Ellen DeGeneres’ Oscar selfie broke Twitter, and world records

(AP Photo/Ellen DeGeneres)

Ellen DeGeneres’ Oscar selfie with Bradley Cooper, Meryl Streep and assorted other Hollywood royalty took less than an hour to beat the record Barack Obama previously set for most-shared tweet. But the weird thing about her digital-age triumph — which, for the blink of an eye, literally took down Twitter — was how terribly analog it was.

Obama, after all, wracked up his more than 780,000 RTs organically, shortly after winning the 2012 election. DeGeneres asked for retweets on a massive live broadcast that reaches 40 million people, which would seem to tip the scales. It’s kind of like running a national ad campaign for your tweet. In fact, some eagle-eyed Twitter users have suggested it was an ad for Samsung, the manufacturer of the phone DeGeneres used on stage … but not, mysteriously, of the one she used off it.

We’re not naive, of course; that a corporation should clandestinely sponsor a celebrity gimmick neither surprises nor scandalizes. But it sort of undermines the “wow” factor of DeGeneres’ accomplishment here. A message shared a million times, merely because it resonates with a million people, says something powerful about connection and the Internet collective and the proverbial Way We Live Now. But a message shared a million times thanks to a powerful advertiser and a major live network broadcast? That’s the way we lived a decade ago, back when mass communication always meant one broadcasting to many. DeGeneres’ shtick pulls from that outmoded model. And yet! Even Twitter is impressed.

This is good advertising for the social network as well, of course. As of midnight on Sunday, the tweet had more than 2 million shares, leaving Barack and Michelle securely in the dust. But don’t get too cocky, Ellen et al. — clearly all it’ll take is a major TV event and an incentivized host to “make history” all over again.

More on the Academy Awards

Film critic Ann Hornaday: The Oscars go according to plan

TV critic Hank Stuever: Happily wasting too much time at Ellen’s easy-does-it Oscars show

Full recap: Oscars 2014

Photos: Academy Awards 2014

Photos: The best moments from the Oscars

VideoThe Oscars in 2 minutes

Oscars 2014: Full list of winners

Caitlin Dewey runs The Intersect blog, writing about digital and Internet culture. Before joining the Post, she was an associate online editor at Kiplinger’s Personal Finance.
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Caitlin Dewey | March 3