I thought a lot about making drastic changes to my facebook profile. I knew exactly what I would do—turn a complete 180 and express support for Mitt Romney by liking his and Paul Ryan’s pages, and writing a status describing the reasons why I “support” the campaign. This was really the most drastic change I could think of because I knew that there was no chance of it going unnoticed, and that my liberal opinionated friends would all have something to say about it. However, fondness to my beliefs and anxieties about RL judgments from my friends prevented me from making those drastic changes to my profile. The question of whether or not to change my political support on facebook was a much bigger dilemma than I anticipated, and even just dipping my toe into this exercise made me realize how important authenticity is to me on SNS. But it’s still midterms and I don’t have time for identity crises!
Instead of enduring the backlash that was guaranteed to occur from a substantial change to my facebook, I opted to look at something much more lighthearted: Matthew Gray Gubler’s twitter. Matthew Gray Gubler plays the nerdy but unbelievably intelligent Dr. Spencer Reid on CBS’s Criminal Minds. Although the show consists of very dark subject matter, Gubler’s twitter is lighthearted and silly, even when he is tweeting about working on the show. His background is of a green alien or monster that he drew, his description is “And two eyes made out of coal”, and his picture is of him hugging a tree. His tweets consist of a variety of things, including information about a shirt sale he ran featuring a Halloween creature he drew (these originally designed shirt sales are quick and limited but happen fairly often), excitement and updates regarding his work on Criminal Minds, and comments and photographs from his various day to day life. He engages his fans by occasionally retweeting them and answering their questions, but his tweets are mostly about himself.
Gubler’s twitter conveys what Liu would call “authenticity”. He clearly tweets “with a relaxed style and the display of slight imperfection” as evidenced by his silly photos and randomness of topics covered in his tweets. They range from professional accomplishments like “@GUBLERNATION: im so BEYOND thrilled with the actors I got for the episode I’m directing in October. get ready to be astounded” to far less prestigious sentiments such as “@GUBLERNATION: i wish my name was dracula”. The disparity in his tweets exemplify authenticity in their incoherence, which suggests that this twitter handle does not have an agenda of simply selling shirts, or Criminal Minds, but rather gives followers a somewhat accurate look into Gubler’s life.
The incoherence in Gubler’s tweets go right along with Weber and Mitchell’s notion that “…identity processes are multifaceted and in flux, constructed and deconstructed through a process of bricolage that we label as “identities-in-action.” With each tweet, especially if unrelated to the last, shows followers another facet of Gubler’s personality and identity. By using this method, rather than writing a detailed “about me” on a Facebook page and trying to explain his personality all at once, Gubler can show fans all of the different sides of him, in real time, as he lives them. Actor, director, artist, goofball—these are some of the facets of Matthew Gray Gubler’s identity that can be understood by reading through a few pages of his tweets.
(698 retweets, 1013 favorites)
However, lumping all these different facets under the one twitter handle @GUBLERNATION consequently lumps different kinds of fans together as simply “followers”. Without any differentiation of the different groups his followers must consist of, there is absolutely some context collapse among those only interested in him as the actor who plays Spencer Reid, and the quirky guy who is on a great show but does a lot of other things too. Gubler seems to balance this a bit by tweeting occasional “serious” photos of himself and the cast of Criminal Minds, as well as catering to the other more quirky superfans with extensive tweeting about shirts he sells. And although he does not retweet and interact with fans directly all that often, there is definite interaction happening between gubler and his fans as evidenced by the hundreds of “favorites” and retweets @GUBLERNATION gets. This feedback is the collaboration necessary for Gubler’s impression management in performing his twitter identity, as Marwick and Boyd explain from Goffman’s theories. I think Matthew Gray Gubler uses this feedback as reassurance that his fans appreciate his quirky sense of humor as well as respect his professional accomplishments, and I can only hope he keeps coming up with characters like this: