[Note: This article is a rhetorical exercise in style imitation. The content here is fictionalized, although based on a number of real people and their activities in social media. The original text for imitation is Tom Wolfe’s “The Saturday Route,” from The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby.]
1. Is that Jennifer Lopez, the glamorous actress and singer, sending out a tweet from her house in LA? With that glamorous heart-shaped cafe-au-lait face, that cascade of Iced-Out-silver bling around her neck and the most gorgeous seductive brown eyes since Van Morrison slipped and slid along the waterfall with his brown-eyed childhood sweetheart? Awesome when JLo tweets!
“@shamyhart: I am so loving the new @JLo song!!!It makes me wanna get #onthefloor”
2. And there through her Twitter feed, followed by 1,574,868 raving fans, JLo, just declared the “World’s Most Beautiful Woman” by People, giving her even greater glamorosity to a celebrity-adoring public, responds to her fans’ adoring praise of her new highly-produced and -Autotuned Hip-Hop hit “On the Floor”:
3. “Thanks to you guys!!!!!! “@JennyLopezTEAM: @JLo – On The Floor | 2 weeks ago | 45,148,863 views on youtube!!! AMAZING! 🙂 RT” … #LOVE?RS I just found out that #onthefloor just went to #1 on the dance charts!!! THANKYOU!!! to all my peeps @ idj & my of course #LOVE?RS …”
4. Her gratitude to the adoring multitudes has to go on hold for the moment, though, because she has to hop a plane. JLo makes an outstanding contribution to the Twitterati Feeds over the next couple of weeks. Tomorrow she’s doing a show in the Dominican Republic with Marc Anthony. Then on Wednesday she has a video rehearsal and then two days later barrels off to Mexico to shoot a video of her next hit “I’m Into You” in a glittering flowing gown on the Maya ruins at Chichen Itza and then back to LA on Monday to be there in time for American Idol Wednesday night. And after that, she’s on to shoot a L’Oreal spot then a new album release and the Today Show and a new single and American Idol again.
5. Also tweeting away is Justin Bieber, the 17-year-old with 9,263,358 followers — nothing retiring about The Bieb on the Twitterati Feeds, videos with Usher on YouTube, selling locks of his hair for $40,000 on eBay. And so are bad-boy Charlie Sheen and his female trainwreck counterpart Lindsay Lohan, but not Nicolas Cage, whose only tweet was two years ago: “[Nic Cage] has been so busy working he hasn’t had time to set up his twitter! argh!!” Charlie isn’t giving up on the Twitterati Feeds just because the scandal rags run headlines like “Wanna work for Charlie Sheen? Fired actor seeks intern.”
6. And so are Ben Stiller, Paris Hilton, Nathan Fillion, Demi Moore, Stephen Fry, Tom Hanks, David Lynch, Dr. Phil, Danny Glover, Pee Wee Herman, Rainn Wilson, and, well, you know, everybody.
7. The thing is, any regular old working stiff or struggling student or desperate family person knows how social networks work in the real world. You open a web browser or check your cell phone to monitor Facebook statuses or Tweets or LinkedIn updates, and what matters most to you really is sending out a tweet to your 36 followers or finding out where your friends are going Friday night or posting a blog entry late at night or seeing what new pix your sister has posted of the baby or discovering the newest hilarious cat video on YouTube. Mostly what everybody does with social media is share and connect with the people you know next door or maybe on the other side of the world.
8. But what about the world of the glitterati? If one is famous and is Justin Bieber, it means something more. Never mind the humdrum lives of the great unwashed. In the rarified world of celebrity, there is the new search for meaning in one’s life, the accumulation of millions of Twitter followers and Facebook Likes. And none of your cat videos. In celebrity these days, there is a new way to buff your ego with Twitterati Feeds that send out the details of your marvelous life to millions of adulating fans. And, naturally, nobody cares what you the average slob are doing on Friday night. In the Olympus of the famous, they give each other La-La Land’s most gracious gesture of support and esteem, the Celebrity Re-Tweet.
