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The Rise of Social Media Among Teen Drama Stars
A lot can change in a decade, especially when it comes to social media.
Facebook launched in 2004, and when I joined in 2005, it was still only for college students. You actually were required to have a college email address to sign up. Twitter debuted in 2006 and was open to anyone. I signed up in 2008 and even did a group project on it for a class called “Persuasive Images: The Rhetoric of Popular Culture” during my senior year. (I majored in journalism, but my minor was in film and media studies.)
My senior year was also when I launched the original TeenDramaWhore.com, and at that time, Twitter was very much still in its infancy, especially among those in the entertainment industry. Many stars, whether they worked in film, television, or another medium, were social media-adverse. Some saw it as a waste of time. Others wanted to maintain their privacy. But a consequence of not creating an account for yourself meant someone else could create one for you… an impostor.
And thus began the era of fake Twitter accounts. People would create fraudulent accounts in which they pretended to be such and such celebrity. This was especially prevalent in the teen drama genre. With usernames like @ThePennBadgley and @Officiallively, for example, the people behind these accounts would falsely claim to be Penn Badgley (Dan, Gossip Girl) and Blake Lively (Blake, Gossip Girl).
With more and more fake accounts popping up every day, one “One Tree Hill” fan took it upon herself to create what she called “OTH Twitter Bugs.” Each time a new Twitter account purported to be for this “One Tree Hill” star or that one, she would investigate and confirm whether it was real or phony. In August 2009, I was inspired by her to put together my own list of legitimate and counterfeit accounts for all of the teen drama-related Twitter accounts I could find.
Eventually, I created a Twitter Directory on TDW and regularly updated it to reflect what was real, what wasn’t, which teen drama stars were on Twitter, which weren’t, etc. My last update to it, however, was in September 2010, the same month I put TDW on an indefinite hiatus. As you all now know, I restarted TeenDramaWhore on Substack in October 2020, and the differences between social media use then and now are striking.
Today, the vast majority of celebrities — again, regardless of the medium they work in — are on at least one social media platform. Instagram entered the mix in October 2010, just weeks after I went on hiatus, and grew and grew over the years that followed to become most stars’ forum of choice. And many of the stars who were the target of fake Twitter accounts back when I was keeping track of them are now legitimately on Twitter with verified pages — in other words, that old list from 2010 is now wildly out of date. Both Badgley and Lively, for example, are now really on Twitter themselves with the usernames @PennBadgley and @BlakeLively, respectively.
Unfortunately, though, that hasn’t necessarily stopped impersonators. As recently as last June, Sophia Bush (Brooke, One Tree Hill) was forced to call out a fake Instagram account that purported to be her private page. And there is one fake Twitter account in particular that has had me quite upset for years: @LukePerryIII. With a bio stating “The Official Twitter of Luke Perry,” this unverified account pretended to be Luke Perry (Dylan, Beverly Hills, 90210) and engaged with fans who had no idea it wasn’t really the actor tweeting.
Perry even said in various interviews over the years that he wasn’t on social media, but some pathetic person apparently thought it was okay that they were duping fans and amassed more than 50,000 followers. The unknown person behind the account — who would take photos from other places to make it seem like it was legitimately Perry’s page — last tweeted on August 4, 2018… exactly seven months before the actor died on March 4, 2019. With Perry’s death, obviously the jig was up; the charade could no longer continue. But I was so saddened (on top of the grief I was already feeling about Perry’s passing) to see people tagging the fake account in their Twitter tributes, unaware that it wasn’t really his. (It should be noted tomorrow marks two years since Perry’s untimely death.)
Today one of my favorite teen drama stars to follow on both Twitter and Facebook is Trevor Donovan (Teddy, 90210), who confirmed his account to me during our 2009 interview. His posts, when not showcasing photos of his dogs, are usually fun or thought-provoking questions. I was particularly tickled by this one in January.
It’s impossible to predict how social media platforms and celebrity use of them will continue to evolve over the next 10 years. But in the last decade, we’ve gone from most stars being anti-social media to using Instagram as key components of marketing campaigns, publicity tours, and crisis management. Social media is a bonafide part of the celebrity “machine” and has become integral to building Hollywood careers.
It’s also helped bridge the gap between stars and fans, giving us “normal” folks unprecedented access to famous people who previously felt so far away, they might as well have been living on another planet. The popularity of Cameo is one example of this, but as I noted in “Meeting Your Idols,” social media hasn’t entirely leveled the playing field, either, and as I pointed out in “The Insanity of Warring Fandoms,” social media has also hurt fan relationships as well.
But this much is clear: Whether it’s Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram… social media among Hollywood stars and the masses isn’t going anywhere.
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