Internet Narcissism: Are You A Fake Person?
Narcissus was the son of a Greek river god named Cephissus. Though he was a hunter, he had a little bit of an issue - he was completely enamored of beauty. He also had a lot of pride. Both of these things cost him dearly.
See, Narcissus was not a very nice person. He was nasty to those who cared about him and was completely self absorbed. Nemesis, a god whose very name was derived from a Greek term essentially meaning "to give people exactly what they deserve," decided to serve a little justice on the vain, proud son of the river god.
Nemesis led Narcissus to a body of water where she knew he would see his own reflection. Because of the love he bore for beauty itself, when he saw his reflection, he did not realize he was looking at a mirrored image and he was unable to leave it. He eventually grew weak and died, such was his obsession with what he saw in the water.
Although many people these days no longer believe in those old stories, the tales of Greek and Roman mythology that have been passed down throughout the centuries still serve as powerful lessons. In the case of Narcissus, his self absorption caused his own death. And, although self-love can be a good thing, some people take it entirely too far.
Medical science has a name for this, derived from Narcissus himself.
What is Narcissism?
Narcissism, now officially recognized as Narcissistic Personality Disorder or NPD, began as a term used in the infancy of psychology to describe the sexual perversion of obsessive masturbation. Like Narcissus, these people are so obsessed with themselves that they receive an unhealthy gratification through self worship.
The term evolved as a diagnosis that included people who either have too high or too low self esteem and will do everything they can to get and maintain the level of attention they think they deserve. Although they do usually have at least one mental issue, narcissists are usually disinclined to seek psychological help because they do not believe they have any problems. Clearly, some may be in denial about their issues and more still are fully aware of them and, in fact, embrace them.
There are now many differing levels and categories of narcissism. Conversational narcissists, for example, are those folks in every crowd who always need to be the center of attention. An aggressive narcissist (this really is an official medical term) is usually a pathological liar with a sense of entitlement who has no sense of guilt and will attempt to manipulate others into doing their bidding. Narcissistic parents are people who look at their children as extensions of themselves - think "football dads" or "beauty pageant moms" who force their kids into activities that either the parents excelled at or wished they had done in their own childhoods.
Reverse or inverted narcissism is another term for co-dependency. People who are afflicted with reverse narcissism usually have low or non-existent self esteem. They will often neglect their own needs to make sure that those of others are met. Unfortunately, people with co-dependency issues are often very attracted to narcissists because those self-absorbed people are almost always welcoming of people who pander to them and inflate their own egos.
Unfortunately, the global stage that the internet provides is a breeding ground for narcissists and their presence causes issues in many different ways.
How To Spot An Internet Narcissist
If you suspect that your new (or old) friend is an internet narcissist, look for the following symptoms
- Everything is all about them.
- Every sentence they publish begins with I, me or mine.
- Nothing bad ever happens to them.
- Nothing good ever happens to them.
- This friend is always embroiled in some kind of internet drama.
- Every message they leave regarding one of your posts somehow twists the situation around to make it relevant to them.
- Most of the photos they share feature them... and nothing else.
- They have tons of followers and usually only interact with a small percentage of them.
In these days when we are so often told not to believe everything we hear, some people will go to great lengths to make sure that everything we know about them is a lie and the internet gives these folks a grand stage to act out their own scripts.
Internet narcissism first became an issue with the advent and popularity of online dating. It may seem like a tired old joke now, but people still use old photos of themselves on these websites and completely fabricate the information that they give potential partners about themselves. Though many people do this "in real life" (as opposed to online), the internet made it much easier for narcissists to build up and maintain these false images of themselves.
These days, internet narcissism is rampant and for many different reasons. First of all, we have become a society that depends on instant gratification, which is why there are so many reality television shows. We write Facebook statuses and Twitter messages and expect to rack up comments and "likes" quickly and that they should all be positive or encouraging.
Because of this, some people quickly learn that, to get the attention that they are seeking from their online followers, their messages have to be interesting, exciting and, in some cases, completely false.
No one expects that we should publicly give up the sad and mundane details of our private lives, but many people go well out of their way to make it sound as if their lives are perfect, their kids a perfect, their jobs are perfect, their spouses are perfect and that they, in turn, are perfect too.
This is the image that narcissists portray to the world on the grand stage of the internet. Every message they write begins with "I," showing us that they are what is important. They never refer to things that they share with other people as being "ours." It's always "my house." "my kids," "my kitchen," my dog," "my television," "my yard" and so forth and so on. This is not just the mark of narcissism, it is also a hallmark of selfishness. I, me and mine are the three most frequently used words in a narcissist's vocabulary.
Sometimes an internet narcissist will take a completely different tactic. Every message they send to their followers is a "woe is me" narrative designed specifically to gain attention because, to a narcissist, even negative attention is still attention.
Of course, an internet narcissist is the first to cry foul when someone realizes what is actually happening and calls shenanigans. They send out harried messages with no intention other than to sway people to their point of view and will often encourage their "followers" to defend them at all costs which starts "drama wars" on the internet. Unfortunately, those followers who are only relying on the half a story they've received from the narcissist usually end up making themselves look like fools in the process. The narcissist won't care because they do have an image to protect, after all.
Have you ever lied about who or what you are on the internet? (This poll is totally anonymous, by the way!)
Why People Lie About Who They Really Are
We've covered the different ways in which people lie about themselves - to escape their own lives, to be liked and gain followers. But why do they do it?
Some would suggest that the anonymity of the internet is the perfect stage for these folks. After all, the only real identifying information that someone could obtain from our travels on the world wide web is our ISP numbers. Sometimes those can be narrowed down to region or even city, but that is pretty much it and very few people know how to find or trace those. So the fact that lying about who and what we are on the internet first happens because it is easy to do.
Most people lie about their lives because they are unhappy with their own realities. Either they aren't making the kind of money they want, their quality of life is not what they believe they are entitled to or they are just plain seeking attention and will do anything they can to get it.
The most unfortunate side effect of internet narcissism is that innocent people end up being duped by these liars and it can affect their self esteem and their ability to trust others. Sometimes these unfortunate souls are manipulated into doing favors for these shallow people and will often be tricked into sending them money or other things that the narcissist needs or wants.
To protect yourself from these narcissistic vultures, the only advice you should ever heed is to not believe everything you hear. Look at everything with a sceptical eye because you need to protect yourself.
It is true that a few bad apples can spoil the whole bushel, but let each run-in you have with these types of people teach you lessons instead of souring you towards making friends on the internet. There are real and caring people out there, you just have to keep the gullible side of yourself in check.
Video Opinion of Narcissism With Regards to the Portrayal of Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg in the Movie The Social Network
© 2013 Georgianna Lowery