“I did learn one lesson on Instagram,” Roberts told the audience at Build Studio in New York City on Monday, where she’d dropped by with Lucas Hedges to discuss their mother-son roles in Ben Is Back (in select theaters on Dec. 7). “I will no longer comment on someone commenting something about me. I was just trying to be funny, and I realized that, on Instagram, it’s better just to be funny in real life.”
She said the lesson began after she noticed a post in September that focused on side-by-side photos of herself and Joan Crawford, each posing in similarly structured black gowns. A commenter who said that she thought Crawford looked better and that Roberts was wearing “ugly black nail polish” caught the celebrity’s eye, and she responded with gracious sass — which sparked headlines and adulation that Roberts found confusing.
“I thought I was just being like, ‘Oh, I bumped into this, I’m going to say something,’ and then people were saying, ‘Oh, Julia Roberts, clapback!’ I was like, ‘What is a clapback?’” she recalled. “I still don’t understand a clapback — just the words together make no sense.”
That’s when Hedges admitted, “I don’t think I’ve ever heard that before, clapback,” and Roberts asked the studio audience, “Has anyone heard that before? Clapback?” to some giggles.
(“Clapback,” according to Merriam-Webster, “is a noun that derives from an earlier verb, clap back, which refers to the same thing: responding to a criticism with a withering comeback. The term ultimately derives from a 2003 song by Ja Rule, appropriately titled ‘Clap Back.’” Whereas a “clap” refers to gunfire in the song, “a clapback, then, is return fire — whether literal or, as is more the case today and on Twitter, metaphorical.”)
“So I did it, and I did it successfully, apparently, and I was being heralded for my clapback,” Roberts continued. “And then I just, I felt bad.”
Roberts says she was happy to finally join Instagram in June (“I don’t do anything begrudgingly. I just don’t do it,” she clarified.), after holding out for a long time.
“I mean, I like Instagram, I like looking at Instagram. I am the mother of teenagers, and so it is a topic at our kitchen table,” she said, explaining that she waited to join in the summer so she’d have more time to post.
“I posted two things. And then I thought, ‘Wow, I’m out. I don’t know what else to do.’ … I was done,” Roberts recalled. But then she went for a run and noticed a sticker on somebody’s windshield that really spoke to her. It read, “I really appreciate you,” and she posted a picture of it — much to her son’s chagrin.
“My son Finn was like, ‘Mom, this sticker — nobody wants to see a sticker.’ I was like, ‘What? … It was just incredible!’ And he was like, ‘Yeah, that’s just not…’” she recalled, imitating his look of disappointment. “Everybody go find that sticker and like it, please, because then, honestly, I can show Finn.”
But ultimately, she added, “I think it’s just fun for me.”
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