My 2015 Narcissism Update (Because It Can’t Be About You)

I’ve been thinking about narcissism lately. You might believe it is because of Kim Kardashian’s epic oily butt shot, which certainly returned the queen of selfies to the position of top ranked Internet narcissist. Or perhaps the cause is last week’s incredible amount of Uber posts from social media experts turned management consultants.

But, in reality online narcissism is the primary thread in my next novel after The War to Persevere, which focuses on social media influencers (see, this really was about me).

The Atlantic noted earlier this year that whenever online narcissism is researched, the studies always seem to revolve around social media. There is a strong correlation between high frequency of social media use and narcissism.

That doesn’t mean every active online personality is a narcissist. Only the ones who need an audience to fulfill their self esteem.

I have questions and theories about online narcissism. Can you catch narcissism from others? Meaning can you fall in love with your own [perceived] digital awesomeness? Is narcissistic behavior something that can be learned through peer communities>

It does appear to happen. I’ve seen it myself.

Profile Pics and Praise

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Image by Cade Martin.

A narcissist thinks that awesome profile pic makes them look like their true sexy self, but in reality the pic is often just a thin veil. It is the digital pool of water to worship oneself in. We know these images are just overrated bits and bytes.

One can come to drink online praise and believe it. The hype defies reality, but when one sees it in words it is easy to believe. Likes and faves trigger a dopamine release, literally changing the mind .

Online narcissism is a bit like a drug addiction. It masks low self esteem. So in theory you crave more attention, and more, and more. Narcissists need approval. And the only way to placate the low self esteem beast is to engage more.

Social media fulfilled narcissism can leave you bankrupt. I have seen it, I have felt it.

You leave the social media likefest wanting a new drug. Like all self esteem stop-gaps, it doesn’t do the trick for me. In the end, if I want to feel good about myself then I must do esteemable things. It seems trite and simple, but in fact this is the only path, at least for me.

How many of our youth know about the dangers of online narcissism? How many will have to find out the hard way, succumbing to the dopamine rush?

Our very culture breeds narcissism. It is on the rise, and all of us will deal with the personality defects of the self-centered and their incessant drive for attention and fame. The worst will do anything to succeed, including throwing their peers under the bus.

Better change that hawt profile pic.

What do you think?

Remain Teachable

This weekend I attended the Writer’s Digest Annual Conference in New York City. What would a four-time author have to learn at an event like this? Quite a lot apparently. It was a worthwhile experience, one that I am glad I approached with an open mind.

I learned more about book publishing in one day than I had in the past eight months. From the rise of new hybrid publishers to independendent book marketing jujitsu, I gleaned many insights.

More than anything, in this day and age of super pundits it is so important to remain teachable. There are so many experts who sit atop their pedastals, and point out the Way it Should Be. We see fewer and fewer posts about how people learned and grew.

Point being is that everything changes. To stay ahead — or really to just keep pace — you have to remain open to evolutionary shifts. Things change so quickly that if you don’t, you will be made a novice again, like it or not. So it’s remain teachable or get lapped.

If I attended the conference as a know it all writer who had published four books, then I would have denied myself a great experience. For example, I did not know how powerful GoodReads Groups could be (I started on called Living in Words, please join us!), or that most Kickstarter campaigns succeed (80% to be exact) if they reach 20% of their funding. I learned a whole bunch about how authors are building value for their readers, keeping them interested beyond launch periods.

One thing that became clear at the conference (at least in my mind) is the day of a blogger launching a book to their social media community is not a sustainable model. Hustling book sales by posting ceaselessly online is coming to an end. People want valuable content and insights from authors, not personal branding or self-aggrandizing chest beating.

These are just a few of the insights I picked up this weekend.

Methods to Keep Growing

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Overall, the weekend got me thinking about remaining teachable. The ceiling for growth really lies within. Deciding how much one is willing to continue learning depends on how open-minded one is. Can we keep challenging our existing ideas and appraoches?

Here is a list of ways to exercise one’s mind:

  • Attend an industry conference
  • Take a class
  • Learn a new, but related sister skill
  • Read a book by a leading competitor
  • Travel to a different country and study a different culture
  • Use new tools to perform your work

These are just some of the ways I challenge myself. How do you push your own limits? Or do you settle for status quo?

The Safeway Test

Safeway is my local grocery store. It’s a remodelled one, open 24 hours with a Starbucks. Because it’s next to my gym, I am probably there three or four times a week.

No one knows who I am when I walk Safeway’s aisles. No one. Some people from the local neighborhood recognize me, but I never hear, “Hey, you’re Geoff Livingston, the blogger!” Or, “I see you on Twitter all the time!”

