If baby boomers were the “me generation,” then it’s not too far-fetched to call millennials the “me, me, me generation.”
By all standards, we are all increasingly interested in extrinsic values. A growing number of studies show that narcissistic personality traits are on the rise.
It is not clear how big the problem is with this trend, but everyone agrees that it is not a positive change. The causes of these changes in self-perception are diverse and complex. But if there is something that cannot be denied, it is that they map almost perfectly to the equally growing trends in the use of social networks.
Difference between self-esteem and narcissism
Self-esteem is generally considered a positive and healthy trait and is sometimes mistaken for narcissistic behavior.
The fundamental difference between the two is that self-esteem comes from real and measurable achievements, while narcissism comes from a lack of them.
When people achieve tangible positive things in their lives, their self-esteem naturally increases. That is good. Having high self-esteem is one of the key factors for stable mental health.
In a narcissistic person, conversely, it is the lack of achievement that drives the behavior. That is compounded by the presence of social media. Narcissists act out of fear of failure and, furthermore, out of fear of being perceived as failures.
These feelings of inadequacy begin to inform people’s decisions and that creates a codependent relationship with social media.
The role of social media
In a world filtered through social media news sources, criteria of truth can be warped.
If a person finds themselves in a situation where things presented on social media easily pass the required criteria for truth, they will be incentivized to trust those channels more and more.
This, in turn, results in a disregard for actual concrete achievements. After all, if what is presented on social media has a real impact on their lives, why should it be treated as if it doesn’t?
The “offline” world is becoming less and less interesting. And you can’t completely blame people.
If putting shares in your personality on social media has a better return on that investment, why wouldn’t we want that? Sure, there are long-term implications and complications, but most humans aren’t long-term thinkers.
What is the problem?
It may seem harmless or just plain eccentric at first glance, but this narcissistic behavior has serious drawbacks.
Many negative trends in mental health can be attributed to this behavior with some certainty. People, especially the younger generations, have higher rates of hyperactivity disorder.
One can easily see how explosive rates of body dysmorphia can be related to this as well. In a world that values the perfect selfie, not having one can be a cause for dismay.
Addictive personality disorders are also on the rise. Many studies have clearly shown how addictive social media can be. If you’ve ever felt anxious when your connection drops and you can’t check notifications and update the news feed, you know what we’re talking about.
All of this adds up to a steady increase in cases of depression in young people. For many people who want to focus on their intrinsic values, it is terribly disheartening to live in a world that belittles them for not embracing extrinsic values.
Social networks, the perfect connector or a clear and present danger?
It’s not going too far to say that social media is definitely to blame for some of the narcissistic tendencies in our modern world. Study after study has shown circumstantial links between social media use and increased narcissistic traits.
The question is what to do about it? We can’t just get rid of it. Any coherent plan must include the social networks present in our lives in some way. Perhaps we should focus on how we can turn the dial back and use social media to deliver the benefits that it clearly can deliver with less consequence.