Social Media on America’s Next Top Model

September 17, 2012

11:00 am

“There’s something that’s missing … a very special judge … and that judge is … YOU.”

Supermodel and host Tyra Banks points straight to the camera, and the contestants wave their iPhones in the air, shrieking.

This season of America’s Next Top Model is oh-so revolutionary, we are told, because of social media. Your vote counts, and your voice gets heard.

It starts with the first episode. As thirty college girls strut down the runway, the audience is frantically tweeting. After a photo shoot, their pictures are posted on Facebook. They’re ushered into the “social media room,” where they can read all the comments.

“What are people saying?” one girl asks.

“Mean, mean stuff,” says another.

“Mine has 530 likes,” someone chimes in.

America’s Next Top Model has also brought on fashion blogger Bryanboy to represent the people: during judging rounds, he’ll summarize the social media buzz and play a video or show a tweet from a viewer.  And there are guest appearances by P’Trique, a blonde-wig-wearing YouTube sensation made famous for his “Sh*t Fashion Girls Say.” He was added after a campaign on social media to get him on the show.

Paraphrasing Shakespeare, “The ladies doth protest too much, methinks.” If you’re truly revolutionary, you don’t have to constantly say you’re revolutionary. Yet we hear it again and again:

“They get to vote as it’s happening. This has never been done before, so this is groundbreaking,” says one contestant.

“This is absolutely incredibly because it’s the first time that the general public has been able to give their feedback,” says another.

TV shows have struggled to be social – broadcasting live tweets or interacting with fans on GetGlue – but I don’t think they’ve figured it out yet. Social media is supposed to be this organic, unedited, massive conversation. America’s Next Top Model selecting a handful of tweets and clips to broadcast just feels very inorganic, edited, and narrow. The clips they’ve picked so far (we’re only on episode 4) tend to be cheerleady or politely critical, a sanitized version of the rawness of social media. And it gets boring: I don’t really care what one of Top Model’s 6.35 million Facebook fans thinks.

As Tyra said, “There’s something that’s missing.” But it’s not this self-congratulatory attempt at adding social media.

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Kira M. Newman is a Tech Cocktail writer interested in the harsh reality of entrepreneurship, work-life balance, and psychology. She is the founder of The Year of Happy and has been traveling around the world interviewing entrepreneurs in Asia, Europe, and North America since 2011. Follow her @kiramnewman or contact