Living in a Narcissistic World

You won’t like this post. But keep reading anyway, and know that I’m being just as hard on myself as everyone else.

Selfishness isn’t something we have to be taught. We come by it naturally. Little kids don’t have to be coached not to want to share their toys, or their juice, or their mommy. It’s in our blood, probably because the first sin was selfishness.

“You can be like God!” said the Serpent.

“Awesome!” said Eve.

Well, maybe it didn’t happen exactly like that, but you get the gist. And here we are, shut up in our own little world, wanting it to be all about us and being displeased when it isn’t.

People are more selfish than they used to be. I can tell. You know how? I’ve been on the internet a long time. I remember when social networking was about sharing ideas and having in-depth, thought-provoking discussions and your friends really were friends! You knew them, you interacted with them, and you built relationships with them.

Then Facebook happened. It seemed like a good idea at the time, except instead of sharing ideas and discussing things, it was mostly all about… you. Your pictures. Your friends. Your hobbies. Your stuff. Then came Twitter. Even more about you. What you had for lunch. What movie you just watched. What drives you nuts. Only Twitter was even more awesome because… no one had to answer you. You could feel important even if you weren’t!

And something happened. Actual social interaction dwindled. Blogs stopped getting as many comments. YouTube stopped having as many hits. Forums dried up. Fanfiction.net burst with stories but not feedback. Why? Because we were suddenly all so busy and so important that we didn’t have time to affirm one another. It is all about what they can give me, as opposed to what I can give them. If commenting won’t get me any attention, why comment? Sure, I liked that music video… but I’m too busy to type ten words and tell them how much I liked it. That was a great story! Nobody has told them that. But I’m busy. So busy that maybe the most I can do is hit “like” on Facebook or Tumblr, but maybe even too busy for that.

But you know what? Other people need me. Everything that is shared on the internet has a person behind it: a person who needs affirmation, who needs to be loved, who needs social interaction and feedback. Stories on Fanfiction.net don’t write themselves. Music videos don’t just magically appear. Tumblr graphics do not simply spring out of a creative bank in PhotoShop. Blog entries do not write themselves. It can be incredibly difficult to pour your heart into a project, to be excited about it, to want to share it with others, and have no one act as if they even care. Maybe they did look at it. Maybe they didn’t. But a heart can wither up and die waiting for just one person to say, “Well done.”

So start saying it. If you like something, tell them so. Make them feel good. Even if it isn’t something you care about, make a point to tell them that you treasure their passion for their topic. Hit that “like” button if it’s your only option. If it isn’t, take a minute out of your not-as-busy-as-you-think-it-is day and bless them.

Ours is a narcissistic world. But when everyone is a narcissist, no one gets affirmation. Narcissism is a lonely way to live. So reach out. Love someone. Bless them, even for a moment.

22 Replies to “Living in a Narcissistic World”

  1. Charity~
    The fact I’m writting this comment so late PROVES your point. For so long I have remained silent on the internet, saying to myself “I need to focus on REAL, outside-the-internet, relationships.”
    But, I realized, that if I enjoy your blog so much (I’ve been coming here for years – and that’s NOT a creepy thing 🙂 I should let you know I love it!

    Thinking back, the few times I comment on websites, it is usually when someone is closing their blog (or revamping it – as in your case) and I stop to say thanks. That is pathetic. Why don’t I say thanks for all the work WHILE you are doing it. Thanks for this reminder . . and I hope to comment more often when I appreciate something 🙂

    Sincerely, (the internet introvert leaving her world)
    Camille

    1. Camille,

      Thank you for taking the time to comment! I really appreciate it. I’m being honest when I say that people need affirmation. I was discussing this with a friend who has a blog and she said that sadly, she has become “accustomed to being ignored online.” I find that incredibly sad. People generally don’t bother to say anything until, as you say, a blog announces that it is shutting down. If more of us would be active in interacting with one another, fewer ghosts of blogs would haunt the internet. When creativity is not encouraged, it tends to die. Thank you for taking the time to say hello. =)

      – Charity

  2. I rarely go on fb, but you’re right, I should be more willing to talk to others on there, to say a kind word. I’m going to be better about this.

  3. Amen to all of that.

    I’m having difficulties with social media at the moment. I spent 5mins max on Facebook per day, mainly to check up on my friends, and I don’t like Twitter for most of the reasons you said, but I keep hearing that, as an aspiring illustrator, I need to have a ‘web presence’ and basically throw myself into other people’s faces, which really isn’t me. *Sigh*

    You’re right about the comments though. Just a quick smiley is enough to make my day.

    1. I’ve heard that too — that if you want to be successful, you have to have an online presence. I think there is some truth to that, but you don’t have to be obnoxious. I’m very much a person who lives in moderation. To me, having constant updates on Facebook, or Twitter, or Tumblr, is “noise.” I’ve actually removed people from my feeds who post too much, because I feel like we are sitting in a room and they are babbling in the background. I’d rather have fewer updates of quality than a constant barrage of stuff.

