NOT the “New Girl” on Twitter

I am a student. I am a daughter. I am a sister. I am an athlete. I am an intern. It is interesting to think about how many identities one has and how they decide which ones to put out into the world. This concept is especially interesting when looking at celebrity social media pages. Celebrities, believe it or not, are a lot like us!  They just have more Twitter followers.

To further delve into this idea of identity performance, I looked at Zooey Deschanel’s Twitter handle. Looking at Zooey’s social cues and public display of connections, I tried to analyze how this singer/actress portrays herself to the online world and determine whether or not this projection is in line with her offline persona.

Want to know what I found out? Read on!

Using Hugo Liu’s article “Social Network Profiles as Taste Performances” as a model, it seems as if Zooey’s Twitter handle would fit under an authentic taste performance. Liu writes, “authenticity is associated with a relaxed style and the display of slight imperfection…They projected a relaxed feeling, their lists of interests were not overly verbose or coherent, and they often broke from form and convention.” We see this right off the bat in Zooey’s “about me” section on Twitter.

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Zooey doesn’t capitalize letters or use complete sentences. She is vague and doesn’t explicitly say, “I am an actress, singer, songwriter” anywhere. Rather, Zooey posts links to her band and blogging network. I think it is interesting that although Zooey is probably best known for being an actress (500 Days of Summer, Weeds, Elf, New Girl), her “about me” section illustrates other, possibly less known, sides of herself. Perhaps Zooey does this because she assumes people know that she is an actress? Or maybe this is another way Zooey achieves authenticity? By differentiating herself from other actresses on Twitter  (the ones that look like the managers are running the show…) Zooey breaks apart from typical details of an “actress” and proves that she is the real deal without trying too hard. Further adding to her authenticity, Zooey tweets pictures from her instagram. This gives her Twitter handle a personal touch and lets viewers know that this actually is Zooey.

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(Picture of Zooey and her mother)

Now, looking at the content of Zooey’s tweets, we see that her Twitter handle is definitely not void of her identity as an actress. Zooey often tweets to promote her show on Fox’s TV series “New Girl.” While Zooey does urge people to watch her show, she also promotes other shows on Fox as well – like “Ben and Kate” and “The Mindy Project”.

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Alice E. Marwick and danah boyd write in their article, I tweet honestly, I tweet passionately: Twitter users, context collapse, and the imagined audience, that “the audience is often imaged and constructed by an individual in order to present themselves appropriately” (115). In other words, Tweeters present themselves to who they believe their imagined audience to be, and they imagine their audience to be someone like us. In the case of Zooey, we can assume her tweets are directed to girls who have similar interests – music, television, charity, etc. And this is exactly what Zooey tweets about.

When Zooey isn’t tweeting about her professional career, she often tweets about random stream of conscious thoughts.

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Known for her comedic and “dorkable” personality, Zooey’s random, more personal tweets are definitely in line with who she is as a person. Papacharissi points out that “Twitter affords a platform for condensed yet potentially rich and variably public or private performances of self” (1). We can see this idea present in Zooey’s Twitter handle because she combines both personal and professional aspects of her life on her Twitter feed.

Zooey engages with her users in a fun and casual tone and doesn’t take herself too seriously. We can see this through various social cues. Even though Zooey uses complete sentences and proper punctuation, her tweets don’t feel overly professional. She capitalizes all of the letters in certain words, writes about funny topics, and uses exclamation points to spice things up. Zooey’s “style” can also be seen through her use of hash tags. Zooey mostly uses hash tags when promoting herself and other Fox television shows, and it is through her use of hash tags that she communicates her Twitter savviness. Zooey also tweets multiple times a day. This suggests that social media is a prominent aspect in her personal and professional life. By constantly communicating to the online world, Zooey further builds a personal connection to her fans. This is important because much of Zooey’s career is based online (www.hellogiggles.com).

“Online social platforms collapse or converge public and private boundaries… Performances of the self thus become networked performances that must convey polysemic content to audiences, actual and imagined, without compromising one’s own sense of self”(Papacharissi 1). As a celebrity, Zooey must be extra aware of the content she tweets. However, Zooey is aware of this and does a good job building her personal brand so that she is relevant to her target audience, while still maintaining a very “human” like profile. Establishing this personal connection with viewers will both increase her popularity as a celebrity as well as make her more marketable to strategic partners looking to leverage her reach.

Lastly, Zooey’s “public display of connection’ further verifies her status as a celebrity. With over three million followers, anyone can see that Zooey has a significant presence in the social media world. However, we can also learn a lot about Zooey by looking at who she follows herself (other celebrities, Fox actors, comedians, tv shows). The accounts she follows are in line with Zooey’s interests and tweeting subjects, which makes perfect sense, because like Marwick and boyd point out, we tweet for an imagined audience that is similar to ourselves.

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One comment

  1. I really liked the opening paragraph you have when you talked about the interchangeability of identity: “I am a student. I am a daughter. I am a sister. I am an athlete. I am an intern. It is interesting to think about how many identities one has and how they decide which ones to put out into the world”. It is true that we all have duo-identity and there’s no fundamental “authenticity” of personality one could claim to have. Zooey’s Twitter demonstrate this idea, in which she performs her different selves – public and personal.

    However, I feel like although the actress tweets about both her personal life and public life, she still has an “imagined audience” and a crafted “authentic identity” to maintain. In your blog post, you mentioned that “when Zooey isn’t tweeting about her professional career, she often tweets about random stream of conscious thoughts”. I think this is only partially true. It might seem at first sight that these tweets are streams of consciousness, yet her act of choosing which ones to tweet and which ones not to tweet is NOT so random. Keeping her TV-show image of the “sweet dorky girly-girl next door” in line, these tweets should be seen as conveying “authenticity”, using pseudo-personal “backstage footage” to perform a more plausible public persona. Sometimes I wonder if all taste statements should be grouped in Liu’s “theatrical performance” category, since it’s all “identity performances”.

    On the other hand, despite the fact that Zooey’s Twitter might be less “authentic” as we thought it would be, this media platform is nevertheless a great place to convey the relatively more authentic identity. In Banet-Weiser’s essay, “Branding the post-feminist Self”, the author explained Anthony Giddens’ theory on modern identity construction: “identity is not understood or experienced as organic or static, but rather as a ‘project of the self’, where the crafting of one’s self is a constant dynamic, one that relies on media and other cultural spaces as a way to be ‘self-reflexive’ and constantly work on, update, and evolve the construction of self” (6). The dynamic, constantly evolving construction of self mentioned above correspond perfectly with the natural trades of Twitter – the constant real-time updates and streams of statuses made the “project of the self” in line with time and space along with a casual flair, which make the performance more authentic compared to traditional media presentations.

    I guess that’s why Twitter is so popular among celebrities who want to be “authentic”.

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