The New Frontier of Narcissism

The Prince reported this week that “tweeting” has increased in popularity recently, and has attracted the attention of a few big names on Princeton’s campus, namely Melissa Harris-Lacewell and Cornel West. Not mentioned was Peter Singer, who also updates his Twitter quite frequently.

It’s to be expected that these update-streams from noted scholars at a prestigious institution should be self-referential, yes, and perhaps even a bit introverted. But these three take it to a new level.Indeed, Ms. Lacewell, Mr. West, and Mr. Singer seem to “tweet” only about… themselves. Of course, that’s what Twitter’s all about, right? The homepage asks all the same question: “What are you doing?”

But while celebrities like Shaq, Diddy, and Seth Rogen often give “shout outs” to their fans and regularly respond to others’ posts, this Princeton trifecta manages to keep their tweeting furiously egocentric.

On March 29th, former NPR host Farai Chideya posted about a lecture Lacewell was to give at Harvard. Lacewell responded with, “Thanks for the support. Wish u were here. Wish I could still hear your voice daily. We need a show.”

Alright, one instance of turning an offhand comment into a self-referential boast. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Lacewell’s April Fools “joke” was to post, “After Harvard lecture last night I was offered 7 pm slot on MSNBC beginning next week!” After receiving a couple responses congratulating her, she admitted it was a prank but “thanks for thinking it ‘should’ be true!”

Don’t worry; it’s okay to cringe.

Cornel West isn’t shy about self-aggrandizing either. Since West’s first post on February 27th, nine out of the scholar’s ten posts have been quotes… of his own.

Peter Singer, on the other hand, focuses mainly on his new book,The Life You Can Save which addresses the ethics of the poverty issue. But he also focuses on how often he goes on shows to talk about it. And who reviews it for the Wall Street Journal. Oh, and book signings and readings. Also, the fact that “Shapoor Mohamadi, from the UK, is going to present the book to his Member of Parliament. Nice idea.” Oh, and that due to the “generosity of Erroll Treslan, a Canadian citizen, every Canadian MP is going to receive a copy of The Life You Can Save.”

Singer is altruistic. And everyone should frickin’ know it, damn it.

It’s all a bit dizzying, perhaps even nauseating, but at least they’re not sticking their head in the public sector.

And while on the subject of warped vanity, Mr. Singer has an adorable set of photographs of himself (cuddling with animals, no less), on his website. If it weren’t so cute, the whole thing would be painful.

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