How to Identify a Narcissist on Twitter

by on May 3, 2010 | posted in Marketing

Adolf HitlerTwitter has made it easier than ever to establish the difference between a nice person and one who is ridiculously narcissistic, a person who admonishes their avatar, who knows/thinks that the play by play of their daily events is worth detailing, and doesn’t give a real shit about who the hell you are or what you’re doing.

Fortunately, there are only a few cases of full blown narcissism on the blue bird platform. However, there are varying identifying contributors to subtle or strong narcissistic behavior.

When they add up, you get Adolf Hilter. Thankfully, there’s only one of him on Twitter.

Before You Get Pissy

There’s a catch. Yes, there’s always a catch. These factors only apply to REAL people. If the account is a joke account, or some part of the equation is used to play up a gimmick, narcissism doesn’t come into play. This has to be a real person, representing themselves as an equal (or somewhat near) version of how they would be perceived to the outside world off of Twitter.

It’s also possible that a few of these factors can be cancelled out by pure stupidity, e.g. those people who still use Twitter but have absolutely no idea how to use it, and therefore are close to incapable of finding other people willing to be found, or understanding how to properly communicate. When we think about narcissists, we generally apply an expected standard of intelligence, and I do so in my examples.

Why They’re a Narcissist

Infinitesimally Small Following Counts

If you’ve been on Twitter for years and you have 3,000 plus tweets and you’re STILL not following 100 people, there’s something completely and absolutely wrong with you. There are tons of cool and interesting people in the world. Even if you’re some mega-celeb who remote tweets in through your assistant (how did you get 3,000 tweets?), spread some wealth and tell your assistant to follow some other people. Your prestige will get other worthy people followers.

This following count comes from a sense of elitism. Most likely, people here choose to follow only those mega-celebrities they consider in a similar breath as them, and also those they know intimately. Basically, they make Twitter Facebook. Twitter is not Facebook. Facebook is Facebook.

John Mayer

Some Guilty Parties:

They Don’t Spread the Wealth

Twitter is made to be a distribution engine. Find cool stuff, spread it to your mass of followers. When the ratio of your own stuff to others is like 100/1, you’re selfish. Again, having large hordes of followers should be used for good, and there’s some strong evidence that promoting other cool stuff will actually increase the likelihood your own stuff is distributed wider. See: pushing it forward.

A Recent Portion of @gapingvoid

Some Guilty Parties:

The Life Narrative

My favorite characteristic of a narcissist is the person who offers a narrative of their life. Those people who will use Twitter as a way to describe the minute-to-minute details of their day to day, no matter how boring. A decent following count does not mean your followers care that you’re making toast, even if you’re using Goober Grape as the spread.

It’s definitely okay – and interesting – to unveil random tidbits about yourself, especially in times of interest to the majority of your followers, but when you’re offering details about the most mundane of activities, please look in the mirror. If you don’t have an immensely successful book, television show, movie, or natural following count of 50k+, we don’t care. I know you care about yourself – that’s why you’re a narcissist – but we don’t.

A Sample of @portentint

Some Guilty Parties:

They Don’t @ Reply Anyone

What kind of person are you if you don’t reply to your fans? There’s no obligation to go crazy and reply to every one, but when you don’t douse in any real percentage of @ replies to your hordes of adorers, your ego shines through. It shines even brighter when you are extremely active using the Blue Bird, but can’t be bothered responding.


Some Guilty Parties:

The Winner of the Ultimate Narcissist Award

My thought going into this was that there couldn’t possibly be someone on Twitter who exemplified all of these qualities. I mean, everyone has some kindness in them somewhere, right? Unfortunately, I found one person who basically hits the tee on every point. When I stumbled into their Twitter, I can’t say I was really that surprised.

I give you, Ryan Seacrest.

While We’re Here

By the way, Narcissism isn’t always bad. Healthy narcissism exists. I follow many people on this list – that doesn’t mean they aren’t narcissists. If they exemplified all (or many) of these qualities, I wouldn’t, because their feed would be so irrefutably annoying that I’d have to unfollow them. In some ways, narcissism can be interesting, and for damn sure I’d rather follow many of these people over some other robotic personalities on the internet.

