The Age of Narcissism

Ladies and gentlemen, without a doubt, we are currently in an age of narcissism. It’s only natural that the person that every cares about most is, well… themselves. But with today’s technologies, the narcissism is much more amplified.

I’d like to take the time to point out a nicely written article that discusses narcissism along with… what else?

Facebook.

http://mashable.com/2010/08/28/facebook-narcissism/

Nothing allows people to be more narcissistic than Facebook itself. Let’s delve right into it, shall we?

In a rather small survey conducted by a young psychologist, Facebook was shown to have some interesting correlations with self-esteem and narcissism in young adults.

In a survey of 100 college students, young people with narcissistic personality traits were shown to exhibit Facebook activity that was distinctly more self-promotional. These people had “About Me” sections that referred to their intelligence and photos that were more about displaying the user’s physical attractiveness than about capturing memories with friends.

On the surface, the idea of social networking seems very admirable and useful. It allows you to keep tabs on the people that you care about. You can “like” their status if something good happens to them, and you can voice your condolences if something unfortunate happens to them. And I’m all for that.

Buuuut that is not what 99% of people use Facebook for. People update their status just to attract attention. They whine, they complain, or they try to say something funny just to stay relevant in everyone’s lives. Like the article says, they are self-promoting themselves. They are basically saying “Hey everyone, look at me! I’m funny! I’m cool!” It’s like the drunk girl at the party that starts singing loudly and dances on the pool table just to become the center of attention.

And yea, naturally, everyone chooses a flattering picture of themselves. They’ll weed through their vast collection of pictures, 19 out of 20 of which they would never use as their primary facebook picture, but will find that one that makes them look presentable. And if there isn’t, then people will take a picture of themselves while alone in their room. Nothin’ worse than that.

For the average narcissist, Facebook “offers a gateway for hundreds of shallow relationships and emotionally detached communication.” More importantly for this study, social networking in general allows the user a great deal of control over how he or she is presented to and perceived by peers and other users.

Bingo. The article hits the jackpot there. The fact that you can control your personality is what makes people feel so overconfident on facebook. In normal situations, if someone makes fun of you, there’s nothing that can be done to take it back. It’s already been done. In the Facebook world, you can immediately delete the post. And now that most people have notifications sent directly to their phones, they can do this within seconds. Plus you can de-tag pictures of yourself that you don’t think you look too good in.

Another good point in this paragraph is the bit about the “hundreds of shallow relationships and emotionally detached communication.” Facebook has made relationships become so impersonal. The most we do to keep in touch is send a Facebook message. What happened to calling someone? Or even texting them?

People stay in touch with each other now solely through Facebook. And if Facebook didn’t exist you would not stay in touch with 95% of the people you are “friends” with. Hence, shallow relationships.

The study postulated that narcissists would show more overall Facebook activity than average users and that their activity would be more self-promotional, either descriptively or superficially. The survey’s results showed “significant positive correlations between narcissism and self-promotional content in the following areas: Main Photo, View Photos , Status Updates and Notes.”

People who scored higher on the study’s narcissism test also spent more time on Facebook and checked it more times each day than their less narcissistic counterparts.

This is nothing revelatory. Think about it; 90% of the facebook activity that pops up on your newsfeed is from the same people. And those same people probably check Facebook every 10 minutes. There are some people you know who rarely update their own facebook, and that’s because they aren’t narcissists. Good for them. I was I was as strong as you.

Male narcissists were more self-promotional in their “About Me” descriptions, using this section as an opportunity to highlight their intelligence and wit. Female users with narcissistic tendencies tended to use images in their self-promotion, uploading content that “included revealing, flashy and adorned photos of their physical appearance.”

Sounds about right. My About Me page is loaded with lame attempts at humor. Because us guys know that whatever may be lacking in physical appearance can be somewhat compensated by humor.

Females on the other hand, aren’t funny. Sorry gals, but you know it’s true. You lack that gene. So, you need to rely on your pictures. And trust me, I speak for all men when I say that we do look at your pictures. If I stumble upon an attractive girl, I click on her page and look at how many pics she has. 1,261? Don’t mind if I do! Creeeeeepy.

The researcher notes that this study is intended to be a preliminary look at social networking, a fairly new field for academic scrutiny. As we abandon the fake avatars and cryptic usernames of years past and begin associating our online identities with our real-world lives, our online activities begin to have more relevance to our true personality traits.

This last part is kind of a scary truth. Social networking existed long before facebook in the form of internet message boards and chat rooms, but it was all anonymous. The only thing people would know about you is the weird username that you chose to create.

But now… your username is your real name. Within seconds, people could find out all of your information. The other day, I randomly thought of a girl that I hadn’t seen since middle school. I thought of her because I remembered telling her that she was ugly when I was in 6th grade. It’s something I still feel bad about. However, I was curious to see what she looked like now. Within 8 seconds, I was able to locate somebody who I haven’t even seen in eight years. Why is that possible?!

And that is where the article ends. The bottom line is, we are all officially split personalities; there’s our real-life self, and our facebook self. It’s a very fucked up version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Now if you’ll all excuse me, I gotta go update my Facebook status.

Oh and did I mention that I’m on Twitter also?

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