Dean Traylor is a freelance writer and teacher who writes about various subjects, including education and creative writing.
Facebook and Narcissism
Facebook is both a wonderful communication tool and a disturbing forum. Over the years, the popular social media site has gone from a place where friends and family members connect with each other to a realm where enemies get on soapboxes to squabble with each other.
Still, not everything has changed. In between the plethora of political rhetoric and snippets from real and fake news sources, there are still people sharing recipes, personal updates, and opinions on a wide range of issues. In addition, what hasn’t changed since its inception can be best summed up in a few quotes:
- “I went to the gym and had a great workout!”
- “Feeling hungry, grabbed a double-gourmet-bacon-cheeseburger, yummy!”
- “I think I’ll clean up the house, yippee!”
Sound familiar? It may have come from a friend or family member who seems compelled to document every tiny event in their seemingly mundane life. Either way, their comments may actually say the following:
- “It's all about me!”
Nobody Is Immune
Some of us (the unintentional voyeurs) reading these posts may react by rolling our eyes, maybe even saying out loud “Who cares?” And then, after complaining about how these posts clog up our pages, we write our own compelling, earth-shattering posts we feel all our friends and family members must read:
- “I’m going to the movies!”
- “I’m going to make a sandwich and watch TV! Then go to bed!!!”
...Even the most reserved of us (including me) have a tendency to post some type of comments that may (or may not) try to inform our intended audience how cool, funny, successful or great we are.
What are they doing? Or to be precise: What are we doing?
We’re catering to our narcissistic side.
This is an unintended consequence of relying too heavily on social media to communicate with others. However, this may also reveal something about certain people, especially those that have been diagnosed with this condition.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder
Interestingly, with the rise of Facebook’s popularity, there seems to be an acute awareness of this particular personality disorder in recent years. Narcissism—officially known as Narcissistic Personality Disorder—falls under the label of a personality disorder.
Such disorders are usually hard to define and their causes are debatable. In addition, especially with narcissism, narcissism is something that exists on a spectrum. In other words, it affects a person with various degrees of severity.
Narcissism can be best described as someone who has a heightened sense of self-importance. Often this trait is noticeable to an outside observer. Such characteristics, according to Psychology Today’s website can be:
- A sense of entitlement
- A lack of empathy for others
- A need to be admired
It is a rare condition, in part because the individual with the condition will most likely not admit to it and may not seek therapeutic help for it. While Facebook posts and comments may lead us to believe that the individuals are narcissistic, there’s no definitive way to prove it from such postings.
Still, one can’t stop to wonder if narcissism is present and if social media is cultivating it.
The Appeal of Social Media
We often use Facebook and other social media outlets to record milestones in our lives; moments we feel are important enough for sharing. In a sense, Facebook gives us license to boast, brag, and post seemingly innocuous announcements hiding ulterior messages that really say “Look at me! I’m doing something special!”
In a sense, it takes away the insecurities and inhibitions we may have if we were talking to somebody one-on-one. Sometimes, it makes us go beyond that and inflate our egos, and in some cases, way beyond our own realities.
No one is immune to this. Even the most reserved of us (including me) have a tendency to post some type of comments that may (or may not) try to inform our intended audience how cool, funny, successful or great we are.
Not every post is intended to generate feelings of awe among its readers. Some people write posts that are informative or entertaining. One such example is a friend’s impromptu “review” of the movie "Prometheus," in which he points out its scientific flaws. Another friend has some of my favorite satirical comments on politics, music, and many other issues.
Our Other Needs for Social Media
Some comments and information are encouraging, insightful, or inspirational. They can lead to lengthy discussions on almost anything, from worldly matters to personal issues.
Still, for every interesting review or humorous piece, there are posts that make you shake your head, and ask why such things were written in the first place.
In truth, those innocuous (and sometimes obnoxious) comments have purposes. There are several things at work which include human nature and the medium they choose to express that nature.
First, Facebook offers its users a chance to express themselves in a safe environment: in their homes behind a computer or on a smartphone. They don’t have to face the people they are communicating with, and will not get an immediate response to whatever they say. They don't even have to read the response (although many will do anyway).
