Let me tell you a story about a beautiful Greek hunter named Narcissus. While countless men and women fell in love with him because of his beauty, he rejected each and every one of them. His rejections caused so much pain and heartache that the gods decided to punish him. They drew him to the side of a pond and upon seeing his own reflection in the water Narcissus fell so in love that he drowned trying to touch it. While the story may be a bit hyperbolic, it’s easy to see the parallels between Greek mythology and the social media obsessed society of today.
The evolution of the selfie has created a culture that is more obsessed with their appearance and image than ever before. In fact, narcissism has become so prevalent that in the past ten years, diagnoses of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) have risen nearly as quickly as rates of obesity. Common characteristics associated with NPD include a strong need for admiration and attention, inflated sense of self-importance, and lack of empathy towards others. Other symptoms include a desire for unlimited wealth, choosing friends based on status rather than personality, and an inability to show genuine feelings towards others.
Youth between 15 and 21 naturally go through a narcissistic stage as they drift away from their parents and try to find their own place in society. This stage in life is when youth is most influenced by their peers and perhaps when social media has the potential to do the most harm. Researchers and parents alike have begun to wonder how social media affects our youth and whether or not it can develop narcissistic tendencies in those who use it.
Narcissism & Social Media
Over the past decade, social media use and selfie sharing have skyrocketed. There are nearly 80 million photographs uploaded to Instagram alone, every single day. It seems as though snapping the perfect photo has become more important than truly enjoying memorable moments in life; which could be the reason narcissism has risen with the popularity of social media. Narcissists tend to overshare details of their life and compulsively lie in attempts to make their lives seem superior to their peers. Social media, therefore, is the ideal platform for narcissists to use to paint the perfect picture of their lives, whether realistic or not. Unsurprisingly, researchers found a correlation between frequent Twitter use and high levels of narcissistic traits in college students. Additional research found that high levels of Facebook status updates were linked with narcissistic traits in adults. Given that social media accounts are a way to control your personal image, it isn’t surprising that narcissists use social media more than most.
While the shallow relationships and self-promotion associated with social media use certainly bode well for those with pre-existing narcissistic traits, researchers have yet to find a link between social media actually causing narcissistic behavior. The way in which people naturally choose to use social media seems to be the key differentiating factor for narcissistic behavior. Narcissists tend to use social media to gain followers through self-promotion via selfies and body images. In contrast, non-narcissists tend to use social media to share authentic moments with close friends, rather than a following. They also share fewer selfies, have less followers or friends, and obtain less likes. However, the friends they do have on social media are typically more meaningful relationships that narcissists have with their following.
You don’t have to venture very far to see the evidence that society has become obsessed with their image. Simply take public transit or go outside on a nice day and you’re sure to catch a few people snapping selfies. It can certainly cause one to wonder whether the widespread acceptance of self-promotion and selfies will lead to a generation of narcissists in the future. So far, researchers agree that social media simply exaggerates narcissistic behavior in some, rather than causing it in everyone. Nonetheless, you may want to take a minute to think about why you’re posting your next selfie to determine what type of social media user you have become.
Kali Muir is an ambitious freelance writer with a BA in Communications. She was born in Canada, but has since lived in Norway, Denmark, and England. Her work experience is as diverse as her past addresses, including roles in technical communication, corporate communication, marketing, and article writing. She has experience working in varied business sectors: Oil & Gas, Engineering & Technology, Clothing & Equipment Retail, and Creative Writing. Follow Kali’s professional and personal journey at www.kalimuir.com, or connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter.