“As someone who merely publishes articles online, I can’t remember the last day someone somewhere didn’t remind me how stupid I am, or invite me to dislodge my head from my ass,” muses The Daily Beast’s Luke O’Neil. “This obviously increases exponentially with a bigger profile.” One such bigger profile would be that of ESPN late night host (the oft-traveled) Keith Olbermann, who on Wednesday was hit with a three day suspension after an ill-advised Twitter spat with a Penn State student. If you’re wondering why Olbermann would risk further damage to his reputation over such small stakes — keep in mind, some find said behavior totally within character — O’Neill sought out some expert opinions :
Since places like Twitter level the playing field of conversation, “It can be extremely galling for a certain type of person to be criticized by his ‘inferiors’ in a public arena,” says Boston Globe advice columnist and research psychology PhD Robin Abrahams.
“And now this exchange, the first and last interesting thing in your life, is at an end,” he tweeted to one of the many PSU supporters who’d gathered outside the ogre’s hovel, evidence of the type of digital dick-measuring often at work here.
That self-perception, and hyper-sensitivity to sleights can be common amongst the powerful, generally speaking, says James Niels Rosenquist, PhD, MD and psychiatrist at Mass General Hospital and Harvard Medical School.
“The first thing to recognize when talking about people in a position of power: One consistent theme in psychological studies is people who crave attention in general, and approval,” says Niels.
That’s why he thinks Twitter is the perfect storm of confluences when it comes to servicing this need.
“It’s a quick hit, if you will, and the parallels to drug use are very similar.”