September 13, 2012

Have you ever been to Paris?

I read this poem once:

Fearing Paris

Suppose that what you fear
could be trapped,
and held in Paris.
Then you would have
the courage to go
everywhere in the world.
All the directions of the compass
open to you,
except the degrees east or west
of true north
that lead to Paris.

Still, you wouldn't dare
put your toes
smack dab on the city limit line.
You're not really willing
to stand on a mountainside
miles away,
and watch the Paris lights
come up at night.

Just to be on the safe side
you decide to stay completely
out of France.
But then danger
seems too close
even to those boundaries,
and you feel
the timid part of you
covering the whole globe again.

You need the kind of friend
who learns your secret and says,
"See Paris first". 

~~Marsha Truman Cooper~~

What’s in Paris? And who is your friend? 

September 05, 2012

An open letter to celebrities on Twitter

Dear well-known folks on Twitter;

I have a few thoughts that will require more than 140 characters to express. Twitter has grown from novelty to general fun to powerful marketing tool. For many actors, musicians, comedians, and other artists, this now presents direct access to fans in a manageable way. Ironically, something as simple as posting brief status updates is a little more complicated when we look a little longer than the time it takes to quickly scan our Twitter feed.

It only takes a moment to post a note about your day- something you saw, a quick photo taken by your iphone- and suddenly, tens of thousands of followers have a glance into your personal life. This can actually be great marketing in itself. If we’re a little bit invested into a person, we are more likely to pay attention to their work. For instance, I always thought kindly of Ashley Judd, especially since my Kentucky Mamaw also sang high praises of their whole family. Now, after following her on Twitter and learning how much action she puts into her beliefs, I notice when she has a new movie or television show.

But, I can’t help but wonder if this creates the same effect that radio personalities experience. Day after day, a listener spends time with their “radio friend” in the car and at home. After a while, the person on air becomes familiar. It almost seems like they are someone the listener personally knows. This, of course, can blur the lines of reality and, in extreme cases, cause issues with boundary-challenged fans. It’s easy to share anything on Twitter, and it’s easy to forget what it means to have thousands of individuals reading your personal thoughts. Is it easy to forget the line between private and public life?

I know that, as one person, my opinion matters little. However, I suspect that, though I am but one person, this opinion is shared by many others. With that in mind, might I point out a few things that would make you, the celebrity, better at Twitter?

1. Connecting with your followers in this format is a fantastic way to strengthen your fan base. Take advantage of that. When Jane Leeves noted my dog, Yoshi’s, cuteness, it was rad. Crystal Lewis recently shared a blog about running and faith that really touched me. I was able to share feedback and it was acknowledged. Thanks, ladies! Personal connection makes the world smaller and keeps us interested in what you have to say.

2. Limit your retweets, please. Yes, there are many people in our world in need, and it is genuinely FANTASTIC that you are using your voice to help. However, when this is done so frequently, it doesn’t accomplish anything. Seeing “RT: Please help raise money/awareness for [organization]/[person]…” is an immediate cue to the brain to skip and move to the next item. It’s not that we don’t care, but we get desensitized by seeing it so often. And we know that you’re barely taking a fraction of a second to hit “retweet” and have no knowledge or investment in the cause. Not only do we not know if this particular organization is legit, but, subconsciously, we wonder if you don’t care, why should we?

3. On that note, PLEASE stop retweeting compliments and praise. PLEASE. Yes, you’re awesome. If we weren’t fans, we wouldn’t be following you in the first place. Yes, we are aware that other fans are positively gushing over your awesomeness. But, why do you think we are interested in reading it? While you might see affirmation of a job well done, the minute you hit “retweet” it is re-translated into “I desperately need everyone to see how much I am adored.”

4. Thank you for sharing news and upcoming events! Twitter is a great way to stay up-to-date on these things. Can you please balance it with a few actual personal thoughts? Remember, Twitter’s greatest advantage is personal connection (see a theme?).

5. Don’t be afraid to do your thing. Chances are, we are following because we like your work. Thank you, Ellen, for putting some humor into your posts. Thanks, Carlos Whittaker, for sharing your perspective about faith and real life. And thank you, Carly Fleischmann, for helping us understand autism. But, where is your snark, Kathy Griffin?

6. Don’t be afraid to follow us, even for just a little while. Forget market research or whatever trends the studio execs are reporting in your notes. You have the chance to see for yourself exactly what people are interested in and what they are thinking- and specifically from people who are also interested in your work. Personal connection can go two ways!

Ok, that’s probably enough for now. There have been at least 37 updates to my Twitter feed since I started typing this, and I wouldn’t want to miss anything The Hollywood Reporter has published.

* Thanks to the following folks for also unknowingly contributing to this post (and you might consider following):