The Narcissus Index

Twitter can be handy for announcing links to other material, following breaking news and unfolding events, or for humor.   But for policy discussion, Twitter has to be just about the dumbest thing on the planet.  Watching people attempt to have meaningful exchanges on Twitter is just ridiculous (and I should know because I have occasionally attempted it with miserable results).

Some education policy analysts, however, are undeterred by the stupidity of Twitter and are determined to attempt to change the world through thousands of 140 character messages.  Quite often they are communicating thousands of profound 140 character messages to a relatively small number of followers.  As is too typical in education policy debates, everyone is on the stage and almost no one is in the audience.

So, I’ve developed the Narcissus Index, which is the ratio of the number of Tweets people have issued to the number of their followers.  Essentially it is the ratio of how much we love hearing ourselves talk to how many people actually want to listen to us.  I identified 80 education policy analysts from Mike Petrilli’s ranking of the most influential education policy Tweeters as well as the list of Tweeters followed by the Fordham Institute.  I excluded the Twitter accounts of organizations, focusing only on individuals.  I also excluded office-holders and reporters who may Tweet or be followed by virtue of their position rather than as a means of influencing education policy.  I then recorded the number of Tweets and followers for each of these analysts as of today.

I’m sure that I’ve missed some people who I should have included and vice versa, but hey… this is a blog post, not a dissertation.  And it’s true that people have been on Twitter for different lengths of time, but more time should allow people to accumulate more followers as well as send more Tweets, so I think that mostly balances out.  Lastly, this list is also probably distorted by age, since younger people are more likely to Tweet about everything, including how delicious dinner was, in addition to their thoughts about education policy.

As you can see in the table below, 47 of the 80 education policy analysts I examined had more Tweets than followers.  That is, they had more things to say to the world than there were people who wanted to hear them.  Some people have quite a lot that they need to tell the world in 140 characters.  Teacher and blogger, Larry Ferlazzo has the most Tweets, with 55,215, followed by Diane Ravitch (41,798), and RiShawn Biddle (37,514).  Ravitch has even more followers than she has Tweets, for a ratio of .87 Tweets to followers, but Ferlazzo and Biddle don’t have the followers to match their prolific Tweeting, with ratios of 2.21 and 6.89, respectively.

USC professor, Morgan Polikoff, wins the prize for the highest ratio, with 15.19 times more Tweets than followers.  I think he is relatively new to Twitter, so perhaps his followers will catch up to his Tweeting.  The Frustrated Teacher, Dave Russell, may be frustrated by having 12.64 times more Tweets than followers.  Wisconsin professor, Sara Goldrick-Rab has 9.93 times more Tweets than followers.  And South Florida professor, Sherman Dorn, has 8.82 times as many Tweets as followers.

At the opposite end of the list we see some education policy analysts with very large numbers of followers relative to Tweets.  A lot of people want to hear the relatively few things they have to say.  Jeb Bush has 79,312 followers compared to only 582 Tweets for a Narcissus Index score of only .01.  When Michelle Rhee talks, people want to listen, giving her a a ratio of only .03.  Alfie Kohn has nearly 20 times more followers than his 1,243 Tweets.  And Linda Perlstein has nearly 10 times as many followers as Tweets.

Now while you guys search for your own names and argue about the results, I’ll just go ahead and Google myself to read more about me.  I clearly need to invest more in my Narcissism.

