How 'Social Zapping' Defines The Reasons Many Narcissists Cancel Plans

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How Canceling Plans Last Minute Is A Sign Of Narcissism

New research suggests that those who frequently cancel plans last minute are more likely to be narcissists. 

Look we’ve all been there. You get caught up at work and end up ditching your friends at the bar, you have a bad day and don’t feel like going to hang out with your partner, you get invited to a party but have to cancel dinner with your parents. 

We all cancel plans from time to time, but if you or someone you know cancels plans all the time, something darker could be at play. 

Researchers have observed that those who cancel plans deliberately and regularly usually do it because something better comes along. These individuals also demonstrate traits associated with the two dimensions of the “dark triad” — narcissism and Machiavellianism. 

These behaviors may be on the rise, so researchers have even given it a name of its own — social zapping. 

What is social zapping? 

Social zapping is like your run-of-the-mill cancelations with a twist. Instead of canceling plans because they can’t make it, social zappers cancel plans for their own personal gain. It is characterized by a constant quest for better social opportunities. 

Social zappers will choose plans that they think will provide them with better social outcomes without caring about the long-term consequences or the impacts on those they're ditching. 

To examine this phenomenon, researchers had 190 participants between the ages of 17 and 30 complete questionnaires that included the Social Zapping Scale — a scale that assessed the tendency to cancel appointments on short notice.

The results revealed some interesting truths about those who frequently cancel plans last minute. 

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Canceling plans last minute can be a narcissistic trait

Attentional impulsivity, narcissism, and procrastination were all positive indicators of social zapping. 

Narcissism is strongly associated with a lack of empathy for others and an inflated sense of one’s own importance. Thus, it makes sense that those who ditch loved ones for better opportunities could have narcissistic tendencies. 

However, the largest predictor of social zapping was Machiavellianism — another dark triad personality trait that is usually exhibited by someone who's so focused on their own interests they will manipulate, deceive, and exploit others to achieve their goals.

Narcissism and Machiavellianism often coexist and are also heavily associated with psychopathy, though these mental illnesses can also exist independently. 

Author Donna Andersen, who is an expert in narcissism and sociopathy, tells us that canceling plans is one of the many ways that narcissists prioritize their own needs over everyone else's. 

“People with narcissistic, antisocial, or psychopathic personality disorders feel entitled to do whatever they want, including canceling plans. Sometimes they won't even tell you they're canceling — they just don't show up,” she says. 

Andersen also tells us it is not uncommon for narcissists to deny having ever agreed to the plans in the first place. 

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Social zapping is on the rise, thanks to social media

Other research from the same source reveals that social media usage could be increasing social zapping. 

Social media encourages us to constantly search for new contacts and experiences. It also leaves us with increased access to social comparison and hard-to-ignore feelings of “missing out.”

Excessive and problematic usage of social media exacerbates this phenomenon, and can pressure people to always be on the lookout for opportunities they perceive as being “better.” 

This also correlates to another study that linked posting selfies on social media with a 25% uptick in narcissistic traits. 

All this suggests that social zapping, social media, and the loss of empathy could wreak havoc on our social lives and relationships with others. 

Of course, there may be many logical explanations for canceling plans, but doing so consistently and without a care for who you impact could be a serious red flag. 

Andersen recommends that people be aware of those who regularly social zap as this may be a dangerous manipulation tactic. 

“If you see that canceling plans becomes a pattern, this may be more than a lack of consideration. The person may be trying to keep you off balance in order to control you.”

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Alice Kelly is a writer living in Brooklyn, New York. Catch her covering all things social justice, news, and entertainment. Keep up with her Twitter for more.