Haven’t you heard? Narcissism is the latest fashion statement categorized by the plethora of self-portraits, friend combing and haphazard promotion in the online social networking world, the inflated high school cafeteria, of say, Facebook.
In short, you have truly arrived. You’re stylish, fun and accepted. You’re allowed to stroke your ego, express yourself to the max, pimp your image, borrow other people’s friends, and rub it in. Is that wrong? Perhaps it’s a good thing to wear your profile on your sleeve, express yourself, and clear the air. It may alleviate some of the self-esteem issues out there, inspire people to inhale less pills, and make hermits feel included. Or maybe not.
Let’s explore some definitions of narcissism so you can feel completely justified in your self-love. You may think, no, that’s not me, I’m not a narcissist – everyone is doing it, this Twitter, Myspace and Facebook thing – I’m just along for the ride. But do you love yourself more than you think? See where you fare:
a. Your self-love consists of an exceptional interest in and admiration for yourself, so much so that you shut out everyone else.
b. Your love surpasses the emotional and dives into the physical. Your sexual desire for your body is extreme.
c. Your ego is so big that you have a magnified idea of your own importance. You live in a bubble and are quite pleased with yourself – you can do no wrong.
d. You have a mature, balanced love of yourself coupled with a stable sense of self-worth and self-esteem. You know your boundaries and have a realistic appraisal of your achievements and traits.
The online social networking world tests the meaning of narcissism, since every participant is a narcissist to some degree. We paint pictures of ourselves, self-portraits that are instructive, self-expressive and self-seeking. These pictures expose and clarify, as well as obscure and distort, how we see our true selves and how we want to be seen by others. The display is a mix of egotism and modesty, self-flattery and self-mockery. If you chose (d) then you are a healthy narcissist. Feel better?
Painters paint murals of people in their lives, writers write memoirs or fictional accounts of their experiences, and singers sing songs of heartbreak, with an occasional name dropping chorus. On Facebook, you’re an artist creating an image of perfection and inviting an audience to respond. It fulfills your need for attention, which is only natural. You’re a one-person show from the comfort of your home, creating friendships, finding love, and feeling strangely connected. Altering, updating and tweaking your online self is a way of life, necessary and addictive. The commitment to self-exposure, as well as blind faith in the actions and reactions of others, is encouraged – a vehicle for self-preservation.
The online social world resembles high school except this time around, you are Queen. You’re amazing, in control, never felt better. The top of the social ladder is yours. You post your picture diary and everyone comments. You read everyone else’s diary too, sucked into another world. Voyeurism is the core and judgment the flower. Your profile is a carefully planned media campaign and requires constant grooming and consideration. Everyone is a business, advertised and naked. Rejection is damaging, and being ignored sucks. To some, high school doesn’t look that bad.
Yes, status-seeking can produce a nasty side-effect: anxiety. There’s a deprecating quality in the online world that can drain a person’s confidence. Now, if you’re a healthy narcissist, nothing bothers you. You are confident no matter what. Who cares if your friends have more friends than you? Who cares if no one comments on your status? Who gives a shit if your friend doesn’t answer you after you sent a heartfelt private message and then waited for four whole days? It doesn’t hurt, does it? Oh… it does?
No, you kick the paranoia and move on. Any great writer or artist, when breaking out, had to deal with contentious feedback and low sales. They are part of the growing pains of a new trend, a risk, and a road not yet conquered. Eventually, the artist will gain followers or be copied – the highest form of flattery and admiration.
So go big or go home. Love thyself. You’re already there – you can taste the popularity, thick and bittersweet. Go for it. Grow your friend count, update your status nonstop, take sexy snaps of yourself and post them right away. Take more photos of your pets and children. Instant news and party pics work very well, as do funny, smart and hot. Promote your company. Start a blog when Facebook isn’t enough. Share your innermost thoughts, experiences and musings, be brave. After all, doesn’t sharing mean that you care?
Or is investing too much energy into self-presentation mean that you miss chances to genuinely improve yourself? Maybe it’s possible to do both, balancing live contact, an honest concern for others, and being an all-around good person.
Author: Sarka Kocicka