- Mental Health»
- Personality Disorders
Narcissism and Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Narcissism, according to researchers, had been increasing before the onslaught of social media, but its present rise has clearly and sharply been exacerbated by social media and consequently, a steep decline in altruism and empathy levels.
The personality disorder called narcissism hinders the ability to form healthy, long-term relationships. Initially, they may appear to be charming, but will always use people for their own advantage, hurting both those around them and themselves in the long run.
What is narcissism exactly?
Narcissus of Greek mythology fell in love with his own reflection in a pool of water; despite his adoration, the reflection could never love him back.
It is all about me, myself and I. It is a personality disorder, which is typified by a person who is excessively preoccupied with personal adequacy, power, prestige, self-love, emotional, dramatic behaviour and vanity. They have an overblown sense of their own importance and a deep need for admiration.
“I thought narcissism was about self-love till someone told me there is a flip side to it. . . . It is unrequited self-love.” ~ Emily Levine.
Healthy, self-love stems from an honest acceptance of who you are without feelings of superiority over others. As a narcissist’s lack of insight as to what is going on inside their less than perfect selves must forever be at odds with their idealized version,. Narcissists do not, in fact, love themselves, they depend on the adoration and affirmation of others to feed their ego.
"Narcissism and self-deception are survival mechanisms without which many of us might just jump off a bridge.” ~ Todd Solondz
This quote recognizes how essential people’s defenses are to them and as many are saddled with self-doubts left over from childhood if our parents didn’t adequately nurture or validate us.
To feel adequate we may exaggerate our accomplishments from time to time, or look for compliments, but as narcissism exists in a continuum, few of us actually meet the criteria for a personality disorder, although most of us will share certain narcissistic tendencies.
True narcissists have a poor interpersonal boundary meaning they can’t tell where they end and the other person begins. They view others as existing to serve their own needs and routinely put their needs before everyone else’s including their own children. Empathy is not an emotion they are adept at using.
People with narcissistic personality disorder often display snobbish, disdainful or patronising attitudes.
Facebook - the musical
Politicians and Narcissism
Only show business would have a higher propensity for narcissism than politics. Being in this powerful arena confirms their superiority to others – their most coveted need, as is money and power, in narcissist politicians. Good examples of this are Osama bin Laden, Milosovich, Robert Mugabe and Saddam Hussein.
They possess an exaggerated sense of entitlement, and despite the ethics they profess to follow and adamantly require us to follow, they somehow find it acceptable that they play the system and exclude themselves from the rules imposed on others.
A sociologist at Washington University, Pepper Schwartz, says:
"How many of us would have the desire, much less the ability, to promote ourselves ceaselessly? You have to do that as a politician. It's an amazing level of self-love . . . and need for affirmation."
I suppose as technological progress goes on and on, narcissists from all walks of life will follow any opportunity to look good, grab attention, tell all and gather followers whether it’s through the media, politics or social media.
Statistics for Facebook, Instagram and Twitter
Researchers at the University of Michigan believe that Facebook posting for students is associated with the Exhibitionism component while Twitter is associated with the Superiority component of a narcissistic personality, while the reverse is true for adults.
There are 255 million monthly active users on Twitter, with the active daily users being 100 million and the average number of followers per user is 208.
Many think that Instagram is where narcissism thrives as it has 1.6 billion photos posted per month by 200 million active users, with 1.6 billion daily likes and an average of 60 million photographs published daily.
There are 1.3 billion Facebook users who post 1.5 billion photos every single month. The numbers of active daily users in the US are 128 million whereas there are 24 million in the UK. The average amount of friends for female users is 250.
Facebook has certainly inspired a generation of internet users to pay more attention to the minutiae of their lives and dress it up for public consumption. Plain status updates are boring, so it has to be provocative because the idea is to connect.
When looking at someone’s Facebook page and its unlimited bragging possibilities, do you see evidence of exhibitionism in the loads of selfies splattered over the page, inappropriate over sharing of the minutiae of their daily lives including rants about perceived slights, selfies squealing ‘look at me, look at me, aren’t I just mega.'
Most people do recognise online narcissism when they see it, although they may not be aware of the depth of the person's problem.
Self aggrandizement is there for the taking. YouTube can be your own TV channel that boasts 6 billion hours of viewing per month, while Blogger made us creative and Linkedin offers positive endorsements to whom we are and our aspirations, while ignoring our short-comings.
Instagram and selfies were an instant success, and if you care about social media after your death, then LivesOn.org will continue your tweeting. The whole things sounds nightmarish as the App will create a digital twin for you on Twitter while DeadSocial will keep your friends updated on Facebook.
Is the increase in Narcissism a result of social media or just amplified by it.
Different types of Bragging
Besides the narcissism disorder mentioned above, the other self-indulgent phenomenon is the propensity for ’humble brags.'
People do not want to be seen as egocentric or narcissistic, but it's disingenuous. They want to feel valued, important and tell others about their lives to receive praise for their accomplishments, but their brag is couched in humble-comments to neutralise the brag, hoping friends won't detect it.
The same applies to the constant 'celebrations of life' and affirmations, where people are overjoyed in how exceptionally blessed they are to live their life, or how amazing, and magical their partners or children are. It is worrying if one looks as the level of insecurity or need for validation that leads to this type of rose-coloured posting?
Also puzzling, are couples who post pictures of each other to tell everyone how ‘hot’ the other is, and their circle of admirers chime in on their likes for the love notes, at the same time endorsing their choice of partner. Surely, this should be private and not need the validation of their followers?
Social Media and Narcissism
Wonderful Uses for Facebook
However, for the millions of Facebook users all over the world, it is primarily a tool for connecting to family and friends and the ability to share events in our lives with them.
It is an excellent tool for finding family members, or friends with whom you’ve lost touch. Older and elderly people love Facebook as they can share their lives with distant friends, keep them up to date with their childrens’ lives, and the milestones in the lives of grandchildren.
Students away from home or travelling share their experiences with their families and keep in touch with friends back home.
For the lonely, introverted, or depressed, it is a lifeline to a social life, albeit a digital one that may make the loneliness less isolating and depressing.
Facebook can also be a vehicle for keeping you up to date with your favourite publications, blogs and organisations by streaming their news feeds to you, so nothing of interest is missed and saves a visit to their websites.