How to decide which celebrities are worth following on Twitter.

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April 22 2009 12:54 PM

Tweet Styles of the Rich and Famous

How to decide which celebrities are worth following on Twitter.

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Other celebrities use Twitter as a form of crowd-sourcing concierge. Ludacris does some Kinsey-style data gathering ("who likes sex more in the day[time]?"). Sweet-toothed Shaquille O'Neal cries out for enablers: "Can I plaese [sic] cheat on my diet and go to dairy. Queen pls pls pls." P. Diddy polls on reincarnation ("Ptwitty question of the day!!!!! if you had to be born again as an animal what animal would you wanna be? And why??"). These calls for response can ring a bit hollow—does P. Diddy really have an active interest in his fans' spirit animals? The exception is Shaq, whose diligent upkeep of his Twitter fan correspondence—a trait he shares with Ashton and Demi, the Hardest-Working Tweeters in Show Business—is convincingly affectionate.

Type 4: The Motivational Speech

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Because the limited character count is suited to the kinds of aphorisms and affirmations that would otherwise find immortality on an embroidered pillow, Twitter can awaken the celebrity's inner life coach. P. Diddy is forever encouraging his readers to "LOCK IN!!" (his variation on "Just Do It"). Demi Moore leads both by motto ("important to always go forward learn from the past seize the positive opportunity in it and create what you want now!") and by example: She is so unrelentingly nice even to her rudest detractor that her feed gives cheery passive-aggression a good name. John Mayer often seems to be floating ideas for his own line of inspirational posters, as when he announced, "I just had a beer with the unknown, and it's actually really cool if you shut up and listen to what it has to say." Or: "1. Take the fear. 2. Ask it why it would be so terrible if it were true. 3. Ask it 'and THEN what?' Chances are your fear has no answer." And yet Mr. Mayer claims that he doesn't smoke pot.

On evidence, becoming one of the great famous tweeters may depend somewhat on breaking free of this classification system—to avoid stereotyping yourself as a Motivator or a Name-Dropper or a Plane-Taker. The celebrity who most indelibly achieved this feat was, as it turns out, not a celebrity at all: The faux Christopher Walken account offered not just the irresistible novelty of the high-haired, glassy-eyed cowbell enthusiast on Twitter; each tweet seemed to capture the Ding an sich of Walken-ness as pristine haikus of everyday epiphany. ("I was filling the bird feeders as a squirrel watched & waited patiently. The sense of entitlement in my backyard is of my own doing.")

For readers who prefer their celebrity Twitter feeds as fiction experiments, cult-figure-of-sorts Brent Spiner (Data on Star Trek: The Next Generation) maintains an ongoing ruse—or so one assumes—in which he checks into and out of the "Betty White Clinic" as a publicity move; this conceit then becomes a fantasy-within-a-fantasy in which the clinic is actually an institution. Most recently, Spiner (or, rather, his Twitter persona) has fallen into a cryptic, vaguely sinister relationship with his bitchily mysterious next-door neighbor, Amber. Spiner has a knack for detail (and name-dropping—he spots James Woods in the Betty White rec room, and they later watch Girl, Interrupted together), and his tweets can at times evoke a stirringly Walken-esque flavor of serene non sequitur.

Other famous tweeters do work largely within the confines of the taxonomy yet manage to make it new. Though David Lynch is not immune to thinking that "Leaving for the airport soon" is a viable tweet, unlike most of his fellow luminaries, he understands that Twitter posts can also be weird and fun and tone-poemlike. Alongside semiregular weather reports and the odd piece of video memorabilia, the filmmaker and meditation educator will post a quotation from the Bhagavad Gita or an occasional mind-priming "Thought of the day," such as "You can't fight city hall" or "Ancient pond. Frog jumps in. Splash!" (Lynch's "Thoughts of the day" gain more transcendental power when you imagine him delivering them as the hearing-impaired FBI agent he played on Twin Peaks.)

Likewise, Russell Brand is technically easy to Twitter-type—except he flips those types on their heads, strips them naked, and dresses them up in boas and bondage gear. This is, for example, how he name-drops: "@jimmyfallon Now that I've found you I shall follow you. Everywhere—it's going to be like 'Don't Look Now' but the dwarf has an erection." This is how he signs a Twitter autograph: "@Rebeccasaurus You are like scuba diving in pink honey." This is how he has a beer with the unknown: "If we detach ourselves from the material we will become enlightened and live in perpetual, blissful, endless orgasm—but imagine the mess." And this is how he tweets his bedtime: "I'm off to gargle with oestrogen till I become a gorgeous treble-gendered-cyborg—then we'll see who ought run the country. NIGHT."

Whether he's pondering his "deeply authoritative" cat, Morrissey (whose affections Brand compares to those of "a lap dancer with a meth habit"), or cutting a deal with fellow Tweeters ("Those of you I don't follow on Twitter I shall follow in life, breathing on your windows and photographing your stools"), Brand has a firm, sticky grasp of Twitter as more than a promotional tool, public journal, or not-quite-interface with the masses; he knows that it's a performance—a creative opportunity—unto itself. Or to put it another way: Like his fellow celebrities, Brand tweets his current projects, his fan love, his famous friends, his words of inspiration, and the fact that he's going to bed. But—and here's the winning distinction—he's the only one who does so while summoning the mental image of Noam Chomsky in a flesh-colored bikini.

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