Lindsay Lohan’s Off-Screen Performance…online

Lindsay Lohan probably has more Twitter followers than you (about 4.5 million). She’s probably more well-known than you are, and therefore the media probably scrutinizes her every move more often than yours. Although being a popular childhood actor initially made her famous, the latest tabloid headlines mainly portray her personal life, which has become a fiasco. Yet, from fans to nightmare readers, the troubled star crafts her social media presence in her own positive light, which informs her diverse audience.

Social network sites allow Lohan to craft her online public identity. Zizi Papacharissi, who wrote “Without You I’m Nothing,” discusses the ability of social network sites to “either collapse or converge public and private boundaries, creating both opportunities and challenges for pursuing publicity, privacy and sociality” (1). Considering Lohan is a public figure, her public and private identities have collided through social network sites. Consisting of fans, newsmongers, journalists, gossipers, friends and even anonymous strangers who stumble upon her tweets via public hashtags, Lohan’s extremely diverse audience must be challenging to self-construct.

Twitter allows Lohan to self-censor her online social network profile as a performance, and thus carefully construct an identity that appeals to her entire audience. Papacharissi discovered that the most gratifying connections on Twitter come from retweets, replies, direct messages and other forms of interpersonal communication. These tools generate a level of intimacy that further connect Lohan to her audience, which seems important to her. Since Lohan has been portrayed poorly in the media lately, she must reassure her fans and overall audience that she is the same Lindsay they fell in love with in “Mean Girls,” “The Parent Trap,” and other film classics.  In fact, she retweets a handful of her fans who tweet at her, which shows her appreciation for fans. 

Papacharissi believes the performances of tweets are polysemic, because they must make sense to a variety of audiences without sacrificing narrative coherence. This is especially important to Lohan, because the gossip and newsmongering people in her audience seem to dissect every move she makes. Therefore, she tweets fairly simple and neutral ideas and information, so all audiences can “understand” and see her image of innocence.

Additionally, Lohan’s audience can be viewed as a form of context collapse, which Marwick and Boyd explain in “I Tweet Honestly, I Tweet Passionately.” In regards to social network sites like Twitter, context collapse flattens multiple audiences from different social circles into one universal audience. Since Lohan’s audience is massive and extremely diverse, context collapse can be potentially dangerous for her. Thus, one possible solution to context collapse is to self-censor or filter tweets for the lowest common denominator, or nightmare reader, in order to not get scrutinized. For example, Lohan speaks positively about both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney after she deleted a tweet supporting Romney that turned into news. Her nightmare readers could be people from gossip magazines/websites, or even the police regarding a lawsuit or probation (which could be used against her if she mentions any illegal activity, drama, etc).

Similar to Papacharissi, who believes that Twitter as a social awareness platform affords networked and condensed performances of the self, Marwick and Boyd believe that online identity is always a collaboration between us and the audience. While trying to maintain authenticity, we construct our messages based on our imagined audience, who we idealize as someone with similar interests to ourselves.

In fact, Liu discusses his views about constructing social network profiles for different audiences as well, in “Social Network Profiles as Taste Performances.” Liu believes that social network profiles’ lists of interests can function as an expressive arena for taste performance, which are crafted into “taste statements” regarding prestige, differentiation, authenticity and theatrical persona. Lindsay Lohan’s Twitter exemplifies prestige, authenticity, differentiation and theatrical personas. Thus, the desire to cater to all audiences is shown in Lohan’s tweets.

Even tabloids know how much Lohan loves expensive jewelry and clothes – she was caught allegedly shoplifting from a jewelry store in January. Yet, Lohan tries to sound prestigious on her Twitter. She often refers to politics as well as her wealth (“I don’t have a boyfriend. I have Chanel, Hermes and diamonds”).

She also tweets about the exclusive events she attends, as well as when she goes out to dinner, which also shows the prestigious persona she is trying to convey.

To add to her prestige, Lohan’s spelling and grammar is almost completely perfect, with the exception of failing to capitalize “I” sometimes (shown below). Also in the tweet below, she asks about a very specific song title and name, which shows how she is trying to differentiate herself from other celebrities — she appears cultured and interested in music.

Additionally, she oftentimes retweets fans who tweet how much they love her, which can show how “popular” or prestigious she is, or to contribute to her theatrical persona (shown in a photo near the top). Although she obviously has haters, Lohan never retweets them, which shows how she consciously grooms her Twitter to portray a positive (and even theatrical) light.

Her profile photo, which shows her dressed as Elizabeth Taylor for Lohan’s upcoming Lifetime move “Liz and Dick.” The fact she’s impersonating somebody in her photo, with her makeup and hair done, shows her theatrical persona — she’s trying to promote her film while simultaneously taking the character off-screen to make herself look different/more similar to Liz Taylor.

Yet, Lohan tweets occasionally to show her authenticity as a human being — to show she’s not “just a celebrity” who gets whatever she wants. For example, she tweeted about how her iPhone broke but the iPhone 5 is sold out so she can’t get one yet (her celebrity status won’t even help). This reduces her prestige; however, these types of tweets seem to cater to a different type of audience (most likely her fans), which can be confusing because of context collapse.

Although she rarely discusses her legal troubles or drama regarding tabloids through her Twitter, she did retweet an article about how no charges were made in her hit-and-run case. This shows that she only enjoys showing her audience positive information about her, which is similar to her retweeting lovable fans.

Twitter basically allows Lohan to be her own publicist. She can portray herself however she wants, and show her audience an identity that is not shown through tabloids. Yet, only time will tell if she slips up on Twitter, since it’s hard to keep up with all of the social circles within her massive audience.

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