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

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?


  • Someone knows how to make bald beautiful.

  • Hmmmm. I don’t know the answer to this question. I personally find that online media has opened up many real connections (IRL) to me. I measure my success more by those kinds of metrics than by online vanity measures. (I recently attended a summit organized by Tea Silvestre Godfrey on deepening online relationships, and event that has become a movement and community.) I feel online media can expand the human heart by creating an immediacy of connection and exposure to many more people — that “circle of empathy” we hear about. So maybe all online media does is show us who we are and invite us to observe ourselves, and grow in awareness. I am hopeful that this aspect of social media will prove more enduring than the shallow narcissism that you describe.

  • One step at a time, Geoff; one step at a time.

  • I believe that social media, like rap music, just reveals issues such as narcissism instead of actually creating them. And Kim Kardashian isn’t remotely a narcissist, she’s a global brand worth $65 million, part of a family empire worth $80 million and married to someone worth $100 million himself. They’re a brand. They’re produced. They’re a product.

    • Well, I ‘m disagreeing with you on that. If you click through the links that the narcissism is on the rise because of social media, not revealed by it. Refute the research, not the post.

      Causes are uncertain, but when we celebrate narcissists and attention-mongers like Kim Kardashian it is only a matter of time before children and young adults emulate them.

      • I am always afraid of throwing the “narcissism” card is a way of putting people down who are just trying to find their own voice. People only call other people narcissists if they fancy that person uncouth, rude, low, shallow, or unworthy. Even deciding to be a writer, actor, singer, or poet demands a high level of arrogance, confidence, and even narcissism: a belief that anyone who gives you bad reviews, pans your book, eviscerates your play, or calls you a hack is nothing more than a “jealous hater” is the sort of self-assurance I can’t even remotely manifest. If it works, then you’re a genius; if it doesn’t, then you’re a delusional narcissist.

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