The Upside of Social Media Narcissism

The Upside of Social Media Narcissism

An older colleague of mine, Huw, often complains
about “kids these days–with their tweeting, Facebook. A whole generation of self-absorbed,
narcissistic people.” Narcissism is defined as the obsession with your appearance, being
extremely egotistical, or having an unhealthy admiration of your intellect. Is the millennial
generation really more narcissistic than previous generations? And are sites like Facebook to
blame? A study found that two thirds of college students were more narcissistic than the average
college student 30 years ago. To measure this, researchers used the Narcissistic Personality
Inventory. It measures your self love by asking questions with a forced choice. For example,
pick one: I want to amount to something in the eyes of the world. I just want to be reasonably
happy. If you picked the first option, you’re considered more narcissistic. This index measures
how narcissistic people are, but it doesn’t measure Narcissistic Personality Disorder
or NPD, a serious mental illness that’s different from just having high self esteem.
People who suffer from NPD seriously think they are better than other people, that other
people’s emotions are a waste of time or they’re aggressive when they’re rejected
or insulted. NPD is a serious problem, but outside of this disorder narcissism is regarded
as a negative trait. This book – The Narcissism Epidemic – says that narcissism is corrosive
to society. TIME ran a cover story on the lazy, entitled Millennial generation. And
it does seem that social media is at least partly to blame. It’s estimated that 30%
of photos taken by Gen Y are selfies and in the UK, 17 million selfies are uploaded to
social media every week. So with social media use on the rise, it only stands to reason
that the observed rise in narcissism is related to our growing ability to indulge our narcissistic
traits. But is this all bad? Is it possible that a rise in narcissism actually makes us
better, more self aware people? You may think that admiring yourself in a mirror is shallow
and vain, but studies have shown seeing your reflection reduces the incidence of cheating
on tests. At workplaces, it’s common for employees to contribute to an honesty box
to pay for vital coffee supplies. In one experiment, when an image of a pair of eyes was placed
above the box contributions increased three-fold. If we know we’re being watched, we become
more likely to behave honestly. And narcissism also correlates with traits we think of as
positive. In addition to being more narcissistic, college students today are also more assertive,
extraverted and have more self esteem than the average college students 30 years ago.
Narcissism in the extreme is a problematic disorder, but for most people, a slight increase
in narcissism, brought on by social media, may be a benefit. Being faced with ourselves
makes us better people–it’s not just about vanity. The ever present media, the images
of ourselves on Facebook and around us are allowing us to see ourselves as we never have
before. If you take the opportunity to see yourself as others do, rather than to present
yourself as you would rather be, the reflection may make you more confident, honest, and self-aware.
What do you think? Let me know in the comments, and subscribe to braincraft for a new video
every other week.


78 thoughts on “The Upside of Social Media Narcissism”

  • One problem with the idea at the end of the video, that it might be good for us to see ourselves with outside eyes as we really are, is that quite often the image of themselves that people project on social media just doesn't reflect who they really are very well.

  • Narcissism is usually very related to selfishness. I think one should have an accurate image of oneself, not an artificially inflated one the is treated as a priority over others.

  • "They think they're entitled."

    Well, honestly, when adults ram it down your throat for your entire life that, "If you don't get good grades and go to college, you'll be working at McDonalds," then yeah, they are actually entitled since the entire adult population feels like that is a proper form of motivation.

    After having worked quite a few minimum wage jobs (now two years running at the same job while getting my bachelor's degree in Electrical Engineering – senior year), I can say that working for minimum wage is actually kind of a disgrace. Not because the work deserves such a low pay, but because minimum wage is saying that your employer would pay you less if the law allowed it.

    Call it entitlement, but you can't tell someone to do X to avoid consequence Y, and get mad when they do X and don't want to do Y. Especially after years of what feels like indoctrination. 

    Anyway, sorry about the rant. =/ 

    I feel like this video brings up a lot of good points. Statistics without a proper context are horrible. Yes, more narcissistic, but also more active, productive, involved, and we(as students), generally have a larger impact than those who came before us. Have to take the good with the bad! 😛

  • TheCollectedWorks says:

    Engaging visually and mentally, this is such a great concept 😀 Plus a youtube video with actual formatted references… it's so beautiful!

