Online Narcissism: Writers with NPD
Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is diagnosed when an individual exhibits a cluster of symptoms related to an elevated sense of self-importance or worth. Online narcissism refers to the emergence of these symptoms on the internet.
Many individuals on twitter and facebook believe the world should be interested in every aspect of their lives. Similarly, on writing and blogging websites, narcissists take advantage of the self-publishing platform to soothe their vulnerable egos, and it is this phenomenon that will be focused on here. The symptoms that manifest in someone suffering from NPD are varied, but often include:
- A willingness to emphasize and exaggerate traits or achievements that may prove to be reputationally beneficial.
- A belief in being special and unique in the world.
- Is callous, exploitative, and envious of others.
- Requires persistent positive reinforcement from those considered allies.
- Has an inability to apologize or take responsibility for one's actions or words, but is quick to demand apologies from others.
- Suffers from extreme self-preoccupation to the point of being paranoid about the opinions and conspiratorial motivations of potential critics.
- Has a sense of entitlement and a preoccupation with fantasies of success.
- Has delusions of grandeur that are sometimes derived from supernatural beliefs, including astrology, past-life regression, and some forms of religion.
- Demonstrates superficial charm or glibness, which is used to derogate critics without alienating allies.
- Will only experience short-lived egocentric emotions, with a complete lack of empathy (coldness).
These traits can be described as a dispositional defense mechanism. NPD develops over many years to cope with a vulnerability to psychological pain. NPD sufferers are remarkably insecure, and this persecution complex is strengthened when they are inevitably trolled online. Unfortunately, the trolling intensifies their detachment from the world, and perpetuates a need to comfort their bruised ego with further narcissistic behavior.
Narcissistic Defense Machanisms
Writers with NPD
This section will describe how narcissistic personality disorder manifests on writing sites and in social media profiles. The clearest indication that someone has NPD is the presence of vainglorious, self-indulgent ramblings in their profile. However, there are other more subtle clues, such as:
- An excessively long profile, suggesting the writer believes he/she is important enough to hold someone's attention and interest for an extended period of time.
- Use of adjectives such as inspirational or profound to describe one's own work.
- Description of one's readers as having excellent taste.
- Boastful accounts of unnecessary facts such as the number of countries one's followers come from.
- The emboldening of boastful information to emphasize its importance.
- The use of astrology, past-life regression, or a spiritual experience to produce a delusion of grandeur regarding one's potential or certain superiority.
- A description of what the writer doesn't like about other people, suggesting a projection of the writer's own negative traits onto others.
- A description of one's work as beyond the comprehension of fools or inferiors.
- The grammatically incorrect capitalization of words to emphasize them. Most of the words chosen for capitalization will be flattering. Ironically, many readers will frown upon the poor use of grammar, but these individuals are outside of the narcissist's target audience as they cannot supply what the narcissist needs (praise).
- Repeated claims of uniqueness demonstrating absurd and deluded levels of perceived superiority.
- Reference to oneself as being alone or stranded in one's own brilliance.
- Often demonstrates poor spelling and grammar, but is oblivious due to an unwillingness to believe in personal faults.
- If they have a qualification, they will typically state it more than once, and will misrepresent it in flattering ways, e.g. describing an economics degree as a science degree.
- Will often end the profile with a lengthy copyright notice and/or disclaimer. While most people using these notices are not narcissists, an NPD sufferer will always have one because they believe their perfect work is at considerable risk of theft.
- Will use overly legal language in the notice and disclaimer. This warns potential thieves not to mess with the writer, and satisfies the writer's belief in being professional and capable of intimidation.
- Will take self-publishing to self-indulgent extremes. They often have over-priced vanity projects on Amazon, as well as numerous blogs.
These aspects will also appear in the narcissists work:
- The placement of the writer's own quotes onto images to `immortalize' them.
- The lack of linking to or quoting other people; even famous writers whose words could add a worthy perspective on the subject.
The film version of Red Dragon
Case Study of a Narcissist
Interactions with narcissists are generally unpleasant. This is because they seek disequilibrium by enhancing their ego and weakening yours. Understanding that you're dealing with a narcissist can save a lot of time and effort. To test the veracity of the above deductions about writers with NPD, the following research was undertaken.
