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:
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?