Social narcissism is the use of social media as an outlet to promote egotistical tendencies like preoccupation with social status, physical appearance, career success, and financial status. Through their profiles and postings, social narcissists can be easy to recognize on social media sites. Some studies indicate that social media may promote social narcissism. Narcissism has been variously defined as a cultural phenomenon and a psychological disease.
Social media sites are a great outlet for social narcissism. Social narcissists are not driven by the desire to connect with other people. They are more concerned with acquiring hundreds of social media friends and impressing others with their popularity. A flashy profile photo taken by a professional photographer is another indication of a social narcissist. The social narcissist’s posts will most likely catalog career successes, social status, and events attended. The grandiose belief that everyone is very interested in his or her life is the driving factor behind the social narcissist’s posts on social networking sites.
Studies show there is not a higher percentage of narcissists using social media when compared to the general population, so social media does not attract narcissists in unusual numbers. Some college students reported feeling more narcissistic during social media use, but this does not make them full-blown narcissists. Among high school students, researchers have found that some students on social media sites are overly concerned with physical appearance and social status. Of course these characteristics are common among many teenagers. Research has also suggested that social media may help shy teens fit in with their peers.
The term narcissism has been used to describe cultures. In his 1978 book, The Culture of Narcissism, Christopher Lasch presented the idea that after World War II, Americans began to exhibit more narcissistic traits. He suggested that Americans were becoming more concerned with the acquisition of belongings and less concerned with basic human values. It is not surprising that the term narcissism has been used in connection with social media. The very nature of the social media environment encourages some level of narcissism, because it invites people to share their activities and thoughts.
Narcissistic traits can be present in everyone to some degree, and social narcissism is not necessary a disease. The clinical name for the psychiatric syndrome is Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). Traits for this psychological disorder include an exaggerated sense of self-importance, a sense of entitlement, an obsession with social status, and a willingness to take advantage of people. The narcissistic person is unable to feel compassion for other people and is well versed in using people to further his or her ambitions. When narcissism becomes a clinical disorder, it adversely affects the narcissist’s relationships, career, self-esteem and happiness.