Too Perfect: A Look at Social Narcissism

Narcissism is a staple of our modern world. Whether it’s social media posts that garner a swarm of likes or hearts, fixing up a face or wardrobe on order to look extraordinary enough to stand out of a crowd, or simply being too overly concerned with oneself and their outward appearance, many individuals find themselves caught up in the individualism of the era. In a peculiar sense, even the mildest practice has seemingly become a sort of survival mechanism for mankind–as a social species, narcissism plays upon mankind’s need for social interaction to exploit its desire for peer approval and constant positive feedback. Conversely, the more one focuses on their outward self, the more disconnected and numb they become towards other people and general empathy–displayed with the passive “Thoughts and Prayers”–until, just like the term’s namesake, the individual ends up withering away to the view of their own image (more on that later). Understanding the role of narcissism or self-care in all its variations is paramount in both trying to achieve progress in society and looking for ways to close whatever gaps between the self and others have been created as a result of this individualism.

On the one hand, this belief can be whittled down to a basic survival instinct–to illustrate, most of us know what it’s like to live mainly on ramen or PB&J’s, and so we do everything that we see is in our own best interest to avoid that particular starvation. To a lesser extent, this could also be applied to how one presents themselves to the general public (online or in real life), because, again, that sense of wanting to fit in or find acceptance from another drives one to find a support group so that they have a source to turn to in time of crisis.  Now, in terms of online use, I myself am a social media fiend, as I particularly enjoy posting various things on the medium, and of that I am guilty. And there are a lot of fun and exciting things to find on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and all other platforms. And there are people who have found it to be a great way to connect with others, so there are some positive to it. However, having found myself at times getting invested too much into the medium or being at the receiving end of someone’s mercy both on and offline, I think it’s important to be aware of what this medium is capable of in the context of the world which we inhabit.

On the other hand, however, the enabling of modern society towards acting on individualistic, self-centered tendencies has been shown to drive individuals toward an image that, previously, was mainly if not only seen in the likes of fictional characters (namely, Gordon Gekko, Hannibal Lector, or South Park’s Eric Cartman if you’re more of a comedy type). In a sense, these people take the narcissistic traits associated with copious social media and fashion trend use to a whole new level offline.

Instead of just posting random stuff on Twitter or Facebook, other people can be used if the individual feels that their presence acts as an extension of their own perceived glory. The narcissist can perceive that the great and mighty achievements of someone can directly reflect back on themselves, should that person possess the desired characteristics, and continue to exploit that person for their own personal gain or desire to “feel good.” I like to believe that this is akin to a child doing something just so they can get a “lollipop,” and personally dub it a Lollipop Effect.

Of course, with narcissism, if the narcissist (let’s call them “X”) views themselves as perfect or nearly flawless, then these perceived “extensions” of themselves (let’s call them “Y”) must also be perfect or exhibit good or outstanding traits. Because, should someone point out any glaring grievances or shortcomings, especially if it’s Y, then X will resort to dumping their problems on Y and making it seem as though Y is the one with the issues; some will know this as “gas lighting.” X will also put down Y’s achievements in order to make their own achievement’s look better in comparison. Feeling entitled to only the greatest glory, X will even get rid of the old Y and replace them with a new Y, or someone who will comply with their superiority.And it can happen on Facebook just as much as it can happen in a real life situation.

All of this is an example of one’s “survival method” taken to a horrible extreme, and the treatment off the proverbial “Y” in this instance can be interpreted in terms of potential dehumanization. X was using Y to further their own benefit, just like how many teenage girls use Instagram to further other’s perceptions of their own beauty. When X is happy with all that’s going on, then Y can be happy to; when it hits the fan and X gets angry and wrecks havoc, then Y is saddled with the imperfection and has to take full responsibility for the calamity, especially if they want X to treat them well.And so, a sense of hopelessness and depression on part of Y ensues.

Similarly, just as one ditches a fashion piece perceived to be “tacky” (chokers and socks with sandals seem to be popularly loathed), Narcissist Supreme can rid themselves of good ol’ Johnny Tallahassee if they feel that the latter is non-beneficial to their godlike status. This is made even worse if X makes it seem that Y is totally dependent on them, making it appear that Y’s reliance on X is their only method of survival–therefore, opening the door for X to do whatever they please with Y. The longer this occurs, the less Y feels like themselves or human to begin with, and the more that they feel as an extension of X.

