I just wanna be famous – social media & narcissism

In 2013, the word ‘selfie’ made it to the Oxford Dictionary.

Paris Hilton claims to be the pioneer of this phenomena.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Cornelius

However, Robert Cornelius, an American pioneer of photography, produced the first ever self-portrait in 1839. Credit where credit’s due. He selfie’d before it was a thing.

The 2005 era of ‘selfie sticks’ seems passé. However, selfie ring lights, photo filters and photo-editing apps have quickly flooded the market. Unfortunately, they are inadvertently contributing to people’s insecurities and self-image.

People in workplaces are slowly but surely forgetting that the correct term for a ‘#’ is called a hash sign and not a hashtag.

It is undeniable that social media forms a huge part of our lives and choice of language. People even admit that autocorrect has made them lazier and pay less attention to grammar and spelling.

As of 2021, there are on estimate around 3.78 billion active monthly users of social media. Social media prides itself in ‘connecting people’. 

Paradoxically, why does it appear that we are more disconnected than ever?

We seem to be slowly losing the ability to communicate on a human level. Eye contact seems to be uncomfortable for many. Texting rather than speaking over the phone is the new comfort zone.

Micro-expressions, sense of smell, body language and eye-language are all replaced with written messages and emojis.

Less emphasis is spent on spending quality time with friends and family and forming meaningful, long-lasting relationships. 

Instead, there are notifications fighting for our undivided love and attention.

Social media and instant messaging have been a catalyst for instant gratification. Simon Sinek draws attention to the pitfalls of instant gratification:

The rise of social media is not only increasing people’s anxiety, feelings of inadequacy, fear of missing out (FOMO), loneliness, self-esteem and self-image issues, but it is also feeding into people’s narcissistic tendencies.

Hawthorne effect’ was coined by Henry A. Landsberger in 1958. The Hawthorne studies analysed employees’ work performances. After the study, the employees’ productivity slumped. Similarly to social media, people modify their reactivity and behaviour in response to their awareness of being observed.

The new narcissistic era of self-entitlement and self-flattery is strongly on the rise. According to Laura Buffadi, a postdoctoral researcher at the Universidad de Dueto in Bilbao, Spain, “Narcissists use Facebook and other social networking sites because they believe others are interested in what they’re doing, and they want others to know what they are doing.”

Narcissists prioritise social validation and are sensitive to exclusion. Equally, they struggle to form meaningful and stable relationships. Therefore, social media becomes the perfect home for them. Superficial charm can only go as deep, which is why narcissists keep it superficial.

Psychology Today describes narcissistic behaviours as the following: “Narcissism is a cluster of behaviours that occur together and include grandiose feelings of self-importance, the need for power or admiration, dwelling on one’s own appearance and achievements, and an inability to empathize with others. It can be focused on exaggerating the self and/or putting others down. The term is more widely used in society than before, and a question that is often asked by social commentators is: ‘does social media increase levels of narcissism?’ The answer from research conducted in many laboratories is, almost certainly, “yes”—but with lots of caveats!”

Perhaps this partly explains why there has been a ‘new trend’ of people filming themselves while feeding the homeless. Upon observation, most who carry out a good deed essentially praise themselves on social media.

Celebrities or ‘wannabe celebs’ are slammed for being ‘tone deaf’. Most have been throwing around the famous Covid-19 pandemic quote ‘stay home, save lives’ as a means to appear thoughtful and caring, while jetting off to exotic locations despite restrictions. 

Similarly, the same people who share their concerns about climate change, are unwilling to decrease their carbon footprint.

The dichotomy is stark and undeniable.

Not only is there little to no reflection on moral standards, but also an on-going movement in normalising nudity and exhibitionism which is heavily contributing to an ‘oversharing culture’.

Consent is thrown out of the window when narcissists post pictures alongside their dying grandparents: “RIP, I will miss you so much”. It is rather disturbing to see pictures of someone who is minutes away from dying.

Where have we all gone wrong?

When we were little, our parents told us not to speak to strangers. Now, some people willingly post everything about their lives online. 

While movie stars are constantly trying to hide from the paparazzi, narcissists undeservingly try to mimic that level of fame by seeking excessive exposure to the outside world through social media.

While from the outside narcissists may appear confident, this could not be further from the truth. 

Deep feelings of inadequacy drive their need to feel admired and desired. Deep down they are insecure and feel like a fraud. They don’t want to be found out, so they put up a front. Social media is the perfect home for narcissists.

Joseph Burgo’s book “The Narcissist you know” explains how narcissists see the world in a very simple way, winners and losers. He also explains that narcissists should be pitied.

Researchers from Swansea University and Milan University carried out a study of 74 individuals where personality changes were monitored over a four-month period. Those who used media excessively, positively displayed an average 25% increase in narcissistic traits.

Taking the ‘perfect’ selfie and writing the ‘perfect’ caption can seem innocent, in isolation. However, some people’s screen time exceeds the 10-hour mark easily. 

That is eight flights from London Heathrow airport to Frankfurt airport and back. That’s a very good night’s sleep. A full working-day in the office. The time difference between London and Honolulu. A missed opportunity to obtain a new skill, certificate, read a book, or pursue a hobby.

Not all narcissists use social media, therefore it is unrealistic to state that there is a clear-cut link between social media and narcissism. One thing is for sure, social media certainly does not help their narcissistic tendencies.

While others hit their ‘like’ buttons, on most posts, narcissist gain a sense of self-worth and approval. This might only be adding fuel to the fire, especially when it comes to grandiose narcissists.

The need to appear larger than life, perfect, and in a constant state of zen is merely filling a void that would be healthier and of more benefit to be obtained through sports, hobbies or learning new crafts or skills.

Social media and narcissism makes for an interesting topic, at this stage, perhaps only in hindsight will be truly understand how it has been contributing to mental health.

In the meantime, we need more people like Johnny Lawrence’s character in the Netflix Cobra Kai series. Anti-woke.

“Throw one of those hash browns at the end, you know, like #hashbrownteamcobrakai or something then SEND IT TO THE INTERNET!!”

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