Are you a social media narcissist?

Photo: Sunbathing  Credit: Sanja Gjenero

Photo: Sunbathing Credit: Sanja Gjenero

The New York Times ran a provocative piece yesterday on whether Facebook turns us into narcissists.

The Cliff’s Notes version is that Facebook may, and Twitter too.  But something struck me funny about an assertion that hundreds of millions of innocents were becoming megalomaniacs with their rampant social media use.  So I dug a little deeper.

The hub of all unimpeachable knowledge Wikipedia lists the following characteristics of narcissism:

– An obvious self-focus in interpersonal exchanges
– Problems in sustaining satisfying relationships
– A lack of psychological awareness (see insight in psychology and psychiatry, egosyntonic)
– Difficulty with empathy
– Problems distinguishing the self from others (see narcissism and boundaries)
– Hypersensitivity to any insults or imagined insults (see criticism and narcissists, narcissistic rage and narcissistic injury)
– Vulnerability to shame rather than guilt
– Haughty body language
– Flattery towards people who admire and affirm them (narcissistic supply)
– Detesting those who do not admire them (narcissistic abuse)
– Using other people without considering the cost of doing so
– Pretending to be more important than they really are
– Bragging (subtly but persistently) and exaggerating their achievements
– Claiming to be an “expert” at many things
– Inability to view the world from the perspective of other people
– Denial of remorse and gratitude

Reading the characteristics on this list,  it occurred to me that few people I know exhibit these.   Of course there is the problem of oversharing, but this seems attributable to a misunderstanding of audience and community standards.  Quite frankly, if oversharing were the standard for narcissism, constantly posting pictures of my kids on Facebook probably would put me up there with the world’s greatest narcissists.  But is wanting to share pictures of your kids with people who don’t want to see them novel to the era of social media?  I think not.

As it turns out, the study the New York Times references was done primarily on college students, who even before the advent of social networks showed strong proclivities towards narcissism.  Couple that with the fact that the test questions asked were irrelevant to social media, the actual conclusion of the study should have been that college students tend a little more towards narcissism than the rest of us.  I suppose that’s not a compelling by-line, though.

Wanting to draw sweeping conclusions about social media and its societal impact is understandable, but diagnosing more than half the world with narcissistic personality disorder seems a bit extreme.  However, if you think that that social media has drawn you or someone you know into the doldrums of self-love and apathy – you can take the same test that those narcissist college students took here.

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Jim Dougherty

Jim Dougherty

Writer and chief of miscellany at leaderswest.com
I'm the guy that wrote the article you just read. Sorry for the typos.
  • http://www.ericbrooks.com Eric Brooks

    Great article, Jim! Personally, I think “narcissism” is an over-exaggeration on their parts. I’ve seen it for years with bloggers. They get a taste of “fame” and gain an audience like they never have before, it goes to their heads, they become jerks, someone comes along and knocks them on their butts… and then they level out with some humility and gain their perspective again.

    I like to think of it as just “being human”. :)

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  • http://catherine-rombeaut.blogspot.fr/ @rombeautc

    Thanks for your vision of what it really is! Blogging in the late 90’s was part of narcissism because what could be better first but talking of oneself. But now things become different, people share and progress, either on blogs or on Facebook for your example. One is not all, gathering everyone in a same social media behaviour is a bit extreme as you said, even if very few are as I can see a little too narcissic, especially on Viadeo (french version of LinkedIn)!

  • http://funandfit.org AlexandraFunFit

    As a person w/ a Master’s in Systemic Counseling, I appreciate your post on this. Very well laid-out, explained and easy to read. I always look at the original research, as it’s too easy to make sweeping conclusions or generalizations. Very well said. Now, I’m off to post 100s of pics of my cats!

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