Be yourself – just don’t be all over yourself. Please. Ryan. Looking. At. You.

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  • http://ridingtheclutch.com Rob Cameron

    How can you possibly keep track of the info coming from 100+ people in your stream? I follow like 15 people and even those tweets gets tough to track if I don’t check my stream at least once a day. Considering the amount of random junk that people post, you’d have to dig pretty hard to find useful tidbits among the (100 x tweets_per_day) new tweets coming into your stream constantly. Then it becomes an actual task you have to do during the day, and then it’s not fun any more.

    I’m about 80% of the way to leaving Facebook forever due to their ever-increasing evil ( http://www.eff.org/press/archives/2010/05/03 ), and 50% of the way towards turning off Twitter. They’re both just endless streams of in-jokes (for some reason people like saying things publicly that no one but them understand?) and inspirational crap (“If
    you see a friend without a smile; give him one of yours”). Ugh!

    • http://twitter.com/rosshudgens Ross Hudgens

      Mark,

      I have a pretty small # of people I follow on Twitter right now and use Tweetdeck. I work online 8-10 hours a day and constantly have it up, so I actually get a pretty good approximation of how these people tweet/act.

      It just takes strong following discretion. If the person isn’t doing stuff you like, unfollow them. There are people out there that only tweet good, good stuff. If you follow 1000+ though, the likelihood of that is pretty low.

      If you were forced to read this stuff, I could understand, but you are opt-in – choose who you like, ignore who you don’t.

    • http://raamdev.com/ Raam Dev

      Rob, I had this same problem once I passed the 100 mark on both Twitter and Facebook. What I learned is that you cannot treat these services as “messages that need to be read”, but rather as “a river of information from which you can periodically sip”.

      If you’re following hundreds of people who are all sharing stuff that you find relevant and interesting, then your “river of information” will always contain fun, interesting, and useful things to take away.

      Trying to “catch up” with all the messages every day is like trying to drink every drop of water coming out of a fire hose!

      • http://www.edgewebware.com Jerritte

        @Raam: This is probably one of the most insightful metaphors I’ve read regarding how to treat your Twitter and Facebook streams. Very well said. :)

    • Parker

      80% from leaving Facebook, and 50% from leaving Twitter? Sounds like quitting smoking– “I’m quitting tomorrow”.

      I hate to be cliche, but if you’re going to talk the talk, please walk the walk or don’t talk altogether.

      • Mike

        Rob, they’re called lists.

  • Anonymous

    Seriously? The things you are complaining about are so petty. You should be ashamed of yourself for pulling crap out of your ass to complain about.

    • http://www.rosshudgens.com Ross Hudgens

      I’m not complaining at all. I’m moreso stating which characteristics of a Twitter feed make people a narcissist.

    • Anonymous

      Indeed, the author is not complaining. Perhaps you’re the petty one?

  • http://raamdev.com/ Raam Dev

    Great breakdown here. I think everybody can take something useful away from this analysis and improve their communication online. Specifically, we should be both providing value and sharing it (even if it’s not our own value, in the form of Retweets).

    Whenever I’m about to tweet something that feels narcissistic, I ask myself “Would I care if one of the people I’m following tweeted this?”. If the answer is no, I don’t tweet it.

    However, in some cases tweeting about daily life can be inspirational to others. For example, I recently quit my job and became a nomad, traveling the world out of a single backpack. Everyday things like “worked for four hours on my laptop; now headed to the beach before having lunch and working another four hours” might actually be very inspirational and motivating for followers who want to do the same thing.

    This was very much the case for me before I made the transition. I followed lots of people who had just made the transition and seeing their tweets about spending time on the beach, or going hiking on a Monday morning, were incredibly motivating for me.

  • http://www.jrdeputyaccountant.com JDA

    I don’t buy the whole “I can’t pay attention to too many people on Twitter” excuse – I actually like catching useful things every now and then in my stream as opposed to staring endlessly at what others are saying afraid I might miss something. If I wanted that, I’d just Google what I want and call it a day. Instead, it’s like a random surprise to see a link I missed or an interesting post.

