I joined social media a little late outside the bell curve of its popularity. Nevertheless, I quickly reconnected with hundreds of friends, family and classmates I had lost touch with. It was really cool. I don’t exactly remember my first post or thoughts, but I was amused, happy, yet concerned to think that all my “friends” really valued my thoughts and activities for the day. One could quickly over think their importance and value in the lives of others. I have a stage now in which I can be heard, as I could begin to believe that I was the center of attention and others are waiting to “like” and comment on my creative words of “wisdom”, photos and videos of entertainment. It did not take long for me to also realize that social media is nothing about being social as much as it is about media about myself.
Like many others, I was seduced into counting the number of “likes” I could accumulate on a post. While seeking the approval of others and being seduced into an “approval addiction”, my mood and attitude was affected by the comments of others. Now, as a Gen-Xer myself, I began to see how quickly I thought of myself as more important than I really was. I could easily begin to believe that my “friends” really have the time and energy to know what I am thinking and doing during countless times of the day. Is this what narcissism looks and feels like? It was quickly affecting my self-confidence. I did not grow up with this technology. I can only imagine the power it has with an insecure teenager or young adult, and how it can effect a developing mind and heart.
Social media in itself is not bad, evil or wrong. It is neutral. However, it is wise or foolish how you use it. It can make a good person better and a bad person worse – just like money, power and influence. However, social media can falsely reward a person for being overly self-confident behind a keypad. Many people will post or comment on things in a bolder way than they would ever say or speak in person.
What exactly is narcissism? I have had many wives come to me and tell me that their husband was an undiagnosed narcissist. In a few cases, she was right. However, more often than not, the husband had some of the features but did not meet enough criteria to be given this label. Narcissism is a word that has been used a great deal online, and there has been an explosion of books written on the topic over the past few years.
Dictionary.com defines narcissism as an “Inordinate fascination with oneself; excessive self-love; vanity. Synonyms: self-centeredness, smugness, egocentrism.
Psychoanalysis: Erotic gratification derived from admiration of one’s own physical or mental attributes, being a normal condition at the infantile level of personality development.”
Mayoclinic.org defines narcissism as the following:
“Narcissistic personality disorder is one of several types of personality disorders. Personality disorders are conditions in which people have traits that cause them to feel and behave in socially distressing ways, limiting their ability to function in relationships and other areas of their life, such as work or school.
If you have narcissistic personality disorder, you may come across as conceited, boastful or pretentious. You often monopolize conversations. You may belittle or look down on people you perceive as inferior. You may feel a sense of entitlement — and when you don’t receive special treatment, you may become impatient or angry. You may insist on having “the best” of everything — for instance, the best car, athletic club or medical care.
At the same time, you have trouble handling anything that may be perceived as criticism. You may have secret feelings of insecurity, shame, vulnerability and humiliation. To feel better, you may react with rage or contempt and try to belittle the other person to make yourself appear superior. Or you may feel depressed and moody because you fall short of perfection.”
Over the years, there are clients I have found I cannot help if they have these two quality traits. The first quality is entitlement. This type of person believes they are owed by society and everyone around them. They deserve to have things they did not work for. The second quality trait is when a person is unteachable. They already know it all, and they are not the problem. They do not have the desire or, I believe in some cases, the cognitive ability to take responsibility for their own behaviors. To do such is in conflict with them being perfect. They are too proud to admit they are not perfect or that they could have done anything wrong, as this is beyond their comprehension and a contradiction to their belief system. It does not compute. They do not have the software to understand the data. Now, they could but most choose to stay in their selected reality, as this is much easier and the path of least resistance. I am not saying all people that are entitled or unteachable are narcissistic, but they might be.
Now, there is a misunderstanding about the definition of narcissism, and many definitions define it as “excessive self-love.” This can be misleading. This is not false or wrong to define narcissism this way; however, it would be more honest and better defined as “little, lack of or no self-love.” I say this because a true narcissist is very codependent and driven by seeking the approval and affirmation of others. Remember, they have an “infantile personality development.” What does an infant need? They need constant praise and encouragement from their parents and the world around them. Many believe a narcissist is very self-confident. I would also challenge that to say the more honest statement is that they are very codependent in that self-confidence. This type of person discards people very quickly if you disagree with them, challenge them or stop praising or affirming them. It doesn’t matter if you are their best friend or if you have worked with them for years. Loyalty and trust only go one way. A narcissist is about them giving to you in order to receive from you.
Social media creates a very codependent, narcissistic and superficial community. It creates a fragile self-confident generation that is desperately seeking the approval of friends to define their value and worth. This can be seen in the Millennial generation that believe they are entitled to just about everything and should not have to work for anything. For many decades now, society, schools, communities, and religious organizations have been teaching self-worth and self-confidence. I don’t believe it’s working. We now have kids and adults with no self-worth on one extreme and bullies picking on them on the other extreme. I am not a big advocate for self-confidence. However, I am an advocate for what I call God-fidence. It is more important to know what the God of Heaven says you are. One of my favorite children’s books is You are Special by Max Lucado, as it powerfully explains why we each need to know and understand what God thinks of each of us individually.
I am not saying the sky is falling and millennials are going to be a generation of narcissists due to social media, as every generation has its share of narcissists. However, I think we need to have a conversation about the positive and negative impact social media is having on our society.