Many Irish celebrities using social-networking site Twitter could be exhibiting signs of extreme insecurity, according to a leading psychologist.
Dr Patrick Ryan, director of clinical psychology at the University of Limerick, said famous people should be aware of the inherent dangers involved in using the site.
"When it comes to celebrities, you find the sense of connection they have to people can be very fragile, so they need this reinforced an awful lot," Ryan said.
"If you or I are best friends, we wouldn't need to be in daily contact to remain so. However, if the connection is based on you being a fan of my book, record, film or TV show, I might as a celebrity need constant reassurance that you still feel the same way. Something like Twitter can offer celebrities that reassurance of feeling connected to literally thousands of people without having to do much work. Connection is very important to individuals because it shows that we are accepted and loved by people, which provides us with self-esteem."
The psychologist says celebrities enjoy the adoration they get from thousands of followers on Twitter until the feedback turns negative.
This recently happened to British actor Stephen Fry (right), who announced he was abandoning Twitter after one of his 938,485 followers described one of his updates – or 'tweets' as they are known – as "boring".
"When you see Stephen Fry on TV, he seems a very funny, quick-witted and talented guy. You would think somebody like him would be able for anything coming back. But his behaviour in this case has demonstrated he, like many artistic people, has a side to him which is extremely vulnerable. In general, celebrity egos can be very fragile. It can be very easy for them to take offence when in fact someone was only being humorous," said Dr Ryan.
To make matters worse, the psychologist says that when celebrities reveal their delicate sides on a social-networking site like Twitter, they are holding themselves up to further ridicule.
"Celebrities don't realise that being on Twitter is the equivalent of being on stage in the West End. Everyone is there to see you and can offer their opinion on what you've written or said.
"That's fine if you're Eamon Dunphy criticising the manager of the Irish soccer team. He knows he is putting himself up there and knows there's going to be a reaction coming back.
"Either you are able for that or you are not and it is starting to look like some celebrities may be unused to this kind of feedback coming at them."
For the most part celebrities' tweets remain essentially banal or "boring" as Fry's were described. Why do they bother?
"This shows us that celebrities are as bored as everyone else and twittering breaks the monotony. It doesn't have to mean anything. It's like when people say 'Howya' – they really aren't enquiring how a person is, just making small talk."
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