9. As the interconnections of mutual-admirational re-tweets begin ricocheting around the rarified Twitter feeds of the glitterati, you get the sense that the Twitterati are propping each other up. Paris Hilton describes herself on Twitter as a model and actress but also as a philanthropist and a brand and an “empire.” She retweets what Bryant Storey found out happens if you search on YouTube for “the world according to paris,” she tells Nayla Alkhaja what a lovely time she had with her in Dubai, and then makes a showing at Coachella followed by a visit to her chiropractor, informing 3,856,001 people along the way. She has legions of Twitter followers. So does Regis Philbin, 80-year-old TV personality, and his co-host, the gorgeous, verbose Kelly Ripa, who run a jointly-branded Twitter feed (“Regis and Kelly”), so one kind of wonders whether their fascinating tweets are really coming from the old boy himself or from Kelly or from some factotum. So do all the true Twitterati, because they work hard at developing a fascinating or notorious public persona worthy of the attention of the masses.
10. “I LOVE YOU PEOPLE!!!” “Pure BEASTMODE!!” “OHMYYYYY IM GETTING GOOSEBUMPS!” “@KimKardashian love this song baby & luv u! MY NEW FAV http://idj.to/g5U9V5” And Jennifer and Kim connect and Jennifer re-tweets Kim and Kim re-tweets Jennifer, and Ashton re-tweets Alexis, and Alexis re-tweets Ashton, and then JLo and Rob trade them and Nathan and Oprah and Jonny and Shakira and Ryan and Khloe.
11. Irresistibly, this firehose of singers, models, actors, rappers, and Twitterati begins to attract an explosion of followers, connections, and friends they’ve never actually met. One whole set is what one might call ‘Second-Tier Twitterati’ — that is to say, ‘wanna-be’s’ — other actors, singers, and wealthy partiers who are friends with the top tier and would love to climb the rungs of celebrityhood. Also a vast crowd of journalists watching for a breaking story or a new scandal or some juicy gossip or a chance to cop an interview. And pop fans, acquaintances and faux-friends, stalkers, dreamers, and people old and young who are fascinated by the cult of fame and who presumably don’t have enough going on in their own lives so they try to live vicariously through the glittery lives of the famous. So every day through Facebook walls and Twitter feeds and videos and talk-show appearances, the Twitterati send up this enormous fireworks display lighting up their amazing lives.
12. At the villa where she’s staying in Piste after the Chichen Itza video shoot, Jennifer Lopez, dressed-down to a tee and jeans, is standing at a picture window looking out over the grounds of the compound at night, a dark mass of trees beyond the lights and security fence, a reminder of the jungle where the ancient Maya ruins stand and where Club Med has plunked down a sliver of civilization conveniently in the midst of the Yucatán. She is alone now, the twins asleep in their room, and having dismissed Rebeca for the night and asked Rebeca to turn away any late-night callers. She takes a deep breath and lets out a sigh. Jennifer can see her own reflection in the picture window. The World’s Most Beautiful Woman: Jennifer Lopez, Jennifer Lopez, Jennifer, JLo, Jennifer, JLo, JLo, Jlo.
13. Where it sits on the coffee table, her phone buzzes. She picks it up and checks her texts. A tweet from a fan she follows: “@JLo FANS!!!!! ATTENTION JLO FANS!!!! OUR LADY LOVE JLO NEEDS US!!! CHECK IT OUT!!! A MUST SEE PLEASE! PURE AWESOMENESS http://t.co/fgashIs”
She re-tweets one of the messages, then sends a final tweet: “Have sweet dreams #LOVE?RS!!! I’m gonna go do some work now that the coconuts are sleepy sleepy. Tweet you tomorrow…:):)” then the World’s Most Beautiful Woman shuts off her phone for the night.
