Antho­ny Hop­kins has been qui­et­ly ush­er­ing in a new age for Twitter

Why the The Silence of the Lambs star’s Twitter account teaches us valuable social media and life lessons.

I’ve gig­gled a lot in my life. I’ve indulged in some big laughs and enjoyed some sweet, sweet tit­ters. But per­haps the fun­ni­est thing I have ever seen in my adult life hap­pened on 22nd April last year, when Sir Antho­ny Hop­kins decid­ed to tweet this video:

Tell me, and tell me imme­di­ate­ly, what the fuck is hap­pen­ing here,” a rea­son­able per­son would say after watch­ing this. I have watched the clip dozens of times. Do I have any idea? No. I’m of no help to you.

But what I can tell you is that Sir Antho­ny Hop­kins has a bet­ter Twit­ter account than you and every­one else on the plan­et. I have just had a daugh­ter but I love this video more.

Please watch the clip again. Obvi­ous­ly every sin­gle one of the 32 sec­onds ought to be pre­served for future gen­er­a­tions in the Sval­bard Glob­al Seed Vault but there are sev­er­al fea­tures that par­tic­u­lar­ly excite me.

0:01: This is the moment that Hop­kins com­mits to the con­ceit of the video (what­ev­er that is). The con­ceit, he decides, must involve him wrin­kling his nose and bar­ing his teeth as soon as the cam­era starts rolling and the night­mare music kicks in.

0:11: Here, wary that his audi­ence might be get­ting bored, Hop­kins retains their atten­tion by swing­ing his phone back and for­ward in what I can only describe as a man­ic fren­zy. In this moment he seems to have tran­si­tioned from friend­ly but harm­less gob­lin” to gob­lin intent on com­mit­ting a crime”. The cam­era is mov­ing so wild­ly that, ini­tial­ly, you wor­ry you’re watch­ing him fall down the stairs. But no – he’s still root­ed to the spot. 

0:31: Still wide-eyed and open-mouthed, Hop­kins man­ages to stop the video in a sur­pris­ing­ly flu­ent motion, almost as though it has hap­pened by accident.

Hop­kins is enor­mous­ly pop­u­lar on Twit­ter, tweet­ing to an audi­ence of 408,000. Recent­ly, he’s even been picked up some good press for his mav­er­ick com­mand of the plat­form. It’s a com­mand that must inspire a kind of hor­ror in social media man­agers the world over, wak­ing them cold-sweat­ed in the night, won­der­ing if their client should go balls-out weird and dance like a grem­lin for num­bers. If it worked for Hop­kins, will it work for them?

His ear­ly Twit­ter pres­ence was rel­a­tive­ly pre­dictable. In 2016 and 2017 you could have been for­giv­en for unfol­low­ing him. He was a dili­gent West­world plug­ger, and reg­u­lar­ly post­ed videos and pho­tos of his paint­ings. It wasn’t until 2018 that he tru­ly sailed into the super league. This was when I became fas­ci­nat­ed. On Feb­ru­ary 5th 2018 he tweet­ed: Enjoy­ing my soli­tude” along­side a pho­to of him­self stand­ing intense­ly with his hand on a piano.

Every­thing about the tweet – the white space either side of the pic­ture, the vacant stare, the inher­ent para­dox – was ludi­crous­ly bat­ty. I realised we were wit­ness­ing a high­er stan­dard of celebri­ty tweet than we had pre­vi­ous­ly thought pos­si­ble, and kept a keen eye out for his work. Then, on 24th Decem­ber 2018, say­ing Hap­py Hol­i­days”, he post­ed a slow-motion video of him jig­gling one of his cats up and down, set to haunt­ing choral music.

Exact­ly a month after Christ­mas Eve came a slice of vin­tage Hop­kins: a pho­to of the great man with his eyes shut, nuz­zling the mas­sive head of a horse.

No men­tion of the horse in the tweet. Does he own the horse? Not clear. Has he met the horse before? Again, unclear. 

There are two seem­ing­ly con­tra­dic­to­ry truths to Hop­kins: he doesn’t under­stand how Twit­ter works and yet he is incred­i­bly good at Twit­ter. You could pay thou­sands for an influ­encer to lec­ture you over two days on how to gain fol­low­ers and boost engage­ment, and there Hop­kins would be, sly old Hop­kins, pulling in 76,000 retweets by appear­ing to fall angri­ly down a flight of stairs. 

If I had to guess why Hop­kins is so pop­u­lar on Twit­ter I’d say it is because his tweets seem devoid of arti­fice. Uncon­strained by any for­mu­lae, they fly free into the ether, bereft of expec­ta­tion. In recent years, authen­tic­i­ty” became a high­ly-prized com­mod­i­ty on social media. Many influ­encers and celebri­ties – increas­ing­ly homoge­nous – start­ed to post authen­tic” shots and giv­ing it to you straight” cap­tions, part­ly in order to cling to their engage­ment lev­els. Per­haps one prob­lem with this trend was that it was too on-the-nose, too forced. We do val­ue authen­tic­i­ty. But we respond to it most when it is nat­ur­al, not orches­trat­ed. We val­ue it most when it doesn’t come pack­aged with the hash­tag #authen­tic­i­ty or #truth. We val­ue it most when it seems as though we have caught it unawares. 

Hop­kins proves that we can do with­out the hash­tags. He reminds us that per­haps true authen­tic­i­ty lies in act­ing as though no one is watch­ing; as though one is dream­ing. His suc­cess under­lines the ulti­mate #authen­tic truth, one many of us might rather shy away from: that Twit­ter is mean­ing­less. Its pat­terns ran­dom and its pur­pose unclear just like life itself.

Who but Hop­kins would decide that, to accom­pa­ny the sen­ti­ment Beau­ti­ful day here in Lon­don”, they would post a slow-motion video of them­selves walk­ing towards the cam­era, under­scored by some sul­try music?

Who but Hop­kins would sit by a piano, clad in a tech­ni­colour t-shirt, and tin­kle the ivories before, with­out any irony, say­ing Ah – hel­lo” to cam­era, despite already hav­ing reg­is­tered the cam­era before this? 

Hop­kins is a prism through which to under­stand our ever-shift­ing rela­tion­ship with social media. Click­bait had its time in the sun, “#authen­tic­i­ty” was deemed sus­pect, now we want the real thing, and we know it when we see it. Hop­kins doesn’t feel like he’s sell­ing any­thing. Being giv­en a glimpse into his world is nice. Weird. Def­i­nite­ly weird. But, still, nice. It’s a par­ty you want to be invit­ed to, on a plat­form that increas­ing­ly resem­bles a par­ty you’d rather leave.

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