First, let’s take a selfie.
Are you hoping to capture your “now self” or your “possible self”? If you take the selfie dressed to impress in a swanky lounge or lounging poolside at a fancy resort, then edit and filter your photo to perfection before posting it on Instagram with a slew of generic hashtags for all your followers and random strangers to like, then most likely you are looking to capture and share your “possible self.”
It’s no surprise that popular social networks are the preferred stomping grounds of people looking to make an “identity statement.” But does all our time spent on social media make us inherently narcissistic? The answer lies in examining one’s motives for being active on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Is it important that your online followers admire you? Is it important that your profile makes others want to be your friend? If so, you may be a fragile victim to the validation of strangers, a surefire personality trait of narcissists.
But unlike real-life attention-seekers, online narcissists have a longer shelf life. Be honest, how many people do you continue to follow on Twitter even though their updates drive you crazy every time you read them? W. Keith Campbell, head of the University of Georgia’s psychology department and author of The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement told The Atlantic:
“What you find in real life with narcissists is that they’re very good at gaining friends and becoming leaders, but eventually people see through them and stop liking them. Online, people are very good at gaining relationships, but they don’t fall off naturally. If you’re incredibly annoying, they just ignore you, and even then it might be worth it for entertainment value.”
Researchers also shrug off the belief that Millennials are more narcissistic than previous generations. There is no data to support these phony notions. In fact, a shift towards narcissistic behavior may be cross-generational. For example, Millennials tend to use Facebook as a communication platform, much like previous generations embraced the telephone. For older adults, ones that didn’t grow up with Facebook, their activity on the social network stems from different, perhaps more self-centered, motives.
But don’t go blaming Facebook and Instagram for the onslaught of narcissism in our already-flawed society.
“If there’s an opportunity to look good, get attention, to appear attractive and to gather followers, it’s going to draw narcissists,” Campbell continued. That is true in the realm of politics, reality TV and of course, social media.
p.s. Get giddy every time a strangers “Likes” your Facebook status but feel crushed when someone “defriends” you? You may be experiencing a Facebook love/hate affair.