Even when they leave, most don’t stay away for long. There’s something about the allure of Twitter that keeps dragging even the most reluctant artists back to the service after they vow to abandon it forever.
Though he fell short of the Twitter hiatuses of everyone from Demi Lovato, to Miley Cyrus, John Mayer and Nicki Minaj, Brown did eventually come back. But why?
“The main thing that makes it so compelling for these celebrity types is that they are never sure of their status at any given time,” said CNN commentator and “Program or Be Programmed: Ten Commands for a Digital Age” author Douglas Rushkoff. “If they’re feeling like a loser or like no one has written about them for a few days (or hours) then they can send out a tweet in order to get some response. The subtext of almost all of these tweets is, ‘does anyone still care about me?’ And if people respond or retweet, you get the hit of dopamine you need to go on.”
In this instant gratification age, when album sales, concert attendance figures or the ratings bump provided by sitcom stunt casting (or career boost from a judge slot on a reality singing program), may not provide the kind of quick-hit positive reinforcement artists crave, Rushkoff said Twitter is a shot of ego adrenaline.
“They live off these constant little pings of feedback, having grown incapable of registering the bigger arcs,” he said. “It’s like a person addicted to little bits of sugar, who can’t really get the energy up for a whole meal.”
Some artists, like Beyoncé, have resisted the pull of Twitter (even if they are on other social media) and that is probably a good thing, according to public relations/branding strategist Marvet Britto, who has worked with everyone from Mariah Carey to actor Mike Epps, Def Jam Records and rapper Eve. There’s something about the mystery that Bey has been able to keep about her life that keeps her fans interested by not diluting her voice with constant updates.
She agreed with Rushkoff that celebrities enjoy the immediacy of social media platforms like Twitter because it allows them to measure the pulse of the culture in which their art lives.
“Quitting is about temporary anger and disappointment,” she said. “But the allure is that it is a platform that’s an invaluable tool in distribution of first person, unfiltered, uncensored information that reflects the emotions of the artist at that time.”
Britto, who has worked in the business for two decades and remembers a time before Twitter, said artists enjoy directly feeding the insatiable appetite of the media and their fans in ways they couldn’t a decade ago. And though she counsels her clients to avoid rote re-tweeting of positive affirmations from fans without a nod to the negative comments, Britto added that platforms like Twitter can give you the kind of feedback and direction that is impossible to nail down through focus groups or other old-school methods.
“Artists come back to it [Twitter] because many of them are fueled by the public’s acceptance of them and they miss that direct dialogue, which can be quite intoxicating,” she said. “Plus a publicist or manager can’t articulate what you’re thinking or feeling quite like you can.”