experiments

Here's How Much 'Real News' You Can Get from Celebrity Twitter Alone

In a week when Donald J. Trump officially became leader of the free world, I restricted my media diet exclusively to celeb tweets. This is what I learned.

av Lonnie Nadler
2017 01 30, 3:02pm

This article originally appeared on VICE Canada.

Navigating online news media in 2017 is at best a disorienting experience. Teen Vogue is woke, most people only click on whatever pops up in their social feed, and if you ask the newest leader of the free world, apparently the New York Times is "fake news." Unfortunately for everyone, the people who have the massive followings necessary to reach wide audiences seem to rarely post about anything but themselves or the products they are getting paid to promote.

During the week leading up to Trump's inauguration and the Women's March on Washington there was sure to be no shortage of important news. In an effort to understand how much famous people spread real world information, I vowed to only receive my news exclusively through celebrity tweets.

I read the news constantly on a normal day. It's literally my job. I use a news aggregator app, and click a lot of articles from the liberal echo chamber that is my Facebook feed. I also try to fly away from the nest once in awhile to see what the other side's got going on. I visit pages like Fox News and watch Ezra Levant's ridiculously right-wing Rebel Media YouTube channel on a semi-regular basis.

As for Twitter, I'm an avid user. I use it way too much. Sometimes I catch myself with it open on my desktop and phone at the same time. I wasn't exactly looking forward to limiting my intake sources to actors, YouTubers, and pop stars, but I thought disconnecting from the constant, shitty Trump news that regularly fills my feed might be a necessary break.

After panicking for over an hour while trying to choose a new username, I got locked out of my account. I ended up with the handle @baeoblivion. With my Beyonce-floating-in-space header in place, I was ready to start following celebs. The sample size had to be limited yet broad in variety of political backgrounds, ages, and washed-upness.

I tried taking on the mindset of a stereotypical millennial and immediately followed The Rock, Ariana Grande, Zayn Malik, Taylor Swift, Drake, and the entire Kardashian bloodline. After realizing how out of touch I am with millennial culture, I turned to this Forbes most followed list. Most of the celebs on the list didn't show propensity for posting political content, so I sought out politically-minded celebs like Tom Arnold, Alec Baldwin, Kirstie Alley, Mark Ruffalo, Tyler Oakley, Scott Baio, and of course, Cher.

DAY ONE: HONEYMOON

I'd discovered a whole new world, like a stay-at-home-mom discovering daytime soap operas for the first time. Tom Arnold seemed to never leave Twitter, constantly tweeting about the alleged tapes he had of Trump dropping an N-bomb, while also throwing some serious shade at Steven Seagal. Sinbad was getting into it with right-wing trolls. The Kardashians tweeted about their own shows, products, and family members. YouTubers tweeted about their latest videos. Mark Wahlberg put out a vague tweet of American pride that turned out to be a promo for his hammy new movie about the Boston Marathon bombings.

There were a couple people on my feed tweeting about things other than themselves. Fifth Hamony's Lauren Jauregui tweeted about the importance of saving Obamacare from repeal, though she didn't link to any articles so I had no way of knowing if there was any updates on the issue. Mark Ruffalo was one of the only celebs tweeting articles, RTing posts about the Women's March and offering ways for people to participate who live outside Washington.

On day one, I can't say I learned anything new, other than DJ Kahled was working on something "TOP SECRET" and Ariana Grande has a big dog.

DAY TWO: REGRET

The second day didn't get much better and I was starting to feel detached already, drawn to Twitter for the spectacle rather than for news. I already wanted to end this experiment. The trending section reminded me that it was Martin Luther King Jr. Day and celebs posted famous quotes to prove that they know who he is and that they aren't racist. Not all celebs though...

Rob Schneider was whitesplaining what Martin Luther King Jr. stood for to Rep. John Lewis, a civil rights leader. I got pretty upset at first, but then I realized I was taking Rob Schneider seriously, and that's a slippery slope.

Tom Arnold likely didn't sleep a fucking wink. He was still ranting about Trump in a stream of about 30 tweets that were very difficult to decipher. From what I gathered, Arnold had fake news reported about him that he was afraid of being assassinated for knowing about alleged Trump tapes.

I managed to find three good articles. Sinbad posted a link to a Huffington Post article about gun control, John Lewis, and a racist judge. The Hulk posted a link about protests against the Louisiana Access Pipeline, and a piece from CNN about Trump's nominee for Health and Human Services secretary.

On day two, I learned that Trump's cabinet was still filled with corrupt white dudes, and DJ Khaled was still "UP TO SOMETHING".

DAY THREE: GETTING THE HANG

The Rock was fucking pumped about his new Mustang, while Reese Witherspoon tweeted about her clothing line sale. Jaden Smith and Shia LaBeouf both tweeted "HE WILL NOT DIVIDE US," and I got excited because it meant Shia was up to something crazy again and I love him unabashedly, without irony or shame. This alone kept me coming back.

