Narcissism and Social Media

21 Jul

In Twenge & Campbell’s The Narcissism Epidemic, the authors cite a multi-generational study where American teens were asked “Are you an important person?” In the 1950s, 12% said yes; in 2006, over 80% said yes. Narcissism is on the rise (great FAQ on narcissism on the book’s website) Many reasons have been put forward for the rise of narcissism: doting boomer parents, the (until recently) strong economy, easy availability of credit, celebrity culture, and reality TV. Social media is a newer – and big – part of this trend.

MySpace and Facebook are built around content pages centered on each user, all those engrossing details like astrological sign and favourite foods. For a while, Twitter became the figurehead for online narcissistic behaviour with the ability to tweet what you were doing right now – “watching TV with my cat”, “doing laundry” (Twitter has thankfully evolved into a more useful tool than hearing about those kinds of inanities). In a society where you can hire fake paparazzi to follow you around and make you feel famous, is social media just another way to suck people’s attention towards all things you? Does social media encourage two-way conversation, or an incessant drive for more followers and greater ‘share of attention’? Was social media a cause or effect of narcissism?

If narcissists – people who have big egos, strive to affiliate with the glamorous and successful, and want to be celebrated as special – are more likely to prowl in the social media environment, how do we advertisers need to speak to this group to build a relationship with them or meet our online objectives?

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3 Responses to “Narcissism and Social Media”

  1. Sheldon July 21, 2010 at 5:20 pm #

    The increase in young peoples perceptions of themselves from 1950 to 2006 is likely more complex, and positive than you posit. Narcissistic behavior encapsulates the idea that “nothing and nobody matters but me”. The general rise in self image does not necessarily mean that people are becoming narcissistic. In fact, healthier self image is linked to successful, confident individuals that are better at “doing” relationships. So I see this as a positive.

    The issue of youths (and many others of us) focus on ourselves through social media – particularly facebook and myspace – is a different issue altogether. On one hand, it’s troubling as you suggest. Yet, it also brings people together and can be a positive form of social and political engagement if used appropriately.

  2. Michael Tension July 22, 2010 at 10:42 am #

    Sheldon are you saying that lack of self esteem in teens in on the decline? Wow, who would have thought.

  3. Shane July 22, 2010 at 1:15 pm #

    thanks for the comment Sheldon. You’re right, there is a line with healthy confidence/self image on one end and arrogance/narcissism on the other, and everyone put themselves on a point between them that will in turn suggest how they behave in all social situations, online or not.

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