Eddie Murphy, Ashton Kutcher and the plight of the at-risk celebrity


Eddie Murphy may be famous on screen, and bowed out of hosting the Oscars. But where is he on Twitter? (JESSICA RINALDI/REUTERS)

A number of celebrities are waking up to the fact that they no longer have the same pull they once had.

Nearly every day ordinary people are being whisked to Las Vegas or given the keys to new sports cars, solely for their ability to play the Internet Fame Game — quite literally. The same celebrities who used to joke about not understanding Twitter or not having the time for Facebook are exactly the same celebrities who are now at greatest risk of dropping down the celebrity pecking order — or even becoming culturally irrelevant.

The At-Risk Celebrity should not lose hope, however. Instead they may want to think about Internet rehab.

The latest offering is a "Facebook for the Famous" called WhoSay.com that enables celebrities to band together in one place and offer their photos and videos to the world. Tom Hanks, Anderson Cooper, and Zooey Deschanel among others, all have profiles that allow them to create customized content. And, of course, in the grand tradition of all things celebrity, WhoSay.com is members only.

Notably, some of social media’s heavyweights are not present on WhoSay. Ashton Kutcher, who has gone on a self-imposed Twitter hiatus following an unfortunate tweet, does not have a page, and Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga both have shell pages with no content. But that makes the celebrities who are there early adopters — a coveted label in the digital community.


Actor Ashton Kutcher took a Twitter hiatus following a widely-circulated gaffe on the social media platform. (Larry Busacca/GETTY IMAGES FOR GQ)

In short, celebrities are becoming just like us — well, us minus the marketing teams. Nearly every social media user wants to remain top-of-mind with friends and followers on everything from the fascinating to the mundane — and celebrities are no different. But, when you’re a celebrity, this leads, of course, to bizarre situations like professional athletes tweeting to their fans between time-outs and halftimes, concerned that the social media universe might have forgotten about them between ball possessions.

Many celebrities — at least ones of the Old School — face what has been referred to as "The Warren Buffett Problem." If a celebrity isn’t on social media, how do you rate their influence?

Using the world of Hollywood, we might recast this as “The Eddie Murphy Problem.” How do we know what the true online influence is of a proven Hollywood star who doesn’t interact with fans via Twitter? A profanity-drenched, parody Eddie Murphy Twitter account has managed to rack up well over 12,000 followers by simply saying what it imagines the comedian would be saying if he were on Twitter — 25 years ago.

Think about it: Fake Eddie Murphy is more influential than real Eddie Murphy — at least on Twitter.

It’s no wonder that celebrities are exploring new digital ways to convince us they are still culturally relevant. To quote (badly) Sir Walter Scott, “Oh what a tangled Web we weave when first we practice to deceive.”

One thing is certain: Celebrities are finding that the fame gap between “us” and “them” is no longer as wide as they once thought, while the 99-percenters are finding it easier than ever to be rewarded for their 15 minutes of fame.

Read more news and ideas on Innovations:

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Dominic Basulto is a futurist and blogger based in New York City.

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