Social Media and Narcissism

social media venn diagramIt’s time for some head shrinking!

Today’s Topic:

Does the use of Twitter, Facebook, blogs and other social media make us appear more narcissistic than we really are?

It’s been an interesting few weeks for me. In a jumble of health problems, sleep deprivation, writing my story about surviving lung failure, travel, sticking up for a friend and other controversial conversations (not to mention trying to wean myself off caffeine) I’ve been a little more emotional than usual. I’ve had some things I’ve vented to a friend in confidence blow up in my face, and it’s made me do a lot of critical thinking about myself.

I am pretty open about talking about my struggles with ongoing depression on my blog. I am on medication, I read books on self-improvement and I see a therapist. But after a year and a half of teetering on the edge of my sanity, I decided to get a full psychological evaluation. Yep, I’m going there.

I filled out a packet of intake forms, met with a psychologist, then filled out a Scantron form with answers to 250 yes/no questions. They psychologist asked a lot of questions about my support network, past medical and mental health incidents, body image issues, and I feel like I answered openly and honestly. A week later I got an 8 page summary of the psychologist’s impressions and recommendations for me.

Without going into too much detail, I was really surprised to read words like “inflated sense of self, ” “superficially charming,” “immature,” and “exhibitionistic and narcissistic.” I think that everyone has moments where they seem a little more prideful or immature. I know I’m guilty of it, but I think it’s more the exception, not the rule. When my friends talk about me on Twitter, they say these type of things:

kate pease comment

In my studies of Dr. Google and Dr. Wikipedia, I realized that there is a spectrum of states of narcissism. When most people think of narcissism, this common and general definition comes to mind:

Some psychoanalysts and writers make a distinction between “healthy narcissism” and “unhealthy narcissism“…the healthy narcissist being someone who has a real sense of self-esteem that can enable them to leave their imprint on the world, but who can also share in the emotional life of others. According to Freud, healthy narcisissm is natural part of the human makeup, but also a characteristic that if taken to extremes can prevent us from having meaningful relationships.

Bearing all this in mind, how do you think that social media affects narcissism? Does it allow the vain to become vainer? Is it a safe place to explore your feelings of self-esteem? Have you had experiences where you’ve made a better/worse first impression on people because of the way you’ve portrayed yourself online? Are you careful to not allow the deeper parts to show in your virtual persona? Do you think that people uninvolved with social media misunderstand the sense of support and community that websites like Twitter and Facebook provide?

Blog Stalking – Creepy or Complimentary?

I am certifiably addicted to blogs. I’ve been a blogger on and off for seven years. As of today, I have 357 different subscriptions in my Google Reader, plus about 15 private blogs I follow (yeah, I know I’m crazy). I don’t read EVERYTHING in detail, and I usually only comment if there’s something particularly noteworthy. I’d do nothing but read blogs if I commented on every post (which I used to do). Some blogs I’ve been following as far back as 2002, and I stick in a few new subscriptions a month.

When I find a blog that strikes my interest, I usually read it all the way back to the beginning. That way I have reference to different family member names, significant events, etc. I spent the better part of my free time reading all of the archives on Dooce this summer. I’ve met approximately 20 of my blogger friends in the last two years in real life. After reading their stories, I rarely have any awkwardness meeting IRL. I call this “reading all the way back to the beginning of the blog” phenomenon blog stalking. When I tell a fellow blogger that I’ve stalked them, I mean it as a great compliment.

A few months ago I stumbled upon a blog of a girl from my ward. She had an interesting story and wonderful humor, and I read all of her archives. She was an acquaintence, we had common friends, and I requested her as a friend on Facebook. She immediately accepted, and we chatted well into the evening about various topics. We had kids in the same primary class, went to the same college, and I was looking forward to getting to know her better. The next time I saw her at church, I told her I’d stalked her blog back to the beginning. After church I went to look at her FB page, and she had disappeared. Not only off my friends’ list, but she wasn’t even found in the search feature. This means she had unfriended AND blocked me. Then I went to her blog…it was changed from public to private. Every subsequent time I tried to talk to her, she acted nervous and began avoiding me. I don’t remember saying anything offensive to her….my only guess is that she was creeped out by the term “blog stalking.”

Another blogging acquaintence friended me on FB this week, and we also had a good instant message conversation. I joked that I enjoyed stalking her blog, and she replied that she liked stalking mine. Yesterday I decided to contact her on FB to ask her out to lunch….and it was like deja vu – off my friends list, all previous wall posts disappeared, and not found in search. I know that being “friends” online isn’t the most important thing…but I’ve been feeling sad about it.

So opinion time…do you think the term “blog stalking” is creepy or complimentary?

Better Than This

This morning I got an email from Facebook’s Compare People application, where you have a superlative description (most beautiful, most insane, etc) and photos of two people to vote on. Since I added the app, my “rankings” compared to my other Facebook friends have stayed pretty firm. But after reading today’s email, it appears I’ve lost a lot of popularity this week:

Changes in your ranks:
#2 most likely to succeed (lost 1 place)
#4 most punctual (lost 3 places)
#5 most organized (lost 4 places)
#6 most powerful (lost 3 places)
#8 person who can drink the most (lost 6 places)

At first I was a little disappointed. I liked the ranking of most likely to succeed. It felt like a trite and cyber-reality way to feel recognized for the effort I’ve put into my life to achieve success . And I know it’s not important, but I’m insecure. I had to give myself a pep talk: “Nicole, you’re SO much better than this.”

And speaking of better than this: Keane is releasing their “Better Than This” single on March 16. It’s the least Keane-sounding Keane song…and I love it.

Is this what you meant? Is this what you dreamed of? When you were making your plans, shaking the dirt off? Do you feel like you and I belong? (Oh woah oh!)Just keep your eyes on the road and nothing can go wrong

You can do so much better than this…You can do so much better than this

I’ve been checking my sums, oh where did the time go? Holding my photograph up to the window. Through the paper and refracted sun (Oh woah oh!) I can see all the things I wish that I’d done

You can hang your hopes on the medicine. You can put your faith in the phone in.You can tell yourself you’re doing your best. You can do so much better than this

Get a grip on yourself, Get a grip on yourself

Could’ve been something, but you’re too late. And you weren’t invited anyway. Cos the photograph showed the wrong man. Cos there is no soap star holding your hand. You don’t see yourself in the freeze frame. Must be someone else using your name. And everyone will be the same.And everyone will gloat, and everywhere you’ll see your name in every shop window

And speaking of Keane…65 more days till the Keane show at the LA Palladium. Woot!