TWIE: Twitter Narcissism (and Twitter Incompetence)

Friday’s post at This Week in Education was a defense of heavy Twitter use:

Jay Greene had already established himself as one of the judgiest Twitter observers before publishing his second(!) Twitter “narcissism” index last month.

The underlying problem with his analyses is that the frequency with which somebody tweets – whether it offends him or not – doesn’t actually tell you much about why somebody is using Twitter. Greene’s assumption is that the more often people tweet, the more highly they must think of themselves.

That’s a convenient interpretation if you’re looking to feel superior, but it’s probably not worth taking all that seriously because there are lots of reasons why people tweet that have nothing to do with self-importance. The fact is that tweeting is low-cost, so it shouldn’t surprise us that some people who really enjoy it – for whatever reason – will do it often.

I tweet pretty frequently. I haven’t done the math, but I’m guessing I’d have a pretty high “narcissism” score by Greene’s metrics. But I certainly don’t think that I’m “saving the world”, and I’m acutely aware of the fact that most people have little interest in what I have to say.

Still, tweeting is fun! I like finding links from others, and I enjoy making snarky comments about links of my own. Tweeting also helps me practice brevity, which is useful and rewarding.

To be clear, I’d be happy to concede that some people are objectively bad at Twitter.

It’s one thing to use Twitter in a way that I happen not to enjoy – say, sloganeering or submerging yourself into an echo chamber – but it’s another thing entirely to try really hard to use Twitter for purposes it’s clearly not suited to, like detailed philosophical or policy debates. Respect the character limit!

At some point I’ll hopefully get around to paring down the list of people I follow on Twitter and putting together a list of people who I think use it most skillfully or entertainingly.

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