    With the advent of lists, it’s even easier to group “information” and “noise” separately. I have colleagues, associates, friends and readers of my site all sort of lumped in together but if I wanted to, I could easily sort them into a list and never miss a tweet. But who the hell has time/the desire to do that?

    I certainly don’t. I’m too busy coming up with the next clever thing I am going to say about the sandwich I am eating.

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  • http://www.tammycamp.com Tammy

    Whoa! I love Twitter, but it’s a funny world. I’ve always wondered why it brings out stronger reactions in people than Facebook ever did. It’s definitely got a Marmite situation going on!

    Even your blog post about Twitter seems more impassioned and personal than your others; the line “If you’ve been on Twitter for years and you have 3,000 plus tweets and you’re STILL not following 100 people, there’s something completely and absolutely wrong with you.” made me laugh hard! And you’ve even garnered yourself an angry little commentor there . . . I think you’ve officially hit the big time!

    But seriously, why does Twitter drive people crazy in the way that other social networks don’t?

    • Ross Hudgens

      We get to see the real side of people in little splices I don’t think show up elsewhere. When we tweet 30000 times, it’s pretty tough to not get an accurate picture of what someone is like, at least in one portion of their life. It can be a lot tougher in other realms.

      • http://www.tammycamp.com Tammy

        That’s interesting; I’m always thinking that I’m seeing little sneak peeks of who people WANT to be on Twitter, not they’re real selves. Have you ever read your own Twitter stream and thought, “Is that really me? Is that how I come across?!” . . .It’s an interesting little exercise!

  • http://www.investingwithoptions.com/ Steve Place

    “How to Identify a Narcissist on Twitter”

    1. They have a twitter account.

    Let’s not kid ourselves :)

    • http://jeffjudge.com Jeff Judge

      Ha! Well said.

  • Sylvie

    I think the list is great!

  • http://www.quitecurious.com Paula is QuiteCurious

    Ha! This is fantastic.

    • Ross Hudgens

      Thanks Paula, I like how you branded yourself. Cool play/addon to a name!

  • http://mvalente.eu/ MV

    >There are tons of cool and interesting people in the world
    >

    Yeah, and you dont need to follow them to have access to their tweets.

    Following people is not effective. Keyword filters are.

    — MV

  • http://www.seomoz.org randfish

    I’m totally guilty of a lot of these, but have found that Twitter works reasonably well for me as a tool to post things I think are interesting, communicate to people talking to and, yes, even promote stuff I think is promotion-worthy, but not quite worth a full blog post or email blast.

    Appreciate the post Ross – I think you’ve got chutzpah to call folks out for the behavior, but I like that you didn’t portray it as wholly condemnable and empathized a bit with those mentioned.

    • Ross Hudgens

      Rand, I have noticed since I follow you that you tweet from the web (rather than Tweetdeck or some other 3rd party app) – I think this is an implication that you are a “casual” user of Twitter rather than a heavy user, which this post most often indicts.

      It’s pretty hard to be a narcissist given these descriptions if you aren’t a heavy user, and I would say with much certainty that you do not fit the “narcissist” Twitter mold that many of the people on this list do.

  • http://www.menggoh.com Meng Goh

    Great post. I follow many narcissist, gapingvoid is one, I click on the links once in a while when it sounds interesting, but mostly you learn to tune them out as you get a sense that they don’t usually engage in any conversations and have no interest at all to learn more about you, they are on twitter to promote themselves or whatever they are selling. My advise is, follow “back” leniently, but build your lists cafefully. Just followed you Ross, we’ll see were you are on the narcissist scale. :)

  • http://www.worldhero3000.com BONNIE BODEN

    You think Seacrest? Try Hugh Hefner. He tweets everything but his bathroom habits. But it is fascinating to think he thinks we are interested. To take a vacation in that mind???? Wouldn’t that be a treat.

    • Ross Hudgens

      Ha. You noticed though! I didn’t even know Hugh had a Twitter, and in a way, I don’t believe it. He’s really old.. normally old people can’t gather themselves to have a Twitter. But I guess the lingering attention is worth it!

