OMG! VF discovers "tweethearts"!

Got a lot of followers on Twitter? Choke on it, prom queen

By Mary Elizabeth Williams

Senior Writer

Published January 7, 2010 12:08PM (EST)

Aw, look at the pretty girls. They'll be your friends – on the Internet. Because that's all they're good for. In her wildly dismissive Vanity Fair piece about some of the most popular women on Twitter, the often insightful Vanessa Grigoriadis explains how "ambitious extroverts, without any previous distinction … become digital superstars."

Grigoriadis may be on to something when she succinctly nails Twitter as a "worldwide experiment in extreme narcissism or a nifty tool for real-time reporting." But the fact that she chose to illuminate this point by focusing on high profile "nice girls — the Internet’s equivalent of a telephone chat line staffed by a bunch of cheerleaders" is possibly the lamest thing since Playboy's 1995 "Girls of the Net" issue.

Here are the actress Felicia Day,  Coach executive and blogger Julia Roy,  publicist Sarah Evans, journalist Stefanie Michaels, marketing entrepreneur Amy Jo Martin and producer and "lifecaster" Sarah Austin. Successful, high-profile women. Or, as Vanity Fair calls them, cheerleaders. Defecating cheerleaders, no less, who "speed easily across the Twitformation Superhighway on their iPhones and laptops, leaving droppings in their wake." (Superhighway? Wow, it really is 1995.)

There's something kind of cute about watching the withering old media shake its fists in the air, railing at social media to get offa its lawn, but by the time Grigoriadis grouses that "just like high school, Twitter is an enormous popularity contest," the shtick has worn thin. As she separates the "twilebrities" from regular "tweeple," she takes pains to point out the banality of the "continual patter of excessively declarative and abbreviated palaver," sniffing, "And somehow this fascinates millions of readers."

Yes, actually, somehow it does. 4 rlz! Millions of people who have jobs and lives, who can do fulfilling work and read books and still tweet about getting their hair done. No one would suggest that self-indulgence, pointlessness and poor spelling are in short supply on Twitter, but that doesn't mean the form itself – or the people who enjoy it – are inherently inferior. (Would you judge the entire medium of television based on "The Jeff Dunham Show"?)

Grigoriadis is probably correct in guessing that the women she chose to focus on have enormous followings because of their warm, approachable, online styles. That doesn't equate them with, as she suggests, "Laguna High freshmen." It makes them effective communicators, a skill that doesn't preclude having any others. Grigoriadis herself, by the way, is on Twitter. But you have to ask before she'll let you follow her.

By Mary Elizabeth Williams

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a senior writer for Salon and author of "A Series of Catastrophes & Miracles."

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