14. Across the world, riding in a limo, on a street in Jakarta near where the National Monument juts up from the skyline, a great spire like an enormous dart, is Justin Bieber, teen heartthrob of his generation. He is wearing a leather jacket over a tee-shirt and is peering up at the Monument. He can see a faded image of his fresh baby-face in the car window against the afternoon street scene rushing by. He thinks about that girl Maribel from the video in the bowling alley. He sent her a text yesterday. He checks his phone. Nothing from her. He thinks about sending her another text. Would she be annoyed? He swallows, blinks. Instead, he does the sure thing and sends out a tweet to the 9,263,358: “Indonesia is so #BEAST !! I can tell it’s gonna be a good show tomorrow. #myworldtour”
15. 10,000 miles away, in Fort Lauderdale, Charlie Sheen walks out of his hotel and down the street toward the early-morning lights of a convenience store a few blocks away. Charlie, self-proclaimed winner and warlock and possessor of tiger blood, youngest son of the great Martin Sheen, now on a tour called “My Violent Torpedo of Truth/Defeat is Not An Option,” is one of many doped-up, boozed-up Twitterati looking like a train wreck in progress, recently fired from Warner Bros.’ hit comedy Two and a Half Men. Right now, though, on Charlie that whole saga, like any attention-getting scandal, sits perfectly on the bad-boy image he’s cultivating, like a favorite well-worn baseball cap, one of which in fact he is wearing right now pulled down low over his face. And now, on the dark street in Fort Lauderdale, he stops to take a look in the front window of a darkened electronics store. And as he’s taking an idle look at the cameras and clocks and music players, a car cruises by on the street behind him, and as its headlights pass he gets a flash of his reflection in the window, unbuttoned untucked shirt over a dark tee-shirt, and for a moment the face peering out from under the baseball cap looks like a stranger’s. How did his face get to be so thin?, he wonders for a moment. A police siren breaks out howling somewhere in the distance. Then Charlie blurts out a laugh and digs into his jeans pocket, pulls out his phone, and 3,713,863 followers receive: “FT LAUDERDALE!! who wants tix for tonights epic event..?! Give me your full name! I’m giving away at least a dozen…cause I can!! My show!”
16. But a couple of days later, at Lincoln Center overlooking Columbus Circle in New York City, the blonde smiling woman seated at a table with Jennifer Egan, Blake Lively, Seth Meyers, Wael Ghonim, and Bruno Mars, and wearing a long black fur-collared jacket over a black blouse and gold slacks and with several strings of glistening pearls around her neck is the publisher and television personality Martha Stewart. What’s she doing here? Well, she is attending the annual Time 100 gala, where Time magazine lauds the world’s greatest illuminati.
17. But when Martha sits at her banquet table or instructs the TV audience in making an arrangement of beautiful spring wildflowers or writes a reflective essay for The Martha Blog, in her serene, smiling way she stands out from the great booming sparkly fireworks display of the Twitterati. But that’s all right, because Martha’s 2,214,559 followers aren’t expecting tweets from a hearthrob or a warlock or the World’s Most Beautiful Woman, just something kind and interesting and cordial that you might expect from a 69-year-old grandmother and consummate expert in the art of etiquette:
“Bruno mars is now singing to us. And he is charming as is his ensemble http://twitpic.com/4pyfwt” and “Blake lively’s here as an honoree- check out my twitpic of her easter dessert buffet. Amazing talent http://twitpic.com/4pylnj” and then “Gov chris christie is honored and is speaking about his sicilian grandma! http://twitpic.com/4pym7z”
18. To the beautiful people of the Twitterati, however, it does not matter in the least that pundits and social critics and cynical rhetors look down on all the fireworks as a superficial and not very meaningful spectacle. The fact is, however it came about, these are their lives, and on a human level they are working and pursuing goals and trying to grow friendships and take care of families and gain some self-esteem and a sense of purpose in life. And for all that the Twitterati feeds and the Facebook walls and the blogs and the videos and the tabloid headlines spotlight inflated egos and ugly rants and superficial trivia, they also convey a hint of vulnerability and a need for love and positive regard and affirmation like the rest of us.
19. And now Nic Cage sits on a bench in back of his house in New Orleans, one of his few houses that have not been seized in foreclosure. His arrest a few days ago for domestic abuse battery, disturbing the peace, and public intoxication nearby in the French Quarter has left a hard lump in his gut. But Nic always finds peace when he sits here in the walled garden in the late afternoon. Birds love to come here, and now they’re flitting around in the trees and bushes — and twittering, as it happens. Nic has no picture window or car window or glass storefront nearby to give him a glance at his face, but the twittering birds do make him think now about Twitter. Seems like everybody’s doing it nowadays. Maybe when he gets back inside, he’ll get on the computer and figure out how to send out that second tweet. 577 followers are hoping he will. It would be a start.