I like this anonymity. The lack of attention is real: It reminds me that I am not famous or special.

I see a lot of actions and words taken by influencers on back channels and on the public interwebs. The absolute nasty attitudes these people have with their peers, and yeah, sometimes me, is just astounding.

Over what, x0,000 followers? Or xx comments? Or x trade books published? Or access to xx?

Do people know who these mighty influencers are in their grocery stores?

It’s like people have forgotten where they came from. Perhaps folks were the uncoolest kids in high school, and now that they’ve garnered a little nano-popularity, they feel the need to wipe everyone’s nose in it. While quick to point out Justin Bieber’s inability to handle fame, they, too, act like teenagers spouting immature angst on their peers.

Putting Pants on One Leg at a Time

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Sometimes I act like a diva as well and spout some nastiness online, but I always try to come back to earth, and clean it up. I’m like any normal human and get annoyed at times. Yet I really try not to respond, and instead say nothing now.

The truth is as much as I dislike some of the things people say and do to me, I’m lucky to be pitched. It’s a really quality problem to not be able to respond to everything folks ask me. I am fortunate to be read well enough that I catch negative comments.

These aren’t even normal first world problems. Most people want to be in this position. Let’s be clear, interest is not a given thing. I could lose momentum at any point in my career.

If someone is really bugging me online, I just unfollow them. It’s not necessary to act-out. It’s not. Last week a peer called me an idiot in a bit of a drunken rant on Facebook. It wasn’t the first time I had seen such nastiness from x, just the first time directed at me. So I deleted the comment and unfriended, and I haven’t thought about it since. Some folks are incapable of getting it.

I wish that moment was an isolated incident, but I see influencer tantrums and bad behavior almost every day now.

In my co-working facility Connect113, I work next to a couple of folks who engage in social media for a well-known hair product brand. Because of a certain shine on my head, they can tell I chat to be friendly, not because I want their business or a free trip to the salon. The stories they can tell about bloggers, oh my.

Everyone of us puts our pants on one-leg at time (if we are wearing pants that day). Few of us actually have an original opinion, we’re almost always riffing off of someone else’s research or punditry.

None of us can say that the people we engage with won’t be our bosses or clients or competitors at some point. That’s regardless of age, folks. That 25-year old kid getting a dose of bloggy attitude about an email or tweet they sent might just be the boss in five or 10 years.

No, I am aware of these truths. That’s the benefit of the Safeway Test.

Something to think about going into the weekend without our Klout scores.

</RANT>

Featured image by mcicki.

Deconstructing Identity in the 21st Century

Andy Warhol saw Marilyn Monroe in many different ways...

Andy Warhol saw Marilyn Monroe in many different ways…

Never before has the individual identity been so empowered, nor has personal empowerment relied on others to this degree. Identity in the hyper-connected digital era exists in a paradox.

As we sacrifice privacy and more of our personal lives come online, the singular concept of a man or woman in control of their own manifest destiny falls.

While we share individual pieces of our lives, the image of ourselves we want people to see shifts. Our peers and family members add their own touches to the picture. Identity is no longer controlled by the individual, rather it’s painted in an impressionist or abstract fashion by their peers.

Further, identity is fractured, an overlapping jigsaw puzzle of roles. In one corner you have your work identity, in another family, and in a third, hobbies. On and on.

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Awakening from Delusions of Grandeur

is the ego a window to the soul
Image by alshepmcr

It’s a strange world we live in online. Delusions of grandeur call, singing like that sweet Siren in the midst of the sea. To win, we must appear like we are Doing Important Things, but in the end we find our lives dashed on the rocks.

I’m speaking about the competitive rat race to see who can get the most social media rock star badges; keynotes, books, followings, awards, blog mentions, yeah!

I have to admit, I got caught up in this hooplah again during the past year. Then I looked at my real life (the one I physically walk around in), and my toddler clinging to my pants leg crying every time I moved to the door, afraid that she wouldn’t see me again for days.

Well, when that happens it’s time to reevaluate what matters.

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My TweetEsteem Issues

Yeah.

I admit it. I know I’m not the only one, too.

My mood rides on my social share count. It always has.

While I tried to be cool and say this didn’t matter, after a period of unpopularity, I totally know that’s bullshit.

I enjoy it when posts get read, liked and shared by you.

I feel like a success when you retweet, and like I bombed when you don’t.

Yeah, that’s pathetic, and I know it. But so true.

I have TweetEsteem(™) issues.

Like me (please?!?!?),

Geoff