Kanye West’s tweets actually have deeper meaning, according to research.
Ohio State School of Communication researchers say the hip-hop artist’s recent controversial tweets to rapper Wiz Khalifa and model Amber Rose are explained by his narcissism and his high levels of attachment anxiety. West’s attention-grabbing tweets, although commonly viewed to be arrogant and disparaging, do not diminish his loyal fans because of his power of celebrity, according to researchers Jesse Fox and Rachel Neo.
West is known for posting controversial tweets to his 19.2 million followers on Twitter. Recently, he misinterpreted Khalifa’s “kk” reference to mean Kim Kardashian, West’s wife, rather than referring to weed.
“You let a stripper trap you,” West then tweeted, referring to his and Khalifa’s former partner, Rose.
Fox, an assistant professor in the School of Communication, researches the effects of social networking sites and new media technologies. She said she observes that West is a classic narcissist, an individual with high self-esteem and low humility, which produces his active Twitter personality. Fox further noted that narcissists have a big ego but are insecure underneath.
“That’s why they talk about themselves, because they want you to tell them they’re valuable,” Fox said. “These people need social validation, they need approval and the worshipping fan, or they are going to think of themselves as useless people.”
Fox also said current moments in pop culture, such as Beyonce’s performance at the Super Bowl and Kendrick Lamar’s Grammy performance, led West to want to “redirect all of this attention to himself,” possibly leading to him pushing back the release of his album in order to garner the attention he wanted or felt he deserved.
“(West) is posting information so that people are going to appreciate him in some way, or people will gratify his needs,” Fox said.
Neo, a graduate student studying communication, has specifically looked at social networks’ impact on political opinions. She added that the trending topic function of Twitter can influence perceptions of issue importance.
“For example, Kanye West might be a trending topic on Twitter, giving people the impression that he is a very important celebrity. Which is quite sad because there are many other issues/topics that are more newsworthy than him,” she said.
Additionally, Neo described Twitter’s influence on perceptions of popularity.
“The (follower-to-followee) ratio on Twitter indicates a user’s popularity,” she said. “If the person’s followers way outnumber the number of people he is following, that person is probably very popular and very influential.”
West’s ratio is 19.2 million to one, that one being his wife, Kardashian.
As far as why West and other Twitter users would call out their exes over social media, Fox said it is linked with what is known as attachment.
“There’s something rooted in our infancy that can make us very clingy in relationships and very possessive or obsessed with our exes,” she said.
Fox said that those who are high in attachment anxiety “tend to have trouble letting go of relationships, they are going to keep checking their ex’s profiles online, keep interacting with them and maintain that relationship.”
She added that attachment anxiety might explain why West periodically feuds with his former girlfriend, Rose, on Twitter.
That attachment anxiety, coupled with his narcissism, helps to unveil more about the man behind the tweets.