  4. I agree.

    Similarly I feel the same way when I post my thoughts regarding a post that I read–and felt a kinship with regards to the thoughts being shared–and find my response ignored.

    Blogging, by its very nature, is all about “me.” There is no way for it to be anything but. I think that the “sharing” that you are talking about comes when (on Facebook) the author of their own content visits the walls of the other people on their list in order to read *their* content…and they have a conversation. Or at least are able to gain some understanding of where that person is coming from.

    Social Networking, though, is a different thing, entirely. Networking is done in a professional environment. In order to build your business. Period. It isn’t about maintaining relationships – or cultivating relationships…Networking is about building your business and adding to your bottom-line. Neither of which (personal) blog spaces OR Facebook were created for. (I do recognize there are monetized blogs and Business Pages on Facebook. I am not talking about those… I don’t think that you were talking about them, either.) Personal blog spaces and Facebook were created so that people could easily share their life, and life experiences, with people they know, personally. Twitter was created (as was Linked In) to be a Social Networking site. People are meant to build their customer base using those sites.

    Blogging communities (like LiveJournal) have a give and take culture. I post about my life, my thoughts and the things that I am going through. The people that I follow post about their lives, their thoughts and the things that they are going through – and we can have communication, and know more about each other in that sort of arena.

    When they read my blog (and I don’t read theirs) or if I read their blog (and they don’t read mine) THAT is when the imbalance (such as what you described in your post) occurs….

    1. I don’t think anyone likes being ignored. I only don’t respond if there is nothing to say in response — and sometimes then I’ll just say, “You’ve pretty much covered all my thoughts on the matter,” and leave it at that.

      Blogging doesn’t have to be all about self. It can be about common interests, about sparking debate, about asking others for their opinions. It’s just that most of us use it as a vehicle for self.

      I didn’t know that about Twitter. But it’s less a business networking tool now than a cool place for kids to hang out.

      1. *nods*

        Which is why I opened with stating that I agree with you…

        Though I do believe that blogging still tends to be about self. Yes…there are common interests that one blogs about – but the post begins with stating that you, yourself, are interested in that particular subject. Sparking a debate – one still has to state how *they* feel about the debatable situation. Asking others for their opinions tends to mean that one has already stated their own opinion on the matter…

        I do agree that most use it as a vehicle for self…but I think that’s because most people see it as a means of self-expression. Journals (blogs) are supposed to be about our lives and experiences. That is how humans learn. Through shared experiences… do some (okay, most) people get carried away with that to make everything about them? Yes. Unfortunately. Which is (again) why I said that I agreed with you.

        You are right. Twitter has changed into being something that it wasn’t supposed to be… It started out as a good idea as a means to network, socially. And as the kids have taken over – so has the sense of entitlement.

        I did, in particular, like what you said, here:
        “But a heart can wither up and die waiting for just one person to say, “Well done.”

        I agree with that and think that you phrased it, beautifully.
        No…no one likes to be ignored in the day to day.
        Hopefully people will learn that and reach out in other ways which lets people know that they are appreciated and that they matter in some way.

        In this world of “Me, Me, Me” the people who feel unappreciated are the very people that can, and do, make the choice to go away…

        1. I don’t see a problem with blogging being about oneself. The problem is when people become too preoccupied with their own blog to visit and/or comment on anyone else’s! I think people should express themselves… just remember to affirm others along the way. It’s something I struggle with a lot. Wanting attention, but not being willing to give it. This flaw in me makes me more aware of this flaw in others.

          Whatever the cause, social alienation is becoming a huge problem. People are more “connected” than ever before (through Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, LiveJournal) but also lonelier than ever before. I read some study recently that said in the last five years, the people without a “best friend to confide in” has gone up to something like 30% of our population. By being social only online, many of us are missing out on relationships in the non-internet world. And by being so self-focused online, we put at risk our ability to make friends in general.

          It’s just… well, it’s sad.

          1. Yes… I am one that comments on blogs because I know what it feels like to blog without response. I have always thought that you were good about offering responses–and well-formed thoughts and/or opinions–to entries.

            “I read some study recently that said in the last five years, the people without a “best friend to confide in” has gone up to something like 30% of our population.”

            I could well believe that.

            As you know with my health – I have had to “meet” most of my friends online. I am not able to go off and about – so that is my option. Since that is my option – I tend to invest a lot of myself in my online relationships. I read their entries and comment (as you said, earlier) if I feel that I can add something to the “conversation.” Keeping up my end of the online friendship bargain – I share a lot of my life online–as I am able to do so in consideration of my health problems–because I don’t have the option to meet people in the “real world.” I have said, many times, that I find that sad. It *is* a sad thing when people risk their ability of making new friends online or in real life.

            And it is happening more and more often.
            Again – you are right.

