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.
Pretty sure it's time to start a sports-related account. I deleted a sports tweet because I'm nearly certain none of "you" would have cared.
— Jon Becker (@jonbecker) January 3, 2016
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:
- 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.
- 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.))
- 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…
@jonbecker What did you have for breakfast Jon?
— dave cormier (@davecormier) January 3, 2016
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…