“Twitter is the best and Twitter is the worst.”
This was the response Dr. Marion Underwood, clinical psychologist and University of Texas at Dallas psychology professor, received from one of her 15-year-old daughter’s friends when she asked what the girl thought of the social networking juggernaut.
“I can’t get off of it,” the girl elaborated. “I can’t stop getting on Twitter.”
If these sound like the words of an "addict," it’s because they (at least kind of) are. Underwood was inspired to take her informal poll after watching the teen in question spend the entirety of her daughter’s birthday party glued to her phone, reading and sending tweets. What’s more, she says that social media can be highly addictive. Millennials are perpetually accused of self-centeredness, but it isn’t self-promotion, in and of itself, that they’re addicted to, Underwood says. It’s the positive reinforcement they receive from peers for doing it. For some teens, however, there’s a source of reinforcement even more addictive—and elusive—than their peers: their favorite celebrities.
A simple Twitter search reveals thousands of teens and tweens with accounts and handles dedicated to their favorite famous “friends.” It’s easy for them to think of celebrities as at least potential friends, after all. Where previous generations might pine over posters on their bedroom walls or write mushy love letters to a generic fan mail address, teens today have direct and almost unfettered access to their idols thanks to Twitter. Through the platform, teens can broadcast their thoughts not only to friends, family, and virtual peers, but to celebrities and public figures. (To a lesser extent, Instagram and Facebook serve this purpose as well.)