Thursday, January 7, 2010

Vanity Fair "America's Tweethearts" - Oh Dear

Yesterday, Vanity Fair published this article discussing the success of several female icons of the Twitterverse, including one of my personal role models Felicia Day. Unfortunately the light that the article portrayed these women in showed a distinct lack of understanding of the world in which us social media fiends live. Read the article HERE. What follows is my letter to the editor, sent this morning. I hope spellcheck didn't fail me on this one.

Dear Editor,

It is with stark disappointment that I compose this letter today, to address an issue on which you’ve no doubt already received a vast amount of feedback. I am writing to address to tone and assumptions made in the article “America’s Tweethearts”.

The women depicted in this article are successful, brilliant and extraordinarily dedicated. Their fastidious attention to their admirers, as well as their devotion to their careers has created a cohesive set of skills which has set them above so many who explore only traditional marketing and media outlets. The light in which they were presented in this article implies a severe lack of research and understanding of what it is these women truly do. It is also a wide misrepresentation of whom they are, as a collective, pawning off misspelled, uninteresting, text-like tweets onto them. This is not what these women do, nor whom they are.

These women are moguls. To those of us who have seen our stars rise beyond the throes of the old media regime, they are a beacon of hope, pointing out a new path to success, and not solely online. For anyone who desires to pen the words spoken by the Oscar nominated performer, or design the building that the runway show takes place in, these women offer an alternative method of marketing, which is quickly going to become the norm. They are a breath of fresh ocean air, ushering in the salty breeze of change from what has been to what will become, and for that we should commend them.

It is unfortunate that this article (incidentally written by a woman) tears down five driven, intelligent women, with such disregard for what it is they have achieved, and those who can open their minds enough to respect them. It is even more unfortunate that in the very same issue, five actresses are built up in a much more favourable light. This fact alone suggests an unforgivable lack of understanding into the world of social media, and the achievements of those who are brave enough to navigate a new territory.

It would be lovely to see an addendum published, showing further insight into the world that these women navigate, and a retraction to the mildly snarky tone that bleeds throughout this article. These women deserve our respect; it is likely that your readers will demand nothing less from the Vanity Fair establishment.

Thank you for your time and attention to this letter.

Yours very truly,
Rachel Langer


  1. Great letter Rach! There's nothing I could add - a disappointing & narrow article.

  2. Hate to say it, but I'm siding with Vanity Fair on this one. Not in the snarky tone of the piece, but in the general skepticism as to the value of twitter celebrity. Personal taste I guess.

  3. I took a scan of the linked article, and I have to agree with Peter. It read to me like a general reflection on the perils of Twitter and how it's helping to chip away at participants' capacity for attention, reflection and literacy, as opposed to a commentary on those particular women's inherent qualities.


  4. As always, I welcome any and all feedback. My issue was not with their stance on Twitter celebrity and it's value (or lack thereof) but the way that it related that lack of value to the careers of the five women highlighted in the article. Equating their tweets to "droppings" was a misrepresentation of the vision and talents of these women.

  5. Another great letter, better than mine, which suggests a redeeming path for VF.

  6. It just comes back to the biggest problem with matter how talented or awesome someone is, the signal to noise ratio of their tweets is going to be pretty poor. That's just the nature of the beast. For every insightful and interesting tweet these women put up (or any other twilebrity puts up), there are going to be a dozen "I just had a delicious foofooberry latte." If those aren't droppings I'm not sure what are (and if you's those types of tweets specifically that the article refers to as droppings).

    I think the article does a fairly decent job explaining what sets these women apart from the thousands of less worthy twilebrities (ie. those who only leave droppings behind)...they actually listen and respond to people, carry on conversations, and that makes them unique.

    I also don't see how the article disparages the careers of these women, though really the only person whose career I'm familiar with is Felicia Day's, so that's to whom I'll speak.

    It's not saying she's a terrible actress. It's not saying that she's a terrible writer. It's not saying that The Guild is a terrible web series. In fact the only thing that the article talks about is how these women use twitter. Is the entire wroth of their career bound up in their tweets? Do they not have a career that extends beyond the bounds of twitter?

    The Guild was a success without Twitter (it launched in July 2007...Twitter didn't really take off until November 2008). By corrollating all of her success with her use of Twitter you're denigrating the success she had without it. Twitter is not the cause of success, it's simply a tool that adds to it.

    I think the fairest criticism of the Vanity Fair piece comes from the Geek Girl Diva article you linked to, and it has more to do with a missed opportunity than anything else.

    "Instead of taking the opportunity to highlight the accomplishments of each of these women, and how Twitter factors in..."

    Why didn't Vanity Fair choose to do that? That would of been interesting.

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  8. Oh dear. How unfortunate that this article, which was clearly written to expose the lowest common denominator, so quickly became part of the very thing it set out to hate. Focusing on the shit (sorry, I stopped using "droppings" around six or seven years of age), it completely fails to acknowledge the large quantity of cream - the success stories and positives that have risen from social media venues such as Twitter.

    Social media is no different from any real-life networking forum. There will always be obnoxious, self-interested people who will go on at great length about nothing of value. Haven't we all been stuck "conversing" with that person, at some event or party, at some point in our lives? Guess what, Miss Grigoriadis: meaningless rambling isn't a new trend. It's been around for years. And guess what: we're all guilty of it from time to time.

    It's disappointing that Miss Grigoriadis chose to single out five women in particular, likening them to a "telephone chat line staffed by a bunch of cheerleaders." I'm not disagreeing that there aren't women on Twitter who use it solely as an attention getting device... I can't say if any of the women featured in this article do, because I don't follow any of them. However, I know for a fact that there are just as many men, celebrities or otherwise, who use Twitter (and other on-line forums) for verbal self-gratification. Why not expose one or two of them as "twilebrities"?

    Hmm. Right. A bunch of naked men, sporting high-heels and trench coats wouldn't look as sexy. Certainly wouldn't sell as many magazines. Point taken. Regardless...

    I like Twitter. It's allowed me to connect with a lot of other working writers while I'm working my way towards Toronto, or LA. It's allowed me to connect with a lot of talented writers locally too, like Rachel, who I might not have met otherwise. For the reclusive scribe, it's a networking godsend. It's also frequently good for a chuckle; many talented pros like Mark Farrell, Hart Hanson, Mindy Kaling, Jonathan Ames, and Denis McGrath supply good laughs and deep thoughts a-plenty.

    As Peter correctly identified, a better spin would have been to focus the article on the benefits of social media, and the positive outcomes - not just for these women, but for people everywhere. That would have been an article worth reading.

    Bottom line: from what I've read, it seems all six women featured in this catty rant are fairly successful. So ultimately, they likely won't give a shit. After all, we should remember that there's really no such thing as bad publicity - it's all in what you make it.