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Are people really more narcissistic than ever before? If so, are social networks and other new media to blame?

I keep hearing that narcissism is at an all time high. The Millennial generation is now being dubbed Generation ME and walking down the street you can count the number of people you see pointing phones at their faces for "selfies." But is this generation really more narcissistic than previous generations or are social networks and other new media simply a platform for broadcasting narcissistic tendencies that otherwise may have gone unnoticed?

By their nature of relying on user-generated content Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and so on, encourage an endless stream of self promotion. At what point does this become psychologically destructive? People can get caught up in cultivating their own image rather than interacting with others. My worry is that we will be faced with a generation where everyone acts like the star of their own reality show. Do you think this is where we are headed?

Interesting Reading:

  • Jun 13 2013: I agree that social medias are tools for us to socialize and interact with others,however not many users sees it as such. Social medias such as fb, twitters, instagrams etc, etc allow people to accumulate "followers", and many are friends and acquaintances that we care about. Additionally, when someone is really popular, he gets a lot of strangers following him, which can be an ego boost. Hence, the social media might habituate an ego-centric mindset. In short, i agree that social media might make users more narcissistic, because it gives everyone the illusion of self-importance, grandiose, and need for admirations.

    I believe that the users might be losing out in heart to heart interactions, if the fear of losing that self-image kicks in.
    • Jun 13 2013: I like your point about how social media "gives everyone the illusion of self-importance." I think this can contribute to more individuals moving in a self-centered direction.
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    Jun 19 2013: I think it can be either/or but nevertheless it is certainly an issue that is not without a huge negative connotation.

    What's more striking is the content and information that people deem worthy of sharing to others, i.e. endless amounts of "selfies"
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    Jun 19 2013: social networks have simply made the less savoury side of us all more evident.

    nothing like being able to lash out with an anonymous, emotive opinion to bring out the noisy empty vessel in all of us.

    i think people are slowly waking up to the fact that things like facebook are no better than gossip magazines and the like. in other words, they are not as important as a lot media folk are saying
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      Jun 21 2013: Well stated Scott. I suppose most want to be heard and seeing your words in print , with access to many brings a feeling of belonging, recognition. I do agree "people are waking up" for there is no long term personal gain feeding the "noisy empty vessel"
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    Jun 11 2013: I think young people always have this sort of perspective, I think they suffer from not knowing that they do not know.

    Another factor that may contribute is the push for "self esteem" and creating habits like not keeping score at sporting events and participation trophies. This is one of the products of psychology on the culture.

    Another factor is that you create what you acknowledge. If you acknowledge showing up you get more people who only show up.
  • Jun 11 2013: Hi Lena,
    You know, I don't know if the problem is narcissism. I get the impression narcissism is a result of something else - self-esteem issues.

    In my opinion, social networks and social media act as a platform to increase our level of insecurity, which is exactly what advertisers want us to feel so we will consume more. I feel for a lot of people, social media is a platform to validate and justify oneself, especially when confronted by other people's posts that are more glamorous, more interesting, just 'better' than their own. This in turn, motivates people to exaggerate, lie, take advantage of the anonymity of internet and make their lives sound better than they are, when there was absolutely nothing wrong with them in the first place!!

    I understand from recent studies that there is a lot of depression caused by social media, especially in teens and adolescents, due to cyber-bullying and privacy issues.

    But I don't think it's where we're headed. It hope it is another bubble on the verge of exploding.
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    • May 23 2013: I am inclined to agree. Social networks, however, do give narcissists megaphones so that they can talk about themselves all the louder.
  • Cho Jet

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    Jun 19 2013: I'm sorry if Im being too direct.

    Let's face it, humans tend to gain attention in some point of view, when they can't gain them in Reality, they tend to search for the other way around, which is---social media. Social media is used as a platform for all these, in terms to be more self expressive, keyboard heroes* and others.

    To me, people are just caught up not learning to face the reality but condemn themselves to use social media as a way to gain their attention.
  • Jun 17 2013: I think there are some positive aspects to this self promotion race. It means that people have to do more with their lives in order to share or talk about it. The problem lies in what is accepted as being great, only a limited amount of people see knowledge or career achievements as the right things to share, people instead go into looks, and meaningless daily things.
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    Jun 11 2013: While social media offer new platforms for the narcissist, they can’t be responsible for an increase in this personality disorder. Narcissists have always been with us, and it seems more plausible that the rise, if any, is attributable to a wider recognition, perhaps leading to more diagnoses. I have found among most millennials I know a deep awareness of the societal issues that confound us today, often leading to greater involvement. This impulse is borne of an emotion completely absent in the narcissist—empathy.
  • Jun 6 2013: Capitalism is to blame in my opinion. Keeping up with the Jones'. Advertising. Narcissists spend lots of money.
  • mu tant

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    Jun 2 2013: Yes, Millennials are the most narcissistic least since their Boomer parents generation, who were also called The Me generation.

    The Boomers were the first generation to put a high personal premium on "doing your own thing" and they raised their children with a huge degree of self importance.

    The apple doesn't fall far from the tree.
  • Jun 21 2013: I was really drawn by the question raised by Lena..And the inputs by the esteemed members have been enlightening too..
    Though technology may not be able to alter human behaviour, it does open up opportunities hitherto unexplored. Not long before our entire leisure time was spent in networking sites and e-mails, etc, people used to have a more outdoor life. Children played outside, made more friends, and in general, behave as they should, ie, appropriate for their age. Now things are altered. People are busier. There is not time to enjoy the finer pleasures of life.
    And since we lack time to explore, or we think we lack time, we remain content with what comes easy to us. And what else can be better that sites which brings the world to us without we having to move a muscle? We end up talking of ourselves. What we do, what we like, what we want...and so on..And amazingly, we find people who listen to us! We get encouraged, we want to say more..At at some point, we may forget that we are doing nothing else but I, ME , MYSELF in everything we post !
    Yes, the social media are designed to lure us. And it is really upto us how much we dive in into it...We are bullied to sell dreams, killing our conscience at times, and we just tend to ignore how much is too much..
    And if we are narcissistic , it is not only these portals which are responsible..The will, the intention, the capacity to judge, these all lie within us...And really, it is upto us to decide how we shape ourselves up as human beings...
  • Jun 21 2013: no, it's a result of the incessant drive for self esteem. well-meaning people think that if we have self esteem we will be less depressed and therefore lead happier lives, but they're missing reality by that over-simplification. when we strive to do something better, eventually we succeed, and that success gives us both self-esteem and happier lives. self esteem is a result of achieving a goal, and should not be a goal in itself.

    that is where we are headed but it's not because of social media. a whole generation of people have been brought up to believe in themselves while completely skipping over the necessary steps that should lead a person to believe in themselves.
  • Jun 20 2013: Yes, I believe that we are far more narciissistic than ever. Not only do we not "do unto others as we would hav them do unto us" but we have reached the point of feeling we are above Nature as opposed to only a small, integral part of it. In our growing selfishness, we are thereby destroying the very planet which makes our subsistence possible.
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    Jun 19 2013: That's not where we're headed that's where we are.

    Social networks encourage you to share intimate details about where you went, what you ate, who you hung with, and what your plans are for Friday night. The millenial generation spends almost zero time branching out and reading about global issues or discussing ideas. Their worlds are centered around entertainment in the form of celebrity news, movies, music, video games, texting, tweeting, photo sharing, and in general staying technologically connected at all hours of the day and night.

    Their worlds have been constricted to such a small number of topics that they truly lack the understanding that there's a great big world out there. Surrounded by people who value the same things and provide a sense of assurance that it's perfectly fine to stay distracted and only worry about the small social issues of your peers encourages the attitude that we are so important who needs to think about anything else?

