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?

More Evidence that Visuals Far Outpace Text

Digiday surveyed attendees of its Agency Innovation Camp about how visual native ads stack up against text based native ads (hat tip: Richard Binhammer). More often than not, attendees favored visuals by 75 percent or more.

The below infographic states attendees opinions about native advertising environments.The survey does not have enough of a sample to be scientifically valid (80 attendees), but it does fall in line with general trends in the movement towards a visual Internet.

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The evidence continues to mount. As a strategist if you don’t include at least a hybrid visual/text approach to your content creation, then it’s fair to expect mediocre results. The argument that higher quality written content will still survive may be true for a select few properties, but the margin for success will continue to narrow.

Whether it’s photography, graphics or video, every piece of content today must communicate visually. The visual cannot be bolted on to content as an afterthought.

The purpose of said content — from an ad to a highly detailed piece of content that is text driven — must include visuals that are intentional in purpose. Visuals convey the meaning of said communication clearly and consiely, much quicker than the words do.

Text in many ways works with the visual to tell the richer story. Many won’t read all of the text. In fact, if someone is reading content on a smartphone, it’s likely they won’t get beyond the first paragraph. But the words are there in a transmedia sense for those who want to go further down the proverbial rabbit hole.

What do you think?

What I Learned at the Dog Park

Since we brought Michelle home, she has proven to be a high octane dog who needs some running time. Being the first one up at the Livingston household, I am often chaperone her to the local dog park. I see some amazing parallels at the dog park to the good and bad of online social networks.

My dog park consists of about 250 people. Everyone says hi to each other, and we learn a little about each other’s lives.

I often smoke a cigar in a corner and blog, or work on my iPad. This used to be my writing time, and I don’t want to give that up. As a result, I tend to a bit more of an observer than a central figure at the dog park.

Once you get below the initial niceties, you see a bit of some of the same issues you do online. There are cliques. Some people gossip incessantly about others. Others judge you. And others will tell you how to live your life.

I remember once I was sitting on my bench working and a fellow came in. Michelle walked over and started playing with his dog. A third gentlemen says, “There goes Michelle” to the newcomer, who responds, “I always hate that dog.” Then he realizes I heard him, and proceeds to talk quietly, avoiding me the rest of the morning. A week later he almost ran me over in his BMW speeding into the park.

Hmmm, this reminds me of a few bloggers I know.

In another case, one of the clique queen bees noticed Soleil had a red mark on her arm. She tells Caitlin (who was the chaperone that day) it may be some horrible disease carried by dogs, and insists that she leave for the Minute Clinic that moment, lest our little girl suffer terribly. A scared Caitlin rushes to the clinic to learn the verdict: Spider bite.

The next time we are at the park, said queen bee asks me in overly concerned tones about Soleil, and the offers some really unnecessary motherly platitudes of worry, and moves on. Another dog owner saddles up to me and proceeds to tell me all the ills of the clique leader.

All of these mini incidents (and others) are the same as the ills online. Misinformation, back stabbing, gossip, nastiness, etc. Yet, I still like going to the dog park. Because there are some great people here, too. I have some fantastic conversations with some surprisingly accomplished and humble people. It’s generally a nice place to go.

This is especially when I choose to simply ignore the very human failings of this small K-9 social network. In some cases, I know what to expect from folks so I limit my interactions with them, just like I do with similar types online.

The lesson is that people are people.

The wrongs of online communities are no different than the less visible ones of the real world. Wherever you go there you are, and the roles are often the same, regardless of physical or virtual context.

Perhaps the one difference is a perception of permanence online thanks to the everlasting digital record of things said and done. But even these can be learned from, allowing for personal growth.

In the end, online tribulations are good. We see ourselves. We realize who we are good and bad, and how we contribute to the positive and negative. And we can choose to participate in either, and possibly develop stronger relationships from it.

Like it or not, this is who we are.

What do you think?

Featured image by Natasha Ruzyinski.

Is Existing Online a Quest of Loneliness or Giving?

Lonely
Image by Den Den

Do you sense a lack of clear meaning in this online rat race? On one hand, existence stands in its purest form, reasons to be online, missions of the niche! Then we dilute existence with digital records of ice cream trips, Nike Fuel runs, and manufactured savoir faire.

Self determination now exists at its ultimate zenith, coupled with a bizarre sense loneliness.

YouTube star Jenna Marbles reflected recently in a NY Times article that with all of her online fame and popularity and friends, she finds herself in an odd state of loneliness. We have many boys and girls trapped in their own online bubbles now.

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Actors and Directors

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If you listen to conversations about online power — at least those supported by bloggers — strength centers on the individual voice. Yet, now that big money has arrived online, the solitary influential voice represents a role player in the Internet ecosystem.

Let’s use a metaphor to illustrate this point: Hollywood and its power structure of actors, directors and producers. Individual voices represent actors. Entities like budget-rich companies investing in online media, traditional media companies, publishing houses, and already successful individuals are the directors and producers.

This is not to demean individuals that have made a name for themselves online. Consistently excelling online as an influencer takes significant effort. There’s a reason why so many social media voices are obsessed with influence.

You can debate whether people garner attention or become noteworthy for achievements, but long-term success is not an accident. It’s the result of doing something right consistently over time.

Back to the metaphor… Everybody wants to work with the most successful actors (cough, stars [ugh]). We know this. Any blogger just needs to show you their in-box and the heaps of spam pitches they receive as proof points.

BUT.
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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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