February 20, 2014

Twitter, Celebrities, & The Force For Good

Last night I realised (yet again) what a powerful tool Twitter is, and how it can be used as a force for good, and for change.

I follow the actor/comedian Ricky Gervais, who is a complete genius. I love his tweets and I love his work. But last night I took offence to one of his tweets, a joke ridiculing fat people in leggings. I didn't respond, but many others did. Ricky returned, defending his original tweet, and posting comments encouraging fat shaming by exclaiming that losing weight is simple and easy.

I couldn't help myself. I felt outraged. I responded to Ricky, explaining that eating issues are never simple. When he continued, I did too, with tweets to him about food addiction and compulsion. And he responded to me. Oh yes he did. He was reading my tweets. He was reading all of our tweets.

And guess what? He deleted his tweets. All of them.

This, people, is what I love about social media. Not that it made Ricky Gervais revise his opinion. God knows what he really thinks - maybe he is just concerned about being offensive, maybe he really did take it on board, who knows. But it allowed me, a little person, one of the masses, to be heard. It allowed me to communicate directly with an person of massive influence.

Five years ago, when I joined Twitter, I had no agenda whatsoever. I didn't intend to blog, or to forge a writing career; I simply came on board because celebrities were on Twitter and I was keen to see what they were saying. One of my first ever responses was from the actress Demi Moore and I was beside myself with excitement. (She had tweeted "Everyone needs to love each other!" I tweeted back "Do I have to? I have three kids. I'm exhausted from all the loving!" She responded "As long as you love yourself!" Shortly after, I unfollowed her. All the Ashton-fuelled love tweets were making me queasy.)

And then there was Mia Freedman. Mia was one of the first people I followed; I had always admired her, and was hoping to have a chance to engage with her. Well, I began answering her tweets, and we developed a rapport, and shortly afterwards I began writing for Mamamia. And that undoubtedly was my biggest career break. I am quite sure I wouldn't be here today if I hadn't had the opportunity to connect with her online.

These days Mia doesn't read most of her Twitter responses; she has publicly stated that she has deleted her @replies. And whilst I respect her decision - she receives a lot of vitriolic tweets and nobody needs to read those - I think it's a shame for those who admire and wish to connect with her. Unlike me, they will probably not have the chance.

Now, I suspect Mia is not alone. Most celebrities would receive hundreds or even thousands of tweets daily; it would be simply impossible to keep up with all of them.

But the fact that Ricky Gervais read and responded to his, and more - that he took the comments on board, and deleted some of his offensive tweets - gives me hope. Social media is still a formidable force. And Ricky Gervais is still a seriously awesome bloke.

And happily, I managed to screenshot the tweet. So here it is. Ricky, you can't delete me!

Helpfully circled in red in case you couldn't pick it 






40 comments:

  1. It's funny - before social media, this whole thing would never have happened...


    Ricky Gervais would still be a celebrity - and he may have still made a fat-shaming joke, but I guess it would have been in an interview, or maybe just talking between friends...


    What would have happened then? Before social media, blogs, and comment dominated news sites? I'm guessing nothing would have happened...


    There are a lot of differences between the 21st and 20th Century. In the 20th Century we largely went about our lives not really worrying about what most people thought or said - even celebrities... I know the occasional celebrity would get into trouble for something they said - John Lennon's "Bigger than Jesus" comment, for example... but these were unusual and rare pre-Internet.


    Now, we all expose ourselves online so much - everything we do and say is scrutinised and judged... Sometimes I feel that life used to be better when we didn't know so much about each other... but, the immediacy of your story is also a thing of wonder... we have access to so many people now - eyes and ears and words and thoughts... we used to all lead our lives mostly in isolation... now we're all part of a huge web of ideas and opinions...


    I still can't make up my mind which world I prefer....

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  2. I too am happy I managed to connect with Mia before she jumped away from twitter and stopped reading her @ replies. I get why she did - I wouldn't want to wade through a bunch of vitriol either and clearly a threshold was reached - but twitter is poorer for people like Mia not being there and actively engaging.


    And I find it so interesting to watch conversations such as yours with Ricky. I have learned a LOT from watching people debate certain topics in 140 characters. Twitter can get very shouty, and some topics simply CAN'T be debated effectively in 140 characters ... but I know I have softened or changed my views on a lot of things because of twitter.

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  3. I'm most impressed you know how to put a red line around the tweet! That is hard xx

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  4. I can vouch for the power of social media and the good it can do. Almost 5 years ago I tweeted Shawn Christian who is on Days of Our Lives, yeah yeah I know, but hey I am hooked and have been for years. Shawn replied immediately. Over the last 5 years we have formed an online 'friendship' of sorts. I am part of a group which is based in the US and make/made items and raised money for charities Shawn supports. Just recently I have been helping him and Ari Zucker from Days spread the word about Arrow-Heart Adventure camps, based in Idaho. Ari and her brother started this place, and it is amazing and helps troubled teams get their life back on track. So I guess what I am saying is through twitter I have earned the trust of people that I would never have thought would even give me the time of the day. I am proud to be a part of their team. I have also gained a very close friendship group of over 30 girls, because of Days, who are now like my family.
    On the other hand I know social media can be nasty and damaging but it has changed my life and I am grateful for that.

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  5. Good on you, Kerri. It sounds like he took your sensible/sensitive comments on board and rethought his fat-shaming. That reflects well on his character (and on yours for being the conduit). It's so easy to blame victims and the obese have always been lampooned.


