A haircut is rarely ground-breaking worldwide news. Yet it only took whispers of this event for emotions of some individuals to become rampant. For these particular users of Twitter, it was enough to vex them. They knew the back story of this individual’s life, they wondered why this person did it, and had one simple question to ask: Why did he not bother telling us?
That person was Harry Styles, the lead singer of the pop group One Direction, who has accrued a notable social media fan base because of his work, particularly on Twitter. In an age where some may think this news would be trite, reactions to a haircut for a film he was working on about the Dunkirk evacuation during World War II became front page headlines, from celebrity news sites to even traditional news sites.
— Mirror Celeb (@MirrorCeleb) July 5, 2016
— The Telegraph (@Telegraph) May 26, 2016
Bringing celebrities closer
In the last decade social media has become ubiquitous with the development of journalism, as more platforms become hubs and distributors for content. The notion of going viral has become a norm as the industry evolves, and when it comes to celebrities, it is more so.
Gemma Calvert, a freelance journalist who writes about entertainment and celebrities, says because it was Harry Styles, it was front page news.
“Anything about Harry Styles, from his hair cut to cavorting on a yacht with Kendall Jenner, to his first film role (Dunkirk) commands massive press interest because of the hype that continues to exist for the One Direction star,” Calvert said. “Social media has brought celebrities closer to us all, which has fuelled fan obsessions because it’s all too easy to create an imaginary relationship with a star who you see every day and can talk to instantly (even if they don’t reply).”
One Direction’s fame was influenced sensationally by social media, after their appearance on The X Factor. In a matter of moments, people around the world were singing along to their songs and wondering about their records. Indeed, the influence of social media, especially Twitter, remains resonant with the group’s work.
“It took Take That months of global promo tours in schools, colleges and underage club nights to spread the word about their own music, however One Direction fans got the same result in a matter of days,” Calvert said. “One Direction fans can start a hash tag trend in ten seconds flat and the power of social media hasn’t gone unnoticed by the band or the industry.”
The social influence
Yet, while the discussions on platforms like Twitter continue, it too has an impact on how coverage of celebrity stories has evolved.
“Journalists have immediate access to celebrities and their opinions like never before,” Calvert said. “Newsrooms have social media teams, scouring multi platforms for stories and it’s often celebrities who help break them by doing something as simple as, for example, following or unfollowing another celebrity, which hints of either a new romance or a break up.”
Indeed, social media has done stars a favour when it comes to their relations with the media, with the information they release, whether its about Styles himself or the recent controversy surrounding Taylor Swift, Kanye West and his wife, the internet celebrity Kim Kardashian.
Yet, Calvert notes, there is a downside to it, particularly when responding to news stories.
“If they disapprove of a story or feel they’ve been misquoted in an interview they can immediately take to Twitter to defend it,” Calvert said. “The only trouble with that is by doing so they draw more attention to the story they were trying to play down.”
So while social media has changed how one consumes journalism, it has also signalled how much of a role it has with curating news, whether its entertainment stories or the recent political news from the EU referendum – and one thing remains clear, social media is here to stay, whether or not one appears to perceive the events that unfold on it as trite.
What do you think? Is the influence on social media good for journalism? Have your say in the comments section below.