Do Twitterers have less of an identity than a newspaper columnist? Oliver James answers

This Sunday Times article has sparked a bit of a Twitter reaction in the comments beneath it, a few blog posts (Sarah Hartley, Duncan Riley and Martin Stabe, for example) and also a few raised eyebrows in the Twittersphere.

In his article entitled ‘A Load of Twitter’ the Sunday Times’ Andy Pemberton (don’t think he’s on Twitter) wrote:

“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.”

The article, if not James’ comments, seems to imply that users of Twitter have less of a ‘sense of identity’ than people who publish via other forms of publication (comment below if you think otherwise).

It seemed only right to ask Oliver James himself about his comments, and he quickly responded by email.

Firstly, James clarified: “I should have thought my contentions are not especially surprising – see the arguments in my books regarding individualism versus collectivism, the rise of insecurity, loneliness etc.”

And is he, then, as someone who publicly publishes his own comments and opinions, any less lacking in identity than a Twitter user?

“I have frequently argued that people seek out fame and might also do newspaper columns out of lack of identity. Suppose I am one of those, does that affect whether I am right about Twittering? Not sure what your point is?”

So, finally, do journalists who publish column pieces or news also lack identity?

“I should have thought the longing for short-term quick-fix connectedness would lead to a plausible hypothesis that a significant number of Twitterers would be more insecure and lacking in identity than the average journalist, who has to wait a week for their column to be published, in the case of columnists, and 24 hours for a news journo – i.e immediacy factor could be significant, though doesn’t mean all Twitterers are identity-less…”

11 thoughts on “Do Twitterers have less of an identity than a newspaper columnist? Oliver James answers

  1. Louise Bolotin

    Good grief! More lazy arguments from Oliver James. If you are going to hypothesise surely you should have some research and statistics to draw upon with which to back up your claims. What arrant nonsense, further compounded by his inability to answer straightforward questions by journalists. One could just as easily argue that psychologists not using Twitter lack a strong sense of logic but crave attention.

  2. Pingback: Twitter users: narcissistic, insecure, lacking identity and mundane | Martin Stabe

  3. Shaheen Abdouramane

    I strongly agree with Oliver James’ comments. The concept of constantly updating an online community on the basic actions in your life is in itself attention-craving (though not necessarily always narcissistic)and definately suggests that the person is lonely and doesn’t have anyone else interested in their life in reality. The narcissistic aspect of Twitter is taking pride in how many ‘Followers’ you have.

  4. Pingback: What is Twitter? | Are You Screening?

  5. Pingback: Consort Partners » I Tweet, Therefore I Am… lost, insecure and almost don’t exist

  6. Louise Bolotin

    Shaheen, you miss the point too. You cannot draw conclusions about Twitterers or make assumptions about them unless there is solid research and data to back up such claims. The point of Twitter for me is to network with colleagues and contacts, to share information and have a little fun – I work from home so during the daytime, Twitter is part of the virtual water cooler I and many other freelances use to make up for not having colleagues in an office environment. Lonely? Not me. I have plenty of friends and a very healthy social life. Twitter adds to that, rather than being a substitute for it – something many Twitterers also said following publication of the Sunday Times story. I don’t actually care how many followers I have – I’d rather 10 followers with whom I can have a meaningful conversation than 1,000 who don’t interact with me at all.

    If you don’t like Twitter, or “get” it, that’s fair enough, but Pemberton’s article and James’ comments were both sloppy, ill-informed and demonstrated the lack of any understanding at all.

  7. Pingback: Hvem har dårligst selvfølelse: en journalist, en avisspaltist eller en som bruker Twitter? « NONA: nettverket for oss som jobber med nettmedier

  8. Pingback: Footprints (24.02.09) | Chris Deary

Leave a Reply