In my native North Country, in the Upper Midwest, we are known for our “Minnesota nice” personalities. But the term doesn’t mean that locals like myself are friendly 24/7. It means that we’re passive-aggressive. Someone may smile while they give you directions to the movie theater, but they’ll be peering at that smelly pile of fast food trash on the passenger seat floor of your vehicle all the while. Similarly, that same passive-aggressive individual may not directly call you out for doing something bizarre such as live-tweeting in a movie theater, because…well, because of the Minnesota nice.
The celebrity-obsessed, reckless, movie theater live-tweeter (or MTLT) is much like a passive-aggressive “Minnesota nice” Midwesterner who spots a recognizable celebrity. These individuals don’t intend to offend anybody, but they will stare—and ultimately share—every detail about what they see, with anyone willing to listen. I know…because I was once that person (pre-social media) before I moved to Hollywood during my mid-twenties.
When is the appropriate time to shut down your phone in a movie theater? For me, it’s after that final check to see if anything exciting has transpired. You don’t think the shining light is that noticeable, but every person behind you, all the way back to the last row, sees the flickering light and your little fingers just a-tappin’ away. Is phone light really that distracting in a movie theater? The answer is “yes.” It’s always “yes,” whether you’re at a small town dollar theater, a big city venue that’s mostly empty, the last row in a random place, or maybe even with a certain celebrity sitting in front of you.
In May, someone live-tweeted her experience sitting behind actress, writer, and director Greta Gerwig at a screening of I Feel Pretty. And it’s important to note that said Twitter user is reportedly a director—not just a casual moviegoer. When, unsurprisingly, the tweetstorm went viral, I found myself thinking less about the narrative context and more about the public reaction. For example, remember when red sweater-wearing Ken Bone became a trending topic during a 2016 presidential debate? At first, it was a cute story unfolding in real-time. And then, as reports surfaced about his online behavior, people began to realize that maybe Mr. Bone might have some issues. After seeing people express their excitement about the Gerwig movie theater story on Twitter, I thought about Ken Bone, and America’s ongoing fascination with celebrity culture and documenting any type of celebrity connection. It’s a time when people beg celebrities to follow them on Twitter, even if it will never amount to anything.
On a fundamental level, it’s disrespectful (and irresponsible) for anyone to live tweet in a movie theater. For some otherwise rational moviegoers, however, a celebrity’s presence can make one do the unthinkable. Why? Because a celebrity encounter, even if it’s from afar, seems like some kind of connection—a story that must immediately be shared and documented.
To be honest, I don’t know how much in-theater live-tweeting happens across the United States, but I do know that some movie fanatics get nervous, giddy, and downright awkward when there’s a celebrity in close proximity, leading that person to essentially shut down mentally and approach like a zombie from The Walking Dead. In the Gerwig movie theater incident, it was just safer to sit back and live-tweet. So let’s take this opportunity, far from the temptation of the moment, to lay down a few laws about live-tweeting:
1. Don’t live-tweet inside of a movie theater. Just don’t. This brings us to…
2. Don’t live-tweet during in-theater movie trailers. See above. If your phone must be on because of potential emergencies, kindly leave your seat and walk to the theater hallway to address your situation. After the last phone check, there shouldn’t be any extra phone light.
3. Don’t live-tweet during first-time movie viewings. Enjoy the experience, or at least pay attention before you complain online.
4. Don’t spoil plot details about television episodes on the day they air. The next day, go crazy! Tweet away, sharing with confidence your own personal commentary about twists, endings, and character deaths. Everybody knows that Sunday night’s HBO programs are fair game on Monday morning. By contrast, Netflix is a little trickier, because they will drop full seasons at one time and watch everybody scramble, like those people that walk into signposts while playing Pokémon GO.
Even when obeying all of the laws listed here, there are also a few “best practices,” or “live-tweet suggestions,” to follow for maximum success:
1. If you must live-tweet about movie events or a streaming experience, keep your tweets in the same thread. This will be helpful for easy reading and allows others to quickly access your full commentary.
2. Don’t live-tweet like you’re texting your best friend. For example, let’s just say you finished live-tweeting about a Fandor movie. For the reckless live-tweeter, it might go something like this: “omg just finished watching Fandor movie sick I love you Fandor I can’t breathe help.” Theoretically, this kind of tweet could be more easily understood with some attention paid to grammar, and maybe with a smiley emoji face at the end. 🙂
Overall, make sure to OWN your live tweets. That’s what the Gerwig tweeter failed to do, concluding her tweetstorm with, “she was being so loud that I didn’t even have to lean forward to hear her clearly; I wasn’t eavesdropping.” If you’re in a movie theater, live-tweeting about a celebrity, and getting lots of notifications, you are most definitely eavesdropping. This brings us to our final live tweet law: Don’t be a celebrity privacy snitch (unless there’s an ethical or moral issue to report). Follow these guidelines, and you’ll be a live-tweeting phenom in no time!