STFU: Social Media and Narcissism

monalisaselfie

Correlating social media with narcissism is one of the weakest moves I’ve ever seen mainstream media and culture critics do. New York Times bombarded us with article after article pontificating on whether Millenials are doomed to generational failures revolving around selfie-indulgence and thirsty vines. They collected a panel of ‘experts’ on Facebook and Narcissism to waste my time reading their garbage last year and I’ve belatedly decided to give it my review. It’s still relevant because I hear stuff like this all the time. It’s my blog so I’ll vent if I wanna. Here’s the lowdown:

  • Seeing Narcissists Everywhere – Spotlights Jean Twenge who says self-esteem is not a key to success. It’s actually detrimental. Somehow young people are screwing themselves trying to remain positive during one of the worst economic downturns in American history. Believing in yourself? Baaaaaaaaad.
  • Social Media is a Narcissism Enabler – This woman actually gets to promote her book in an editorial. She says folks who need a self-esteem boost turn to social media. Somehow reaching out to your network for affirmation results in a personality disorder? Strange leaps of logic. Questionable method of qualifying data in order to say “Millenials are special, problematic brand of generational worries” because that has always appealed to grumpy old people.
  • Don’t Hate The Player, Hate The Game – The founder of 4chan, Chris Poole, shades Facebook by saying his neckbeard dudebros anonymously trolling women with upskirt photos, doxxing, and rape threats is good for humanity. Shedding your identity is freeing … for misogynistic nerds with a beta male complex griping about women’s rights. He basically gets to hock his own brand. Let’s talk about men getting together to stalk women online. That should be the real 4chan editorial.
  • Facebook Isn’t The Problem – Some C-list actor named Joe Holt gripes about his industry friends “bragging” about booking gigs. Somehow it’s poor etiquette. Or maybe he’s bitter. I personally don’t get upset when other people share about their personal milestones. I’d rather be happy for them. Seeing other folks in his profession doing well bothers him. Isn’t that narcissistic? The inability to be happy for others?
  • The New Normal – Self-proclaimed ‘old timer’ Bruce McKinney says social media would “shock a psychologist” with the rampant narcissism. He wants to stick with his landline and emails. Even texting on phones seems ludicrous. That’s his argument. Texting is narcissism. The end. He’s a communications professor in North Carolina. Wilmington. Random. Okay. Bye.
  • The Perfect Stage – At least Eleanor Payson, a psychotherapist, differentiates between narcissism and actual narcissistic personality disorder because most of these articles do not. This one is the most tolerable. While she states social media can be abused (because we can overdo so many things in this life) it can also be used for “positive purposes” and shake the world.

At this point, I couldn’t take it anymore. There are two young people (here and here) defending social media and basically debunking this narcissism hysteria, which points to the generational gap where the older folks don’t want to learn how to use something new. There’s an older gent named Jeff Bullas who makes excellent points but he is a digital marketer—he’s paid to understand this stuff. NYT is essentially catering to the older readers who feel befuddled and frustrated about social media and want a dialogue where they can see their frustrations aired out in a reputable news source. If they see it on the Times then they feel good going, “See. It’s not just me.” It justifies their feelings. It makes them feel good to pathologize something they can’t understand. Social media doesn’t create narcissism. It may facilitate, but what communication tool or platform doesn’t?

This is very poor dialogue. There is no legit critique about social media in this roundtable. What bothers me is that there are legitimate issues with social media, especially around: a.) corporate marketing and the revenue models of Twitter are tied together b.) the way privacy and Net Neutrality is developing c.) how ‘new media’ is turning into some content farming listicle factory for clickbait revenue. Do better.

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