Despite the usual narcissism, there seems to be more news on the third day. Either that or I was getting better at sifting through the garbage. Leonardo DiCaprio tweeted a thanks to Obama, linking to an article about establishing new national monuments just days before he's out of office. Susan Sarandon tweeted a link to a BBC News piece about Obama pardoning Chelsea Manning. This felt like the first essential piece of news I'd read in three days and I remembered how much I was going to miss Obama.

Sarah Silverman's account was continually awesome. Not only funny, but informative and trying to speak sense to the entire political spectrum. She quoted a tweet from Robert F. Kennedy Jr. about the insane Wyoming bill that outlaws renewable energy. I was left wondering what other fucked up stuff the government was up to that I didn't know about yet so I dug a little deeper into my feed. Tom Arnold was STILL going off about the fucking tapes. Ugh. Not living his best life.

On day three I felt I was actually able to get some decent news thanks to Sarah Silverman, Leo, and Ruffalo. I learned that Vincent D'Onofrio doesn't give a fuck what you think.

DAY FOUR: SETBACK

Just when I felt that I was getting some good news—very left-leaning albeit—the People's Choice Awards hit and my feed was nothing but congratulations and fashion photos for about 24 hours. There were a lot of people tweeting about The Rock, Kevin Hart, and Lilly Singh because she won some YouTuber award. I send her a congratulatory tweet in a sad attempt to connect. I get no response.

Tom Arnold got into a Twitter feud with Roseanne Barr, which put me back on the love side of our love/hate relationship.

On day four, I learned that the People's Choice Awards are still a thing, and Gary Busey sells dope "Buseyisms" on his website.

DAY FIVE: WORLD ON FIRE

People were still talking about the fucking People's Choice Awards that morning.

Kirstie Alley was the first celeb to tweet about the inauguration. She was excited for Trump, believing he will unite America. She's wrong. Russell Brand, who I used to think was rather intelligent, tweeted a nonsense new video he made comparing Trump and Obama that is almost impossible to comprehend because he insists on showcasing his unnecessary vocabulary.

Mark Ruffalo continued to be amazing on Twitter. Without him, I'd be lost. He was at the We Stand United pre-inauguration rally, which he linked to, and offered up his snapchat so you could follow along throughout the day. Unfortunately, I wasn't allowed to be on Snapchat.

I couldn't handle the lack of articles in my feed. I had a moment of weakness and switch over to my regular account. In excitement, I retweeted a VICE article about overdoses in Vancouver, BC. The person I RTd happened to be my editor. She immediately DMs me, telling me to get off my normal account. I apologize and begrudgingly go back to being @BaeOblivion.

On day five, Hulkamania ran wild on my childhood.

DAY SIX: INAUGURATION SHITSHOW

I was really worried I wouldn't catch President Sausage Skin's inauguration, but thankfully Twitter had their own livestream that I watched while taking in celeb reactions. The main accounts live-tweeting the event were Sarah Silverman and Kirstie Alley. Silverman's jokes were spot on, while Alley's praise for Trump was vague.

Britney Spears tweeted a photo of a dog.

The Shia Labeouf hype paid off. He launched an anti-Trump art project called "HE WILL NOT DIVIDE US" in New York that will last for the duration of Trump's presidency. It consisted of him chanting on a live stream with a horde of followers. I rejoiced, wishing I could be there.

Once again, Mark Ruffalo to the rescue. He was retweeting journalists and reporters, trusted sources all talking about the inauguration, the crowd size compared to Obama's, Mike Pence being a threat, and links to alternative programming.

On Trump's inauguration day I learned—Holy shit, he's really the President now and it was largely met with apathy in the celebrity world. Scott Baio loves good ol' American hot dogs.

DAY SEVEN: WOMEN'S MARCH AND THANK GOD THIS IS OVER

My Twitter experiment concluded on the same day as the Women's March, and my feed was inundated with posts of solidarity, photos of participation, and links to articles about crowd turnout. I was quite surprised that more people were tweeting about the peaceful protest than about the inauguration. It was uplifting to see so many celebrities standing in solidarity with plebeians around the world. The sad part is that based on what I've seen over the past week, most of them will not tweet about equality issues again until the next big event that demands them to show face.

On day seven, I learned that more people showed up to protest Trump than showed up at his inauguration. DJ Khaled still doesn't want anyone to know about his "TOP SECRET" new album.

Over the course of the week, it was tough to get any real news. Even when celebrities were talking about current events, most of them didn't link to articles. While I was able to follow some major news stories, there were only a few accounts that delivered quality stories from reliable sources on a regular basis.

To nobody's surprise, most celebrities use their social media simply as another form of brand promotion. I'm not naive enough to believe it's anyone's inherent duty to use their power and influence on social media for the betterment of mankind, but I do wish some more celebrities had the balls to post informative content and fight against the polluted media landscape of 2017. In the eternal words of President Trump, "There should be nothing you should be ashamed of" when posting on Twitter.

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