While, Ellen DeGeneres is considered an actress, she is most famous for her role as a comedian and talk show host for her self-titled talk show, Ellen. Ellen is hilarious (or at least I think so) and much of her personality shines through during her show, therefore, the audience may feel familiar with her “true self.” However, the way she portrays herself on her television show is a carefully constructed version of herself, which extends into her usage of her twitter account. After analyzing Ellen’s twitter, I’ve come to the conclusion that the content she posts is extremely similar to the way she would present herself on her television show. It’s personalized, yet still extremely structured and professional, allowing her followers to see bits and pieces of her personal life, yet through a very narrow and constructed lens.
At a first glance, Ellen’s twitter page looks extremely professional, almost like an advertisement. Both her profile picture and header are images frequently used in advertisements campaigns for her show.
Marwick and Boyd point out that not all celebrities manage their own twitter accounts and that even though they are verified (which Ellen’s is), their representatives could run their pages instead. These are considered “ghost twitters,” accounts written “in the voice of the celebrity” in question. Because of her professionalism, Elle’s twitter could come across as a ghost twitter at a first glance, but if you read her bio, she states “Comedian, talk show host, and ice road trucker. My tweets are real and they’re spectacular.” I assume that she wrote this specifically because she wants her followers to know that it is indeed herself writing. And yes, he tweets are most definitely spectacular.
Irving Goffman states how people create their identities through their “front stage” and “back stage” performances of the self, while authenticity in shown by the way we perpetually upkeep these performances. Ellen’s twitter is authentic in the sense that she continues to write comical tweets, humor being a major part of her personality and life in general, but they are carefully crafted as to not reveal real and intimate details about her life. She is careful to maintain her professional image by keeping her twitter a very “front stage” production. Hints of her “back stage” life shine through when she tweets about her wife, Portia, or when she adds behind the scenes picture of her show, yet these tweets don’t actually reveal the true nature of her personal life. Nevertheless, through her comedic tweets, followers begin to feel a small sense of “performative intimacy,” which is described as “posting personal pictures and videos, addressing rumors, and sharing personal information,” by Marwick and Boyd. For example, through this tweet:
We can assume that Ellen and Portia are planning seeing the movie Carrie, yet we are not completely sure, therefore, our sense of perfomative intimacy is minimal.
However, people still follow Ellen because of her comedy. Her tweets are cleverly funny. She employs the usage of “play,” which Zizi Pappacharissi describes as “a public way to show private stuff,” such as thoughts. Ellen constantly participates in hashtag games such as #ClassicJokeWednesday and #ThrowBackThursday as a playful way into her head. Her comedic personality is demonstrated through these tweets.
However, as you can see in her #tbt’s, she continues to keep her private life private by photo-shopping her face in funny pop culture throwbacks instead of posting her own.
According to Nicole Ellison, social media platforms, such as twitter, allows for the maintenance of social relationships. “RMB”, or “Relationship Maintenance Behaviors” are characterized by a “user’s response intentionality toward requests or needs articulated by members of their network and to engage in relationship maintenance activities.” In other words, you are able to maintain relationships with weak ties, acquaintances or friends of friends, by wishing them a “happy birthday,” occasionally liking a photo, or answering a message. By completing these minimal tasks, you remain in good standing with your followers and can continue gaining “social capital,” which is information about resources you may not have known about otherwise. Much of Ellen’s tweets are composed of RMB messages since the nature of her show allows her to meet tons interesting people. Ellen remains in good standing with her relationships by wishing them a happy birthday, congratulating them on their weddings and pregnancies, and even promoting their new music/movies, and of course, by adding a little humor, Ellen style.
These tweets can also be seen as impression management through facework. In the article Facework on Facebook: The Online Publicness of Juvenile Delinquents and Youths-at-risk, the authors describe how the Asian concept of “face management is deemed critical for maintaining prevailing role relationships and sustaining interpersonal harmony.” Therefore, by tweeting to her friends, Ellen is maintaining her:
“Self face,” – the concern for self-image, reputation, prestige, and respect.
Ellen’s retweeted Bethany Frankel’s tweet because it describes her as “inspiring,” thus reinforcing a positive self image to her followers.
“Other face” – The concerned for other’s images.
Ellen tweeted to her followers letting them know that Bruce Springsteen has a twitter. The purpose this tweet was for Springsteen’s benefit by helping him gain followers to create a strong social media presence, thus demonstrating her concern for other’s “face.”
“Mutual face” – The concern for the image of your relationships/friendships.
Ellen tweeted at Justin Timberlake announcing the release of his album, The 20/20 Experience, by reminding her followers to watch her next show where they will be having a release party in his honor. This tweet demonstrates the promotion of both Justin’s album and her show at the same time, thus maintaining a positive mutual relationship.
Ellen’s personal yet professional tweets allow her to foster and maintain relationships though still promoting herself and her show at the same time, all while keeping her private life private. And let’s face it, she’s too funny not to follow!