Among all the American Idols, the Danny Gokey Twitter phenomenon has proven to have one of the more dramatic effects on social media. From positive to negative to just plain weird, the story keeps growing.
The Danny Gokey Twitter Feed
Twitter is a social networking tool that has become one of the most powerful and ubiquitous parts of the web. It has proven to be a direct line between fans and stars, from the simple Twitter pranks of Ashton Kutcher to dramatic news footage from Mumbai during terrorist attacks. Watching "Twitter trends" can give you a snapshot of current issues, such as the drama during the recent elections in Iran. By using the "hashtag" "#iranelection" (a way of showing what subject your post addresses) people all over the world showed solidarity with those struggling to promote democracy in their nation.
From Big to Banal
Like cable TV before it, the problem with 24 hour access is that not everyone is interesting all the time. Conan O'Brien even made a very successful bit of his nightly show mocking the simple things that stars like Danny Gokey post about. Going to the grocery store, buying seven pairs of glasses, these are not things that usually interest fans. On the other hand, hearing that Danny just finished recording the second track on his new album might be of interest to fans, and Gokey also includes tweets about his career.
Danny Gokey Twitter is a subject of controversy outside of the website, too. As a person who espouses conservative Christian beliefs, many feel that his comments verge on the homophobic. As if this wasn't enough to cause a stir, he was also competing in American Idol against openly-gay Adam Lambert, and the producers played up whatever real or imagined tensions they could between the two talented singers.
Whether Danny's Twitter posts reflected an intolerant attitude or not, his friend and mentor Pastor J Pruitt (aka "Pastor Rolex") fed the fire with fairly open criticism of the gay lifestyle, such as saying "Why does it feel like my manhood is in question if I'm with another guy and we both order soy lattes?! The problem was with the following response on the Danny Gokey Twitter feed: pastorjpruitt I must be old school…I don't even feel right about going in a grocery store w/ another guy! Is that bad?''
Aside from the fact that yes, that kind of attitude and insecurity about his own masculinity would be considered bad by many people, there was another problem. Danny Gokey sponsors a charity called Sophia's Heart, which is a charitable organization dedicated to providing things like scholarships and food and clothing drives for the needy. People supporting this charity (which is named for Danny's deceased wife) show it by adding the hashtag "#sophiasheart". The problem is when this charitable organization is linked to intolerant comments. In fact, the backlash generated an insulting hashtag towards Danny that became a Twitter trend, overtaking even the Iran Election. While the trend and insult was removed by the Twitter admins, it remains an example of how celebrities need to be careful what they do both in public and on Twitter.
Controlling the Feed
It can also be hard for a celebrity, with all the stresses and demands, to really keep track of what is going into the feed. For example, when an eyeglass company claimed to be selling frames similar to Gokey's iconographic style, they also claimed to be donating a portion of the proceeds to Sophia's Heart. Danny called the claim a "scam" and proclaimed on Twitter that his charity had not gotten one penny. It turned out later that the company was affiliated with Sophia's Heart, but the sale had been damaged by Danny's pre-emptive tweet.
The lesson to learn is that while celebrity Twittering can be a powerful tool to reach out to fans, it comes with a great deal of responsibility as well.