‘Twihards’ are diehard Twilight fans, and, according to one fan, they were “really trending last year”. These fans thrive on interaction with Twilights romance fantasy theme, evidence of which can be found on Facebook and Twitter. But what does this really have to do with Social media? How can we study the Twihard identity as a social phenomenon? An identity that I suggest is co-constructed between offline and online realities in which the film is located in, and the Twihard identity must negotiate.
I’m approaching this topic as a potential fan; however, I am an outsider as I haven’t watched the movies or read the books. I’m curiouse how the structure of social media impacts our interactions offline and how this may contribute to the divide between ‘real’ fans (Twihards) verses those who simply watch the film. For instance, I would argue some self-identified Twihards engage in online spaces, including membership through Facebook profiles, or changing their names on Twitter to represent their favorite character. I’ve also seen situations of ‘calling people out’ on Twitter for not being ‘true’ fans. But for this blog post, I want to focus on what is happening offline that could potentially be connected to the structure of social media in which Twihards sometimes exist in (Castells).
Interview with a Twihard
From my own perspective this story is best told with a name, so the following is a factious interview with Tammy, based on something real to some Twihards I predict.
Tammy’s Twihard career begins with buying posters. She thinks of herself as a ‘true’ Twihard compared to her friend Kelley because her posters include the best quotes from the film. Next, Tammy changes her name on Twitter, to match that of Kristen Stewart’s character in the film. She responds to other Tweets, accusing ‘wannabe’ Twilight fans of appropriation. The following weekend, Tammy is asked to leave a movie theater for heckling the film. She disagrees with the films portrayal of the Kristen Stewart’s character, including Kristen’s romance with Robert Pattison’s. Other audience members complain because Tammy is yelling out her own version of the story during the film screening.
Context-Collapse and Twihards
So, there is alot going on in my made up story. It is based on bits and pieces I have observed through my interest in Twihards. And, so, i’m taking a chance in my last class blog post to do something different by posting a false interview (fingers metaphorically crossed)!!
The Twihard community is self-identified, it is bounded, and it is governed by its members. To be a ‘true’ Twihard takes work. The behaviors are learned, socialized perhaps partly online. These mechanisms of regulation are not new, but the way they manifest might be new. I argue the way individuals communicate through social media influences new responses to an audience. Twitter, for example, encourages a specific agency. It is built into the design of Twitter (Wacjman, Marwick and boyd). Has the agency given to the Tweeter influenced the way users communicate to an offline audience, such as in a movie theater? If so, what ways can we pick apart the Twihard identity to understand this experience beyond a ‘teenage rebel’ or individual level construct? Certainly the Twihard identity manages within specific social structures, but perhaps experiences such as my interview reflect a new way social media is organizing responses to the audience.
The movie theater space is where social ‘norms’ can be studied. I’m guessing if drive end movie theaters became popular again we would not act within them the same way as individuals did in the 1970s for example. Our response to the audience, in which we are indirectly engaging with while watching the film together, would probably look a lot different (context collapse). It would be interesting to know what role the Twihard is playing in a context such as a movie theater. Or, what ‘imagined audience’ the Twihard is referrencing when acting as a ‘true’ fan. Also, from a design perspective, does Twitter appeal to those who want to fit within a specific ‘imagined audience’? Maybe my example shows the conscious aspects of this activity, showing that individuals seek out social media which appeals to their desire to engage with their ideal audience in a particular way.
Twitter provides a way to speak to the many; perhaps our society is conditioning this skill through technology. For example, a recent article in the Charlatan shows Twitter being used in University classrooms; “Twitter can counterbalance the anonymity students feel in increasingly massive classrooms”.
Twitter as a space that influences both online and offline realities. Carleton is concerned with how to integrate this technology in way that will benefit students. In Rooke’s article, the Sc:identity workshops brought forward how space could be used to challenge gendered binaries. I think my analysis of the Twihard relates to these concepts because it also speaks to space but in more subtle ways. There is a shift towards creating the ‘spaces we want to see’ by using the technology integrated in our society. Twihards are already doing this. To end on a positive note, I think the Twihard movement can be read as a sign of changing societal structure. Similar to the professors using Twitter, there is recognition that social media is changing the way we interact, so that maybe the concept of ‘safe space’ will become expected in future political and social strategies, rather then something we have to continously negotate. However, as with any technology it depends on what users do with it, and the level of bullying i’ve seen in the construction of the Twihard identity (online and offline) is not a promising sign that safe space will become the ‘norm’. Not in this context anyway.