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What Would Tina Fey Do?

My Twitter friend Matthew Rogers tipped me off to a Vanity Fair piece, which he described as a “complete failure of an article” and “extremely insulting to several female users in particular”. Boy, was I curious!

America’s Tweethearts“, published in the January 2010 issue, is about female “twilebrities”, Twitter celebrities who amass a ridiculous number of followers. Writes Vanessa Grigoriadis:

Whether you consider Twitter a worldwide experiment in extreme narcissism or a nifty tool for real-time reporting—a plane ditches in the Hudson, millions take to the streets in Tehran—it may not yet have dawned on your text-saturated brain that it’s also a path to becoming famous.

Newsflash: having a lot of Twitter followers does not make you famous, not on Twitter, not in the real world, not anywhere. Though she’s extremely hard on the women she profiled, Grigoriadis actually gives these women way too much credit. Sure, I’ve heard of some of these twilebrities because I’m interested in media and marketing, but ask the average person if they know who Julia Roy or Stefanie Michaels – they wouldn’t have a freaking clue!

Why did she choose to write about these twilebrities and give them any sort of press if she already sort of hates the fact that they have thousands of followers?

MOST people who sign up for a Twitter account have no idea what they’re doing. They follow who they follow because it’s cool to follow those people. In the new media circle jerk, new media types fluff each other up and add each other to lists of suggested people to follow. None of this circle jerking actually means that the tweeted content is worth following. However, the more followers you have, the more followers you get – it’s a tipping point of sorts.

In a tone that reeks of jealousy and bitterness, Grigoriadis writes:

According to a study of 1.5 million tweets, released this year by Oxford University Press, the words “cool,” “awesome,” “wow,” and “yay” are among the most common on Twitter—and it’s a safe guess that most twilebrities use them as freely as Laguna High freshmen.

Since when did Twitter become a source for high-brow literature? Twitter doesn’t claim to be anything but a place to broadcast 140-character bits of information.

Frankly, I would be really angry if I was one of the women profiled in this piece. Grigoriadis has absolutely nothing positive to say about them, even though she COULD HAVE said positive things about them. These women all make a living doing something related to media/social media/tech, and they’re all fairly successful. Way to speak positively of your peers!

Take Sarah Evans, for example. She is a public relations and new media consultant who owns her own business. When Grigoriadis describes Evans, she uses this quote: “’Twitter is like going to a giant cocktail party, every day,’ says Sarah Evans, 29, a publicist and self-described ‘Twitterholic.’ ‘Except you don’t ever have to get dressed up!'” I would like to see the Evans interview in its entirety.

Of course Evans is on Twitter – why wouldn’t she be? She makes a living off of being technologically savvy, connected to important media people, and staying at the forefront of her industry. You, Grigoriadis, may not like Twitter, but Evans needs it to put a roof over her head.

This is America. If someone can make a living working for themselves, more power to them. If they have to employ tools like Twitter to stay on the cutting edge, so be it.

In a way Twitter IS a popularity contest, but it only has to be if you care. If you want to follow the people with the most followers, if you choose to pay attention to the most popular people, you will be annoyed by these things. You should be following people who tweet things of interest to you. If you don’t like something, don’t follow it. If you don’t want to sit at the cool kids table, DON’T DO IT.

I’m just so personally embarrassed by this article. You can’t say one positive thing about these ladies, Grigoriadis? These women have their own viable businesses or creative pursuits, and they work hard, JUST LIKE YOU. Just because they use different medium than you doesn’t mean  you have to belittle them.

(Photo by Robert Scoble)


  1. I guess the author profiled these specific tweeters to promote the “Twimbo” premise. Like Paris Hilton, these women have been elevated to celebrity status for nothing but their looks and popularity in certain circles. Are the women smart and savvy business people? I’m sure they are, but by seeking those high follower counts — by seeking celebrity — they subject themselves to the scrutiny.

  2. BTW, if the author wanted to show an absence of sexism, she should have profiled male Twimbos equally.

  3. Thank you for this, Laryssa. If only I would have thought to record the hour long interview about how I’ve integrated new media as part of the public relations strategy for my clients and fundraising efforts… 😉


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