There’s an ‘I’ in Twitter: Platform allows narcissism

May 30, 2014, 4:29 p.m.

“Christina Smedley is a useless. Piece of sh*t,” Rakesh “Rocky” Agrawal, former Pay Pal director of strategy, tweeted of his colleague.

Let’s just say that’s not how you start your new job or win over your co-workers.

Twitter has allowed a space for anyone to converse in real-time with its 255 million active users. To know there’s a big audience waiting for you can be dangerous and heighten self-importance.

“The belief that there is an audience interested in following one’s moment-to-moment postings suggests egocentrism, self-aggrandizement, and self-importance—the very characteristics of narcissistic individuals,” psychologist Bruce McKinney said in the journal Communication Research Reports.

Some may think millions of users are just dying to hear what you are doing moment-to-moment. This narcissism could cause desensitization. The lack of physical barriers and face-to-face confrontation causes Twitter users to be less sensitive and encourages them to write whatever is on their mind (#nofilterneeded). The only possible reaction is a reply or Twitter direct message, which isn’t threatening because it’s still distant.

Agrawal claims the offensive tweets were meant for direct messages to his friend. He also said he was using a new phone and was confused by the “shockingly different” interface. Right… a Pay Pal exec can’t figure out how to use an Android? It seems more like an excuse for his arrogance and insensitivity. He downplays his inappropriate behavior. Agrawal also proudly pointed out his resignation to PayPal before his Twitter rant and said he’s no longer “constrained by bureaucracy.”

Sadly, he is not the only one to let narcissism cause an outburst of inappropriate and offensive tweets.

Political commentator Ann Coulter mocked Twitter’s campaign #BringBackOurGirls. She tweeted a picture of herself holding a #BringBackOurCountry sign. She frowned tweeting “My hashtag contribution…”

Coulter was correct in that Twitter could serve as a platform to get an immediate reaction.Within two days, Coulter’s attempt at humor backfired. She received more than 2,000 retweets and photoshop reproductions of her photo inserting comments and views on Coulter’s sign.

Twitter is powerful by allowing you to initiate insightful conversations and help raise awareness such as #BringBackOurGirls and get an immediate response. But the lack of physical barriers and face-to-face interaction makes it easier to say insensitive and offensive comments just like Agrawal and Coulter.

“The rise of social networking sites may have enabled narcissistic individuals to seek veneration on a grander scale than would otherwise be feasible,” said Eliot Panek, psychologist at the University of Michigan.

People have the opportunity to gain exposure and know people will and can interact. Narcissists, such as Agrawal and Coulter, want to boost their image and presence and they chose to negatively use Twitter.

As a student-athlete, I have been lectured ad nauseam about the importance of public image. Athletic services have provided a set of standards when it comes to social media. The best piece of advice is if you don’t think your parents would like it, then don’t post it.

Whether you’re an executive, celebrity, athlete or a college student, take control of your Twitter. Take an extra second to read over that tweet and make sure it’s a message you want the Twitterverse to see.

You may choose to use the delete button instead.

This post was originally published on before it was acquired by The Stanford Daily in summer 2014.

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