Family, Self

Is Your Social Media Obsession Making You A Full-Blown Narcissist?


Every parent who has a three-year-old knows the phrase, "Watch me." Toddlers want to be watched when they jump, go down the slide, act silly with their toys, or anything they are involved with. They need their parents to watch and enjoy their feat. This behavior is normal, and a fun part of having a toddler.

It isn't as much fun when that toddler is 17, 18 or 19, and well into adulthood. In fact, the young adult doesn't really care if mom or dad is watching them, but they do care if everyone else is. They want the hundreds of viewers to watch them on YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, chat rooms, and anywhere virtual strangers can tune in to watch.

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It doesn't matter if they don't know you, they want to entertain you, and get "likes" so they know they are on track with pleasing you. Some of them do drastic, dangerous stunts to get more viewers, and some of them cannot sleep at night if they didn't get the attention and approval they thought they should or would.

Some of these people, like YouTube sensation Logan Paul, don't even understand the ramifications of live-streaming a suicide victim online until someone else points it out to them that it's wrong. Some parents have even been recording themselves being abusive to their children in ever-increasingly cruel pranks because it got them "likes." The line between acceptable behavior and bad behavior gets blurred when the internet comes into play.

So what is this new phenomenon? It's the inner world of kids and adults who are becoming so self-focused that they are expanding the diagnosis of narcissism. It is a self-love, a need for attention to keep the fragile inner ego convinced it is liked. A new study from the University of Michigan questioned if Facebook could help diagnose Narcissistic Personality Disorder, and found that young adult college students who posted more often on Facebook and Twitter scored higher in specific measures of different types of narcissism, including personality traits such as being exhibitionists, exploitive, and feeling superior. This may cause them to over-evaluate the importance of their opinion.

Twitter is a perfect match for this behavior because it allows one to broaden one's social circle and offer their views on a wide range of topics. What we use to share with an intimate few is now shared with the world. The UofM researchers involved in designing this study published it in the Journal of Computers in Human Behavior, and although it didn't prove the exact correlation between narcissism and social media, it certainly picked up on how social media enhances and possibly contributes to narcissism.

The researchers went on to say that the study design included participants who were college age undergraduates and adults whose average age was thirty-five. The adults who scored higher in narcissistic personality traits used frequent updates on their status as a way to receive social approval.

This incessant need to gain approval at all costs, and no longer value privacy is changing the way we relate to one another in our families, and in our intimate relationships. If nothing is private, then boundaries will become more and more open for conflict and betrayal, which will destroy the security built into the family structure.

Teens have always been self-absorbed and self-centered. It is somewhat expected. However, what is not expected is the delay in growing out of self-centeredness. When you are self-centered you blow problems out of proportion and create unnecessary drama. Reality television is built on this premise. Young adults grow up with reality TV and continue watching these shows that involve self-centered exhibitionists willing to exploit others with their self-made drama that makes viewers looking in question, "Who cares?"

Self-absorbed people who don’t have a reality TV show are usually lonely. Their friends and family have tired from expending energy and time with their senseless drama. Whatever created their self-absorption in the beginning, whether it was being neglected as a child or spoiled as a child, eventually must be dealt with in order for them to become well and more focused on the needs of others.

Below are suggestions for you if you feel as though you have become self-absorbed and need approval from strangers to validate yourself as a person:

• Learn to focus more on others. Self-absorbed people tell stories involving drama, so skills such as listening, asking questions, and refocusing yourself when you want to jump in with, "watch me, or look at me" stories.
• Be aware of what is going on around you. Self-absorption robs you from seeing outside yourself. Take notice of what community projects are going on, and volunteer at an agency that will help you get outside of your own needs.
• Practice empathy. When someone tells you they are hurting, instead of saying a time you hurt too, listen to them without judgment and try to imagine what it feels like to be them.
• Be supportive of others rather than exploiting them for your own needs.
• Practice gratitude with a gratitude journal.

We are a blessed country, but one of the problems that comes from being blessed is you begin to expect it. When you expect something you no longer are grateful, and a sense of entitlement may prevail. When a generation is no longer held accountable or made to work for what they receive, the sense of entitlement grows stronger. With entitlement comes self-absorption. Learning to get out of yourself and focusing on giving back to help others restores a sense of community, privacy, and respect. 

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For more information and a monthly free relationship tip, visit Mary Jo's website here. You can also reach her on Facebook or Twitter @MaryJoRapini.