Gemma Styles: Should We Be More Forgiving Of Celeb Twitter Meltdowns?
The Debrief: When someone is angry, or sad, often you just want someone to listen to you. But when you have hundreds of thousands of followers, that thinly-veiled tweet about your ex boyfriend becomes a news story...
The celebrity culture we’ve cultivated (try saying that ten times fast) has produced some strange behaviour patterns. There is one gossipy gold mine in particular that runs with the precision of a German train network and can be relied upon for tabloid gossip on a week to week basis. I am of course referring to - the celebrity meltdown. Specifically, the social media variety.
For your average Joe online, it's quite easy to have your own meltdown and not get too much stick for it. Tweet those lyrics as a thinly concealed reference to your ex who's just been seen in the pub with that horrible girl you did A-level chemistry with. Go on a poorly punctuated rant at an online goods distributor because they left your parcel behind your wheelie bin - which was CLEARLY not your designated safe space - and now your new cushion covers smell like damp. With the luxury of not having our every move scrutinised, we can go on getting pissed off and telling people we're pissed off, without it being lauded about as a crisis or breaking point or evidence of our fragile state.
For those in the world of celebrity, you can't use social media in the same way everybody else does without being subject to a lot more analysis. People will publicise your virtual 'breakdown' for sport (and page views). Publicly acknowledging your anger shows a lack of self-restraint or suggests you can't cope.
I think taking to social media when you're angry is easily understandable. Our social profiles are designed to give an exciting look into a life - it's not about the run of the mill stuff like what you're having on your toast, but to showcase your shimmering career highlights and busy social calendars. It stands to reason that the place you share your emotional highs may also be your outlet for the lows. When people are angry or sad, oftentimes what they want is just someone to listen to them. When you have a thousands-strong audience just a few taps away, a captive audience in the palm of your hand, does it not make sense that you'd go straight to socials to vent your frustration? Ask the audience! Am I right or am I right?!
I think for most people, keeping a balanced view on all things social media is trickier than you might first expect. I'm sure we can all think of celebrity examples of people who keep their online accounts at arms length. Sharing happy news. Doing the advised PR. Sending out well wishes for world events. I think that for some of these people, maintaining an all-business relationship with social media is just good practice; by keeping their accounts neat and friendly, it makes it less likely that that's where you'll head to vent when you're half cut and furious. You never share personal stuff on social media, so why would that be your first reaction now? It's a safety mechanism.
The fact is that, like so many other aspects of celebrity life, the general public can be very unforgiving of these 'meltdowns'. An unpleasant incident, rather than passing you by, is now part of the news cycle for the next week or so and will be dredged up in future if anyone needs to demonstrate your anger/sadness/instability. Should we, the observers, be more forgiving of the occasional slip up? I think so. We're all human.
On an alternative note though, there are some meltdowns that should be taken more seriously. Ranting and raving about poor service you've had or getting riled and washing your hands of social media altogether (usually returning 48 hours later when you've calmed down) is, I think, an easily fathomable consequence of a stressful event and an audience willing to listen. Some people though, start ranting with other reasoning; Azaelia Banks, the latest example of a public Twitter meltdown, didn't just blow her top, she went on a vile, bilge-spilling tirade of homophobic abuse and racist slurs - among other things. This to me is not an example of someone venting frustration in an understandable format, but a biggot and a bully showing her true colours.
She might have said sorry now, but I think Banks' apology is more of a 'sorry I said it in public' sort of apology. This is the kind of behaviour that shouldn't be tolerated, celebrity or not - while I'm always for appreciating the back story behind a persons actions and try to show some understanding, there's no upset here that warrants the kind of language she used. While some celebrities are judged too harshly and deserve a little more empathy, there's no empathy I can see here - sometimes an Instagram sorry just isn't enough.
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Follow Gemma Styles on Twitter @GemmaAnneStyles
Photo: Matilda Hill-Jenkins
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