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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Apology

You greeted me with open arms,

Happy to have a companion in this world.

At times, joy arose like a flame

That attracted moths with its light.

The image was perfect.

 

You would rise in fury

When the last of what should have been yours

Was left devoured

Or if I broke something by accident.

It upset you, so I apologized,

And then the joyful atmosphere resumed.

 

Sometimes, I get tired and weary,

And so I sigh to relieve the tension.

Or I try to defend my innocence

During a debacle.

 

That draws ire from you, apparently,

So you mock my voice,

Something that happens in arguments

Whenever I try to defend myself.

I apologize for my actions,

And my behavior is changed for the better.

 

The images of hands playing with its toy,

Disposing of its broken form when the warranty expires,

Violating me,

Are what keep me awake at night.

 

Your philosophy of being honest with yourself

Showcases who you are,

So unique in your flawlessness.

Henceforth, if I have an ambition,

A dream, a love, a desire,

A belief about a happening in my life,

I’m discouraged, for I am “delusional” or “pathetic”,

As that is not what you want.

 

I try to scream “no” to help myself,

But the word comes flying back into my ears.

Sometimes on repeat like a broken record.

One apology later,

One more “I’m always wrong” later,

and your back to contentment,

And I, delusional as I am, am losing a piece of myself.

So long as it means stability.

 

Eventually, the warranty expires,

And you dispose of me and my pieces.

Other hands try to explore my mind,

But I manage to escape into the open.

 

Those who try to drag me into the darkness

Claim purity and innocence.

I can’t attack them myself,

Not because of their purity,

But to preserve that

Which still holds me

In one piece.

 

The pieces, surprisingly,

Are resilient,

Despite hanging on to each other

By possibly a spaghetti noodle.

I find myself a little more wary,

But time permits me

To see the light of others

A little more clearly each day.

 

Despite the shadows,

I can feel the joy returning,

My body healing itself.

 

I’m not sorry.

 

 

 

 

Day 9: Sometimes

Sometimes, we fall in love with a coward.

Sometimes, we love someone who casts us aside for the sake of pursuing something that is, ultimately, more attracting by some virtue of a deceitfully physical illusion rather than substance of the emotional.

Sometimes, we are betrayed by those closest to us–for, no matter how virtuous or self-serving their ambition is (especially out of “true love”), they will do whatever it takes to see their goal completed, regardless of who may get hurt.

And, strangely, that’s alright.

Because, sometimes, it takes these to grow into something suited for better than these troubles.

Feeling Thoughtful

Not every day is going to be bright and cheerful, and there are no promises that the next day will be as such either. It’s knowing how to personally get through the struggles of any challenging moments and the willpower to push onward, regardless of the bruises and scars received in the wake of it all, that help us gain the strength to see ourselves through to the eventual dawn of a brighter day.

Day 8: Revelation

“Don’t you see it yet?”, she screamed, “all this time, she’s been playing both of us in whatever game she has because it benefits her, and you’ve been too swept up in this little romance of yours to see what it’s doing to everyone! Please, I beg of you, don’t be foolhardy about this and get us both killed before we have a chance to act!”

Samuel stood visibly shaken by Miranda’s confession, ostensibly horrified by the things he was listening to at the time. His breath caught and choked his throat as he struggled to put the pieces together.

Day 7: Slumber

Eric shifted awake, disappointed to find himself back in his darkened bedroom. The dream had provided a feeling of comfort and relief that couldn’t, otherwise, be found in his regular life–particularly considering all that had unfolded back in the flight hangar.

Just a dream, he thought.

He readjusted himself in the, oddly, comfortable bed so that he might sleep. Laying his head upon the pillows, he inhaled and exhaled deeply to release whatever had a stronghold on his mind. All which was vexing would be waiting for him in the morning–for now, he sought to be carried off in sleep.

Day 6: Rift

The group of individuals took their places in the wide open room, as the atmosphere of the room settled into the regular hustle bustle of the class’s pre-routine. The room was alive with regular conversation, hushed whispers, and boisterous laughter. All of these things proved to thrive in a terrain that, once replete with the true spirit of camaraderie, lay in a fractured rift of deceit and resentment.

Worse yet, no attempt was made to mend said rift. Those responsible carried on as though nothing was wrong, and the rest were too wrapped up in angered complaints to take action.