Name Handle Tweets Followers Ratio
Morgan Polikoff  @mpolikoff 6,576 433 15.19
The Frustrated Teacher @tfteacher 25,742 2,036 12.64
Sara Goldrick-Rab  @saragoldrickrab 32,516 3,276 9.93
Sherman Dorn   @shermandorn 9,558 1,084 8.82
RiShawn Biddle  @dropoutnation 37,514 5,442 6.89
Neal McCluskey  @NealMcCluskey 7,266 1,112 6.53
Ben Boychuk  @benboychuk 10,384 1,627 6.38
Nancy Flanagan @nancyflanagan 16,354 2,914 5.61
Matt Williams  @mattawilliams 2,572 464 5.54
Mike Klonsky @mikeklonsky 20,575 3,777 5.45
Ashley Inman  @ahsleyemilia 819 151 5.42
Allie Kimmel  @allie_kimmel 5,409 1,019 5.31
Rachel Young  @msrachelyoung 2,230 445 5.01
Laura Bornfreund  @laurabornfreund 2,819 565 4.99
Deborah M. McGriff  @dmmcgriff 2,660 548 4.85
John Bailey  @john_bailey 12,545 2,901 4.32
Jamie Davies O’Leary  @jamieoleary 870 236 3.69
Terry Stoops  @terrystoops 1,795 546 3.29
Eric Lerum  @ericlerum 1,614 491 3.29
Marc Porter Magee  @marcportermagee 4,284 1,414 3.03
Jenna Schuette Talbot  @jennastalbot 5,165 1,708 3.02
Kathleen Porter Magee  @kportermagee 2,997 1,229 2.44
Larry Ferlazzo  @larryferlazzo 55,215 25,016 2.21
Sam Chaltain @samchaltain 7,742 3,540 2.19
Erik Syring  @eriksyring 2,825 1,325 2.13
John Nash  @jnash 2,945 1,383 2.13
Matthew K. Tabor  @matthewktabor 10,081 4,811 2.10
David DeSchryver  @ddeschryver 1,546 747 2.07
Lindsey Burke  @lindseymburke 2,943 1,593 1.85
Mike McShane  @MQ_McShane 658 358 1.84
Matthew Ladner  @matthewladner 660 360 1.83
Alexander Russo @alexanderrusso 17,254 9,665 1.79
Bruce Baker  @schlFinance101 6,049 3,768 1.61
Joanne Jacobs  @joanneleejacobs 5,182 3,303 1.57
Howard Fuller  @howardlfuller 4,163 2,673 1.56
Robert Pondiscio  @rpondiscio 3,013 1,999 1.51
Adam Emerson  @adamjemerson 787 532 1.48
Chad Alderman  @chadalderman 1,984 1,458 1.36
Anthony Cody @anthonycody 5,759 4,289 1.34
Andrew P. Kelly  @andrewpkelly 693 532 1.30
Irvin Scott  @iscott4 1,565 1,221 1.28
Matt Chingos  @chingos 878 710 1.24
Neerav Kingsland  @neeravkingsland 956 824 1.16
Andy Smarick  @smarick 4,840 4,267 1.13
Doug Levin  @douglevin 4,671 4,286 1.09
Charles Barone  @charlesbarone 2,311 2,163 1.07
Kevin P. Chavous  @kevinpchavous 1,340 1,339 1.00
Michael Petrilli @michaelpetrilli 5,967 6,196 0.96
Gary Rubinstein  @garyrubinstein 1,219 1,344 0.91
Patrick Riccards @Eduflack 11,356 12,671 0.90
Diane Ravitch @DianeRavitch 41,798 47,956 0.87
Greg Richmond  @GregRichmond 366 455 0.80
Randi Weingarten @rweingarten 16,353 21,071 0.78
Paul Queary  @paulqueary 1,117 1,496 0.75
Heather Higgins  @TheHRH 383 530 0.72
Ulrich Boser  @ulrichboser 1,332 1,923 0.69
Vicki Davis  @coolcatteacher 34,109 50,600 0.67
Mickey Kaus  @kausmickey 8,813 14,362 0.61
Justin Cohen  @juscohen 895 1,470 0.61
Tom Vander Ark @tvanderark 8,044 13,805 0.58
Andrew Rotherham  @arotherham 5,396 9,425 0.57
Jeanne Allen  @jeanneallen 1,998 3,538 0.56
Roxanna Elden  @roxannaElden 644 1,159 0.56
Lisa Duty  @lisaduty1 1,801 3,359 0.54
Sara Mead   @saramead 2,268 4,597 0.49
Dana Goldstein @DanaGoldstein 5,826 12,820 0.45
Richard Lee Colvin  @R_Colvin 1,472 3,336 0.44
Not Diane Ravtich  @NOTDianeRavitch 270 616 0.44
Ben Wildavsky  @wildavsky 577 1,327 0.43
Brian Backstrom  @nyedreform 824 1,948 0.42
Kevin Carey  @kevincarey1 1,444 3,601 0.40
Jay P. Greene  @jaypgreene 454 1,416 0.32
Matt Kramer  @kramer_matt 204 978 0.21
Michael Barber  @michaelbarber9 935 4,719 0.20
Wendy Kopp  @wendykopp 906 6,015 0.15
Vicki Phillips  @drvickip 476 3,842 0.12
Linda Perlstein  @lindaperlstein 364 3,202 0.11
Alfie Kohn @alfiekohn 1,243 27,489 0.05
Michelle Rhee @m_rhee 1,353 48,945 0.03
Jeb Bush  @jebbush 582 79,312 0.01
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15 Responses to The Narcissus Index

  1. Jay– In your usual inimitable way you reduce the complexity of social life to something utterly useless. My numbers are high because in an effort to democratize access to knowledge, I frequently tweet conference sessions, lectures, and other events that only a small number of people would otherwise have access to. Moreover, I engage in regular twitter chats with practitioners that few fellow academics bother with (financial aid chat, student affairs chat, etc). Finally, I ask and answer questions of students this way. These are excellent uses of twitter that have nothing to do with narcissism and everything to do with a strong desire to help people (an evidence-based approach to increasing productivity). Your analysis suffers from omitted variables bias. But then again, you’re very used to that.

