Is Facebook Feeding the Narcissist Ego?

Narcissism is increasing

It probably comes as no surprise to you, but society appears to have become more self-focused and more tuned in to “me” time. This is certainly made obvious by the minute to minute updates posted on Facebook, MySpace or Twitter. Social media minded and tech savvy “millennials” are the most narcissistic generation on record; the prevalence of young adults being diagnosed with narcissism continues to rise. This is the era of me-focused social media; people check their pages or sites multiple times a day from their laptop, smart phone or other mobile device.

According to Jessica Benjamin (2000; “The Oedipal Riddle”), the era of the Oedipal complex has been replaced by the era of narcissism. She states:

“According to recent cultural criticism, Narcissus has replaced Oedipus as the myth of our time. Narcissism is now seen to be at the root of everything from the ill-fated romance with violent revolution to the enthralled mass consumption of state-of-the-art products and the ‘lifestyles of the rich and famous.”

In the age of consumerism and self-absorption, alarms are going off in the media that our society is increasingly becoming more narcissistic. Not unexpectedly, ‘popular culture’ is being blamed, from reality TV shows to social networking sites. Facebook, in particular, has come under attack as fanning the fire of narcissism.

Why Facebook?

Facebook is the largest social networking site and it continues to grow daily. There are currently about one billion members worldwide; there were 901,000,000 members in March 2012 with the projected number for early 2013 at the one billionth mark). Although it originated with the college student population in mind, current members span all age ranges. With Facebook’s huge audience and noticeable presence in our daily lives, it is easy to see why it would be suspected of having an influence on our culture.

What does the Research Show?

Research from Western Illinois University supported previous studies that Facebook appeals to our narcissistic tendencies. The study was published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences; it found that people who updated their Facebook status frequently, tagged themselves in photos, and had large numbers of friends were more likely to demonstrate traits of narcissism. A different study found that individuals who spent an hour or more on Facebook every day had higher levels of narcissism.

But in 4/2912, a study by researchers at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington and the University of Hartford found that the time spent on Facebook was not associated with narcissism. Narcissism was correlated only with those who had an unrealistically high number of Facebook ‘friends’. What appeared to be narcissistic self-promoting behavior was simply a manifestation of a generation that grew up in the digital age; they were using the sharing of personal information on Facebook as a means of maintaining relationships. On the other hand, the researchers found that the highest scores on a narcissism inventory were associated with tweeting about themselves on Twitter.

Most of these studies were done on college students and had 300 or less participants. New research from Australia surveyed over one thousand people between the ages of 18 and 44 instead of just college students as the previous studies had done. They reported that Facebook users were more narcissistic and extroverted than non-users. They found a correlation between Facebook usage and higher scores on exhibitionism, leadership and narcissism. However, these researchers did not find any correlation between time spent on Facebook and narcissism but instead found that it correlated with neuroticism and loneliness. They concluded, “It could be argued that Facebook specifically gratifies the narcissistic individual’s need to engage in self-promoting and superficial behavior.”

Conclusion

The rise in narcissism has coincided with the explosion of Facebook; however, recent research suggests that Facebook usage, in general, is not a sign of narcissism, but simply a manifestation of the times we live in. There is an exception to that statement; several studies did agree that users who amassed an unusually large number of Facebook friends had higher scores on an inventory that assessed levels of narcissism. People have made an erroneous cause-and-effect association between Facebook use and increasing levels of narcissism. There are opposing views as to whether time spent daily on Facebook is indicative of narcissistic traits. Most of the research had a relatively small number of participants, or a small number of nonusers, or another research study flaw. But given the consistency of results in some areas, it seems safe to say that Facebook usage does not increase the level of narcissism nor cause narcissism. However, if a person already has the personality traits associated with narcissism than Facebook and Twitter are probably good outlets to satisfy his or her need to be admired by many casual ‘friends’.

To further reinforce this position, one writer pointed out that by the time a child is old enough to join Facebook, the roots of narcissism would have already had a solid foundation.