    It's great also to know that - amid all the trolling and meanness - there is real scope for good on social media. :)

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  6. I follow Ricky and find him funny most of the time but I've also been pissed off during another twitter debate he got into a while back. Another thoughtless belief of his had him defending his use of the word 'mong' to denigrate someone or infer their stupidity.

    I forget the precise instance but he did say (boiled down) he felt the word had evolved enough in the modern vernacular for all the PC-ists to stop getting their knickers in a twist about. I don't know if anyone ever got through to him on that one, but I certainly haven't changed my opinion and strong feeling that it's wrong and vilifying, regardless.

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  7. The engagement is the thing I love most about twitter and celebs outsourcing is kinda sad. (Of course those who drunk-tweet are kinda sad as well!) My first famous-person response was from Kristin Chenoweth. I tweeted that I was loving her as a judge on US SYTYCD and she responded.


    It can be a bit confronting as well. I've been doing book reviews recently and will often tag the publisher and author in a tweet with link to my blog or Goodreads. I've never done it if my review is really negative but occasionally I've been a bit #meh (and included positives and negatives). Seeing a response from an author or retweet reminds me that the subject of my words is a very real person.

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  8. Wow that is impressive. I have never been able to get into Twitter...but can understand its appeal and its influence.

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  9. I read all my @replies but I can imagine at some point if they are all basically haters, I can imagine it would be better to just turn off. I don't even go into my DM folder - it's just a bunch of spam and I can't be bothered wading through it.

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  10. I'm really impressed with how you stand up for the things you passionately believe in. You've even made me re-think whether or not I ever fat shame anyone whether it's myself or somebody else (myself mainly) and resolve to change my ways.

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  11. I stopped following Ricky awhile ago, he annoys me on twitter. I don't think I follow any celebrities anymore? Like many I miss the old days of twitter, I just can't seem to get into it anymore, it feels different. Do you think more celebs will begin to do the same as Mia?

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  12. Lana (Sharpest Pencil)February 20, 2014 at 3:16 PM

    I basically met you through Twitter so there's that..... xxxxxxx

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  13. Lana (Sharpest Pencil)February 20, 2014 at 3:20 PM

    Just saw this on Twitter - THIS perplexes me. I can understand not following everyone back because you can't properly engage with thousands of people in all honesty - you just can't keep up with the tweets and you miss so much. But to follow NO ONE?

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  14. Yeah, stuff Twitter. It's all about PAINT.

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  15. That's a brilliant story! Thanks Chris. Well done you x

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  16. Mong is SO not okay. Do you think it's different in the US/UK?

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  17. You must prefer the online world otherwise you wouldn't be on it... surely?

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  18. You've got to be kidding me. BERNARD! What are you DOING???

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  19. No. I met Sharpest Pencil online. I met you at a picnic xxxxxxx

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  20. We'll never know. But I suspect many of them already have. :-(

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  21. Thanks love. That really means a lot to me x

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  22. Really? I have the BEST conversations in DMs. My DM folder could destroy my career!!!! If not my life!!!!

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  23. I love it. But it doesn't suit everyone!

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  24. That is SUCH a good point Deb. Everyone is a human being, famous or not.

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  25. This annoys me. Anne Lamott (brilliant writer who I love) is the same. Follows no one. I won't follow people who are clearly not on twitter to engage actively

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  26. Me too! And of course some people will never change their views.... but then they wouldn't offline either x

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  27. Alison - Talking FranklyFebruary 20, 2014 at 3:38 PM

    Love it Kerri. Fangirl moments are always pretty awesome, even if they happen because the person is being a numpty. Well done you btw for engaging in such a positive way. PS: Frame it.

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  28. Umm - to be honest, I could walk away from social media and be happy, but there are reasons why I need to be online, so if I have to be here, I might as well as join in - otherwise there's no point...


    Does that make sense?


    I'd miss you of course! ;)

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  29. Oh, I was so impressed by this, Kerri, but then devo that Ricky had deleted everything before I could piece the exchange together! Always seem to be too late to Twitter....

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  30. Have got quite excited myself when celebrities have replied back to my tweets (eg. Chrissie Swan, Kate Cebrano and yourself!). Its a pity a few drongos can ruin a way we can reach out which we've never had before (except for those fanatics writing scary letters to their idols, no not me, ever ....). I hope you don't ever feel the need to block us out when you become even more famous ;)

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  31. Yeah, that is the downside of Twitter. If you're not there in the moment, you can miss it!

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  32. You funny thing. I am so not a celebrity! And I'll never block you!!!!! x

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  33. Oh totally. Might have to get it put on a mug!

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  34. LOL - I have no plans to go anywhere ;)


    I like my online friends - but even then, I know I could walk away from social media and not feel like I'm missing out on anything...


    But that's because I'm not a naturally social person, and I enjoy my solitude... social media doesn't come naturally to me - I have to work at it... it's hard sometimes...

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  35. Goodness...no one...not even anyone 'important' like himself!?
    (As Lizzy Bennet said, "insufferable!"

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  36. I know Ricky Gervais thinks he is very witty and clever but I don't particularly buy it. I'm sure he didn't delete his comments because he changed his mind but rather because of the negative fallout

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  37. Look at you lovely lady, changing the world one tweet at a time :)

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