When you follow a celebrity on twitter or their personal blog, you almost feel like they’re your friend. You can read their thoughts, opinions, and know exactly what they’re up to at virtually at all times (provided they update consistently). In today’s world, it’s a necessity to have a social media presence in order to maintain a national or international fan base. Alex Gaskarth, lead singer of the Maryland-based pop punk band All Time Low, has been taking advantage of social networking sites in order to do just this. Maintaining some of the craziest, most dedicated fans on the pop punk scene, Gaskarth and the rest of his band love their fans – both meeting them, and communicating with them via social networking sites. Aside from a band Facebook account, Twitter handle, Personal Website, etc; Gaskarth maintains both a MySpace and Tumblr, but it is obvious his preference is his Twitter handle.
Gaskarth’s persona changes depending on which social networking platform he is using. For example, on Gaskarth’s Tumblr he will use affective statements in order to present his innermost thoughts, including potential song lyrics or poetry for upcoming songs, images he enjoys, and different looks into how his brain works. In her piece, “Without You, I’m Nothing: Performance of the Self on Twitter” Zizi Papacharissi makes the claim, “The act of intimating publicly or visibly sharing thoughts one has only imagined articulating can be a self-empowering act.” By foraying his private thoughts into the public sphere, Gaskarth allows his fans to get to know him on a more intimate level, while learning more about himself at the same time. Comparatively, Papacharissi would make completely oppositional claims about Gaskarth’s performance on Twitter. She would find that his performance, like most on Twitter, would be considered playful. Play is described as, “the restructuring of other behavior to impart a light-hearted or playful context.” Basically, playfulness exposes the lack of seriousness on the website. If you’re a member of Twitter you can easily understand how difficult it is to convey a serious message in under 140 characters. Furthermore, by allowing users to maintain a position of plausible deniability, users may present themselves without necessarily being held accountable for what they say. Gaskarth’s personality is very outspoken, confident, and he doesn’t really filter what he feels or what is on his mind. Here he is able to expose this side of himself, and if he offends anyone with some of his not so PG statements he can easily claim that he was just messing around and was not being serious. When a person uses Tumblr, or any sort of blog, it is assumed that it is being used as a online diary filled with genuine feelings and thoughts, as Gaskarth does; whereas Twitter is usually updated much more quickly and filled with shorter, snakier comments that reflect the nature of the website.
Tumblr post vs. Tweet
Looking more closely at Gaskarth’s Twitter handle using Hugo Liu’s four types of taste statements that appear in “Social Network Profiles as Taste Performances” I believe that Gaskarth runs a profile can be viewed by any of the four of the taste statements, though there is predominantly a split between two. It is very obvious that Gaskarth hopes to maintain an authentic profile. From his short about me/location to the people he chooses to follow to his Captain Planet background to the content he chooses to post, Gaskarth is clear about who he is and tries to stay true to himself. He uses a writing style that is similar to his stage persona, which leads me to the other persona Gaskarth conveys. You have to wonder is this his true self, or is it merely a reflection of his theatrical persona? Is this the true Alex Gaskarth or a role he plays as the lead singer of the band? I think Gaskarth’s Twitter handles exists as a hybrid between these two different taste personas, because while he definitely exhibits qualities that prove his authenticity (telling his fans constantly to believe in themselves, to stay strong, and always keep fighting) he tends to still display the “I don’t give a damn,” attitude of a tool. Looking at Papacharissi’s term redaction helps to further understand how Gaskarth is trying to present himself. “Redaction enables the gathering and editing of identity traces to form and frame a coherent performance.” In order to maintain his presentation of self in relation to his audience, Gaskarth must constantly shape his tweets to exposes all sides of his personality in order to maintain his audience who love him for his perfect balance of attitude and sensitivity.
According to Alice Marwick and danah boyd in their article, “I tweet honestly, I tweet passionately: Twitter users, context collapse, and the imagined audience,” “Self-presentation is collaborative.” Our audiences help us to shape the way that we choose to present ourselves. For Gaskarth, his tweets are very aimed at who his imagined audience is – his fans and his friends. When he asks his followers about their opinions on the band’s latest track or album, how excited his fans are for the show he’s performing in that night, or even publicly complains/gives advice; he is participating in what Marwick and boyd refer to as “symbolic interaction”. He uses this relationship with his friends and fans on his social networking sites as a way of participating in the process of impression management. Impression management is the idea that Gaskarth will take into account the responses he receives from his followers and that his self-presentation will actually be modified based on their responses to his persona, providing him with a greater understanding of himself. A great example of impression management appeared on Gaskarth’s Tumblr, where he responds to a major uproar that occurred when the boy band Big Time Rush covered one of All Time Low’s songs on their self-titled show on Nickelodeon. After fans responded angrily to Gaskarth’s comments about the cover in an interview, Gaskarth felt obligated to issue an apology to Big Time Rush and their affiliates in addition to a clarification of what he “really meant”. While Alex probably initially stated the insulting comments as more of a joke, trying to maintain the tool, “I’m so funny” persona, he soon realized that he had gone too far and immediately switched to his authentic self, in order to present a genuine apology, and too win some of his upset fans back.
Overall Gaskarth, while a celebrity with his 477,000+ followers on Twitter, is just like the rest of us trying to create an accurate, honest presentation of self while still putting on a performance in order to maintain his fanbase and friendships. Through techniques like impression management, redaction, and symbolic interaction, Gaskarth remains able to present taste statements that reflect himself both as a person, and as the lead singer of an incredibly awesome pop punk band.
Sidenote: This title is spoofing the first line of their song “Six Feet Under The Stars”, which I’m linking here, because it’s awesome, so you should listen to it! 🙂