Saturday, August 10, 2013

Hannah Horvath's Twitter Feed

OK, it's time for a meta-critique of Hannah Horvath's Twitter feed. Both of them -- the real Hannah and the fake Hannah. Plus the Twitter account of Lena Dunham. It's time to do a meta-critique of that, too. For those of you who are new to this, I'm talking about Hannah Horvath, the lead character of the HBO TV show "Girls," as played by Lena Dunham.
So here we go.

Our subjects of study are three Twitter feeds as follows: 1) the "real" Hannah, as in the one in the show itself, wherein the fictional character as of Series 1 is a simulacrum of a real 24-year-old girl living in Brooklyn; 2) the "fake" Hannah, as in the fake Twitter feed that somebody, possibly HBO, created to promote the show; and 3) the human being Lena Dunham, who is now a rich and famous star writer-director-actor and I think producer, yes, almost assuredly producer in addition to writer-director-actor. I don't want to google it right now, but you can pretty much assume she is a writer-director-actor-producer.

The Real Hannah

The real Hannah Horvath fancies herself an essential writer for her time. "I think I might be the voice of my generation. Or at least a voice. Of a generation," she tells her parents when they tell her they're cutting her off because she's been sponging off them for too long and it's time for her to get a day job.

At the start of "Girls," the real simulacrum Hannah writes personal essays and works as an unpaid intern for a literary agent in the hopes that she'll get a publishing deal for her memoir. She also tweets as @HannahHorvath (see shitty You Tube screen grab below). The real Hannah's Twitter analytics are completely, hilariously out of whack: she has 26 followers, she is following 902 tweeps, and she has tweeted 4,140 times; i.e., she has a negative follower ratio by a very large margin.
Real Hannah Twitter Feed
When we see Hannah clacking away on her keyboard in Season 1, Episode 3, she is busy tweeting something intensely personal, as in "you lose some, you lose..." as she's thinking about a fight she just had with her sort-of boyfriend. Five hours earlier, she had tweeted, "just poured water on some perfectly good bread to stop myself from eating it. ate it anyway. BECAUSE I AM AN ANIMAL." The tweet before that one, written 13 hours earlier, says: "how often do you think a guy is looking at you with love eyes then realize he's special ed/traveling with a caretaker. I've done that thrice."

Clearly, Hannah is desperate for attention, but it's a Twitter #fail. Her tweets have garnered her followers at the rate of 0.006% per tweet. (My quick calculation, which is probably wrong, because I'm better at qualitative analysis than quantitative, but this number helps me tell a convincing story so I'm keeping it.)

What should real simulacrum Hannah do to fix her bad ratio? According to Buzzfeed's top 10 tips on getting more Twitter followers, if you want to be popular on Twitter, you should care just enough and not get obsessed: "Obsessing over your follower count can drag it down, especially if you let that show through your tweets. (Complaining about not having more followers is never a good look.) Also, when you obsess, you’re more likely to tweet dumb things out of obligation. It’s OK to just step away from the computer sometimes!"

The Fake Hannah

Upon further inspection, god knows who created the fake Hannah Twitter feed (see below). HBO? A fixated fangirl? The Hannah Horvath @HannahHorvath_ Twitter profile claims that it's not affiliated with @HBO or @girlsHBO. But then the profile also provides a link to hbo.com/girls, so god knows what's going on.

Anyway, somebody from April 13 through April 22, 2012 posted 24 tweets on @HannahHorvath_, quoting funny lines from the show. The very first tweet on the fake Hannah Twitter feed is identical to a tweet in the simulacrum Hannah's Series 1/Episode 3 Twitter feed ("just poured water on some perfectly good bread to stop myself from eating it. ate it anyway. BECAUSE I AM AN ANIMAL"), which feels very meta to me, a layered palimpsest of destroyed and rebuilt culture-content reflecting the reification of the real in a commercial context. It's no coincidence that this fake feed appeared around the same time that the show premiered on HBO on April 15, 2012.
Fake Hannah Twitter Feed
The fake Hannah's analytics are impressive for a Twitter feed that lasted merely 10 days. In that time, fake Hannah posted 25 tweets, followed 197 tweeps (a subject worthy of an essay in its own right or at least a very long footnote) and gained 11,727 followers.

That's an impressively positive follower ratio. This Hannah is not desperate. She's a pop culture commodity.

@HannahHorvath_'s final tweet, posted on 22-April-12, reads: "'You want me to call you?' #mistakesGIRLSmake. #GIRLS." The penultimate tweet, posted 15-April-12, reads "I'm 24 years old, don't tell me what to do," followed by a bunch of promotion-worthy hashtags. It was retweeted 68 times and favorited 21 times -- not a bad showing at all for a fictional character who is allegedly desperate for popularity.

The Human Being Lena Dunham

Which brings us to the human being Lena Dunham, whose 6,517 tweets have won her an algorithmically exponential 1,128,538 followers as of 11:46 a.m. ET Saturday 10-Aug-13 (see below). The human being Lena Dunham, meanwhile, follows just 413 tweeps, many of whom -- like Lena Dunham herself -- have blue ticks against their names, indicating Twitter-verified accounts "used to establish authenticity of identities on Twitter," meaning rich and famous people.

Lena Dunham follows actor Maggie Gyllenhaal, sex columnist Dan Savage, Eat, Pray Love author Elizabeth Gilbert and Planned Parenthood. I haven't figured out yet how to see whether they're following her back, but I assume they are.

Her followers include a lot of nobodies who go by their first name only, including Bethany @BethanyLois 85 (who has tweeted 3 times, has 6 followers and is following 73 people), Nella @nella1704 (who loves animals, reading, Green Day and Gwen Stefani) and Kashmir @faggotmaria (11,156 tweets, 184 following, 234 followers, sample tweet: "I just went around and followed celebrities because, why not").

Lena Dunham Twitter Feed
To get personal about this, I'll just say that at my job, where I'm a web editor, I run one of my site's Twitter feeds, which explains why I've studied how you do Twitter. In my personal life, I have a lame-ass Twitter feed, @joycehanson, with 308 tweets, 136 following and 136 followers.

So yes, I'm one of those tweeps who gets all matchy-matchy with the analytics and carefully avoids looking too desperate. Plus, I can't think of anything interesting to say. I tweet about my blog posts and Yelp check-ins, and try to get clever on rare occasion -- "Today, I'm working at home, on drugs. Benadryl and Ibuprofen can be taken together as cold medicine, apparently" -- then feel embarrassed about self-revelation and stop tweeting for several weeks.

Basically, I'm another nobody. And I am now following @lenadunham.

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