We discuss the notion of being significant with each Tweet, and often joke about those that seem to Tweet as if their very life depended on submitting 140 characters every 5 minutes (sounds like an episode of LOST!).
After reading the Times Online, it seems that there’s some scientific foundation to our light-hearted conversations:
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.”
While every Tweet may not stem from insecurity–I do enjoy simply having a nice chat with my Tweeps–I’ll be the first to raise my hand and admit that Twitter does provide a sense of identity, a sense of existence. To borrow a well known saying: If I see a tree fall in the woods, but don’t Tweet it, did it really happen?
Of course, the entire Twitter system is designed to feed this unhealthy habit. Did anyone reply to that joke I just made? Is @A-ListCelebrity ignoring me? Why did @notreallyafriendmoreofanacquaintance just unfollow me? There’s no doubt that, once you’re sucked in to the "sense of identity" that Twitter provides, it’s hard to break free from it.
Anyway, I’m glad that the Times Online gave me an opportunity to bring this subject up. I suspect that, deep down, many of us admit to getting a little "buzz" with each Tweet–many more than will likely admit in the comments below. For my part, I will continue to use Twitter, but in a more moderate way than before. I’m cutting back on the people I follow, limiting the number of times I actually use the service, and, most importantly, prying back that small piece of self-worth that I so easily handed over to the micro-blogging service.