I’ve never really understood the Justin Bieber fan frenzy, so I thought I’d look to Twitter for some critical insight. First thing I did was look at his Twitter bio, which told me that “#MusicMondays is in full effect”. I had no idea what that hastag meant, so I looked it up. Basically it’s just a way for music lovers to recommend new music, artists or anything in the industry they’d like to talk about. I’m guessing that #FilmFridays is the same idea, but for films. Then he gave a shout out full of “LOVE” to all his fans and followers.
So the first few things I can take away from Justin Bieber is he cares about music, film and his fans. Okay, a little bit of a shameless self-promoter, but he seems like a nice guy. Second I followed Justin Bieber on Twitter, since I figured I should participate in his “fandom” for observational purposes. Somehow I wasn’t surprised when one of his fans immediately followed me as soon as she saw that I followed him.
Next I looked at his followed to followers ratio. Danah boyd offers some interesting insight in her article “I Tweet Honestly, I Tweet Passionately: Twitter Users, Context Collapse and the Imagined Audience.” “On Twitter, there is a disconnect between followers and followed. For instance, musician John Mayer (johncmayer) is followed by 1,226,844 users, but follows only 47. While followers provide an indication of audience, this is imprecise” (boyd 5). Justin Bieber has 46,478,892 followers and counting. He follows 121,362 of these followers. According to the math there may be disconnect, but I’m willing to argue that he is more personally involved with his fans than John Mayer. Justin Bieber also retweets his fans quite frequently, but these tweets are a form of self-promotion for his upcoming solo release #badday or his new film coming out on Christmas day #BelieveMovie. Still, I think the fans keep coming back for more, as they say, because he is so involved with them on this social networking site.
Not only does he retweet his fans, but he also does something boyd calls “audience addressed”, where “Twitter users speak directly to their imagined audience” (boyd 18). He cares about the opinions of his fans and so wants to know what they “want”. He, in turn, will give them what they want, which probably is the same thing that he’s always given them. In this sense he’s just continuing his popular image and keeping his audience satisfied without any risk. In her article “Without You I’m Nothing”, Papacharassi says, “Performance theory suggests that all authenticity and intimacy derives from restored behaviors, and is thus performed. These performances, or more precisely, these statements of the self are deliberately improvised in the same way that rhymes are improvised in poetry circles, or B-boys showcase a dance move in break dancing circles” (Papachrassi 12). Justin Bieber performs both on stages in concert and on Twitter. I especially liked this quote by Papacharassi because of the reference to rhymes and B-boys. I feel like this is something Justin Bieber would want to be aligned with. Mainly though, he presents himself as someone who loves his fans and acknowledges how his success is due to their continued support.
His fans support him by spreading news of his songs and tour on Twitter through hastags. “In public art cultures like graffiti, tagging is an act of signing an art performance, and artists develop specific tags that eponymize their works among known crowds. For those tweeting, a tag presents a similar signature that situates a behavior within a social context” (Papacharissi 12). So those above mentioned tags of #badday, #BelieveMovie and even #NeverSayNever are a sort of signature of his self-brand. Boyd calls this creation of a ‘personal brand’ as “part of a larger social phenomenon of using social media instrumentally for self-conscious commodification” (boyd 7). Justin Bieber, as many celebrity musicians are trying to make money. They want to sell CDs, merchandise and concert tickets. But above all, Justin Bieber is really selling himself. He is idealized by millions of teenage girls who all but seem obsessed with this Canadian pop star.
He seems to have these girls mesmerized because he presents himself as someone who cares about his fans, and also because he’s written lyrics that are honest and relatable. They view him as a “real” person, not just an act. I think that’s interesting in light of how all of his tweets are basically self-advertisements about his music. “When asked to describe ‘authenticity’ on Twitter, respondents placed it in direct opposition to strategic self-promotion…This view of micro-celebrity practice assumes an intrinsic conflict between self-promotion and the ability to connect with others on a deeply personal or intimate level” (boyd 15). It seems that the way Bieber presents himself garners a deeper level of closeness and possibly obsession. He wouldn’t have as many fans if he didn’t, right?