When celebrities tweet from 30,000 feet

celebs who tweet in the air - photo of charlotte WakefieldWhen Samuel Morse sent the first telegraph message, it embraced the gravitas of the milestone: "What hath God wrought?", he opined. When Neil Armstrong touched down on the moon, he pronounced it "One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind," as indeed it was.

Now all of us can speak freely to all humanity from on board airplanes as we leap over whole seas. It's a magical age.

And when gorgeous singer JoJo first tested the ability to communicate from a flight, she used the momentous occasion to tell the world, stirringly: "I just need 2 understand why the woman next to me felt it appropriate 2 unleash no less than a dozen rancid raunchy farts on this airplane."

As everyone with a tech-savvy friend knows, "I'm writing this from 30,000 feet!" is the "I'm talking to you on my new car phone!" of 2010. As Marshall McLuhan predicted, the medium is truly the message. If celebs aren't simply bragging about using the new technology, they're kvetching about the flight or promoting something. They're shaping America's use of technology, one bitch at a time.

Hefty director Kevin Smith (@ThatKevinSmith) used Twitter to complain that he'd been thrown off a flight because his obesity was deemed to be a safety risk to the safety of his fellow passengers in an emergency. He sounded off to his 1.6 million followers:
Dear @SouthwestAir - I know I'm fat, but was Captain Leysath really justified in throwing me off a flight for which I was already seated?
Once Smith's 1.6 million followers began responding in sympathy, Smith was encouraged to continue the tirade for hours, even tweeting a photograph of himself, cheeks bloated, on a second flight:
Hey @SouthwestAir! Look how fat I am on your plane! Quick! Throw me off!
Smith eventually got where he was going, and more importantly, he got some free mileage from his fans. For its part, Southwest Airlines apologized, but in a backhanded way, by simultaneously noting that most of the time, Smith purchases two seats for himself since he knows his size is an issue, but this time, he tried to squeeze into a single seat and fell afoul of the rules. Still, Smith got a small voucher.

That proved that the right tweeter can get instant better service from an airline, provided someone is paying attention to the corporate Twitter account. The wrong celebrity, though, can theoretically compromise the flight. The same week as the Fat Smith flap, junk celebrity Kim Kardashian (@KimKardashian) used the in-flight wi-fi service to identify an Air Marshal to her 3 million followers, and she, too, egged on by her fans, chattered about it for a string of messages:
I'm on the airplane...love wifi! I am sitting next to an Air Marshall [sic]! Jim the air marshall [sic] makes me feel safe!
followed by more messages after her fans chastised her for blowing his cover:
Air Marshall's [sic] are supposed to keep their identity concealed. He did! I am just a private eye & assumed, so I asked him & he was honest! [...] RELAX I just told u guys the Air Marshall [sic] is sitting next to me, highly doubt anyone is twittering like me on this flight! shhh [...] OK I hope I don't get in trouble...logging off now! xo.
Most of the time, though, celeb tweets are pleasantly inane. In-flight cyber gushing may be the rare case of product placement without mention of the actual product: in this case, Gogo Inflight's in-flight web service (charged at $5 to $13 per flight), the Web-access monopoly of the skies on American, United, Delta, U.S. Airways, Virgin America, AirTran, and Air Canada. Twitter and Facebook, being entirely free Web services (for now), are also free entertainment for their users.

Because Gogo has the monopoly, it doesn't matter as much that it has name recognition. What matters is that people want to get online from the middle seat. Of all Twitter users, celebrities are the most-followed, so Gogo has made it a priority to remove barriers to its usage for famous names.

The company has given an "Elite Access" unlimited pass for in-flight Web connection to youth draws Jimmy Fallon, Lauren Conrad, and Taylor Swift (the company won't release the full list of "seeded" names), and ABC News reports that celebrities such as Kim Kardashian can earn up to $10,000 per product placement in a tweet -- although far more often, the tweets are of an unsolicited, unpaid sort, and often not what the airlines would like to see flying around cyberspace.