References:

  1. http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/fulfillment-at-any-age/201211/what’s-new-in-narcissism
  2. http://www.guarian.co.uk/technology/2012/mar/17/facebook-dark-side-study-aggressive-narcissism
  3. http://news.discovery.com/tech/dont-blame-facebook-narcissism-epidemic
  4. http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/05/17/does-facebook-turn-people-into-narcissists/
  5. http://www.psmag.com/culture-society/australian-study-links-facebook-use-with-narcissism-29129

About Alexander Burgemeester

3 Responses to “Is Facebook Feeding the Narcissist Ego?”

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  1. jacki says:

    My ex has about 20000 “fans” following him on fb personally and professionally, yet is unemployed and living on welfare. in london that’s not so easy to do. but he manages. he’s not living in my flat any longer.

    He needs the constant reinforcement. He even went to bed with his fb phone so he could get his fix.

    Everyone connected to him online sees him as wise, generous, spiritual, exciting- a real renaissance guy who wants to bring good to everyone’s lives.

    It’s a projection. He’s hanging in by a thread. FB has fed his problems and wrecked our relationship. Or maybe it saved me because his core need for being center stage to bolster his self-esteem came to the forefront.

    Maybe instead of 6 years, I’d be out of it 12 years from now because it wouldn’t have been as obvious that he is a narcissist. A self-pitying narcissist is what a therapist told me two years ago when I was trying to find a way out after being hurt so many times and feeling like it was my fault. My fault he needs to be on FB constantly and have a relationship with thousands of women because the shrew he lives with is so cold he cannot have one in real life. Never mind that he’d been living off of me almost since I met him and I bought his story hook line and sinker because I was lonely, wanted the fantasy of normal he sold to me, and believed him when he said he loved me.

    I actually think he does love me and has no idea how to access that quality of being with a person reciprocally on a consistent basis. He knew there was something very wrong with him and he knew he was hurting me. He asked me for help. He did go to a psychiatrist and a therapist. Of course he was busy on an online dating site at the time since I apparently was too emasculating because of the resentment he felt at me for supporting him financially, emotionally and mentally. I didn’t know it at the time. It was part of his p*********y and facebook fantasy defense mechanism. When he kept failing with me, he had to reclaim his image online. He started falling apart when he the reality of his life didn’t mesh with his online image. I still love the person he is inside somewhere. I wish I knew how to get him to come out and give up his victimhood.

    his love affair with FB really screwed up my life and self-concept. I never knew I’d be in competition or feel threatened by a virtual world. I never thought I’d want to throw up when I had to ask him if we were still in a relationship online as part of our status. Unreal. Like being with a teenager. I became an insecure teen around him who felt threatened by the power he has online with his scores of followers. Unreal. makes me sick to look at myself as becoming so weak. I’ve been told it’s cognitive dissonance and a form of stockholm syndrome- that what I feel now is a form of ptsd and that I was in an abusive relationship. I never saw it as abusive. he always told me how great i was and how i could do anything. i actually think he meant it and would still mean it today because a large part of why we aren’t together is that he realized he’d never be a real partner to me. we were moving apart- him downhill and me toward success. except everytime i was experiencing success he’d show up with a crisis. no money. no food. no job. fear. overwhelm. family problems. to make himself feel better he’d go online to find people who think of him as a rockstar. never mind he was threatening suicide at home and breaking things. how did it come to be that i thought this was normal?

    you know, it’s not hard to be a social media expert when someone else pays for you while you play online 10 hours a day reporting on things that interest you.

    I supported his “business” as he is seen as expert in social media, thinking he would use the following he built for his business to actually sell his services. But, he screamed at me that he couldn’t afford to lose even one of his fans by trying to sell to them.

    The whole idea of having a business that required sales made him rage. I was told I was a nag and critical of everything he does and never supportive and he needed to do his “work” and was doing his best. This is for asking him about what he actually did all day and what he was being paid for and by whom.

    When I asked him who had been paying for him for several years and who the person was who has been subsidizing his business while he “sponsored” several people with free social media to build his following, he didn’t seem to make the connection that he’d been using my finances while saying he was being taken advantage of by other people who didn’t appreciate him.

    I realize what an idiot I look like writing this. I believed in him. He is actually great at what he does if he actually did it for making money and not boosting up his ego. This is a man who loves having women followers, flirts online, joined an online dating site as already noted when we were together and blamed me for making him do it while then blaming me for pressuring him to get a job of any kind to bring in money.