A writer's profile was found (not on Hubpages) that included all but one of the features listed above. The person in question will of course remain nameless. Be advised that narcissism is a central part of Hare's Psychopathy Checklist, and provocation is not advised.
The profile was almost a thousand words long, replete with claims of personal profundity and wisdom. Of special note was the use of astrology to produce a delusion of grandeur. The writer stated his birth sign as the "Dragon", before comparing himself to the animal, and remarking that the Chinese revere dragons as if Emperors (complete with incorrect spelling of course). If you have ever read Thomas Harris' novel `Red Dragon', this might cause concern.
The writer used the word `unique' a total of eleven times, describing his unique knowledge of life and death, and his place in the world as beyond merely unique. He talked of standing alone on an island, reaching out to unknown worlds, and bragged about the number of countries his followers come from.
Further research was performed to understand how this individual interacts with others on the internet. In his recent history, it was found that he had attacked someone in an online forum. When the other person replied angrily, the writer produced two symptoms of NPD. He addressed everyone on the forum, stating that he didn't "appreciate the abusive attitude" of the other person. This suggested that the writer believed his words on the matter were important enough for everyone to read. It also showed that he can play the role of victim to garner positive reinforcement from potential allies.
Although no-one on the forum cared enough to reply, surprisingly, the other person apologized to the writer to avoid further argument. Demonstrating a third symptom, the writer failed to apologize for his own comments.
In the initial attack, the writer hid his derogatory comments behind sarcasm and an attempt at charm. Despite the superficial inanity of these attempts (limited to exclamation points and `smilies'), the writer used the subsequent altercation to bolster his ego further by claiming his words were too "subtle" (esoteric) to be understood. When confronted by other internet users, the writer claimed he was misunderstood for this reason. The use of superficial charm to avoid condemnation for his callous behavior suggested a further avoidance of responsibility, and another symptom of NPD.
The Paranoid-Schizoid Position
When charm failed to win allies or deter his adversary, the writer adopted the paranoid-schizoid position, a fifth symptom of the disorder. He accused the other person of using a fake name and of "pulling the same stunt" previously. He then requested IP information from the forum moderator to justify his paranoid theory.
As well as paranoia, the writer prefaced his conspiratorial claim with the words "get some help", suggesting a projection of his intensifying insecurity onto his adversary. Nevertheless, he still attempted to mask the absurdity of the claim by following it with an exclamation point, betraying a final attempt to maintain credibility with his accepted formula for charm.
How to Deal with Online Narcissists
If confronted by an online narcissist, it is best to restrict your responses to short statements such as "I respectfully disagree" or "we must agree to disagree". Pitying, ignoring or agreeing with a narcissist will only strengthen their delusions or intensify their attention seeking behavior.
Narcissists take criticism of their opinions as criticism against themselves. Any detail you provide regarding your disagreement will be used to justify the view that you despise them. As a result, the narcissist will often project or repeat what hurt their feelings the most without realizing it. By restricting the detail of your comments, you deprive them of their supply. If they cannot construct a reason for your perceived hatred of them, they are unable to bolster their ego by derogating you in return.
The narcissist desperately needs you as a supply, thus, their likely response will be a request to elaborate, and an accusation that your disagreement was baseless. This can be safely ignored. In this way, you foster uncertainty regarding their claims without allowing them to find a reason to despise you as an abuser.
Narcissists are attracted to writing sites and blogging for a couple of reasons. The self-publishing aspect of these sites ensures they escape the criticism and rejection that may arise from having their work peer-reviewed. Furthermore, the narcissist can more easily assess their work as superior to that of the local writing community.
Authors on writing sites can be tested for NPD by analyzing the self-descriptive writing in their profiles. In this article I reported on a case study of a writer whose profile strongly suggested the presence of the disorder. The individual's interactions with other internet users revealed five symptoms of NPD, confirming the hypothesized diagnosis and the validity of self-descriptive writing as a diagnostic tool.
The best way to help or avoid an unpleasant confrontation with an online narcissist is to limit the scope of your exchange. Disagreement without elaboration will prevent the narcissist from personifying your words, curtailing their ability to produce the disequilibrium of egos they desire.