The 160 Character You

(Screenshot by Eric O.)

In a recent piece by The New York Times, Wayne describes the importance and diversity of Twitter biographies amongst celebrities, politicians, and other people of relative fame. It’s described as “a postmodern art form, an opportunity in 160 characters or fewer to cleverly synopsize one’s professional and personal accomplishments, along with a carefully edited non sequitur or two.” In example, Hillary Clinton’s biography (photographed above) is described as “perfect” by Slate and the “best bio ever” by The Washington Post.

(Screenshot by Eric O.)

The biography is accurate to her content. Although Hillary Clinton is primarily known as a political figure, she addresses herself as a mother and wife first. To no surprise, her most recent tweet starts off with “As a mom…”. It’s an interesting twist; a politician using Twitter to post content about other facets of her life. To me, it says, ‘I’m more than just a politician’, and encompasses the idea of ‘having it all’ (a career, family, dog, etc). Everybody knows Clinton for her political life, and publicly tweeting about other topics shows a sense of depth; she wants to show that her life spans beyond that of her career.

Marwick & Boyd discuss one’s audience in I Tweet Honestly, I Tweet Passionately: Twitter Users, Context Collapse, and the Imagined Audience. Clinton tweets based on her imagined audience, which would most likely be a diverse group. However, she assumes that her audience is going to be interested in motherhood as its both on the first line of her biography and in her tweets. Here, she creates a platform for her imagined audience: ‘I’m going to be tweeting content related to my role as a mother and wife’. In addition to her imagined audience, she also exhibits content collapse in her tweets and biography. Although Clinton addresses motherhood first, her career as a U.S. senator (and obsession with pantsuits) is mentioned on the second line.

(Screenshot by Eric O.)

Including both of these factors among others is an interesting mix of content which reaches out to multiple audiences all under one profile. In order for content collapse to be successful, it requires an individual to tweet in the ‘lowest common denominator’. That is, tweeting an opinion that appeals to the largest audience. Certainly, voter’s rights is something that most people can get behind. Looking back at her former tweet regarding ‘the importance of words’ and motherhood, the link discusses increasing education quality for lower-income children. Since Clinton’s imagined audience most likely includes a general democratic population which may support better education for all, this tweet can also fall under the ‘lowest common denominator’ strategy of content collapse. Because Clinton uses her Twitter page to address her career, family / personal life, and opinions, she must take into account a large audience and tweet agreeable opinions and stances applicable to everyone. Otherwise, a backlash is more likely to occur, she could lose followers from outputting different types of content.

(Screenshot by Eric O.)

After taking a closer look at the tweet regarding the Voting Rights Act, I couldn’t help but feel like it was a little bit odd. When you click on the link, it merely brings you to this statement only slightly larger than what could fit into a tweet. Why was this necessary? Baym touches on a similar concept focusing on online political engagement in Personal Connections In The Digital Age that felt relatable to this tweet. She says that virtual engagement on blogs and social media platforms “provides an illusion of political engagement.” (95). This is an interesting excerpt to take into consideration for Clinton. The link leads to an incredibly brief statement on Clinton’s main website merely expressing ‘disappointment’ and ‘urges’ towards Congress. Although Clinton has had a large impact in politics overall, I believe this tweet attempts to make up for Clinton’s lack of action towards this specific decision that Congress made. When Clinton otherwise has no presence or action on a certain issue, merely tweeting about the topic seems to suffice in the social media world. In addition to this tweet encompassing Clinton’s imagined audience, it also serves the convenient purpose of maintaining her reputation as a political figure.

Hillary Clinton’s Twitter page exhibits successful and clever social media usage. Her biography sets the stage for not only the type of content in which she will discuss but also sheds light onto Clinton’s life beyond what one may find in the media and news. By broadening her discussion topics she is able to attain a larger following because her tweets contain agreeable stances. Furthermore, her Twitter page serves as a platform that allows her to address and engage in issues that she might not otherwise have the opportunity to do so.


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