    He hurt me repeatedly online by his relationships with women on fb and other social sites, even changing our status without my knowledge since I avoid fb given how embarrassed I was by what a total jerk he’d been in front of our acquaintances. I didn’t know I had low self-esteem until a few years with him and I didn’t recognize myself.

    I don’t use social media and in particular fb other than to make connections that keep me in touch with people I don’t get to see. I understand that virtual relationships and real world relationships are not the same. He doesn’t. Not knocking virtual at all- it’s that when you are unable to sustain a relationship with a living person in front of you and have to bring your social media smart phone to bed with you so you can be constantly hooked up to your supply of self-esteem- well- it is a real problem.

    When you receive the projections of a narcissistic person who is angry with the world and loves being a victim it has a negative effect.

    I entered our relationship one person and am leaving it still the same at my core but stunned at what I thought reality was and what I see it actually is. When you live with someone in fantasyland and your life and relationship becomes centered around his problems and keeping him from falling apart on a daily basis is suddenly your life purpose, it’s disabling because it is insidious. If the things I’d become conditioned to had happened rapidly, they wouldn’t have become part of who I am as a person because I wouldn’t have gotten involved.

    At least I hope not. I wasn’t co-dependent, or needing someone to complete me, or feeling miserable when we met. I was a successful single woman looking for the right man. The man i’d married and am now divorced from was diagnosed as a narcissist so I realize I’ve got my own issues- I get triggered in relationships to become the caretaker when it is a repeat of my childhood. I get it.

    So, I was entering this relationship from a different place, thinking I’d done enough work on myself. I was seen as a leader in my community and was a public speaker teaching personal development and how to manage your money. I felt good about myself. I enjoyed my work. I made a difference. I had a good living. side note: i managed to spend 150,000 on him over the past several years. I won’t be seeing that again. yes, total sucker. really good at teaching financial management but then giving all my money away.

    maybe i liked being mommy to him when he became first hurt little boy and then acting out teenager in his go-to roles. i have no idea. it all sucks.

    When I asked him what he saw in me when he met me, what attracted him- he said you were the most powerful person I had ever met- you walked into a room and had the attention of everyone in it and you didn’t seem to realize it or care- you were just you and that is real power. I was surprised he had that perception. i’m told now people who are narcissists tend to seek the qualities they don’t have and want.

    We didn’t enter a relationship with the over the top courtship most narcissistic relationships are known by- it was relatively normal. With the exception that he was broke and I am not sure how that endeared him to me. he simply seemed to like me for me, i was attracted to him after a few dates- they were dutch though- we had a lot in common- or superficially we did- the reality was a bit different, i enjoyed him. he didn’t sweep me off my feet, he isn’t some magnetic guy. if anything he is seen as shy and sweet and incredibly kind but always down on his luck. of course that is a hook for the narcissist too. its how he portrays himself on fb. though no one knows he is broke. i still fall for the non-reality because that is part of the man inside. but he prefers being a victim to being a man.

    I think I stayed so long because I really couldn’t believe this man is as horrible as he actually is in action. I know he had an abusive childhood. I know he had a divorce from a woman who cheated on him. I know he was troubled by his relationships with family and like an idiot I assumed it was because of them and didn’t think about what he contributed. I didn’t consider his ex-wife’s experience until I found myself depressed staring at a wall wondering if he’d ever pay me back and get a job and how I could get out of this – pretty much the same way he described her. He said she was crazy and with crazy abusive parents- I have no idea if he says I am crazy now but I know he had plenty to say about my family.

    Not sure how that looked to all his fans given that he is middle aged and it is a little crazy to write about your girlfriend’s parents blaming them for his situation and how horrible they were to him for not accepting him and then threatening them. maybe he erased it.

