Lena Dunham was the latest celeb to quit the Twitter-sphere after posting a photo of herself half-naked in her boyfriend’s underwear generated comments she described as “the most rabid, disgusting debate about women’s bodies.”
Her decision to shutter her account followed the same script as past celebs -- like Demi Levato and Miley Cyrus -- who also cited toxic comments as the reason to disengage with social media.
The about-face is notable as celebs originally flocked to outlets like Instagram and Facebook as a way to bypass the pesky press, and get their messages straight to their "fans."
“Even though press scrutiny can be harsh, fans' criticisms could have a bigger impact on a star on a personal and professional level,” says Cathy Hackl, an Emmy-nominated broadcast journalist-turned-social media strategist and CEO of Socially Streaming. “When celebs open themselves up to fans on social media, they can't expect for everyone to always be supportive of them. They shouldn't be surprised when criticism comes knocking on their door. Anyone on social media knows that not everyone will like you, and that you can't please everyone 100 percent of the time.”
Many people, not only Hollywood’s rich and famous, have the wrong idea about social media, experts say, and need to understand just how toxic the environment can become.
“People think that because it's ‘social’ that it's casual, and everyone on there who follows you must be your friend,” Ciaran Blumenfeld, Founder and CMO of Hashtracking, says. “Anyone with over a hundred or so followers has haters.”
However, Hackl says the toxicity of social media can sometimes go too far.
“I do think it's important to point out that there are definitely cases in which criticism of a celeb can turn into cyber bullying, especially when it has to do with body shaming,” she says.
Experts say celebrities can make social media work to their benefit; all they need is a strategy, which many lack.
“In order to be successful on social media, celebs need to approach social in much the same way brands do - with a plan,” says Blumenfeld. “It's not enough to pick up a cell phone and tweet a picture of your cat. Successful brands and celebs set social goals and implement social media strategy. This means researching and interacting with their followers, constantly measuring the success of their messages and being ready to pivot when something isn't working.”
Hackl agrees, adding that communicating through traditional media should always be part of the overall public relations picture.
“Having the right mix of social engagement and traditional media exposure is key,” she says.