For those unfamiliar with the United Methodist Church (UMC), we hold a global conference once every four years – General Conference (GC). For 10 days, 1,000 elected delegates, along with Bishops, representatives from General Boards and Agencies, and countless others with interests in the process converge from all over the world to discuss the doctrine, polity, and policies of the UMC. As General Conference has begun this year in Tampa, many of those present have taken to Twitter to share in the social sphere about what is taking place.
People are sharing quotes from presenters, personal experiences at the conference, and updates on procedural processes, others are offering praise and criticism of those presenting and the topics on which they are sharing. Some of those tweeting are not actually attending the conference in Tampa, but are watching streaming video of the conference from their homes, offices, or from a mobile app designed specifically to help people follow this year’s GC. To help channel people’s tweets, multiple hashtags have been designated for people to follow the action online (#GC2012 and #GCYP to name a couple).
I have been monitoring some of those hashtags, and have been posting a few thoughts and comments as I have watched the video online from my home in Northern Virginia. I have interacted a few times with the comments of others, hoping to glean more information about ideas I missed on the video feed, or to follow up with both comments I find inspiring, and others I find surprisingly distasteful. In sitting and reading though the news feeds, I found a few users whose Twitter habits just started to get on my nerves. These people are what I like to call Twitter narcissists.
It’s understandable to want to make your name known when you are part of a connectional system like the United Methodist Church. Being known (and liked) makes connectional gatherings much more enjoyable as you always find people who are willing and wanting to grab a coffee, or go out for a bite to eat. And what better time to mount a full-fledged personal campaign to be known on Twitter than when every United Methodist who has a Twitter account is online, reading and posting themselves? Yes, somehow, General Conference brings out the narcissist in us all.
What Makes Someone a Narcissist?
There is a fine line between being a good twitterer and being a Twitter narcissist. Those who use Twitter well don’t just tweet for the sake of tweeting, they don’t retweet others for the sake of retweeting, and the certainly don’t interact with others by replying to tweets just for the sake of being known. A good twitterer posts necessary, valid, and pertinent information. Good twitterers tweet the high points, or the driving commentary of a presentation; they tweet witty commentary or facts left unsaid that are relevant and helpful in the conversation; they retweet others who have solid posts that should be shared with their own followers; and the reply to people when they actually want to be in dialogue with the user to whom they are replying.
Twitter narcissists tweet because they think they are important. Narcissistic tweets add unhelpful commentary or bogus facts to a conversation, and often consist of one-liners that do nothing but jam up a hashtag thread. Narcissists retweet others when the original tweet wasn’t worth retweeting; they only retweet because it connects their name with someone else. These twitterers reply to people, not because they want to be in dialogue, but because they want others to know they exist. They are nothing short of a spammer who tries to blend in.
Leave My Thread Alone
The real problem I have with Twitter narcissists is their ability to jam up my news feed. When I’m following #GC2012, or any conference-based feed, I’m hoping to read helpful, insightful, and pertinent information about the process taking place. When I have to scroll through the many narcissistic tweets serving little purpose in furthering the dialogue taking place, I get frustrated. If you want to tweet about yourself, if you’re trying to make a name for yourself, go to the conference, stand on a street corner, and do all the yelling you want. But please, leave the conference hashtags alone, because you’re not aiding in the conversation, you’re just making noise.