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?

Trolling Is the Pastime of Sadists and Psychopaths

A recent ScienceDirect study made news when it revealed that most online trolls demonstrate sadistic and psychopathic tendencies. Other behavior patterns trolls exhibit include Machiavellianism and narcissism.

Grist called the grouping, “the Dark Tetrad”, interpreting the reports definitions as follows:

  • Machiavellianism (willingness to manipulate and deceive others)
  • Narcissism (egotism and self-obsession)
  • Psychopathy (the lack of remorse and empathy)
  • Sadism (pleasure in the suffering of others).

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Paper authors Erin Buckels, Paul D. Trapnellb, Delroy L. Paulhusc of the University of Manitoba go on to say, “Of all personality measures, sadism showed the most robust associations with trolling and, importantly, the relationship was specific to trolling behavior. Enjoyment of other online activities, such as chatting and debating, was unrelated to sadism. Thus cyber-trolling appears to be an Internet manifestation of everyday sadism.”

So what does this mean for online personalities, brands and their community managers?

Online trolls tend to be nasty people. Take them with a grain of salt and move on as quickly as you can, just like you would in real life.

Let’s be clear, serial grief-givers aren’t the run of the mill angry customer. According to the ScienceDirect research about 5.6% of the online population enjoys trolling. You are looking at a significant minority of everyday online voices.

A key identifier is that trolls enjoy giving brands and other people a difficult time. So when a conversation leaves the realm of reasonable complaint and turns into a provocative series of shots aimed to get a person to retaliate, it’s time to detach.

Google the person’s name, and check their social feeds. Does a litany of negativity follow them? It’s hard for a troll to live long on the Internet without leaving a trail of proverbial tears.

Brands sometimes have to respond. At the same time, many businesses simply don’t, or state that they have done the best they can based on their particular process. When it’s a troll, nothing you do will be right. It’s not personal. You may as well send them onto their next encounter.

What do you think?

Image credits: Trolls from the Hobbit, originally found on One Wiki to Rule Them All. E.E. Buckels et al via Grist

This post ran originally on the Vocus blog.

Me and the Mustard

Mmm...mustard on daikon/carrot pickle (do chua)
Image by Jeffrey W

Much has been said good and bad about using the first person singular — me, myself and I — in social media and other forms of writing. It’s a voice of free expression or the epitome of narcissism.

So what should an aspiring writer do?

The first person voice provides a narrative view or discussion with the author as a keep participant in the post. The author’s point of view is clearly presented. But because of grammar weaknesses, traditional writing courses still frown upon me, myself and I, and encourage third person pronoun usage.

Initially, when blogging became popular first person singular usage was viewed as a breath of fresh air, infusing personality into a world of stiff, formal business writing. The new perspective was delightful, offering unprecedented insights into corporations with well manicured images and boring messaging.

But then Internet fame happened. Some bloggers took the acclaim seriously, and the “Is” flew more and more liberally. Sharing personal experiences became excessive, and writing became an act of self embellishment.

A backlash has begun. Cries of narcissism and even self loathing of narcissistic behavior have arisen. Studies show that while initially popular, narcissists lose traction in deeper meaningful relationships over time. In that sense, blogging provides the perfect cover for the narcissist. The relationship with readers is shallow, yet the admiration is public and highly visible. So close, yet so far away.

Does that mean the word, “I” is the tip-off, a sign of the self-centered soul? No, not necessarily. The first person singular can be used well, to share personal experiences of value, to highlight what one person did, and how those events turned out. It can even be used to express the opinion of the voice, which can be highly entertaining if they are a bonafide subject matter expert.

Like all things, if one intends to partake, healthy moderation makes it go down easier. Since it’s the Fourth of July, consider the traditional hot dog. How good is a hot dog drowning in mustard? It’s not (of course, some reader will protest). Basting a hot dog with too much mustard spoils the taste of the meat, the roll and other condiments. It’s all mustard and that’s no good.

If one intends to blog first person, it takes a deft hand. Like the hot dog, first person is best done in moderation. It should present a point of view, rather than becoming the center of discussion. Frequency is a big tip off. An average of one I per paragraph or less shows an experience, but an average of one I per sentence is pretty blatant in its self centeredness.

What do you think of the first person singular?