Celebrity is a fickle thing. Some who have it prefer to hide — the Kevin Spaceys, Dave Chapelles and Doris Days of the world — while others seem to relish the spotlight — the Kanye Wests, Joseph Gordon Levitts and Lady Gagas, for example. For those celebs who do participate, social media can be a double-edged sword: Spike Lee’s egregious attempt at doxxing George Zimmerman on Twitter cost him in civil court; Alec Baldwin’s cell phone tantrum got him thrown off a plane; dozens of leaked intimate photos of young Hollywood stars finding their way to the public on the web. The other edge, however, can have lasting positive effects, when wielded correctly. Fame means followers, and having the collective ear of thousands, if not millions, can provide a platform from which a celebrity could do more than simply entertain.
At 24, with much of her life filled as Hermione in the Harry Potter movies and other acting and modeling accomplishments, Emma Watson could easily sit back and let her PR team run her social media accounts solely as fan accounts, or keep her online life private, among friends only. Instead, she has crafted an online persona to fully reflect her values, informing and activating her followers on causes like domestic violence, voting and labor issues for women, and education worldwide. Twitter has become her primary tool for mobilizing, and her Instagram account, though new, is also focused on her activism; her Facebook page is a professionally-curated space for fans of her acting work, although a fair amount of the content relates back to Watson’s efforts. This blend speaks to her awareness of a balance for fans, between Emma the Actress, and Emma the Activist.
The Mobilizer archetype of social media engager is mission-driven to create “action platforms”, spaces and discussions which enable individuals to join forces for creating change. Watson’s activism is not a flash in the pan — in 2014, she was appointed as a UN Women Goodwill Ambassador and helped launch the UN Women campaign HeForShe, which calls for men to advocate gender equality in their daily lives and via social media. Watson’s drive on gender issues stems from her own experiences as a woman, and learning first-hand from women in Bangladesh, Zambia and elsewhere the various systemic hardships women face globally. She also lent her laugh to the global response ridiculing Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister, Bulent Arinc, for his comment that women shouldn't laugh in public for moral reasons.
From her UN Address in 2014:
“You might be thinking who is this Harry Potter girl? And what is she doing up on stage at the UN. It’s a good question and trust me, I have been asking myself the same thing. I don’t know if I am qualified to be here. All I know is that I care about this problem. And I want to make it better… I was appointed six months ago and the more I have spoken about feminism the more I have realized that fighting for women’s rights has too often become synonymous with man-hating. If there is one thing I know for certain, it is that this has to stop… Both men and women should feel free to be sensitive. Both men and women should feel free to be strong… It is time that we all perceive gender on a spectrum not as two opposing sets of ideals.
We are struggling for a uniting word but the good news is we have a uniting movement. It is called HeForShe. I am inviting you to step forward, to be seen, to speak up, to be the “he” for “she”. And to ask yourself if not me, who? If not now, when?”
A coordinated hashtag campaign to guide the conversation gained massive traction across social media platforms after Watson’s speech, boosted by a bevy of pledging celebrities, some with massive online followings, like actors Chris Colfer (2.54M Twitter followers), Simon Pegg (5.43M followers), and the band One Direction (22.9M Twitter followers). In just the first three days, more than 100,000 men made a commitment to creating gender equality through the official website’s pledge drive. In the first ten days, 1.1 million #HeForShe tweets were made by more than 750,000 different users, reaching 1.2 billion unique Twitter users.
A Mobilizer creates opportunities to leverage individual contributions, be it speech, time, or money, to help innovative projects and movements sidestep institutional roadblocks. In Emma Watson’s case, her involvement in the UN’s project went much further than just being spokesperson or a face for a campaign. She borrows from the Reporter archetype by sharing her experiences traveling the world and speaking with women’s groups and individuals, but by tying that to her cause, mobilizes her followers. Watson (and undoubtedly her team behind the scenes) has cultivated her following into ambassadors of their own, using the democratizing power of the internet to connect and motivate change individually, and en masse. Emma Watson may have been a well-intentioned but trivial celebrity on social media in the past, but she has found her stride and owns the HeForShe movement as its success continues to spread.