Dissociative (Digital) Identity Disorder

If nothing else, if this post causes you to learn that Dissociative Identity Disorder is the actual term for what lay people call “split personalities” or “multiple personalities” (or entirely incorrectly “schizophrenia”), I will feel good about having written it.

But, that’s not what I’m writing about.

I’m writing about social media and identity. Not in the way that Bonnie Stewart writes about it; if only I could…

Rather, I’m writing about a conversation I had on Twitter a couple of nights ago. It started with this tweet.

This is something I’ve given considerable thought to, before that tweet and since. The responses I received all told me not to create a separate account. Here’s a strong sampling of the responses.


OK, Audrey, I’ll blog about it…


I believe that anyone who says that they don’t care who follows them on Twitter is (a) lying, (b) failing to understand networks, (c) not nearly the insecure narcissist I am, or (d) all of the above.

I’ll focus on the most serious of the choices, aka (b). Without a whole lecture on Network Theory, let me just say that on Twitter:

  1. I care most about my betweenness centrality.  (“A node with high betweenness centrality has a large influence on the transfer of items through the network, under the assumption that item transfer follows the shortest paths.”) That is, my position within a social network matters to me. I see Twitter as a space for, among other things, community and cooperation. I believe we can be most cooperative when we pay attention to our positioning and centrality within networks. If someone I follow doesn’t follow me back, they won’t see my tweets and won’t, therefore, be in a cooperative relationship with me.
  2. I care about the density of my network. In other words, I want my ties to other nodes on the network to be bidirectional and not unidirectional. I believe we’d all get more out of the network if we paid attention to our positioning and had as many bidirectional relationships as possible. When someone I follow doesn’t follow me back, it creates a unidirectional tie.((This is not to say that I follow everyone who follows me; I don’t think that would serve me well. But, I do give a LOT of thought to who I follow back.))
  3. We all have our own ego networks, but “…each alter in an ego network has his/her own ego network, and all ego networks interlock to form the human social network.” When someone I follow doesn’t follow me back, our networks are joined, but the person I’m following becomes less central to our combined network; they become a potential point of failure of information flow and cooperation across this larger network.

Fancy network jargon notwithstanding, I’m also a terribly insecure narcissist. So, I care who follows me on Twitter…


Though I have no empirical evidence to back this claim, I am fairly confident that people I follow have made an active decision to not follow me back because of at least the following two reasons: (a) I tweet too much (I mentioned the insecure narcissist thing, right?), and/or (b) I tweet too much about things they don’t care about. Namely, sports.

I tweet a lot about sports. I’m a big sportsball fan. I know more about sports than I care to admit. I don’t know why I don’t care to admit it. Maybe because caring about sports feels gauche compared to many of the educator-scholars I do interact with on Twitter. (I mentioned the insecure thing, right?).

And, when I tweet about sports…


Notice that I put the little asterisk do-dads around FEEL in that tweet. It’s that feeling of a lack of connection that bothers me. When I tweet about sports, I feel like I’m shouting into the abyss. Not the wind, the abyss. And, that’s too bad, because I do crave connections around sports. I have (strong) opinions, thoughts, questions, etc., but Twitter hasn’t given me a platform for that with my current account. Worse, yet, I feel my network is less dense because I do tweet about sports.

Maybe I just need to go hangout in the message boards of MSM sports sites, but I don’t want to. I like Twitter. And, I’m an insecure narcissist and I don’t want to have to make new friends in a new place…

6 thoughts on “Dissociative (Digital) Identity Disorder”

  1. This is fun, and I really liked your description of betweenness centrality and network density.

    I did not respond, have to say, as someone who does not follow sports, that I appreciate your tweeting of sports (which might be different than appreciating your sports tweets) — because this is who you are. You like sports, you like watching sports, and you share these. If you don’t do this, your youness factor is watered down.

    You know how we… er…. I deal with tweets I don’t like or interest me?

    I ignore them. It’s really easy.

    I may note “there goes Jon tweeting about Duke” but fail to see what the hurt is to have peripheral awareness of what interests other people have. If I only followed people who tweeted things I want to hear, I’d be pretty bored.

    When I saw your first tweet (and ignored it). I questioned your data, methods, and sources 😉 How do you “nearly know for certain” none of your followers would care? What is that based on? Survey data? interviews?

    I even question the binary state of “care”- as specified, either we care or do not care. Where’s the “meh” in the middle? I am pretty low on the spectrum of caring about followers, and who follows me and doesn’t. I sometimes will note in a profile, but I never run those things to find the followers who do not follow back. I follow a ton of people I almost never read their tweets. Our care for them is variable; I care about the tweets of smaller number (I used a list, and a few hash tags) that I check more; I almost never look at the raw stream. Do I care or not? It varies.

    So if I have interests I share, and that gets to be so much that someone out there decides to turn me off… well, then I think our networks are both better off.

    Just tweet what you wanna tweet. Stop making guesses (and write more blog posts)

  2. How do we separate the “personal” from the “professional”? I’m not sure it’s ever possible; I don’t think it would be desirable.

    There are lots of times I see Tweets on topics I don’t care about: television shows, awards shows, baseball games, presidential debates, and so on. It’s not that hard to ignore them. (I use Tweetbot, for what it’s worth, which does make it easy to mute individuals and mute hashtags.) Me, I’m far more likely to unfollow educators who tweet uncritically about ed-tech than I am to unfollow those who tweet about breakfast or basketball.

    What I find interesting about your comments here are that you feel as though you are not a part of a sports-Twitter community in quite the same way as you are the education-Twitter one (and perhaps, by extension, that being more a part of the former diminishes your position in the latter). But do you think these two communities have similar practices, shared values? Do you think “community” looks the same when it comes to talking about these two topics on Twitter? How are they shaped — differently? — by loyalty, by fandom (and I realize that’s just one small part of sports-Twitter and, arguably, one small part of education-Twitter too)? How are they shaped by collaboration and not competition?

    I wonder if, even with a sports-focused account, you’d find the same sort of connection via sports-Twitter that you’ve found via education-related circles.

  3. Jon Becker says:

    Damn, I hate when Audrey Watters asks interesting empirical questions…

  4. LB Roberts says:

    Mine seems a lowbrow analysis when compared with a centrality discussion.

    Nevertheless, I’m a teacher, so I have a personal account where my RTs can include profanity, and arguably polarizing politics–@leolabeth.

    The account I use for ground level ed-reform and public school critique–and I use that word loosely, almost ironically–is the one my students/parents to follow, @readwriteteach.

    As for sports, if it’s not horse-related, meh.

    Also, found your work via a rabbit path starting with @EmilyTalmage and a Marzano-related post on her Save Maine Schools. Glad I followed it.

  5. I speak and write and tweet in spanish, so it is difficult to me to say what I think about your excellent article…is a real thing being an anthropologist, an social activist and a woman and all my identities area mixed in my tweets, so I can imagine what are my folllowers thinking about me!
    @antropomemoria, from the souht of the south: Chile

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