This morning I decided to do something productive that I’d been putting off, and that was going through the RSS feeds that I’d been ignoring since late July. Let me just say – there were thousands, and I have been a very bad girl for not keeping up with my reading. One article in particular caught my eye. It was written by a fan-blogger, and the blog asked the question “Did Social Media Kill the Rock Star Icon?”
Fair enough. This is a question that Amanda and I struggle answering for various reasons. I remember being ten and falling in love with complete abandon with a rock star or two. Or five. I sent letters, then would trudge up the lawn to my mailbox each day after school to get my reply. As the weeks wore on, I realized sadly, that my confession of love and devotion was no more special than any others that they may have received. (And in adult hindsight I can see that it might have been flat out creepy to them to get a letter from a ten-year-old!) I never did hear back from any of the “stars” I decided to write as a kid, but that never stopped me from continuing to tape pinups and posters of them to my walls, or from listening to their albums, or going to their movies. In my experience, if anything it made me even more curious about them, made me dream a little bigger, and in some ways – put them up on even taller pedestals.
These days, the scenario is quite a bit different, as Don de Leaumont – the author of the article mentions. “In these days of the internet and various social networking tools like Facebook and Twitter, it seems that the once unattainable rock stars can now be one of your thousands of friends on Facebook as they converse with you via their “wall” or their “tweets.” As a 38 year old fan of music, I find this to be a pretty amazing thing. I mean, it’s absolutely insane for me to think that I can now be in direct contact with the very artists that seemed to be larger than life. Just a couple of years ago, I wrote an editorial called “Twisted Sister Saved My Life.” I posted it on my blog, I went to Twitter and contacted Dee Snider, and within a few hours I had a direct message from Mr. Snider himself telling me just how much he loved my article.”
I think that most Duran fans can relate in some small way to what Don is saying. In fact, just last night Amanda and I were talking on the phone, and this subject came up. It wasn’t that long ago – during the days of Astronaut, when the band seemed completely untouchable, unreachable, and not the least bit human to all but the luckiest fans. In present-time, the scenario is different. At least several members of the band are “reachable” on social media. They post on Facebook, they send out Tweets, and many fans out there have met them in social settings away from the stage. Does this really make them any less of an icon to us though?
I suppose to some small degree, when you realize that the band can read tweets and respond at-will, that sure – some of the mystique vanish. Funny though, we’ve been retweeted by John Taylor a couple of times in the past years, and yet Amanda and I still get just as excited. It’s still John Taylor, and we’re still fans. When it happens, you can almost count on the fact that I’m on the phone as quickly as possible to Amanda – sometimes even interrupting her teaching day to share good news. I know Amanda and I still appreciate the music and the whole experience just as much now as we did when we started attending gigs together. Our 20th gig together was every bit as fun (and then some) as our first, although I will say I had less trouble holding the camera steady this time. Mostly. I think both of us still get completely star-struck at times. (Hey, YOU try not getting a little shy and tongue-tied when you’ve got a guitar player right in your face.) I still get giggly, and I still have trouble resisting the urge to look around when I think one of them is looking right at me, because really??? Looking at me? IMPOSSIBLE! Those are moments I refuse to trade, for all of the retweets in the world. I would imagine most fans feel the same, because that feeling is magical. It transports us back to being “tweens” again, if even just for a moment. It makes us all feel young, beautiful and vibrant….even if you already ARE still young, beautiful and vibrant!
Don de Leaumont goes on “These days young people don’t even know of a time where talking to your favorite rock star was a truly magical occasion or in some cases just a dream. I can remember standing in the freezing cold outside of the Fox Theater in Atlanta, GA waiting to meet Skid Row after a sold out show. We waited for almost an hour and gave up because we were freezing. These days, Skid Row bassist Rachel Bolan is one of my Facebook friends who have conversed with me a few times. It’s insane for me to think that this is all possible yet there is a whole generation of young people who take this for granted and think that this is how it always was….
I hope that the young people out there reading this realize just how lucky they are to have the accessibility to their favorite bands. Fan letters have now been turned to Facebook posts and tweets which sometimes earn them immediate replies. While this is very exciting a side of me feels bad for them. I feel for them that they don’t know what it’s like to idolize a musician or band so much that they have to use their imagination to think about what they are really like. I feel that they don’t know what it’s like to put a pen to a piece of paper and scrawl out a few pages of words, put it in an envelope, put a stamp on it, and send it off with hopes of getting a reply. Social Media really does seem to have killed the rock god and made them all just normal people with Facebook pages, instant messenger programs, and Twitter accounts. Again, this isn’t a horrible thing. It’s just different and something I never thought I would see.”
I’m not really sure how spot on he really is there. I know John Taylor has a Twitter account and a Facebook page, but that doesn’t make him normal. Wait, maybe I phrased that wrong. Sorry, John. I just mean that he’s still a rock star, because it’s still his CHOICE as to whether he actually chooses to reply to a fan. For that matter I know Dom Brown has a Facebook and a Twitter and if it even seems like he’s replied in my general direction I’m as giddy as can be, and I know I’m not the only one. No really, I know there’s a few of you out there because I’ve seen you post! Quit hiding!
My oldest is fifteen, and while she does have a few favorite bands, I’ve spoken to her about this very subject and her feeling is that while Facebook and Twitter can be fun, she’s learned rather quickly that just because the possibility for access to these people exists, it doesn’t mean that everyone gets a reply. She feels that it’s nearly the same as having a piece of fan mail answered back in MY day. I really don’t know. I think it’s far more “immediate” these days, but I see her point. She’s not the type to sit down and write a letter to a rock star, or any kind of star really – and part of that is my fault, I think. She claims it’s “creepy and weird” to exchange tweets or even Facebook posts with someone from one of the bands she likes – she says it’s because she knows she’s only fifteen, and so if they’re willing to talk to someone her age, she has to wonder where their head is at. (Yes, those are really her words and yes…maybe she’s a little smarter than I am…or was at her age….) She watches how I behave now, what I comment on, and she sees what things I tend to cringe over when it comes to fandom, and she’s just learned to behave with a smidgeon more dignity at a very young age. She laughs when I get excited over something I’ve gotten in email or see on Facebook or Twitter. When I told her the story of my love letter to a American gymnastics Olympian back in the 80’s, she openly winced and said “Gross Mom, that is just gross! Aren’t you embarrassed now?” Well, I am now dear daughter. Thanks! (Kids have this fantastic talent of reducing you to nothing, don’t they?) Truth be told, she thinks I’m completely crazy with all of the traveling I’ve done, although she did admit she has great respect for the writing I’ve done and the various things that Amanda and I are currently working on. I guess she can live. For now.
More from Mr. de Leaumont: “Either way, I have to say that it’s a double edged sword for me. One side of me absolutely loves the accessibility that social networking has given me to some of my childhood heroes and other favorite bands. At the same time, a side of me misses that childhood vision that I had of these guys as I looked at their posters on my wall saying, “Someday I’m going to meet you, shake your hand, and thank you for the music you’ve given me. You’ll sign my albums, I’ll get my photo with you, and I will display it proudly.”
I guess I’m behind, because I still very much have those visions. The posters, too. For me – I still look at the band and feel very much the same. I am a fan and they are still my icons. (but I’m not stealing anyone’s cigarette butts!) What about the rest of you? Do you think they’ve lost their “icon” status due to social media? Let me know – make a comment, drop a line!
PS – I’m not going to steal Amanda’s thunder, but I hear it’s STILL easier to meet the President of the United States and get a photo than it is to meet any member of Duran Duran…..just saying.