BY: PHILIPPE DE JOCAS
Who likes a narcissist? Between their self-obsession, callous disregard for the feelings and opinions of others, and inclination towards reckless and sometimes sociopathic behaviors, the answer is simple: only one person – themselves!
Are you a narcissist? “Surely,” you say to yourself as you read this, “I can’t be a narcissist.” Feeling altruistic right now? If someone linked this story to your Facebook or Instagram post, then think again – social media could be turning you into a narcissist and you could not even know it.
The fundamental axiom of communication has fundamentally changed over the past few years. Once upon a time, we viewed communication as a two-way street: you received a message, decoded it, and responded. From homing pigeons to telegrams, communication largely followed a set and rigid series of rules that governed everything from romance to warfare.
Then, in February 2004, a young entrepreneur by the name of Mark started an innocuous little site named Facebook (you might have heard of it), which revolutionized everything. Suddenly, communications weren’t a two-way street anymore. People could scream into the void or stand on soapboxes to harangue the multitudes – anything seemed possible. Regardless of how drastically this innovation shook up our interactions with each other, Facebook proved popular enough to stick around – by the end of 2016, more than two billion people had accounts on the site.
Sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube became prime sites for this new kind of communication. Now we communicate our pleasure or disgust by “likes” and “dislikes;” on certain sites, racking up likes is equivalent to a badge of honor. This tailor-made zero-sum communication game, where content is all and nobody truly knows who you are, suits narcissists very nicely.
Narcissism runs on a spectrum across a gamut of different manipulative types. A recent study in the University of Wurzburg in Germany revealed that different narcissistic groups engage with the Internet differently. Social gathering spaces on the internet like Facebook ,Twitter, or YouTube provide narcissists, and narcissistic patterns of behavior such as gaslighting, fertile ground. Researchers categorize most narcissistic users as “vulnerable narcissists”. Their desire to be liked and accepted by peers overrides their desire to empathize with others, leading to manipulative behavior. These patterns of behavior on the internet can prove both alluring – and dangerous. Even non-narcissistic users might co-opt narcissistic tactics in a quest for online acceptance.
The link between vulnerable narcissism and social media runs deep. On a network where self-promoting friends might hang on your every word, the desire to concoct ever more grandiose alibis and lies in order to get people to sympathize with you runs deep. The link between narcissism and social media may be a self-fulfilling spiral: the more likes one gets, the more driven one becomes to post more content that gets likes, and so on and so forth. Everyone who’s used a social media account has had to struggle with this urge, and as the 21st century takes us into stranger virtual worlds, it will surely be an issue that we will have to continue to contend with.