Until earlier this week, I was without the internet at home. That meant, in addition to agonizing nights of having to figure out just what to do with myself and the rabbit ears attached to my TV (yes, I know how that sounds), I had to find my junkie-esque connection to the world in places like parks, internet cafes and friends’ housesâ€¦in public.
One afternoon, I was in a café logged into the FTB Twitter account tweeting one of my posts, one of my occasional tasks on the site. I took a look at some of the tweets coming in from the people we were following.
Mostly usual stuff today: updates from our writers, arts organizations we cover or intend to cover at some point in the future, news from other progressive sites, stuff from comedians like Conan O’Brien and Stephen Colbert (yeah, they’re mainstream but they have their moments of brilliance) and even print media (maybe it’s some sort of morbid fascination, but I digress), pretty much the usual.
Then I saw itâ€¦a random, stupid update on a concert tour from none other than Justin Bieber, yes, the Bieb himself showing up on my laptop screen in full view of everyone around. As I tried to click away and block my screen from my peers and potential mates (I do live in Montreal, so a boy can dream) without spilling coffee all over myself, I thought: “Why the hell are we following Justin Bieber on Twitter?”
Had we hired an 14-year-old girl to do social networking for us? Did the Bieb start following us as some act of rebellion and we reciprocated the favour? Was someone drunk? While my money for a while was on drunk, I found out the truth.
Turns out it’s intentional (still probably done while drunk, though). It’s a way of getting more page views and followers. Now, pardon my skepticism, but what kind of followers do we hope to attract by following Justin Bieber? I mean at least Lady Gaga is a queer icon, so there are some sort of progressive politics involved and Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears are trainwrecks which is always fun, but the Bieb? Really?
While he may very well be a nice guy (er, kid) and someone I wouldn’t mind having a beer with (er, well, maybe not), we’re talking about the current ultimate representation of what’s wrong with our media culture. A manufactured pop icon who distracts us from what’s really going on in the world.
Now I’m all for appealing to everyone in hopes of turning some unsuspecting, uncritical mainstream-ites on to new ideas, unknown artists and political thought that some consider too radical, but for me is the norm. Still, when you see this “let’s grab everyone” practice it in its most base form, like following the blond-haired devil of cookie-cutter cerebral gentrification that is the Bieb, then it makes me question whether or not it’s worth it.
Maybe this will dilute our credibility. Maybe, as someone critiquing our posting of a humorous anti-Mac rant pointed out, it makes us “not an information source that I could ever take seriously.” Or maybe it’s the opposite. By being open to people that maybe aren’t of a similar mindset or with similar cultural tastes, perhaps we can gain some sort of, ugh, mainstream credibility and then use it to seriously fuck with the mainstream (apologies for the curse word to all those who came here via the search terms Justin Bieber and Twitter in the post title).
Maybe, in a reversal on the Fox paradigm, we bring some in with fluff but present them with real and progressive viewpoints when they click on anything labeled news and with artists that aren’t mass-marketed cash cow concoctions when they click on our arts coverage. After all, it’s not like we’re actually covering the Bieb, just following him on Twitter.
Also, now that I have the internet at home (straight into my vein, baby, aaah), I can rest assured that I no longer have to open our Twitter up in public and keep my more counterculture-than-thou cred intact, all the while exposing everyone, even fans of the Bieb, to new ideas and a new way of thinking.
Or maybe I can just sit back and let Gordon Pinsent put things in perspective…