Twitter And The Cult Of Personality

Hello everyone. Isn’t the title of this post fab. It sounds like a really weird Enid Blyton book.

Blue background, written in purple 'Twitter and the cult of personality'

This blog post started with me taking a summer holiday from blogging. During that time I obviously kept up my Twitter addiction presence. In doing so I read about the increasingly unbelievable things the orange twat has been getting up to.

Obviously I’m talking about Trump.

I won’t go through the stories here. You can guess the general content. Lies, racism and the odd porn star thrown in for good measure. Whenever these stories pops up on my timeline I’m always strangely interested in reading the comments that come with it.

As a former psychology student I’m interested in how people can defend everything he does. Especially in the face of so much evidence of his wrong doings. Last week I read an article that attempted to explained the unquestioning loyalty of Trump supporters. They call it the cult of personality.

The cult of Personality

This a definition of a cult of personality I found on the internet.

“A cult of personality arises when a country’s regime – or, more rarely, an individual politician – uses the techniques of mass media, propaganda, demonstrations and rallies to create an idealized, heroic, and worshipful image of a leader, often through unquestioning flattery and praise”

As well as Trump they give other examples where a cult of personality had developed. Such as Chairman Mao, and  Joseph Stalin. In the UK a similar sort of thing is currently happening with the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. The political movement Momentum and its followers have an idealised view of Corbyn as the UK’s saviour.

How does cult of personality relate to Twitter?

Well it is no secret that the orange one is a huge fan of Twitter. He does spread a lot of his bullshit via this platform. But that’s not what I’m referring to in the funky title of this post. Instead I’m thinking about the more average Twitter user.

When you think about it, Twitter can be viewed as quite an egocentric outlet. People set up profiles with bios selling themselves. They have followers, and express their views and opinions via tweets for their followers to like. It sounds like the ideal environment for the development of a cult of personality.

However the definition of cult of personality refers to leaders or people in power, and the use of mass media to spread (mis)information, so you might wonder how this particular theory relates to twitter users?

Well Twitter doesn’t have leaders but it does have influencers. People whose views and opinions are held in high regards by others. These people use social media, to spread their views. And if the the word leader is replaced with the word influencer it can definitely refer to Twitter.

‘… to create an idealized, heroic, and worshipful image of a leader, often through unquestioning flattery and praise. ‘

Most Twitter  folk are lovely  people who simply seek friendship and a good chat. However in my time on Twitter I’ve come across individuals who do seem to have an unusually strong influence over other users.

These people have had widely different backgrounds. Some male, some female. Some funny, some serious. Bloggers and non bloggers. The one thing they have in common is their loyal followers.

In a similar way to how Trump supporters or members of Momentum idolize their leaders, these Twitter influencers have followers who appear to have developed an idealistic mental image of them.

How do cult personalities develop on Twitter?

The truth is I don’t have a good the answer to this question. Athough some of it can be explained.

The development of idolised heros

On Twitter people it’s easy to develop impressions of other people that can be an exaggeration of their personalities in real life. Even I’ve been called cool on Twitter before and that’s so untrue!  This happens because individuals are able to think about what they are saying and how they present themselves in a way they can’t in real life.

Other Twitter users use the information contained in a persons tweets to create a mental image of that person. This  can result in  people coming across as wittier, kinder, smarter or more confident than they really are.

Flattery and praise

If someone comes across as having positive personality traits others will obviously like them. And when Twitter users like or admire someone its natural for them to tell other users. Indeed Twitter encourages users to shout the praises of others with things such as #FollowFriday shoutouts.

Defending a personality

It’s also normal for people to stand up for people they like or admire. On Twitter this is especially important as random insults can come from anywhere. I have developed a bit of a reputation for being a fierce defender of my Twitter friends if they are getting abuse from trolls.

Why is cult of personality a problem on Twitter?

On the face of it cult personalities on Twitter might not seem such a bad thing. People come across as nice, lots of people like then and stand up for them at times, so what?

Well, however nice, kind, clever or intelligent people are sometimes they get things wrong. Sometimes they say the wrong thing. They take things the wrong way. Or they judge people unnecessarily. I’ve done it, everyone has.

In those situations someone else usually turns around and says ‘mate that was a bit of a dick move’. The person on the receiving end of the ‘you’re being a dick’ statement will agree. Possibly even apologise and life goes on.

With Twitter cult personalities however this doesn’t happen. Instead loyal followers jump in defend the person who has been called a dick.

‘She was only making a joke’,

‘she was being honest, you just can’t admit you think the same’,

‘you cant say that to a single parent/old person/disabled person…’

The list of excuses given are varied, but they all come down to the same thing. Followers will not accept criticism of their special Twitter friend. The onslaught of their replies can be quite brutal. The person on the receiving end can be ostracised as a result.

