Biz discovers it’s a cold, cruel twitterverse

Rejections, and careers, are getting shorter

To save you time, here’s asummary of this column: Tweets are in, manners are out.

Let me elaborate for those readers with pre-Twitter patience: In Hollywood, the process of rejection is becoming colder and more abrupt. And rejection is what most communications are all about.

Talk to veterans of the scene, and the trend runs something like this: A few years ago if you wanted to cancel a deal or turn down a script or drop an actor from a series, the principals would be summoned to a meeting. It would be short but polite.

Sympathy meetings are a thing of the past. Phone calls took their place — the voice was often empathetic, even encouraging.

Then came email. Rejection took less time this way. Skip the empathy.

Now a career can be changed with two words on Twitter: “It’s over.”

When that true cultural icon Paula Abdul decided to quit American Idol, she did so with a tweet. Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez fires ministers with a Tweet. Social networking sites are becoming anti-social networking sites.

“Email may be rude, but it’s a time-saver,” one studio apparatchik acknowledged to me. “You don’t have to pretend to be apologetic about saying ‘no.’?”

The process is less popular on the receiving end. One director last week told me about his meeting with a star — she was excited by the project and wanted the role. Then came the cold email: It’s a pass.

So let’s forget the meeting: Whatever happened to the gracious phone call? I was reminded of this the other day when I learned that the publication of the phone book may be a thing of the past.

Betty White remembers the phone book: Last week on Saturday Night Live, while acknowledging her vast support on Facebook, she recalled: “When I was growing up we didn’t have Facebook. We had phone books, but you wouldn’t waste an afternoon on them.”

Still, the Facebook crowd got Betty her SNL gig, just like Justin Bieber’s instant stardom came from his mom’s decision to post his videos on YouTube. Thanks to the YouTubers and their tweets, the little kid from Stratford, Ontario sold 850,000 units of his “My World 2.0” album in five weeks and is causing teenage riots at his appearances. So much for needing “Star Search” or “Idol.”

Box office grosses are presently being measured by taking the tweet temperature. Some 87% of Americans now know about Twitter, compared with 26% last year, but it still lags behind Facebook in use. Incredibly some 70% of users feel impelled to post status updates on Facebook, while Twitter functions more as a medium to dispense news — or rejections.

Many nerds are now rebelling against Facebook, complaining that these “hubs” provide too much information to marketers. Rather than surrender this privacy, they say, individuals should set up their own private social networks and communicate directly with one another on non-Facebook hubs of nerddom.

At the root of all of this, of course, is the urgently personal need to be impersonal. Why meet someone for coffee to confide a decision, or an emotion, when you can do it with a phone call? Or send an email? Or dispatch a Tweet?

I went to Starbucks the other day and noted all the tables were full, but everyone was alone on their computers. Since it was the middle of Hollywood, I wondered how many of the coffee crowd were reading notes of rejection. And tweeting their Facebook friends about their state of depression.

As if they cared.

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