Celebrities discover the downside of Twitter
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Is celebrities' obsession with Twitter starting to wane?
When singer John Mayer, one of Twitter's most high profile users with 3.7 million followers, shut his account on Monday, he was just the latest celebrity to quit the micro-blogging site.
Some stars are finding that Twitter may be great as a promotional tool or for reaching out to fans, but it also comes with a downside.
Teen singer Miley Cyrus deleted her account a year ago, persuaded into silence by her new boyfriend, Liam Hemsworth.
"Hairspray" star Amanda Bynes deleted her Twitter account last week without any notice to her fans. Earlier this month, Disney starlet Demi Lovato, 18, tweeted that she's saying "goodbye to twitter" because "the access that the other people have is uncomfortable to me."
"The blessing of tweeting for celebrities was this idea that you could bypass sending out a press release and go directly to those who are following you," said Robert Thompson, professor of Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University.
However, many celebrities have found that their tweets are being made fun of, or blow up in their faces.
Although Bynes, 24, offered no explanation for quitting Twitter, she seems to have had a volatile relationship with the so-called "Twitterverse." The actress got flack for announcing on Twitter that she was retiring from acting earlier this year, and then subsequently "un-retiring" a month later.
She also got into Twitter fights with users who disagreed with her tweets, including those about her taste in men.
FAMILIARITY BREEDS CONTEMPT
"Many celebrities are realizing the old saying that familiarity breeds contempt," Thompson told Reuters. "We used to think that celebrities were distant people we could never communicate with. Twitter reversed that and some celebrities are growing tired of that."
Just ask country singer LeAnn Rimes, who was an active Twitter user when her marriage ended after she cheated on her husband with married actor Eddie Cibrian.
After Rimes and Cibrian divorced their spouses, the duo was photographed kissing each other, which sparked outrage. The singer began to get attacked on Twitter but when she tried defended herself on the site, users retaliated even more.
Rimes closed her account in July 2010, tweeting that it was "unhealthy for me and my family to have to read negative comments." However, a week later she was back on Twitter, saying she missed her fans and wanted to let them know "how much u r appreciated."
Paul Levinson, author of "New New Media," says Twitter has now reached a sort of "shaking out point."
"Those who joined as part of a bandwagon because their peers were on the site, are now finding out if it is truly a medium that works for them.
"For some it will continue to be one of the best things they could do. For others, it has become an imposition, a pain," Levinson said.
WHAT'S THE POINT?
Comedian Ricky Gervais joined Twitter last December because he was hosting the Golden Globes and "they want me to do a running commentary on Twitter."
However, less than a month later, he quit. In his last Twitter post, Gervais wrote he was "going to stop these tweets because I don't see the point.
So is this the beginning of a mass Twitter exodus? Not so, said Bonnie Fuller, president and editor-in-chief of celebrity website HollywoodLife.com.
"For every celebrity that quits Twitter, there's 10 who sign up," Fuller said. "There are just too many of them benefiting from Twitter. Celebrities see it as a great opportunity to communicate with fans, give them information and get feedback."
Fuller cited reality TV star Kim Kardashian, who uses Twitter to successfully promote herself, the products she's lent her name to, and the careers of her sisters.
As for Mayer, a spokesperson for the Grammy-winning singer said he had closed his Twitter account because his concert tour has ended and Mayer is preparing to head back to the studio.
Mayer used Twitter to talk to fans and address controversies, including an expletive-laced Playboy magazine interview in February about his sex life.
The bluesy writer of hits like "Gravity" remains active on Facebook, his own website JohnMayer.com and what appears to be his new favorite blogging site, Tumblr.
In a post on Tumblr last week, Mayer said he felt he had "made the right move" to the new site. Despite having only 50,000 Tumblr followers, he admitted to having "an even larger Tumblr addiction" than the one he had to Twitter.
Whether or not he continues on Tumblr remains to be seen. In a September 12 post -- the latest and last post to date -- Mayer thanked fans for making his recent tour a success and signed off by saying that it was "time to (try to) disappear for a while."
(Editing by Jill Serjeant)
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