This is the part of Twitter cult personalities that is hard to explain. It comes right back to my initial questioning of Trump supporters at the beginning of the post. How can people continue to support Trump when there is so much evidence of him being a lying, sexist, racist bellend. And why do people defend Twitter influencers when they’re having a dick moment and behaving in a way that’s antagonistic, judgemental or bullying in nature. The article I read didn’t really give an answer to this, and I dont have any ideas either.

What do you think about cult of personality amd Twitter? Does it exist? Is it a problem you’ve come across before?

Scientific Fact ~ Bloggers feed on blog comments. Please help keep this blogger well fed♡

Thank you, Mrs A Xx

33 Comments

  1. Sigrid Chu

    October 1, 2018 at 4:27 pm

    Hello Tracey,

    I’m glad to see you in Twitter! I’m a new follower.

    Okay, to the real subject on hand. I think Twitter pretty much represents what happens in real life. You will have those people who are loved by all but then, this person does something wrong and they will definitely be vilified. But there will be those that will still stick up to this person. Perhaps they see in this person something that’s worth defending. Something that others cannot see or does not believe in. Somehow, I can’t help thinking that this should be good right. We’re human and we’re not infallible. It’s nice to think that there will still be those who will stick up for us.

    But I guess politicians are of a different kind. There’s a specific requirement for being a good/great politician. Once a politician does something or there’s proof that they have a past that shows that they’re not fit for office, then they have to give up their positions. Those who defend them, again, sees in them something that others don’t. I’m not surprise if the defenders are emotionally invested on their favorite politician. This a fandom after all.

    Thank you for this post!

    Best,
    Sigrid

  2. Lucy At Home

    September 27, 2018 at 10:21 am

    It’s amazing how people can rally around someone who they don’t really know. Twitter (and social media in general) has that strange ability to make us feel like we know someone when we’ve never met them and actually only see what they choose to let us see.

    Anyway, congratulations because someone chose to add this post to the BlogCrush linky for you. Hurray! Feel free to grab your “I’ve been featured” blog badge if you’d like it 🙂 #blogcrush

  3. Lisa Pomerantz

    September 26, 2018 at 8:31 pm

    Back, right here, at #mixitup! The twittiot is nuts! xoxo

  4. Lisa Pomerantz

    September 22, 2018 at 12:29 pm

    Great post, and the orange one, who I call ‘twittiot’ is certainly fitting of the definition — and that scares me so very much. xoxo #coolmumsclub xo

  5. Millie

    September 19, 2018 at 9:41 pm

    Very insightful. Its great to hear you ae a fierce defender of your Twitter friends as I hear there can be some idiots out there. Thankfully I have yet to come across htme. I guess I haven’t been conroversial enough? The cult of personlaity is a worry; it is never good to be blinded by someone’s so-called greatness, especially if you have never really met them. #MixitUp

  6. Lucy At Home

    September 18, 2018 at 7:48 pm

    I love the psychology of it all too! I think people are fascinating, and Twitter allows you to “people watch” from the comfort of your sofa! Haha.

    I have an old school acquaintance who has a massive band of loyal social media supporters who, as you say, defend anything and everything he says, even though I think a lot of the time, he is purposefully trying to antagonise people and stir things up. I don’t understand it. It gets me worked up. I get frustrated that people can’t see him the way I see him. Aaargh! So I just keep scrolling past these days #blogcrush

    1. hooks_and_dragons

      September 18, 2018 at 10:58 pm

      It is very infuriating when that happens

  7. Rose Tinted Ramblings

    September 18, 2018 at 11:19 am

    social media platforms just magnify the worst (and occasionally) the best in human traits. I’m pretty selectiv on who I chat to. I think my tweeps ‘keep it real’ warts and all and its like a big support network amongst my chat group – then i use it for news and to promote (although i’m not very good at it) my blog and my art. #mixitup

    1. hooks_and_dragons

      September 18, 2018 at 11:36 am

      Well I love chatting to you on Twitter my love x

  8. Catie

    September 17, 2018 at 9:04 pm

    Oh god I love this post so much. You are a bloody genius. This is so well put.
    It doesn’t only happen on Twitter. It happens on Instagram. I have been on the shitty end of the onslaught of indignant replies. And it wasn’t cool at all!
    Don’t get me started on closed groups on Facebook. I believe this is where most of the hero worship takes place. The influencer holds all the cards as others don’t want to upset them incase they miss out on new opportunities.
    There is something very sinister about the whole thing.
    Thank you for hosting 🌈 #mixitup

    1. hooks_and_dragons

      September 17, 2018 at 9:18 pm

      I’m largely out of the loop on FB and insta although ive heard about the FB groups and how vicious they can be. Im suprised it happens on insta, I thought that was just about pretty pics

  9. Rosie Doal

    September 17, 2018 at 8:26 pm

    It’s totally because of this twisted world that Twitter can be, I stay away from it in general. I only use it to connect with bloggers, discover new posts and promote my own posts. As for news, views and opinins, I prefer to go elsewhere x #MixItUp

