Dr. Susan Brown
28 September 2015
Mr. President: #kanyeforpresident
During the 2015 MTV Music Video Awards this past August, Kanye West was on stage accepting his Video Vanguard award when he shocked most people in the audience, as well as those watching from home, announcing that he intends on running for President of the United States in 2020. His announcement to run for office went viral on all forms of social media, allowing the hashtag “#kanyeforpresident” to be created, and also tweeted, retweeted and favourited so many times for it to trend on Twitter. When searching “#kanyeforpresident” on Google, the first link brings up the Twitter stream devoted to the hashtag that thousands of people tweeted.
Twitter is a popular medium and form of digital writing that allows people to read and “tweet” short messages of one hundred and forty characters at a time, about basically anything. Twitter is different and unique from other mediums as each tweet cannot exceed one hundred and forty characters, but provides the opportunity for interaction with celebrities, as well as those of the general public. There are also trending topics on Twitter, which allows anyone to see what is considered important in the current news, whether it actually be life changing news, or based on celebrity gossip, such as the hashtag “#kanyeforpresident,” informing people of Kanye West’s intention to run for presidency in 2020.
One of the challenges faced with trending topics on Twitter is if a hashtag is trending, people think it is a serious topic. Since trending topics can include a tragic accident happening somewhere in the world, as well as something “important” in the media world that has to do with a celebrity, both being a trending topic suggest they are of equal importance, when they obviously are not. Global disasters trump celebrity gossip news in terms of importance, but since they are both trending topics, they are seen as equal value on Twitter. The vast variety of trending topics makes it difficult for people to identify the trend’s level of importance, as they are all categorized under one header. These are some of the challenges tweeters face when writing for digital media, as it can sometimes be difficult to convert a topic’s importance on the Internet, into their “real life” value offline.
On January 5th, 2012, Big Sean, an American hip hop artist, tweeted “#kanyeforpresident” (BigSean) over three and a half years prior to Kanye’s “official” announcement to run for president in August 2015. While many believe he predicted the future, I think it was a joke, especially considering it was tweeted shortly after midnight, that people are now taking seriously. Big Sean and Kanye West are both influential people in society, therefore, if either of them have something to say people are going to listen. I think it is just a coincidence Kanye now decides he is going to run for president, and has nothing to do with Big Sean’s tweet from three and a half years ago. The hashtag “#kanyeforpresident” has not slowed down even though he made his announcement almost a month ago, demonstrating his appeal and impact on the public.
The hashtag is still maintaining its popularity, with “Live From E!” recently tweeting on September 24th, 2015, “#KanyeWest says he has ‘a lot of research to do’ for his presidential run. Would you vote #KanyeForPresident?” (livefrome). This tweet does what Big Sean’s tweet does not; it provides a fact as well as asks a question. As Live From E! is a popular news show, they are informing the public that Kanye admits he has a lot to do in order to prepare himself for the his presidential run. They then pose the question to the public whether they would vote for Kanye knowing he believes he has “a lot of research to do,” (livefrome) which can be taken one of two ways. He either intended his announcement to run for president as a joke that people are now taking seriously, and is playing along saying he needs to prepare, or he is serious in his intent to run, and he feels he must measure up and learn a lot in order to run properly. It is unknown what Kanye’s actual intent was when he announced his presidential run at the Music Video Awards, but it has definitely gone viral and attracted a lot of attention that people are taking it seriously, whether that is what he intended for or not. Live From E!’s hashtag also contains capital letters where Big Sean’s does not. This could be because Live From E! is a credible source that people take seriously to inform them on news and people in the media, where part of Big Sean’s job is not to be grammatically correct on Twitter. Regardless, both hashtags, with capital letters at the beginning of each word, as well as all lowercase, feed into the same hashtag stream connecting viewers to all possible tweets surrounding this topic.
Twitter’s limit of one hundred and forty characters per tweet forms and shapes how one writes, as a “tweeter” is limited to what they want to say because of the constriction. What does this mean? A tweet must therefore be concise, and hopefully clear, in order to get the message one is trying to convey across in such a short amount of space. Similarly discussed in Matthew Kirschenbaum’s article, “It Is Known” from Track Changes, writing tools and processors are believed to play an important role in word documentation. The public is largely compelled with the idea that George R.R. Martin, whose best selling series, A Song of Ice and Fire, has been adapted for the popular television series, Game of Thrones, uses an out of date word processor called WordStar, instead of something more current, with Internet connection. The way WordStar shapes Martin’s writing is similar to how Twitter’s one hundred and forty character per tweet rule shapes a “tweeter” in the sense that their writing is more focused because of their respective constrictions. Martin suggests WordStar provides a “lack of distraction,” while accounting it for his productivity (Kirschenbaum 1). Twitter’s one hundred and forty character rule forces a tweet to be concise, focused, and short. I do not believe many people like to read messages that need to be continued on into various tweets, as it is an unnecessary hassle, and more worth while to try to limit what one is trying to say to one hundred and forty characters or less. According to a Harvard Business Review, it is suggested to, “be clear, not cryptic or insidery. Don’t overuse hashtags, and don’t retweet one-on-one conversations” in regards to what makes a great tweet (André, Bernstein, and Luther, “What Makes a Great Tweet”).
Examining Twitter as a form of digital writing has revealed it to be a popular medium in which each tweet is limited to one hundred and forty characters, but also provides the ability to interact with anyone in the world who has a profile, including celebrities. Distinguishing the level of importance of “trending topics” on Twitter proves to be a challenge in this digital media, but nonetheless, Twitter shapes the way one writes similarly to WordStar in Kirschenbaum’s article as it makes one’s writing focused. It is interesting to see how seriously hashtags can be taken in today’s society, leaving one to question if “#kanyeforpresident” will still be popular in society four years from now.
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André, Paul, Bernstein, Michael, and Luther, Kurt. “What Makes a Great Tweet.” Harvard Business Review. May 2012. Web. 26 September 2015.
Big Sean (BigSean). “#kanyeforpresident.” 5 January 2012, 12:46 a.m. Tweet.
Kirschenbaum, Matthew. Track Changes: A Literary History of Word Processing. N.p.: Forthcoming Havard UP, 2016. Print (forthcoming).
Live From E! (livefrome). ““#KanyeWest says he has ‘a lot of research to do’ for his presidential run. Would you vote #KanyeForPresident?” 24 September 2015, 8:34 a.m. Tweet.