  • Facebook makes me depressed more than makes me like myself.  Seeing all the other people and their problems make me think i'm bad at life.

  • I find this absolutely fascinating, and don't doubt it on some level- but might it also be perhaps more related to the types of people who attend college nowadays? The percentages are higher, especially among the lower-grade-earning populace, which holds a reputation for more extroversion, narcissism, etc.. Typically, we think of people who earn higher grades as "nerds", the opposite (Introverted, lacking self-confidence, etc.). A higher percentage of Nerds:Jocks attended school in 1984 (I assume) than nowadays, which could also explain the trend.

  • If you suffer from social media induced narcissism just remember, any and all selfies you upload are subject to Photoshop and redistribution.

  • Thank you for the video it was great, but it also make me thing…

    When going against oneself will be bad? I think never. That's why you feel more happy, because you reaffirm yourself making you more and more selfish. In fact it takes you away of a collective reality. I pass… 🙂


    ¿Cuándo ir en contra de uno mismo va a ser malo? Yo creo que nunca. Por eso te sientes mas feliz, porque te reafirmas, eres cada ves mas y mas egoísta. De hecho te alejas de una realidad colectiva. Yo paso… Saludos. 🙂

  • Not sure where you got your sources, but Millennials go all the way up to being born in 1999.
    Sincerely, born in 1995 and cut off.

  • Narcissim and self-awareness are not the same. The video takes the wrong clues from the wrong assumptions.
    The experiments mentioned have nothing to do with conceited, self masturbatory narcissists who will most likely change our society for the worse.

  • VirtualSuperSoldier says:

    So much of this video sounds like a narcissist trying to justify their narcissism. I suppose I should've expected that seeing as how I'm watching it on YouTube. :p

  • "If you take the opportunity to see yourself as others do, rather than to present yourself as you would rather be, the reflection may make you more confident, honest, and self-aware."

    Not really sure I'd believe that statement.

  • Entitlement is so horrible! Welfare, people bitching about not getting the minimum wage, medicaid, etc. all horrible! Decent people who made the right decisions are having to pay so schmucks who dropped out of high school or got pregnant at 14 can buy a Canada Goose jacket and have 2 cars, while also collecting welfare. It's outrageous how we have so much socialism in a supposedly capitalistic country! I do care about poor people and the truly needy (elderly, disabled, children, etc.) but the truly needy have over 1,000,000 charities they can get. There are 5 million job openings in the US, and only 2.9% of the population actually makes the minimum wage. 

  • Jake Day Williams says:

    I just uploaded a video about narcissism if anyone would like to hear my thoughts on it. I used Winnie the Pooh as a casestudy.

  • "Millennials are lazy, entitled narcissists who still live with their parents." That sounds a lot like what many ultra conservatives said about members of Occupy Wall Street. Is a lot of today's generation narcissistic, entitled, and lazy? Of course, but that it's too much of cop out to blame the new generation lack of independence on that and not look at other factors other than narcissism and laziness.

  • Selfies = I have no one to take a picture of me. If I am in a nice place, and I want  to be in the picture what should I do if I'm alone?

  • I believe that reading the bible and meditation would be the best way to help us to be more selfless and more positive mentally on many levels

  • i dont know about others, but i really have the problem in catching up with the words of this girl, accent problem, try speaking a bit slow please !!

  • Here's an idea.
    Social networking websites actually let you have more personal connections with other people by allowing us to share our deeper emotions and thoughts directly to our peers. And it, being in a written format, allows us to use our most honest and intelligent phrasing. It may just be that we send our most soulful selves into the social websites environment. If so then we should make more soulful connections with people.
    It's just a thought.

  • It's a noble thought that people use social media as a way to show your honest self, but I still believe that most people use social media mostly to show their best selfs: how good looking they are, how much money/things they own, how good their lives are, etc. they show less of what is lacking in their lives. People are selective in what they share through social media and I don't believe they are honest in that way.

  • I find this an intriguing idea. As a psychologist I know that most of us have a great deal of difficulty knowing how we are perceived by others and how we show up in the world. One of the objectives of psychotherapy is to obtain an objective view of one's self. Has social media and selfies helped? Not that I have discerned.