Fallon (@JimmyFallon) criticized the plane food:
On plane-lunch was Philly Cheesesteak Calzones. Really? Not only have I never heard of that -- but you're food research says that's the move?
Conrad (@LaurenConrad) castigated United Airlines for overbooking:
United Airlines why do you sell tickets to flights with no seats left? @Kristiness hasn't had enough Redbull to make it to Chicago
Not all tweets are whiny. Some are funny: Jesse Tyler Ferguson (@jessetyler) was flying with his Modern Family co-star Sofia Vergara:
On the plane @SofiaVergara called the stewardess a "plane waiter". HahaHa! I'm obsessed with her language barrier!!!

The New Orleans Saints' Reggie Bush (@reggie_bush) broadcast a photo of his team on the way to the Super Bowl, inadvertently proving that on modern aircraft, even First Class isn't roomy enough for a football player. It looks like they're huddling already, and they're not even on the field yet:
Team Plane! Destination: Superbowl! http://twitpic.com/10vcme

What Gogo surely wants, and the reason for issuing those Eite Access perks, is more breathless admiration for the technology of the kind that came from Entourage's Adrian Grenier (@adriengrenier) when he wrote:
Turbulence, peanuts and WiFi @ 30,000 feet above Norfolk VA -- What'll they think of next?
Giuliana Rancic (@GiulianaRancic) shills for Hollywood every day on E! News, so her unmitigated praise for Gogo's service was in character:
Wi-fi on planes rocks! Now I can take my mind off my fear of flying and tweet!
Sean Lennon (@SeanOnoLennon) has even unwittingly doled out four free product placements at once, one for Gogo, one for his airline's economy class seats, one for Twitter, and one for National Geographic, all in less than 140 characters:
Now they have inflight wi-fi in economy! Imagine having to have gone 6 hrs w/out tweeting..phew! Reading Nat Geo carnivorous plants piece.
Perez Hilton (@PerezHilton), naturally, used the advance for shameless name-dropping (in this case, Neil Patrick Harris). Which, considering he's a gossip columnist, is a lot like product placement for himself:
Everybody is on my flight to Vegas, including @ActuallyNPH himself!!! We better not go down! Ha
For his part, on a different flight, Harris led the cheering section for airborne connectivity itself:
Wi-fi during your flight is the greatest advancement in aviation since, well, the airplane.
Holly Robinson Peete (@hollyrpeete), typical of many celebs, blended a promotion of a TV appearance with a quick, non-invasive mention of a loved one, just to give fans the illusion of access:
Hey from 30K up (love Gogo in flight!) - on way to NY... Today Show tomorrow with hubby and daughter xoxo
Shoehorning both a plug and a passing mention of family is a popular celebrity Sky Tweet style. Here's New York Housewife Bethenny Frankel (@Bethenny)
On plane home.I miss my ny-ers!!!thus ends my "skinnygirl dish" book signing tour.twas great but I'm happy to focus on man,baby&wedding!xo
Miley Cyrus (before she deleted her account at the behest of her boyfriend, Liam Hemsworth) used it to direct fans to Good Morning America, owned by her paycheck masters at Disney:
goin to NY 4 GMA and other cool stuff! :) right now snuggle time with branderz on the plane!
Ludacris (@ludajuice) sent out a photo of a fighter jet on the tarmac in Louisiana.

Leaving Mardi Gras for Columbus Ohio show. Why is the hell is this plane parked next to mine? Hornet F-18 http://yfrog.com/1dyfrij

And finally, we have the celebrities who seize the occasion to push boundaries. Director and former Scrubs star Zach Braff, who keeps a Facebook page open to the public, got salty:

Flying from NYC to LA. In-flight internet is a super dope invention. Thank God for Nerds. Listening to Crash Kings song "My Love" and eating warm nuts. Yes.. I just said warm nuts.

For ribaldry, Braff can't touch gorgeous singer JoJo (@JoJoistheway). She was probably riding in First Class, but her words weren't:

I just need 2 understand why the woman next to me felt it appropriate 2 unleash no less than a dozen rancid raunchy farts on this airplane.

I am not guiltless when it comes to mile-high Twitter blather. Although I have never excitedly announced I'm tweeting from a jet, I, too, have hit silly topics to entertain my followers on the ground. In my case (I'm @bastable), I used this miracle of modern age communication to alert the universe to my affection for cookies.

Midwest Airlines is popular because it serves warm cookies in flight. Is it that easy to win devotion? Who are we, America?
We're a country with the luxury of using leaps of technology to yammer on about a whole lot of nothing, that's who.

What hath God wrought?

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