According to Wikipedia.org:
Narcissism is a term with a wide range of meanings, depending on whether it is used to describe a central concept of psychoanalytic theory, a mental illness, a social or cultural problem, or simply a personality trait. Except in the sense of primary narcissism or healthy self-love, "narcissism" usually is used to describe some kind of problem in a person or group's relationships with self and others. In everyday speech, "narcissism" often means egoism, vanity, conceit, or simple selfishness. Applied to a social group, it is sometimes used to denote elitism or an indifference to the plight of others. In psychology, the term is used to describe both normal self-love and unhealthy self-absorption due to a disturbance in the sense of self.While not every person on Facebook is a narcissist per se, (a)social networking as a whole is a breeding ground that fosters narcissism and it is the kind of environment where narcissism thrives.
Some of the common traits and signs of narcissism are:
- An obvious self-focus in interpersonal exchanges
- Problems in sustaining satisfying relationships
- A lack of psychological awareness (see insight in psychology and psychiatry, egosyntonic)
- Difficulty with empathy
- Problems distinguishing the self from others (see narcissism and boundaries)
- Hypersensitivity to any insults or imagined insults (see criticism and narcissists, narcissistic rage and narcissistic injury)
- Vulnerability to shame rather than guilt
- Haughty body language
- Flattery towards people who admire and affirm them (narcissistic supply)
- Detesting those who do not admire them (narcissistic abuse)
- Using other people without considering the cost of doing so
- Pretending to be more important than they really are
- Bragging (subtly but persistently) and exaggerating their achievements
- Claiming to be an "expert" at many things
- Inability to view the world from the perspective of other people
- Denial of remorse and gratitude
Looking at the list above, it is obvious that many of the traits of narcissism are everywhere on sites such as Facebook. One example is an obvious self-focus in interpersonal exchanges. Sites like Facebook make it easy to only focus on yourself through expression. In fact, at times it may feel impossible to not focus on yourself. People tend to focus on themselves in every area of life, but unlike a real friendship, an (a)social networking friendship centers around the self. The user is encouraged to share everything about their own life to the world or risk being buried in other people's posts. Many of these posts seem mundane. As a result, a person is compelled to share what they ate for breakfast, how much they walked on a given day, where they parked their car, what they are doing next week, post pictures of the dinner they ordered at Denny's, etc.
Sustaining satisfying relationships is also a huge problem with (a)social networking. This is most apparent if you leave the site. Many of the relationships you thought you had will vanish. This is true, as I have found, even with certain family members. You may think that you have a great relationship with someone, but if you deactivate your account, you may never hear from them again. Even if you make a conscious and calculated effort to become friends with them, they may figure that you should go back to Facebook if you want to be their friend, and if you don't, then a real friendship cannot be had. This type of thinking makes it almost impossible to sustain a satisfying relationship with someone. A real relationship can not be exclusively had via (a)social networking, yet many individuals believe that one must be a friend on Facebook if they are to be friends. The idea of what a real friendship is lost to many who actually live on sites like Facebook. If you are not on Facebook, you do not exist in their world.
Another example from the list above is narcissistic supply, or flattery towards people who admire and affirm them. On Facebook, many people have 'circles of friends', with certain people being in the inner circle. Everyone has friends who they are closer with than others. However, usually that information is not put on display. Imagine if I was to say to some of my friends every time I saw them, "you are a good friend, but we are not as close as I am with Crystal and John." On Facebook, that information is often put on display for the entire world. On Facebook, if one posts comments on another person's wall, chances are, they will get a comment back on their wall. Some people feel the need to have comments posted on their wall, and will go on a fishing expedition. Commenting on enough friends may get you a few bites, and in the end you might even reel in a nice comment on your own wall about how wonderful of a person you are. This feeling is addictive, and you may find yourself constantly searching for this feeling.
Bragging (subtly but persistently) and exaggerating ones achievements is a huge mark of narcissism that is seen on Facebook. In fact, such bragging is often anything but subtle. The wall feature makes it easy to brag about every little part of one's life, no matter how ordinary. Examples include where someone ate, what kind of purse someone bought, where someone went on a date to, who it was with, how much they love their new job, how wonderful their grades were, etc. As a student, I have seen classmates post their grades on their Facebook wall many times. I always found this to be somewhat tacky, as I tend to not share my own grades with others, no matter how good I did. I have had friends who would bombard the world with pictures of their eBay clothes purchases, pictures of college loan money after the checks were cashed, and pictures of body parts that they had been endowed with. In real life many people would not go this far. If they did, many would wonder if there was something mentally wrong with these individuals. However, such behavior on (a)social networking sites is not only the norm, it's expected.
Just as people brag incessantly on Facebook, many will exaggerate their achievements. Educational attainment is one that I see very often. Many people will stop at nothing to make you think that they are smarter than they really are. Yet, how smart are you if you have to brag on an (a)social networking site? It is easy to lie or at least stretch the truth. Who is going to catch you? Chances are, many of the people on your Facebook friends list are people who you do not live anywhere near. Classmates from high school have not seen you since graduation day. Others you may barely even know. Although you may have taken a summer class at Berkeley Extension, you might as well just state that you attended U.C. Berkeley. Who is going to know, and technically it's true, and the result: people will perceive you as smarter for it. You might even put that you graduated from U.C. Berkeley. That's even more impressive. Although not everyone on (a)social networking lies, when it is easy to stretch the truth, many people will when it becomes part of the game.
Facebook and (a)social networking also fosters an inability to view the world from the perspective of other people. One would think that being surrounded by many people on your friends list would make it easy to see the world through the eyes of others. However, this is not the case. Paradoxically, users become so self-absorbed with their own lives that they barely understand others. Instead of fostering real friendships, they find themselves barricaded in their homes or behind their cell phones living life vicariously. When one steps outside, chances are the urge to grab the phone and check one's profile or Twitter feed is so intense that it cannot be ignored. This kind of immediate gratification and satisfaction of primal urges does nothing to allow a person to understand others. Instead, one finds themselves ignoring family, friends, and other people while advertising what an amazing person they are or trying to keep up with a sibling or "friend". If that is not narcissism, I don't know what is.
In conclusion, the facts point out that Facebook is the kind of dank breeding ground that attracts and fosters narcissism in many shapes and forms. I have only touched the surface in this post. If you still doubt that Facebook is a narcissists dreamworld, then I implore you to take another look at the site, question what you see, and apply it to the list above. Chances are you will see that many of these traits are embraced by many of the users. This does not make them bad people. To the contrary, they are using the site as intended. Feeling good about yourself is addictive, and many people feel good about themselves when they express their achievements to the world. The problem is, (a)social networking sucks the user in, makes them dependent on these 'good feelings' and, in the end, cripples real friendships. Would any 'real world' friendship thrive if the relationship was one sided, if each individual only talked about themselves? Probably not. However, such relationships easily exist on Facebook, as the more people you have on your friends list makes it so more people can see what an amazing life you are living behind that screen.