Various Internet platforms, such as blogs, chatrooms, and forums, provide an ideal environment for narcissists to reinforce the sense of their own importance. Studies indicate that narcissism is a constantly increasing tendency; more and more people are feeling self-important with increasingly disproportionate egos.
The Internet is a narcissist’s paradise. The term narcissism, which means loving yourself too much, derives from Greek mythology. Narcissus, the son of a river god and a nymph named Liriope, was a handsome young man who spurned all the girls who fell in love with him. To punish him for his haughtiness and disregard for the feelings of others, the gods made him fall hopelessly in love with himself. When Narcissus went to drink from a clear pool, he couldn’t take his eyes from his own reflection on the glassy surface. Eventually he died there, and the flower we call the narcissus, notable for its beauty, grew where he’d lingered.
In the late nineteenth century, the term narcissism – indicating a feeling of pride that is greater than normal and hurts other people’s feelings – began to take on a psychological meaning. In 1914 Freud added his interpretation, claiming that narcissism is a vital natural phase in healthy human development, but so is learning how to feel love for others. The transition from early or “primary” narcissism (love of one’s self) to the investment of energy in an external love object, Freud believed, is a crucial step in the individual’s healthy development.
To gain an indication of whether you have narcissistic tendencies, answer the following questions:
1. I like to be the center of attention.
2. I think I am a special person.
3. I insist upon getting the respect that is due to me.
4. Manipulating people is easy.
5. I am more capable than other people.
6. I am going to be a great person.
If you answered all these questions positively, you probably do have narcissistic tendencies. For a better indication of your narcissistic tendencies, complete the questionnaire by Ames Rose and Anderson (2006).
Various Internet platforms, such as blogs, chatrooms, and forums, provide an ideal environment for narcissists to reinforce the sense of their own importance; they can focus on themselves and describe to all who care to listen (or, indeed, who don’t) what they’ve seen, heard, and felt. Social networks, for example, are another place where narcissists can present and “sell” themselves. Narcissists tend to use social networks as a way of cultivating their own standing among others. They take selfies (self-captured photos of themselves), and continuously upload them; they invest a great deal of time in improving their personal profiles; they deliberate at length as they choose pictures, and their posts tend to focus on how “I did…, I do…, I am…” (Wang, Jackson Zhang, & Su, 2012).
Discourse of this sort provides no real intimacy because the narcissists are completely focused on presenting their own particulars and make no real effort to listen to other people, much less conduct a conversation with depth and meaning. Studies indicate that narcissism is a constantly increasing tendency; more and more people are feeling self-important with increasingly disproportionate egos. According to a comprehensive survey by Konrath O’Brien and Hsing (2011) from the University of Michigan, many people are displaying a steep drop in empathy (being sensitive to, and identifying with, other people’s feelings). Some people glumly call today’s young people “Generation N,” the narcissist generation. That may be a broad generalization, but the trend is an obvious cause for concern.
See more on this issue in my new book, Internet Psychology: The Basics.
Amichai-Hamburger, Y. (2017). Internet Psychology: The Basics. New York: Routledge
Ames, R. D, Rose, P., & Anderson, P. C. (2006). The NPI-16 as a short measure of narcissism. Journal of Research in Personality, 40, 440–450.
Konrath, S., O’Brien, E., & Hsing, C. (2011). Changes in dispositional empathy in American college students over time: A meta-analysis. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 15, 180–198.
Wang, J. L., Jackson, L. A., Zhang, D. J., & Su, Z. Q. (2012). The relationships among the Big Five personality factors, self-esteem, narcissism, and sensation-seeking to Chinese university students’ uses of social networking sites (SNSs). Computers in Human Behavior, 28, 2313–2319.