  • veraji pathirage says:

    The problem is people don't see them selves as others do…They present themselves as people they would rather be… Our perception of ourselves is a much better version compared to how others see us. Even though what you say makes sense it cannot be applied to whoever is using social media… 'cos we all use it to up ourselves… one way or the other… 

  • John Bianchina says:

    FACT… Social Networks are popular. FACT… Their creators are making fortunes. FACT… Average people like you & me have had no idea how to do it… Not until NOW, that is!

  • To say that social media enforces honesty is highly inaccurate. On a social network, one picks and chooses how they display themselves to the world and most people are only going to post the best photos of themselves, only talk about their most interesting days, etc. If anything, social media enforces dishonesty because users know they can't be judged on what they've hid from the world.

  • Are You Narcissistic on Social Media?
    People in this generation have more chances of being a narcissistic person just because of social media.  Well, we can blame social for part of it.  This was a cool study go watch it.

  • Kathryn Blatter says:

    Regarding selfies alone, I think they can be great.  They can also be overused, but I think that depends on the person.  If they're more vain, or confident, or whatever (not necessarily bad traits) they would choose to express themselves in whatever way was available, and right now they happen to be selfies.  For someone with low self esteem, and who hates themselves in pictures, it is a great confidence boosting activity.  If you can control the picture being taken, and check it out before sharing it with others, you can get a good picture of yourself, and not feel like you'll never measure up to others.

  • Oh i think narcissism is okay for people who think they are okay but their narcissism is bad for other people who think they're not.

  • TheBrickRookie says:

    I don't really understand, I don't take selfies and I have more self a stem on myself and I'm always happy so I'm confused by this?

  • Isn't our capability of being empathetic deteriorated as well? Since we have more narcissistic characteristics, maybe we would stop watching for everyone else…  

  • our gaze is innately drawn to eyes and faces, so i wonder if the eyes on the box wasn't bringing more honesty but rather just more notice? it's quite easy to forget a nondescript box is even there, but when your attention is attracted to it by the eyes, you remember to put money in.

  • How is our need to interact and receive confirmation from social media shaping our culture? #futurestartshere

  • It's not the least bit fair because no one is created equal, so what about the people who r not happy with how they look? Come on narcissism is the most scumbag theory ever. EVERY HUMAN IS EQUALLY PATHETIC NO MATTER WHAT!

  • I don't think building your "self" around a delusion is very safe. Kinda like saying "here have just one cigarette" it's a very hard thing to self monitor. Also narcissism has a definition, and it's not a pleasant one. Altering the meaning by saying it's okay to be a little narcissistic changes the connotation which might have far reaching repercussions. Lastly, narcissism is very individualistic, with today's socialistic bent in society (not saying it's good or bad) being narcissistic while advocating for social justice may take the meaning of "doing good for society" while being delusional (narcissistic) and there's plenty of paths to hell paved with good intentions in recent history. Self delusion and political activism, classically, haven't mixed very well.

  • So when people wear globs of makeup, fake hair, fake eyelashes and so forth, and post photo-shopped pictures of themselves online they're being more honest and true with themselves? And when their politics are mostly mainstream music/actors/ so forth, they're being more aware of the world?

  • Savvy Savages says:

    Actually it is humility which is paradoxically superior to narcissism. When a person can give an honest inventory of themselves they tend to be free to better themselves.

  • I seem to be the exception to the generation's trend. I don't do the selfies or the self flattery in that manner. I am a bit narcissistic at times, but it's less me thinking I'm great and more me shaking my head at how stupid other people are being. I do also have self esteem issues and the like though so maybe some narcissism would do me good

  • upside? what are you a narcissist? there ain't no upside budd… try being engaged and living with one of those instagram weed hotties who show their thongs with over a few hundred thousand followers… then you will know how bad it really gets with social media narcissism

  • oh really… college students are more outgoing and extrovertive? not me… I spend my time out of class sitting in my room, playing video games alone, and watching youtube… yea

  • "…who still live with their parents." Well, I deeply apologize to Time magazine for being 22, with a degree and student debts to pay, who can't get high-paid jobs due to lack of experience and high competition, and who cannot afford to pay £1,000 a month just for a house (bills not included). Perhaps if instead of complaining about how lazy my generation is, they actually gave some tips or helpful information on what to do if you're at the fuzzy end of the lollipop?

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