  2. Greg Forster says:

    I’m so narcissistic I don’t even tweet – my opinions are too good for y’all.

  3. Jeff Bryant says:

    I’m disappointed that someone who values a “business approach” to problem-solving would get the business of social media so far off the mark. No one serious about social media marketing uses the ratio of tweets to followers as an accurate metric of effectiveness. Kind of like no one serious about education would take high-stakes scores on standardized tests as valid measurements of “teacher effectiveness.” And BTW, I’m a marketing consultant with a 20+ year track record of generating $millions in sales for my clients.

  4. Wow. This might be one of the most ridiculous blog posts I have ever read. What a stunning display of a person’s complete lack of understanding of a medium.

    Twitter may indeed be a waste of time for many, and there certainly are quite a few Narcissists using the platform, but the idea of combining follower counts with number of Tweets posted to measure one’s level of self-absorbtion is so far off base it really doesn’t deserve to be dignified with an argument.

    I haven’t had a chance yet to read about your contributions to the world of academia, but I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that you are making a mark in an area you actually understand. I am sure there must be some reason for your disdain of educators who use Twitter, but I think your energies would probably be better spent on other things.

  5. WT says:

    Wow, some people have zero sense of humor!

    Sara Goldrick-Rab: nice job composing and posting a response in under 53 minutes. Hopefully this didn’t put too much of a dent in your tweet count for today (you’re at 60 tweets right now, so this was still a fairly productive day).

    Chris Cornell! Not sure I agree with you on Twitter narcissism, but great to see Soundgarden coming back strong. (Psst: that album with Timbaland was a stinker; not your style at all.)

  6. WT:

    What about this post indicates that it’s intended to be funny? Jay’s just trying to find some way to come out on top. Only he and his friends would think that the hard work of public engagement is something to be sniffed at. It’s not time-consuming whatsoever to tweet; only a novice would think it does. As for my productivity, feel free to check out my vita and/or my blog. I’d love your thoughts on how I spend my 80 hour work week at a public university while parenting two small kids.

    Finally–the rest of us sign our real names– how about you?

  7. WT says:

    26 minutes to respond! Is there a Chrome plug-in that automatically refreshes a webpage every 10 seconds and then notifies you of anything new?

    Anyway, everything about the post is obviously intended to be funny but also to get a rise out of people who take themselves a bit too seriously. Did it ever work . . .

    • Don Mash says:

      Wow man –Amazing how little you understand about technology (blog goes up and is tweeted at her; followup comments are auto-emailed). Are you sure you’re not a robot?

  8. Mark D says:

    The comments suggest that Jay is being taken to task for a blog attempt at humor. Or perhaps readers believe the Greene-defined ratio of tweets to followers measures an actual concept?

    Ah, well, I’m sure Randy Newman has had similar comments directed at him because of his lyrics. That Randy must really hate short people!

  9. Neal McCluskey says:

    Just saw I almost hit the top of the list! Can’t wait to tweet my near victory!

    Wait a minute…

  10. Lerman says:

    Is this really something to be joking about? Twitaholics have a disease and they need treatment. Until we can get the government to do something about the relatively free access these addicts have to their precious twitahol on a daily basis, these numbers are only going to continue to rise.

  11. [...] My thinking is pretty basic at this point, but informed by Simmel’s writing about the relation of motivation to social form. I think the kind of tweeter you are has something to do with why you’re there. Are you a consumer, a producer, a conversationalist, a prosumer? Basic tweeter-types might be measured crudely with the metrics of tweets, followers, and following. There are subtypes of consumers. Some consumers are just there to watch; that’s like tv, maybe. Their following to tweet ratio will be high. Some are there to consume so they can then produce something else; this type is exemplified by Ezra Klein and he says a little bit about the experience of this type here. They probably have high follower to following ratios, and lots of tweets. Producers aren’t there to see what others are doing. Their tweets to following ratio would be high. If they are successful, they’ll also have high follower to following ratios. Obviously one has to be careful with measures like these, because not all tweets are the same. Some are original thoughts, some are links, some are retweets, some are replies. If you do this in a thin way you end up with something not very persuasive, like this. [...]

  12. Mike says:

    Reblogged this on This Got My Attention and commented:
    Interesting. One of Madison’s own ranks #3 on the Narcissus Index. As the article properly points out, Twitter is essentially worthless except for making quick announcements. How true.

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