Are celebrity twitter feeds just self-centered, shallow displays of pettiness and and vanity?

Some are.

But, like all forms of human communication, interactive celebrity pages also have the potential to touch other people’s lives and affect them for the better.

Such appears to be the case described in the drama that played itself out online early this morning. An anonymous person used a twitter account to reach out to actress Demi Moore via her twitter page, threatening suicide. The actress responded to the threat, asking if he was serious, and he replied that he was.

With over 2.5 million followers, I am amazed that Moore even saw this person’s message. But even more surprising to me is the fact that another celebrity, Nia Vardalos, of My Big Fat Greek Wedding fame, noticed the suicidal tweet and alerted authorities. She reported the public suicide threat to a prevention hotline who reported it to the police department, and they were able to locate the person in need.

“Just spoke to FL police again, they’re with [him] now. He is ok, it’s not a hoax. Thank u all for sending love,” she tweeted later. “I called suicide line, connected to FL police, I gave his name+city. They went to home, helped him.” Local authorities say they received two calls at around 2:30 a.m. reporting a suicide threat on Twitter. One call was from California, the other from Vancouver, B.C. The police showed up at an unnamed juvenile’s house and reportedly took him to hospital, though he was uninjured.

This is not the first time that Demi Moore’s twitter page was instrumental in preventing a suicide. In April of last year, an unnamed woman reached out to Moore on twitter with a suicidal threats. Police were able to track her down and get her the help she needed.

I don’t usually read celebrity twitter pages, but stories like these remind of something important about social media—that there are real people behind the updates and tweets. Celebrities are real people that I fear we too often objectify and whose lives we use for our own voyeuristic entertainment (yes, often with their encouragement, but that’s another story). And there are real people behind the random, anonymous avatars you might interact with on any given day.

As Matthew Warner has done such a great job reminding us in his new media blog posts here, whether we like it or not, social media is a powerful means of communication that is not going to go away. As Catholics are called to challenge, engage, and evangelize the world, we need to be fluent in its language. Even if it’s tweets.