Narcissism on The Internet: Is Social Media Making Us More Narcissistic

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Narcissism is commonly defined as “pleasure derived from contemplation and admiration of one’s own body or self, considered in psychoanalytic theory to be a fixation on or a regression to an infantile stage of development.” Understood in terms of the myth Narcissus, narcism has been understood as intense if not excessive preoccupation with the self. The self demanded greater attention as self-observation became part of the socialisation of the middle-class individual. Kristin Dombek exclaims in his article The Selfishness of Others: The Fear of Narcissism “In the laughter, the smiles, the rants, and the violence we see a coldness, an absence of empathy rivalled only by a terrible need for attention. This is a kind of selfishness we increasingly fear, judging by the rising chorus that calls the young girls and the bad boyfriends by the same name as the murderers: narcissist”. He said this after stating the stories of a spoilt kid on My Super Sweet 16 not caring about a hospital having to be closed in order to close off a street to accommodate her 16th birthday party. Following on with Anders Behring Breivik’s story about how he carried out a bombing and a massacre resulting in the deaths of 77 people back in 2011 and when he was arrested and photographed he stood smiling contently. Following this, instead of showing any empathy for the victims and their suffering, Anders only spoke about how he was affected traumatically from seeing all of the blood. This is a great representation of narcissistic behaviour. Many people assume that narcissists are just people that are in love with themselves and their looks. But in reality, this is not the only trait a narcissist carries. The lack of empathy and not caring who they hurt as long as it’s beneficial to their own image. It’s a sort of emptiness for others.

Although, what we know as narcissism today is not the same as how it was viewed in the beginning of the twentieth century. Freud argued that narcissism “is the libidinal (instinctual sexual energy) complement to the egoism of the instinct of self preservation” simply put, the desire and energy that drives somebody’s instinct to survive. This was referred to by Freud as primary narcissism. Then there is secondary narcissism which, according to Freud, occurs when the libido (sex drive) withdraws from people outside of themselves, above all the mother, making a relationship to social reality that includes the potential for megalomania which is commonly known as the obsession with the exercise of power. But gong back to the modern day rendition of narcissism and the spoilt girl that appeared on My Super Sweet 16, that was the girls way of feeding off of the attention and feeling as though she needs the power. This show was aired on MTV when the popularity of the channel was huge. Back then the internet and social media was not where it is at today. MTV was the main platform for young teens and wannabe celebrities to show off themselves and gain the attention they desire. But now we have social media where it is getting ever so easier for people to get their ’15 minutes of fame’.

False Perspective on the internet

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As writer Bob Deutsch stated in his article Why Everyone and Everything on Social Media Is Fake “Social Media — The first mass medium to allow people to publicly share their thoughts, feelings and lives with others — has become inauthentic. From cries of “fake news” to the rise of bots, bogus followers and other trolls, it’s hard to know whom, what or where to trust.” Thus explaining the internet gives us a false perspective into people’s lives and places, creating a false reality of people’s lives, relationships and personalities. An excellent example of this is Mirrors of Memory: Freud, Photography and Art History by Mary Bergstein in which she analyses the role of photography in Sigmund Freud’s thinking about psychoanalysis and classical art history. In Maya Balakirsky Katz’s journal she stated “We know Freud certainly loved art, but Bergstein reminds us that Freud’s primary access to the world’s cultural treasures came by way of photography. To this end, Bergstein traces how photography not only recorded what Freud saw, but primed him for what he was going to see, such as Freud’s exposure to Rome through photographs with their “prevailing romantic formulae,” which would render his eventual visit to Rome “disappointing”. Later saying “Bergstein shows how Freud fell under the spell of the false reality recorded by the camera and imagined himself looking at a transparent window into the world.”

This is a key example of my findings in relation to how the internet is creating a false perspective for the on-lookers. In the post internet world we have social media websites such as Instagram to which anybody can share a moment from their life with a few clicks. Although, this has created a sense of narcissism in the way of social media influencers and general users manipulating their photos and videos in order to make themselves look more appealing or better than it really is in order to gain more attention from their friends, family and strangers on the internet. This shows a lot of similarities as Bergstein explaining Sigmund Freud’s primary access into Rome through only photographs. It gave Freud a false reality of Rome and in the present day of the internet, society are getting a false perspective through the use of social media photography in which on lookers are not seeing the true place, they’re looking through the perspective of the lens. 

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