Twitter is no more narcissistic than a camp fire

February 23, 2009

This TimeOnline story about Twitter is clearly linkbait. But dammit, I can’t resist.

Here are some of the quotes from some clinical psychologist dude by the name of Oliver James and a Cognitive Neuropsychologist David Lewis. Oliver and David clearly have no idea what they are talking about and should quit their day job.

The clinical psychologist Oliver James has his reservations. “Twittering stems from a lack of identity. It’s a constant update of who you are, what you are, where you are. Nobody would Twitter if they had a strong sense of identity.”

“We are the most narcissistic age ever,” agrees Dr David Lewis, a cognitive neuropsychologist and director of research based at the University of Sussex. “Using Twitter suggests a level of insecurity whereby, unless people recognise you, you cease to exist. It may stave off insecurity in the short term, but it won’t cure it.”

Are these people for real? A lack of identity?

Twitter is simply the most recent tool by which we perform an age old, very human, very healthy behavior. Connection and Communication.

Connecting and Communicating is the very essence of identity. It is the method by which we test, refine, express, learn and declare our identities. It is everything.

Twitter is two friends chatting all day while they work. It is a group of friends sitting around a camp fire. It is a group of colleges learning from each other. It is the world expressing its collective identity to each other.

If it is narcissism to express yourself and tune into the expressions of your family, friends and peers then we are all narcissists.

Twitter is a return to story telling that was sublimated by the invention of mass media. It is the purest most durable expression of personal media to come out of the Web 2.0 bandwagon.

We’ve all heard these knee-jerk reactions before at the advent of the Telephone, The Internet and Blogging. Each time we find a new, easier ways to communicate, out of touch people need to question why human beings need to be so connected.

These crack pots who have not experienced these tools for themselves should do a little more research. Maybe Andy Pemberton, the author of this article, should have spent a few more days learning about and trying the tool he admits to have just discovered before passing judgment on it, lest someone confuse his self-expression (i.e. his ‘journalism’) as ill-informed filler.

I’ve written more about this on my book outline.

I also spoke about it in my interview for the ‘Life In Perpetual Beta’ documentary.

I appologize for the tone of this post, but when ‘professionals’ seem to make such clearly absurd statements it drives me a little crazy.

17 Responses to “Twitter is no more narcissistic than a camp fire”

  1. Andy Says:

    “If it is narcissism to express yourself and tune into the expressions of your family, friends and peers then we are all narcissists.”

    Yes, we all are.
    The humble are either long gone or all offline.

    I agree with the times online article

  2. Chris Saad Says:

    Who asked you? Stop expressing yourself please. Let’s leave it to professionals lest we get accused of being narcissistic.

  3. Anon 3.0 Says:

    What must be questionable at once are the statements from these guys who may not even be Twitter users at all. @alaindebotton, for instance, is apparently registered – but he hasn’t made a single tweet! Not sure, though, if that’s really him.

    Btw, his book on travel is a must-read; it’s utterly brilliant!

  4. You are absolutely right to condemn the ‘experts’ and also in your analysis of Twitter as a normal social phenomenon. I was much more scathing in my review of this drivel:

  5. Bertil Says:

    Wow. Can’t wait to see what they think of telephone users. Probably sociopaths, nostalgic of Hitchcock’s “Dial M”.

  6. califmom Says:

    They ought to each be required to read Grown Up Digital. Then comment.

    The tools used to analyze the DSM IV-defined narcissist are outmoded, at best. They do not reflect modern tools.

    As we’ve moved to decentralized work places and geographically dispersed families, it makes perfect sense we’d use the tools of social media to fulfill our need for human interaction.


  7. Elin Says:

    No need to appologize! I toned down my post as well…

    Barriers to understanding Twitter:

  8. […] Twitter is no more narcissistic than a camp fire ( […]

  9. […] Twitter is no more narcissistic than a camp fire « Paying Attention […]

  10. […] Twitter is no more narcissistic than a camp fire ( […]

  11. Charlie Says:

    My 2 cents: Oliver James was too sweeping in his comments but I think he’s right at least in part. You, Chris, are following 300 people and being followed by 3000. That suggests to me that it’s a lot more than just “two friends chatting all day while they work”. There’s a lot of self-promotion, egotism and loneliness-abatement going on in there as well. If it was just about friends chatting all day while they work everyone would have about 10 followers and followees. Campfires can become narcissistic when people start building platforms to stand on and speaking through megaphones.

  12. Chris Saad Says:

    @Charlie you just described every conversation in the world.

    Two housewives talking, or two colleges talking, or a man speaking loudly on stage, or an actor in a movie are all sharing a story, promoting themselves and abating their loneliness by searching for a connection.

    Technology has always allowed us to magnify our voice, reduce time delay and increase the frequency of opportunity for connections. Twitter is just the latest iteration.

    To equate participation with this form of communication with narcissism is forget the lessons of history when every major new communications technology was dismissed as distracting and unnecessary and then proceeded to become indispensable and mission critical.

    As for my friend/follower ratio, there has always been varying levels of influence amongst people since one cave painting got more views than another. Since one man stood up and said ‘hey check this out guys’.

  13. adrianvolts Says:

    I personally see great uses for twitter in the future, imagine you buy coffee and automatically ur action gets tweeted, now friends now what you are up to and you didn’t do a thing but buy coffee like always.
    Just an example how twitter can change our lives.

  14. I use twitter simply for connection and finding people with like interests. I enjoy being the catalyst for others to find one another! It’s NOT about me. If I wanted to be narcissistic, there are a million better ways to go about it. I think the professors are operating from a modern paradigm…and all that they know needs to be thrown out. The rules are different now.


  15. Anon 3.0 Says:

    Here’s one for us all to ruminate over. Does Twitter and other SM platforms erode our personal privacy?

  16. ks Says:

    Who gives an F what you are up to every second of the day. Twitter is rediculous and only a narcissist would use it. Same goes with facebook, myspace and all those other wastes of time.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: