Yeah, I said it.
Narcissists are defined as vain, arrogant, and self-obsessed individuals. They tend to be obsessed with their appearance, both physically and in-action (i.e. how they're perceived by others), and this preoccupation is often ego-driven.
Sound like anyone you know on social media? (I'm looking at you, "Jane," who ran six miles with RunKeeper with the hashtags #happybirthdaytome, #love, and #blessed.)
Before you lash out at me for being a judgmental b*tch, know that I'm just as guilty and know that I also act like a narcissist — because everyone on the Internet does.
We live in a "like," "endorse," and "upvote" culture. We all have a desire to be heard and seen and loved, and while that desire is an innate human quality, it has never been more apparent or important than it is today than it is in our pat-on-the-back, everyone's a winner, virtual high-five/hug/emoji society.
That's not a bad thing per se, but it's breeding a generation of narcissists.
That said, I should be clear: When I speak about narcissism, I'm referring to the character trait and not narcissistic personality disorder — a DSM-IV defined disorder marked by character traits which cause the afflicted to "feel and behave in socially distressing ways, [thus] limiting their ability to function in relationships and other areas of their life."
Let me repeat: acting narcissistic isn't the same as having narcissistic personality disorder, just as feeling depressed and struggling with depression, the mental illness, are two very different things.
But back to us "mainstream narcissists." What's wrong with a little self-pride, self-promotion, and virtual love? Nothing. In fact every one of us seeks the support and approval of others, on and offline.
However, when taken too far, when the desire to be accepted, recognized, and admired is to bolster low self-esteem and begins to negatively impact our lives and our careers, it treads a fine and dangerous line.
While we feel we're more connected than ever before with our legions of friends and followers, I'd argue we've never been more apart, more isolated, more antisocial, and more alone.
Were Freud still alive, he certainly would've referred to our current predicament as a clear case of the "hedgehog dilemma" — we're like hedgehogs in the winter who need to get close to one another to cope with the cold, but cannot because we'll hurt each other or their spines.
Most of the points above are my opinion, but here are some actual facts:
1. Narcissism levels have been rising for decades, with the largest increase seen in young adults. While some of these increases may pre-date social media, they've clearly exacerbated since its emergence.
2. There's also has been a steep decline in altruism and empathy levels, so while we may be more connected we're also far less interested in others.
This isolation makes some question their self-esteem and forces us to solicit sympathy, likes and virtual love. This isolation makes us act in a narcissistic manner.
What's more, researchers Elliot Panek and Sara Konrath of the University of Michigan found that our obsession with social media is becoming less about connecting with others and more about vanity. in their study, Panek and Konrath found a direct correlation between social media and narcissism.
And with billions of individuals now using one or more social media platform and an estimated 85 percent of the world using email, it's no wonder why we're becoming increasingly connected yet internally disconnected.
It's no wonder why we're all becoming digital narcissists.