James Franco: “Social Media is Over”

I wasn’t surprised when I heard over the weekend that recent Oscar host and actor (and Yale scholar) James Franco quit Twitter. The man has so much on his plate, it’s a wonder he ever found tweeting time in the first place.

But for @jamesfranco to declare that “social media is over” hits home for this particular author, who makes her living discussing social media. What can Franco mean, and what would provoke this comment?

Apparently, the oscar-nominated actor was sick of negotiating his online identity with the one that his producers and agents wanted him to put forward. He told Politico, an online magazine covering political news, that social media was over, and days after, his official Twitter account was nowhere to be found.

There are speculations that Franco’s comment was provoked after the actor got in trouble for tweeting a picture of himself alongside a group of naked women, a photo that was taken for his upcoming short film Kids. According to Mediaite, Franco held the opinion that his Twitter account was his personoal property, so he should be able to do whatever he wants with it. Mediaite also suggests that Franco left the Twittersphere because he felt pressured to “measure his words on the social networking site,” a comment that doesn’t make sense to me, since everyone’s words on Twitter are essentially “measured” to 140 characters or less. For whatever reason, Franco’s tweets have disappeared, though his account seems to be in tact as of today.

The escapade points to the gap between digital personas and real people’s lived identities;  While celebrities may be required to operate Twitter and Facebook accounts on behalf of their celebrity persona, it isn’t clear what rules and guidelines they should follow: can a tweet jeopardize an actor’s movie contract or product endorsement? Is a picture with naked women too risqué, or does it fit neatly under the umbrella of Franco’s public persona?

For many people, tweeting, texting, and blogging are necessary communication tools for establishing an online presence, but for someone as successful as Franco, I wonder if a Twitter account is even necessary. As someone that comes from the academy, I’d advise Franco to focus on his artistic and academic career; After all, one doesn’t have to “measure their words” in a dissertation.

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