Second, the users are communicating with a number of people. In a sense, they have an audience, and there’s a belief that this audience is waiting for them to state something (at least, this was what a few people confided to me when I asked them why they post on a daily basis). Even if one had no intention of performing, the user innately or unconsciously feels compelled to do so.
Third, shy or reserved people just want to be heard. They do not have the usual access—such as artwork, narrative writing, or photography—to express themselves.
Also, there are several frustrated writers, artists, philosophers or photographers who want to show off their skills (I include myself in this category).
Fourth, we, the users, want to get people talking. It’s one thing to post what we had for breakfast. But where did we have it? Maybe it was in Mexico, or on some exotic island. Suddenly, that seemingly benign post has some meaning behind it. Somebody is bound to ask questions, and the real meaning behind the post will come out.
Finally—it feeds our voyeuristic side. One reason we read messages or check out photos posted on Facebook from our friends is that we want to get a glimpse at their lives. And of course, it's entirely possible our friends are doing the same thing to us.
Narcissism and Facebook
At this point, human nature seems to be a factor in the way we use Facebook. Not surprisingly, there's been research on the topic of narcissism and Facebook use. People with narcissism (one referred to as vulnerable narcissism in one study) do fuel many comments on the social media platform. Often it is to fulfill a need.
Based on a study done in Germany and reported in Psypost.com, the researchers discovered that anxiety became a driving force for those addicted to Facebook (yes, there is a term called Facebook addiction).
Not surpisingly, there has been research on the topic of narcissism and Facebook use.
According to the researchers, those with vulnerable narcissism were more likely to seek positive comments from other users to satisfy their needs and become reliant on the online world to be “the only place that successfully boosts their troubled self-esteem (Psypost, 2021).”
This study doesn’t exclude those with grandiose narcissism. The researchers indicate that problems with self-esteem are present in both groups. However, they mentioned that it's likely that those with grandiose narcissism are better at hiding it than those with vulnerable narcissism.
How Wonderful We Are
Narcissism is a recognized personality disorder. And research indicates that Facebook is fostering but not creating this. For many, this is a chance to communicate without the repercussions that in-person socializing may bring. For the most vulnerable narcissist, Facebook is a safe place to avoid any negativity and garner positive reinforcement.
What about those of us who may not have this condition: we tend to post the best photo and information about ourselves. That, in itself, is human nature. But does even this border on narcissism?
We don’t want to just look good in people’s eyes; we want to be seen as being a special human being with all the right attributes.
Additionally, we want to be seen as a success story with a fantastic life. It can be read in statements such as:
- “I’m having dinner with my beautiful wife and wonderful kids.”
Posting on Facebook is addictive and sometimes too informative. Some of us want to entertain our friends or showcase our talents. Others simply use it to dispense information on a party, wedding, funeral, or gathering. It has even been used to enlighten others on a subject or social cause.
For others, Facebook and narcissism are an inseparable correlation.
- Facebook Addiction: 9 Signs and Treatment Tips
Feel like you're addicted to Facebook? While Facebook addiction isn't a formally recognized condition, experts are seeing an increase in problematic social media use. Learn how to stop the signs and the kinds of treatment that can help.
- Study suggests narcissists’ addictive use of Facebook is partly driven by heightened anxiety
Both grandiose and vulnerable narcissists show an increased risk of developing a Facebook addiction, according to a study published in PLOS One. The ...
- Narcissism | Psychology Today
Narcissists have a prominent place in the popular imagination, and the label "narcissist" is widely deployed to refer to people who appear too full of themselves. There's also a growing sense that narcissism is on the rise around the world, especiall
- What Are Personality Disorders?
A personality disorder is a way of thinking, feeling and behaving that deviates from the expectations of the culture, causes distress or problems functioning, and lasts over time. Learn more at psychiatry.org.
- Narcissistic personality disorder - Symptoms and causes - Mayo Clinic
This mental health disorder includes an inflated sense of importance, a deep need for excessive admiration, fragile self-esteem and troubled relationships.
- Prometheus (2012) - IMDb
Prometheus: Directed by Ridley Scott. With Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron, Idris Elba. Following clues to the origin of mankind, a team finds a structure on a distant moon, but they soon realize they are not alone.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2012 Dean Traylor