Keeping this in mind when looking at the greater social landscape, it doesn’t come as a surprise that collective narcissism seems to be on the rise. It isn’t just popular to post selfies like there’s no tomorrow, but the widespread practice of such and how it yields a large collective response has snowballed into more individuals doing similar acts and, eventually, reaching a stage where empathy and concern for the well-being of others is almost nonexistent. People use each other to further an agenda moreso than ever before, and, if they’re not already withering away like Narcissus in front of his own reflection, they’re damning themselves by believing that their only source for survival is with Narcissus, just like those who died believing that they could not measure to his perceived glory.

Such a belief that one is above all others is reflected in our politics (particularly with treatment towards those of opposing ideals), our religious practices, and our apathetic attitude towards the educational system (be it a decline in academic performance or the apathy towards someone brandishing a weapon at children). And, the more focus is placed on individualism, the less likely it is for one to be able to actively survive, or at least in a way that allows them to be somewhat empathetic.

Progress will only happen for the individual or the social group if a rejection of modern individualism is acted upon. Regardless of whether one is the victim or the instigator in a narcissistic scenario, awareness of the problem and looking for ways to be more open or empathetic with others is the more sound solution to addressing those issues that plague us today.

 

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Me Too

#MeToo

From the incessant grabbing and grinding at music festivals, to being inspected like a piece of meat even when wearing modest attire, to being pinned and indulged from even when you say “no”–it is time for the silence to end.

Election 2016: Public Service Announcement

Racism; misogyny; political lies; fear-mongering; and mudslinging have been abundant in this election cycle for sure–especially from the candidates of the two biggest political parties, Donald Trump (Republican) and Hillary Clinton (Democrat), in the United States. All of this is done in order to gain the voices of multitudes to ensure a victory as leader of the proverbial free world. Regardless of the fact that these faces are doing more harm than good, people of all backgrounds and statuses are rallying behind their candidate of choice based upon things presented solely at face value, and upon the belief that the president stands above any and all when it comes to power and lawmaking in the United States.

It is very easy for some to accept this as an absolute truth, but it should not take away from the other politicians running for offices within the States themselves and from within the larger federal government. Without a focus on the bigger picture of the election cycle, we have almost turned our backs upon the very things that are taking place in our own backyard in favor of the commotion on the streets. Locally, there are or could be measures that could affect the use of natural resources in one’s area. Or school board officials could be making a decision as to whether or not to detach themselves from Common Core. Many people, still, could be taking a vote on whether or not to mark a strip of highway as a toll road or to change the toll tax on a preexisting one. In any case, we would not be aware of whatever would be changing around us, simply because we have become preoccupied with only the prettiest piece of the puzzle.

Most importantly to add, however, is the fact that there are hundreds of seats in the House of Representatives and the Senate combined–both of which make up the bicameral House of Congress–up for a vote this year. This is where all of the laws and legislation for the United States is drafted and reviewed before being taken to the president for an approval or veto. This is where people from all over the nation send their concerns to their representatives or senators, in the hope that their voices may be heard and that a law in their favor may be passed. Many of the politicians whose seats are up for reelection are running again, and this has several citizens uneasy for several reasons. Not only have a bulk of these men and women been serving for a good chunk of their lives, but, seemingly, there seems to not be enough working getting done due to excessive vacations and/or a lack of desire to do the work expected of them. The election for these seats may go about by way of some of these scenarios, however: people will elect a new person out of spite of the current placeholder, vote for a new person because they want to “change things up”; or vote for the incumbent out of a sense of familiarity and a desire to keep things as they are. In any circumstance, the lack of research for a candidate that is viable and necessary for the job , incumbent or not, is apparent. Separately, it is worth noting that not every person in any one party is going to be for or against their party’s presidential candidate–do they have the same stances or platforms as said candidate. Or how do they differ? Or what does it mean for you, taking into account your beliefs?

Voting for the next president of the United States is a very important decision. However, that should not prevent anyone from ignoring the events happening around them, or other individuals whose actions and work may, ultimately, affect their way of life. In finishing, I ask any and all who read this to do as much research as they can about local measures that could affect how they live their day to day lives, as well as the men and women who will be running for office (especially those on Capitol Hill) and doing work that will, in turn, affect the general public. This way, come November, one will approach the voting booth with a better understanding of everything the ballot entails, rather than just relying solely on one vote out of many others.