    I was told within months of meeting him by a psychologist who I paid for him to have a session with when he lost his job that I was in a relationship with a man who had strong narcissistic and borderline traits but was not able to diagnose in one session. I ignored the warning and fell for his poor me I love you and am doing my best its the economy I want everything for us and only want to make you happy I had a bad childhood and its not fair I take menial jobs now that i lost my job i deserve more act- when i was saying you do whatever it takes when you lose your job deal- yet i ended up paying for us, him moving in with me when he had no money and then like a moron when he used fb to connect with women and embarrassed me in front of thousands. I was initially so happy to click with a man I thought shared similar values and interests which we do on paper- only his are a great advertisement designed to make him look good- and I was so lonely- I believed him and fell for him.

    i’m writing without editing so if i am redundant i;m sorry. never did get this off my chest before. i’d be happy for any supportive comments. i feel crazy from the experience. i haven’t seen much written about the self-pitying narcissist who uses victimhood as his platform. most things are written about financially successful, boasting, overtly abusive, demeaning narcissists. he wasn’t overtly demeaning at all. if anything he was constantly appreciating me, loved to listen to my stories, always asked me to tell him about my day, wished he had my guts in business, told me he was taking risks in business that scared him and he couldn’t do it, told me he was afraid and needed me to help him take care of himself, asked me what he could do to make me happy since i didn’t seem happy and did try to do the basics- even was so concerned about finally getting me gifts he couldn’t afford because he wanted me to know he appreciated me, did pay me back what he could before he lost all his money, did tell me he loved me and did act like it. i am not an idiot and can distinguish a bs artist from a sincere but sick man who felt compelled to put himself first in order to survive. i guess that is really the issue- he never learned how to be loved as a kid and always seemed to operate from scarcity and survival mode.

    i thought by being around me who did love him, still does and gave him some stability, he might choose in favor of a good life instead of throwing off all responsibility. he told me i was the only person who never abandoned him. his mom did. his family did. his girlfriend did. his wife did. i know this to be true. but he pushed me away in the end with his craziness and hurt me. i couldn’t play rescuer again. i just couldn’t.

    i remember getting frustrated with him and asking him why he preferred failing- why he didn’t want success and undermined it every time he had it- he didn’t know and started to cry- and it sucked. i know he meant well. but this other person would come out who looked at me with dead eyes and intense hatred at times while screaming at me and blaming me for his situation and that i should have been helping him more and how i was always critical. that happened probably 12-15 times over the past several years-where he raged and i was afraid.

    apparently that’s abuse. i guess the times he had a knife in his hand while screaming was abusive. somehow i thought it was normal. i never thought about my own safety although he is twice my weight.

    i haven’t talked to him in 8 months. no contact from the day he exploded at me for the last time.

    why do i still care? i know he isn’t with anyone else. i don’t know if he’s on the street. i know he is online looking like a millionaire. i know he still bounces checks and is in debt. i deleted everything i could related to him but still get mail that wasn’t forwarded. i feel haunted. maybe because its the holidays and i know last year he was about to be on the street and i really do love and wish the man inside would save himself is why i am writing this.

    i started to write about the effects of fb. i hope you can see how his having so many thousands of friends and fans really screwed up our lives because he will not leave that world. it is too safe for him there. i am too scary for him.

    thank you for any support you are able to give me.
    jacki

  2. Amy says:

    Hello Jacki
    My ex did something similar with ebay, buying and selling not to make money but to gain positive feedback from as many people as he could. He also became very knowledgable about the area he was trading in and loved the admiration he felt from others. He would obsessively chase people often quite aggressively for the 5 stars and become abusive if people dare rare him lower. In so many ways he is a classic narcissist. I am well shot of him but I, only realising that having left the marriage. Our existence was “normal” because it’s all I knew for 19 years. The children and I were badly treated because we were on the inside and he didn’t need to project a fake image to us. We knew him too well so he put his energies into other relationships where he could convince people how wonderful, kind, clever he is. He is very convincing. He has no empathy but us smart enough to fake it. Lots of things add up now I’m reflecting on being with him. He could never have a conversation with anyone as all he did was talk about himself. He’d never truly enquire as to how someone was. It’s actually quite difficult to spot unless you are looking out for it. Looking back even the nice times had echoes of NPD I just didn’t realise it. We are not responsible for the Narcissists in our lives. Grief will be a part of the end of any relationship so that’s normal. Move on, do things that make you happy because he never really would be able to do that. Peace and happiness X

  3. Theia says:

    You know what?It’s Just sad to read your essay as you are a small minded individual who is only looking for attention. Think again, facebook is used by many for them to express themselves by posting a status or photo .It’s not their fault if they gain likes everytime they post something on the wall.I really pity you .You cannot control what people post on the wall as you are not even a facebook company associate or the owner of facebook. Have you heard the 3 word sentence which is freedom of expression?

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