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.
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