January 13, 2014
Study Reveals How Celebrities Can Use Twitter To Foster Support Communities
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online
In addition to strengthening the perceived relationships people have with celebrities, social media can help users provide emotional support to others and embrace their differences, researchers have discovered.
Melissa Click, an assistant professor of communication at the University of Missouri College of Arts & Science, and colleagues studied the more than 40 million Twitter users who follow recording artist Lady Gaga, who takes a unique approach to the microblogging website.
“In our study of Lady Gaga followers, we found that she uses social media not for promotion but rather as a communication tool with her fans,” Click said. “She shares personal and ‘insider’ information through social media and develops feelings of intimacy with her followers.”
“Our work tends to focus on studying audiences who are maligned or consider themselves awkward,” she added. “By revealing her embrace of her own differences and unusual behaviors [Lady Gaga] allows her followers to embrace their own differences.”
The study, which has been published by in the journal Popular Music and Society, found that in some instances the support network provided by this online community of so-called “Little Monsters” was essential for the health and well-being of the users.
Click and her colleagues discovered several followers who were gay, being bullied or dealing with eating disorders. Those individuals told the research team that Lady Gaga’s Twitter account had given them the strength to accept their differences, in turn giving them “a reason to live,” according to the university.
Furthermore, the study authors said that the “Poker Face” singer encourages her social media followers to make an effort to be more charitable to one another. As a result, her fans often join together to form support communities that allow them to encourage and inspire fellow Lady Gaga fans when they’re dealing with difficult times.
“We found that among the more salient themes that emerged from our research was that participants’ perceived relationships with Gaga affected how close they felt to her,” Click explained. “They felt that she is the voice who celebrates their differences instead of mocking them, and this was a very positive thing.”
She and her fellow investigators conducted a series of one-on-one interviews with 45 14-to-53-year-old Twitter followers of Lady Gaga using Skype, Google Chat or other similar programs. The participants were said to be equally divided by gender and sexual orientation (half identified themselves as gay, and half as straight).
These individuals originated from the US, Europe, Asia, Africa and other parts of the world. Each answered questions pertaining to their interest in Lady Gaga, their relationship to the performer, and how they felt about her social activism. Click’s team is working on a follow-up study that will examine Lady Gaga’s political activism, and how she encourages her social media followers to become more active in the political arena.