  • Just Sayin

    Surely @revrunwisdom is not a narcist.

  • http://loripalooza.wordpress.com drlori71

    As I stated in my Twitter bio (written long before this post), I’m not a narcissist, I just play one on Twitter.

  • http://www.joepicksawinner.com Joe

    I like your article, Ross! It may sting some of us a little but some things just have to be said, and you said it well. But I’d add another to your list of narcissistic characteristics. The person you followed sends a “thank you for following” direct message with a link to whatever they’re hawking, but neglects to follow you back. You can’t send them a DM in kind because they don’t follow you! That really gets my goat :-)

    • Ross Hudgens

      If someone sends me an auto-DM, that just makes me put them on the “ignore” list. I put the narcissist list above the ignore list, because at least they’ve got some personality to show me. :)

  • P

    I personally don’t agree with this. If you have time to care about what other people do with their Twitters I think you need to find a hobby away from a computer. If they choose not to follow people there must be a reason for it. I personally find there’s too much business and quotations in which I am not interested in. To me real people will talk about things you can relate to (jokes, funny moments, things they see..ect..) in every day lives not just what they accomplish business wise, can find a good quote and tweet it 100 + times a day or how many followers they have. I personally think if you’re on twitter for those purposes you sound boring and generic. Business is a part of the world yes, but judging people by their Twitter page because they are using the tool differently doesn’t exactly qualify you as a person I’d want to follow… I tend to delete those that only tweet the above three examples I gave… We all use tools differently, I think we just need to accept and let that go.

  • http://howtoworkwithrecruiters.blogspot.com/ Career Voyager

    ..
    If you want a lot of followers on Twitter, you must follow most everybody who follows you unless you are a celebrity or so amazingly unique and phenomenal that people can’t bear to unfollow you when they are unfollowing those that don’t follow them. This has to be done when people reach following limits of 2001 and are not followed by enough. Once you reach 2001, you can only follow 10% more than the amount of your followers.

    However, If you only want to use Twitter to see what certain people or media Tweets, then just follow a small number.

    Otherwise, use lists, and apps or downloads like Tweetdeck to keep track of certain Tweeters, and visit the pages of your favorites to see what they have Tweeted.

    It’s your Twitter, use it any way that works best for what you want from it.

    :)

    • Ross Hudgens

      Let people be people. But still, they can be narcissistic within it. Doesn’t mean I have to love it. I can like 90% of someone’s tweets but if they bleep thrashing narcissism the other 10% I’ll hang in with them. I just have a little frown on in the meantime!

  • Melanie

    I personally know a fairly famous narcissistic musician. On his twitter, he actually @ responds to quite a few of his fans but usually it’s with an ulterior motive to gain more follwers, more compliments…etc. He only @ comments to people who give him outlandish compliments about how wonderful and perfect he is and then he’ll respond or say ‘thank you’ but it’s only because he LIVES to hear these kind of compliments. He’ll also retweet any positive comments about himself or his music. True narcissists put on a ‘facade/act’ to the public which is why they’re sometimes tricky to spot. They don’t necessarily always act stereotypical. They like to pretend to be humble and wonderful so some narcissists will respond to people/fans if they know other people are watching and that it will make them look good.

    • Anonymous

      Would that be Richard Marx by any chance? Lol.

  • liu

    How to tell if youre a narcicist on Twitter:

    Do you have a twitter account?

    If yes, congratulations! You´re a narcicist!

  • http://www.realnews.co.za/ Riaan Kruiwa

    You can do with your Twitter account whatever you want to do with your Twitter account, provided you don’t disobey Twitter’s terms of use.

    I use Twitter ONLY to auto-post new blog posts (and if that’s a problem, Twitter should remove my account). I couldn’t give a rat’s arse about having a conversation on Twitter. It looks like you’re trying to impress someone with your little convos. And you know what? That’s OK too. If you want to partake in those awkward priblic [sic] convos, go ahead and have a ball of a time. It’s your Twitter.

    And if you don’t like Seacrest, don’t follow him. Don’t pay any attention. That’s as far as your rights go.

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