Particle Debris: The Eight Twitter Personality Types

When I first learned about Twitter, my first reaction was to figure out how to fit its technology into my working style and personality. I stayed with it, started following more and more people, and this week it finally dawned on me. There may well be a correlation between the Myers-Briggs personality type and the types of people who tweet.

When I first started using Twitter, I considered it a disruption of my work flow. Experts who advise people on Getting Things Done, which is a discipline in itself, often advise people to ignore their e-mails until the afternoon, leaving the morning to attend to pressing work without disruption.

In my business, inundated by 225 RSS feeds, e-mail, chat room traffic, and now Twitter, that's just not possible. Even though I'm the kind of person who needs to focus intently on my writing for long stretches, I do recognize the benefits of maintaing several, simultaneous sub-space frequencies. On top of that, I listen to New Age, light jazz, and movie instrumentals while I write to soothe my spirit, and constant tweets seemed like noise at first.

I've had some discussions with my colleagues at the Mac Observer about this, and the conclusion was that one has to sit back and let one's natural personality play a dominant role. One can't just jump in and force a Twitter strategy without remembering to be true to one's self.

As I've expanded the number of people I follow, I have identified several distinct personality types. Seeing those personalities come to life on my screen has been a fascinating experience in itself. Here are the types I've observed so far.

1. The Entertainer. This type is blessed with a quick wit and a charming way of constructing short, pithy communications. You follow that person because they keep you amused and introduce you to witticisms and amusing points of view or commentary.

2. The Messenger. This type doesn't have the need to entertain, but rather the need to pass on information. This type collects information, organizes it and disseminates it for the benefit of others. Links are not pointless videos but rather typically what one would classify as useful information. I am a Messenger type.

3. The Tour Guide. This person wants to share personal experiences. They'll take you on a ride with them, posting iPhone photos instantly to the Web, where the followers can almost feel like they're on the same trip. Photos may include funny road signs, Airport snafus, (or Hudson River water landings), delicious looking food in a restaurant, and so on. Tour Guides are often good Entertainers as well.

4. The Navel Gazer. This person is following the strict spirt of Twitter's charter: "What are you doing?" They'll talk about preparing dinner, cutting their nails, being bored watching a TV show, or installing software. If they're part Entertainer, this can be good, but for those who are 100 percent Navel Gazer, it's hard to take for long.

5. The Self Promoter. This type is usually an Internet author who figures that if you're following them for some reason, you'll want to know about their writings. Every story they post, even if they're read by thousands, will be pushed out to their hundreds of followers. However, it can have a positive, beneficial effect of increasing readership, and so many authors feel the need to improve their "brand" by self promotion. Some have ramped to thousands of followers, and some people are modest Self Promoters overlaid with a Messenger disguise. (That's me.) Others are more blatant.

6. The Twit. (Also called "The Shouter"). The Twit is aroused and angry about everything. The smallest incident on the Internet or Tweetdom fires them up, and they collect followers by spewing insults and obscenities. Often their tweets, intentionally, utilize the e-mail faux pas of CAPITAl LETTERS indicating that they're screaming. If they're part Entertainer, the effect can be especially amusing because they do it consciously. If not, then the button to not follow is just a click away.

7. The Needy. The Needy person wants your friendship and communication. They'll ask what they should get their spouse for his/her birthday. They'll say, "Hey, I'm in San Francisco. Anyone have a restaurant recommendation?" Or, "I need to write an article about Apple. Anyone have any ideas?" The Needy people are often strong Self Promoters and may exhibit signs of insecurity.

8. The Celebrity. This type has learned that Twitter is the latest, coolest way to interact with fans and is heartened by the thousands who follow. The followers obtain the benefit of brushing shoulders with a celebrity, and the celebrity's ego is suitably massaged. Often, however, we find that the Celebrity is just a normal human being, and doesn't have anything earth shaking or inspiring (or juicy) to say except to note their next Big Project, book, or appearance. So there's some Self Promoter involved.

The Myers-Briggs Element

All this may well relate to a famous personality profile test that categorizes people into sixteen personality types, The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). It characterizes people with four traits:

  • Introvert or Extrovert ( E or I ) Do you draw strength from crowds (E) or from isolation (I)?
  • Sensing or INtuitive ( S or N ) Do you draw your values and focus on input from others (S) or do you work from within, forming your own independent thoughts and values (N)?
  • Thinking or Feeling (T or F) Do you tend to be analytical (T) or focus first on the feelings of others (F)?
  • Judging or Perceiving (J or P) Do you tend to want closure and organization (J) or do you tend to leave things open ended (P)?

Because there are two possibilities in four categories, there are 2^4 = 16 MBTI personality types. I have taken the test many times over the years, and when young, I was an INTJ. Nowadays, I'm more often tested as ENTJ. It's important to note that no one type is superior -- these types simply reflect the cross section of people. Each has its strengths and weaknesses in society. Each has a defining name. Here's how the U.S. population breaks down.


MBTI in U.S.

Percentage of Each M-B Type in U.S. (Credit: Wikipedia)

In thinking about the different types on Twitter, I see the same kinds of personalities. For example, I think The Messenger is likely an INTJ or ENTJ. The Entertainer and Tour Guide may be ESFP or ESFJ. The Self Promoter may well be ISFP or ISFJ. An so on.

In any case, it's been an interesting journey for me on Twitter. I've learned that I need to just let myself be myself and that I can't copy the personality traits and talents of others that I've encountered. What's more, I find it fascinating that technology has become so intertwined in the social fabric of Internet life. I suspect that people who understand that well will continue to make lots of money with new forms of communication.

Finally, in my own case, I've abandoned Twitterrific and moved to a really nice client called Syrinx. Try it. It has improved my life on Twitter and has been a tweet to use.

Follow me on Twitter at jmartellaro, but don't expect to be entertained or taken on tours of Colorado. Thanks to my job, I'm exposed to a wealth of material on the Internet. So when the spirit moves me, thanks to my personality, I'm just the Messenger.