  5. I do agree that narcissism has taken over the web. People will put up anything just because they can even when its not good. There’s too much of bad content out there. Honestly that’s the reason I don’t always comment. Remember the chocolaterain and “leave britney alone” youtube videos? Ugh.

    I used to like going to forums but a lot of people can be nasty on them. Its not just me that’s had bad forum experiences. Its friends of mine that did too, even on xtian forums you end up having bad experiences. So I quit forums, for the most part. I recently quit reading a blog because the girl got all caught up on her engagement and wedding planning and quit posting frequently.

    She recently came back saying she will post more and she did for a couple of months, then said she would no longer be face of the site and would have guest authors. ok, but the guest authors didn’t post that often, so its mostly a dying blog and I’ve given up on it and refuse to comment. Given the dynamic nature of the internet, a lot of blogs tend to come and go.

    There have been times that I’ve outgrown certain things and quit visiting certain blogs. I used to like reading personal finance blogs, but as my finances have improved and my situation has changed, the advice on them is a little too basic now, I no longer visit them that often. It can be any number of things why people stop visiting and commenting.

    A lot of my friends liked making graphics, websites, and writing stories, but then we ended
    up going to college, and going into web design and other professions. These days they’ve moved on to pinterest, reddit, and microblogging. Many of them also quit because college and work consumed their time.

    Sometimes its not always narcissism but change that makes people quit, although I do agree that narcissism is a huge part of online and real life culture.

    1. I think the internet is a wonderful tool that, like anything else, can be used in all the wrong ways. One of them is, as you pointed out, how MEAN people can be on the internet. They treat one another horribly, as if no one has feelings. But because they are hidden behind an avatar and a username, and not staring into someone’s eyes, it is easier to insult or demean or be just plain cruel. I have noticed an increase in nastiness online as well. I wonder, is it because the only people still on forums and such are the foul-mouthed, insulting, deeply insecure people? It’s sad that instead of being a venue for intelligent thought, most forums just become a platform for internet wars.

      Blogs do come and go… but sometimes, they might stick around if they ever got any comments! I’m a very results-driven personality type. If I do something for awhile, and it doesn’t seem to be making a difference, I may give it up whereas if I had known other people were benefitting from it, I might not. I guess my point is — if we aren’t supportive, things don’t have time to grow and BECOME. It’s fine to mature and drift from some topics to another, so long as you’re blessing the people you do come into contact with wherever you go.

      1. I agree. Honestly if I hadn’t invested my time online, I wouldn’t have met my bf.

        During the mid 2000s, I went to a certain forum, and that’s where I met my current bf. We were friends for 3 1/2 years online and then we met in real life. Since we did meet on the board, we were frequent members on that board for a year until
        more people came in and they were starting to get nasty.

        We decided to both leave the board after a year, but we stayed in touch online through instant messaging and emails. A co-worker also met his fiance online. He was also friends with her for 3 years before they met. Its crazy how life can be, but good things do happen online as well.

        There’s no way he and I would have met otherwise. So that’s the cool thing about the internet. You meet people you would have never had a chance to meet.

        1. I met many of my friends online — including my best friend! We’ve been together for ten years now and would never have met if we both hadn’t moderated a Lord of the Rings forum together!

  6. Isn’t it sad how society craves affirmation? The world is all about “me” (funny thing was, I had thought of writing a blog post about the “me mentality” and do have one about sin) and what is going to make “me” happy – forget what everyone else says! The bottom line is… “me”!

    When I compliment someone’s writing or work, I do it because I know that person put a lot of thought into it, and it’s nice for the writer to be recognized, not to give the writer a “big head” or make them feel superior. (It is a fine line for some.) Unfortunately, our world is more and more about “me,” and that is awful.

    Great post, Charity!

    1. I think that it is sadder that we don’t affirm one another as much as we should than that we “need” affirmation. For Christians, it is even harder, because all the affirmation we need should come from Christ… but often, that isn’t “enough” — even though we are diminishing Him in feeling that way.

      My grandmother never gave compliments, out of fear they would make the person too proud. As a result, her children and grandchildren never got the affirmation from her that they needed. Better to give compliments and trust that God will deal with any resulting ego than to withhold them from the people you love.

      1. Very true. My mother and I often talk about that with certain family members. With children, especially, it is wise to encourage them if parents see a talent in them. You still have to be “careful” because you don’t want your child to be “proud,” but if a job is well done, you should give them credit, and appreciate it.

        1. I once had a similar discussion with a friend — she said it is better to praise talent than to tell a little girl that she is “so adorable”! That way, her self-esteem is less in her appearance and more in her talents. It’s an interesting thought. I’m not sure I entirely agree with it, though — everyone likes to be told they are beautiful! =)

          1. That’s a fine line, too. I want my girls to feel beautiful, and I want them to be proud of the talents they have and know they are more than just a pretty face. I make sure to tell them they are beautiful inside and out and that what’s on the inside will come out.

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