  10. Louisa (@LouisaInsideOut)

    September 17, 2018 at 5:16 pm

    You have summed it up so well. I have witnessed similar on instagram, where people are shouted down and insulted for asking a question. It does make you wary of raising any points of your own because you know all the adoring followers will jump on you

    1. hooks_and_dragons

      September 17, 2018 at 5:51 pm

      Its sad when people are too worried to speak their mind, but I totally understand why (and am the same myself)

  11. Mummy here and there

    September 17, 2018 at 2:20 pm

    There are many strange folk on twitter, I try to stay clear of it because it is quite depressing really X #mixitup

  12. endardoo

    September 17, 2018 at 1:46 pm

    I guess I have no interest in following anyone on Twitter except those I have something in common with … like blogging and all that. I couldn’t conceive of taking the likes of Trump seriously … but what can you do … there seems to be plenty who do! Interesting piece, Traceu. #MixItUp

  13. Sally

    September 17, 2018 at 1:07 pm

    I’m all for people having freedom of speech but I think that when you have influence especially in social media, less is more when it comes to strong opinions.

  14. nightwisprav3n

    September 15, 2018 at 5:00 pm

    Wow! Okay so yeah I’m not huge into twitter chatting for a lot of these reasons. I’m also just not into it. I won’t let myself get caught up in other people’s drama. But talking about Trump and the Cult of personality really fascinates me. As an amateur psychologist myself I have also asked the same question Tracey. How on Earth are so many people admiring such a racist, sexists, mean spirited, toxic person like Trump? I think you hit the nail on the head with this one! The cult of personality. Those people are a part of the Trump cult and they don’t even know it. That’s what cults do though. They charm you and suck you in before you even realize what is happening. So glad I’m not a part of that! Great food for thought here Tracey! #CoolMumClub

    1. hooks_and_dragons

      September 15, 2018 at 9:40 pm

      I think you are too smart and analytical to ever be caught out like that

      1. nightwisprav3n

        September 17, 2018 at 1:51 pm

        Why thank you! I do try but it isn’t always easy, especially in a growing world where facts seem to be taking a back to everything 😂 #mixitup

  15. oldhouseintheshires

    September 13, 2018 at 7:49 pm

    Great post, Tracey! I haven’t thought about it like that at all. #coolmumclub

  16. motherhoodtherealdeal

    September 13, 2018 at 11:32 am

    I love Twitter but I try and steer away from anything cult or big personality related but that’s just me! Definitely some interesting food for thought here thanks for linking up to #coolmumclub x

  17. Coombe Mill

    September 13, 2018 at 9:58 am

    I think you have summarized the twitter personality perfectly, it is all big cult personalities and giveaways these days, I find it quite hard to find anyone to chat to anymore which I miss, though I am still a twitter fan for the ability to just chuck a comment out there or respond to others in a way you can’t do on other social platforms. #CoolMumsClub

    1. hooks_and_dragons

      September 13, 2018 at 10:41 am

      Im lucky I have a lovely group of people who love to chat on twitter.. Sometimes too much 😁

  18. Mim

    September 13, 2018 at 9:14 am

    I think it does exist, but most of the people I follow are pretty genuine. I’m not a natural follower anyway! (TBH the cult of personality around Corbyn is making me wonder which party I’ll vote for at the next general election, because I won’t vote for the Nasty Party, but I don’t want to vote for one that’s becoming terrifyingly ‘conform or get out!’ either.)

    1. hooks_and_dragons

      September 15, 2018 at 9:51 pm

      I’m somewhat confused about who to vote for as well for similar reasons

  19. nottinghilldaddy (@nottinghilldady)

    September 12, 2018 at 3:17 pm

    Food for thought, I do enjoy your posts Mrs A. Leaving that ogre behind as his supporters on twitter are mainly automated non-account, I had never thought about cult personalities on Twitter ! You’re absolutely right, I can think of examples now. Next time I come across one I will make sure I tell them to step down a notch from their egocentric throne.

  20. Daddy Poppins

    September 12, 2018 at 2:05 pm

    Interesting piece Tracy. It’s got me thinking. No mean feat. 🤣

    1. hooks_and_dragons

      September 12, 2018 at 3:14 pm

      Oh my god, does that mean im an influencer 😮😮😮

  21. RaisieBay

    September 12, 2018 at 1:44 pm

    I’m not a huge Twitter user these days, but I’ve been around a long time and I’ve seen this frequently. It seems that Twitter is the perfect playground for ordinary people to create their own cult following. You are damned if you dare question their comments.

    1. hooks_and_dragons

      September 12, 2018 at 1:49 pm

      I’ve been a twitter addict for a long time, and I have in the past been caught up in thinking this or that person is really great. However if they subsequently do stuff thats a bit dickish I don’t defend that behaviour

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