    It comes down to the millenial generation having far too many distractions amongst themselves and staying too occupied with their own lives through the connections of social networking sites and technology that they don't even have the time to think about the fact that there might be something else beyond their comfort zones that could be interesting.
  • Jun 11 2013: I know this narcissistic jerk named jeff sparrow out of california. He has fake eyebrows, fluffs his resume every five minutes. The funny thing is I know him very well, and there is no way he could live up to his resume, and yet he just keeps adding words that make him sound better & better. He must spends hours each day fluffing his resume. It is incredible to see someone so hung up on himself.
  • Jun 11 2013: Facebook is another example, seeing ourselves is an intrinsic drive.... Watch Jonathan Haights TED talk on "elephant and rider" wiring......
  • Jun 5 2013: Reality shows are so cheap to produce compared to other programming. This study does begin to show how these “stars" see themselves as "special" or better than others even though they possess no "skills or talent". Does this narcissism trait blind the "reality stars" ability to see that they are mock able laughing stocks? Is "honey boo boo" a star? Are these shows rigged, set up or staged to "create" reality. They have no script but it doesn't mean the producers can't edit, skew and fake events to convey a plot line. I tend to believe that if someone has to tell me they are a "star" then they probably are not one. Look at the Facebook -instagram scandal. If real people see this "reality tv" as actually real, then this is a confirmation of the narcissism study. We just want to see ourselves, not actors portraying someone like us, Narcissus so loved his own reflection that it is the name of a neurological condition that we as a population seem to embrace. The TV turns out to just be a mirror after all. How many times have people said that they should or you should have a reality show? Do most people wish they did? It is like the degradation of the American Dream, hitting the lottery or getting a reality show- All you wishes come true just by getting lucky or "being you".
    Do I watch Duck Dynasty.. no but do understand that if you take people from life that make people turn their heads and put them on TV the same thing will happen, for 22 minutes and 8 minutes of commercials. Ultimately we might just watch to make ourselves feel better about our own issues, habits, and neurosis because the TV tells us we are not alone, or that "at least there is someone crazier out there than ourselves and they get paid to it! In essence justifying or reinforcing the behaviors. So does Reality TV equal temporary fame, humiliation and fulfillment of the "Faustian" promise of fortune and glory for the price of your soul or is it just good ole fashion consumerism, Hollywood and the American way?
    • Jun 10 2013: Interesting point. I think reality tv presents an interesting problem because ordinary people start acting as though their lives are their own little reality shows. An interesting article could be written on "Is Reality Television the New Pool For Narcissus' Reflection?"
  • Jun 1 2013: I actually just wrote a little blog article about this not so long ago!
  • May 27 2013: No, this generation isn't more narcissistic than any before it. Facebook, Twitter, etc, are just new ways of people fitting in, or following the leader. Years ago, a cool kid started wearing a jean jacket, so everyone who wanted to be cool did the same. Now, a cool kid puts a ton of "duck-face" portraits on their page and all the kids who want to be the same. Every generation will find a way to stand out.
  • May 25 2013: Yes it does.I did it myself but I am very much aware of its impact which is not good.I find it rather dumb and dull in a long run so I tried to minimize my activity by sharing mostly about books or informative magazine I have acquired not all the time though.Observing peoples activity also helps.It's all about showing off what they've got,from new shoes to new phones,the list goes on.And you can see some gets defensive saying it is their page so they can post what they want.
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    May 23 2013: Yes... but No-
    I think it is unfair to blame all negative outcomes only to social networks. Social networks are mere tools.
    What about TV/Movies/Pop culture... ?
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    May 22 2013: .
    They are.
    "The social networks and other new media are to blame".
    These networks make invalid (harmful) happiness.
    Invalid happiness misleads people.
  • May 21 2013: I doubt very much that any technology is capable of changing human nature.

    The internet is certainly capable of changing our perception of human nature.
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      • May 23 2013: The inflation of authentic experience, of course, makes the experience itself somewhat inauthentic. I think social networks encourage self-promotion, which can lead people to be more false.

        This isn't to say that the technology is to blame. I think it is simply encouraging an ugly side of human nature.