Courtesy of MCT
Let’s imagine that the “Twitterverse” is in fact a real, spatial body. If it were anything like the real universe, it would contain galaxies (Twitterxies?) that would revolve around central, supermassive black holes, the collapsed remnants of stars that are billions of times larger than our sun. This phenomenon is visible right now in the Twitter universe with the black hole Charlie Sheen.
Sheen is an ideal candidate for the role. He is, after all, a collapsed star (or at least a burnt out star). Even more noteworthy is his force of gravitation. Galaxies revolve around supermassive black holes because of the immense gravitational pull. Sheen, despite lapsing into a combination of Kanye West ego and Randy Quaid insanity last week, has gathered even more fans into his gravitational pull as a result. According to CNN, Sheen added 1.5 million followers on Twitter over 48 hours after his interview with ABC’s Andrea Canning went viral.
Whereas most people would take heat for claiming to have tiger blood or be on a drug named after them, Sheen is eating it up. He uses “#tigersblood” as a “hash tag,” a Twitter term for putting a tweet in context, for nearly every tweet he sends out, playing off of his own idiosyncrasy and converting it into new fans. He is, in short, #winning.
This is the power that social media possesses. It is now possible to whip up a virtual posse of supporters a million strong in less than two days. I’m sure that Sheen is pleased to have all the love and support, but in reality looks to the supporters as a bargaining chip. Sheen can use his fans, now official Guinness record for most followers added in one day on Twitter, to indicate his popularity to CBS and possibly even make more money than his previous $1.2 million an episode, already the highest salary in television. If not, at least he’s making extra change marketing his zany quotes on T-shirts. The tactic of employing Twitter followers as leverage isn’t new. Conan O’Brien did the same thing following his replacement by Jay Leno as host of “The Tonight Show.” O’Brien used his popularity with younger audiences (who of course make up the largest percentage of Twitter users) to gain a new show on TBS and simultaneously make NBC look like a bunch of idiots.
O’Brien has more than 2.5 million followers. Leno has about 144,000. As for actual television ratings, O’Brien draws in an average audience of around 1 million, as opposed to Leno’s 3.5 million viewers, according to Nielsen Media Research. The numbers don’t lie; Leno is crushing his opponent, and yet O’Brien manages to remain relevant thanks to the pop culture power he rakes in via social media, like Twitter and Facebook.
You don’t have to be a celebrity to work social media magic, however. As of Sunday morning, Harry Potter fans across the Twitterverse began tweeting about Cedric Diggory, a long dead character from the series. As a result, “Cedric Diggory” was listed in the “trending” column, a list of the most popular topics on Twitter. There was no reason why Diggory was newsworthy, but when a Harry Potter fan tips over the first domino, the rest fall in line.
Theoretically, if I had friends (which I don’t), I could ask them on Twitter to start posting tweets about the H.P. Lovecraft octopus-headed character Cthulhu, and in a few days, with any luck, it’d be a trending topic.
The point is that any idiot (Sheen or myself) can start galvanizing Twitter followers into a cult-like following (admittedly, Sheen can do it faster than I. He’s a winner). But, as Sheen’s ex-wives will tell you, just like with a real black hole, the closer you get to it, the faster it rips you apart. Granted, I think most of his followers are just jumping onboard to catch some more bizarre quips. They won’t suffer when Sheen, thinking himself a demigod because of online success, collapses even further into oblivion.
To quote West, another monster of Twitter (2.6 million followers), “no one man should have all that power.” It’s not because Sheen is going to wreck our lives, he’s just going to further wreck his own. As West rapped about life deteriorating in the spotlight during the same song: “Now this’ll be a beautiful death.”