s point of view that Dunham is tweeting in a mixture of personal authentic tweets and advertisement, it is important to consider Marwick and boyd’s article, “I tweet honestly, I tweet passionately: Twitter users, context collapse, and the imagined audience.” In many ways, the idea of context collapse is not an issue for Dunham— with more than 400,000 followers, Dunham is surely well aware of how many people her tweets will be reaching, and that most of these people are fans.
Surely within her followers there is an ideal audience which she keeps in mind, as there are trolls out there and follow her to spite her or point out her flaws, or people who don’t entirely agree with her or get her jokes.
However, the support in her favor, best represented by Favorites and RT stats, overwhelmingly trumps any negative feedback. Therefore, Dunham almost always knows that her tweets, for the most part, will go over well and she will come out unscathed by the Twitterverse. The majority of people seeing her tweets are her ideal audience members, because they are her fans.
Dunham projects a self that is herself in that it is of her own making, and in her real image. However, her Twitter presence is curated in what it expresses when, how, and to whom. Furthermore, particular gestures are not for the sake of tweeting, but rather to gather and support a fan base, showing that even the most seemingly average girls, celebrity status is a major motivator in online identity curation.