Ellen DeGeneres' selfie

Ellen DeGeneres' selfie with friends at the Oscars took down Twitter. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times / March 2, 2014)

Ellen DeGeneres was hired, some believed, in part because of her deep following on Twitter. On Sunday, she proved why that was a savvy move.

In an Oscars culture that normally plays to the room and lets social media do its thing, DeGeneres went straight for the 140-character set. DeGeneres, who boasts more than 25 million Twitter followers, tweeted several photos from the Dolby Theatre and tried a number of social-media gambits — most notably, a photo from the aisle about 90 minutes into the telecast that brought down Twitter and perked up the show.

DeGeneres recruited a bevy of stars, including Julia Roberts, Lupita Nyong'o and Bradley Cooper, to take a selfie with her.

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Brad Pitt joined in, Jennifer Lawrence muttered a (half-joking?) line about inducing a wardrobe malfunction and Jared Leto photo-bombed the proceedings. Meryl Streep, also in the photo, could even be heard saying she was tweeting for the first time (if only passively).

DeGeneres later lamented that Cooper, who ended up snapping the photo, couldn't fit more famous faces in the photo. “If only Bradley's arm was longer,” she tweeted.

Within a half-hour, the shot had racked up a half-million retweets. The traffic grew so heavy, in fact, that it took Twitter offline for a few minutes.

The event then took on a hall-of-mirrors effect, as DeGeneres went back to the podium later in the telecast and said she'd been informed of the destructive effect.

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“We got an email from Twitter, and we crashed and broke Twitter. We have made history,” she said. “See, Meryl, what we did? You and I? It's amazing, we really just made history.” Needless to say, that set Twitter ablaze again.

Although pundits have pointed out for several years that digital media traction is key to boosting the Academy Awards' popularity, the Oscars are often seen as less friendly to social media because, unlike more freewheeling shows, hosts and presenters are forced to target the audience and TV viewers rather than the second screen.

DeGeneres wasn't the only one lighting up Twitter as the show went along. Supporting actress winner Lupita Nyong'o's speech offered several popular moments on digital platforms.

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“It doesn't escape me for one moment that so much joy in my life is thanks to so much pain in someone else's,” she said in her acceptance speech, a line that, among others, quickly went viral. Repeated TV shots of Nyong'o throughout the night — including Pharrell Williams dancing with her and the actress offering lip balm as pizza payment to DeGeneres — also proved popular on Twitter.

It wasn't just winners who caught heat in new-media venues. Not long after Matthew McConaughey began trending on Twitter, after his win for lead actor, a counter-movement of sorts sprang up in the form of the hashtag #GiveLeoanOscar — an outlet for outraged fans of Leonardo DiCaprio, who came away empty-handed in his fourth bid for an acting Oscar.

Of course, social media also loves a good gaffe or two, and John Travolta was happy to oblige. After he was called upon to introduce a musical performance, the actor butchered Idina Menzel's name — it sounded like he called her “Adele Dazeem” — prompting a flurry of Twitter sarcasm.

“Well, thank goodness,” quipped Elana Fishman, a digital media editor at Lucky magazine, “John Travolta wasn't asked to intro Lupita.”

 

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