Welcome to Uncultured, your weekly antidote to lockdown lethargy.
So I gave Megan Thee Stallion my number and now she won’t stop texting me.
She calls me Hotties. Isn’t that sweet?
She’s been texting me A LOT lately, especially in the last week since her first studio album Good News came out.
I mean, I get it, she’s proud of her work. But it’s getting to be overkill.
How did I even get the number of the chart-topping Texas rapper? Well, she gave it to me, along with everyone else.
Bold move, right? But she’s not the only one to share her digits with the world in recent months, which is why my phone’s Rolodex is looking so impressive these days.
Please don’t tell Megan I’ve also texted her former Canadian pal Tory Lanez — who is now the subject of the diss track “Shots Fired” on Good News. 😬
And yes, I’ve got a former U.S. president in my contacts now — so, presumably, do thousands of others after Barack Obama tweeted out his number in September.
Why would he do such a thing? And why are so many other people of influence now giving away their personal phone numbers — supposedly a closely guarded secret — over social media? Are the numbers even real?
Well, yes and no. They are indeed actual numbers you can put in your phone.
But don’t bother calling, or you’ll hear a message from your new friend telling you to text them instead.
And when you do text, say, Ashton Kutcher, you are then prompted to confirm the fine print, that you “consent to receive recurring messages at the number above (which may be marketing and/or automated) from or on behalf of Ashton Kutcher.” (emphasis mine)
In other words, you just consented to receive automated marketing materials disguised as personalized text messages that ping you on your phone just like a text from your bestie or your mom. These may be interspersed with actual texts from the celebrity to all of their contacts — or, just as likely, texts written by an assistant made to sound like that celebrity.
Imagine finding out that your mother’s adoring texts were generated by an algorithm and sent not just to you, but to all of her contacts. (Usually she just does that by mistake.)
Sure, it’s an efficient message delivery method for your mom, but may leave the recipients wanting proof that the 😘😘😘 was intended for them.
And so it is with Community, the relatively new text-based platform that gives celebrities a direct line to their fan bases and followers, bypassing the noise and trolls of Twitter and Instagram. The appeal for Leaders — as Community calls them — is clear; what’s less clear is what’s in it for their followers.
You can text Reese Witherspoon or Mark Cuban in the hope that they’ll write back a personal note — and they might! — but more often than not they will send mass texts to you and the rest of their fans letting you know what they’ve been up to.
It can be a powerful promotional tool. Megan Thee Stallion was mobilizing her fan army on Community last week to stream her new album and to tune into the live midnight premiere of her randy new video for “Body” on YouTube. I did along with thousands of others. A week later it’s got a healthy 20+ million views.
The actors, singers, models, politicians and everyone else on Community can read your texts, but after several weeks of using the platform I’ve had zero luck getting in touch with anyone — and that includes Kutcher, an investor in Community and its earliest adopter. He did send his contacts a nice little Thanksgiving meditation on Wednesday.
The only person I’ve personally connected with on Community is actor Cara Ricketts, though I’d warned her in advance that I’d be texting. Ricketts first told me about Community last month when I was researching an article for the Globe and Mail about Cameo, the popular celebrities-for-hire video messaging site.
Community appealed to Ricketts, who had moved back to Brampton from New York when the pandemic hit and was looking for new ways to communicate with her followers, many of whom know her from Anne with an E and her more recent work on video games such as Assassin’s Creed and Hyperscape.
I was curious about how the tool works from the leader’s point of view, and she kindly agreed to play along.
I wondered: Do my texts appear like regular text messages from her point of view? Apparently they do.
Ricketts is new to Community, “but I’m enjoying it so far,” she says. “It’s like normal texting but there is safety in sharing this number instead of my own.”
She concedes that “most people are using the platform for advertising” but says she’s more interested in connecting personally with her contacts, which can be hard to manage when texts start flooding in.
“Some people hire assistants to respond to messages but I prefer to personally reach out to people,” she says. “The only downside to that is it will not be an immediate response.”
Hey, a late, personalized response is better than no response at all, or an automated one. No matter how many times you call me Hotties.