Mind
Narcissism expressed in social networks: between selfies and self-esteem

Narcissism expressed in social networks: between selfies and self-esteem

The narcissist sees his own image as something idealized, precisely because he would not be able to accept the real, fallible, in some ways pathetic image of a subject incapable of recognizing and accepting himself.

 

Advertising message The word narcissism was coined by an English scholar, sexologist, who at the end of the nineteenth century used it to indicate who was excessively addicted to autoeroticism. Over the past century, narcissism has been given content aligned with this first definition, but certainly not limited to the sexual sphere. Several authors have dealt with trying to define narcissism, especially in the field of psycho-pathology, one of these, which has given a truly original reading, was Alexander Lowen, according to whom he the narcissist is a person who denies feelings .

Let’s go in order. Lowen begins his reasoning about people’s narcissistic attitudes by observing how they are fully absorbed by their self-image. The word image can already help us understand how the current world, so full of images with which we are constantly bombarded, is a sort of ideal environment for the development of these trends. But the author goes further: the narcissist is not only absorbed by his own image, but he cannot distinguish between the image of who he really is and the image of who he thinks he is. Hence, the self-image that absorbs the narcissist is not what is called the real self, but is an idealized image, as the former is unacceptable to him. Lowen identifies the self with the living body, so within the conception of the self there is both the body, is the mind. The image of the real self contemplates both the merely bodily perceptions and expressions, and the deeper, more deeply rooted perceptions and expressions that merge with the body through the mind. In this, Lowen identifies feelings. The loss of the real image of the self, therefore, is a loss of the possibility of experiencing the feeling, both from the point of view of “feeling” and from the point of view of “expressing”: the narcissist denies his own self, precisely because it denies a constitutive part, the emotional part, investing its entire existence on an image that we could define more external than aesthetic. more rooted and that merge with the body through the mind. In this, Lowen identifies feelings. The loss of the real image of the self, therefore, is a loss of the possibility of experiencing the feeling, both from the point of view of “feeling” and from the point of view of “expressing”: the narcissist denies his own self, precisely because it denies a constitutive part, the emotional part, investing its entire existence on an image that we could define more external than aesthetic. more rooted and that merge with the body through the mind. In this, Lowen identifies feelings. The loss of the real image of the self, therefore, is a loss of the possibility of experiencing the feeling, both from the point of view of “feeling” and from the point of view of “expressing”: the narcissist denies his own self, precisely because it denies a constitutive part, the emotional part, investing its entire existence on an image that we could define more external than aesthetic.

The foregoing explains another feature very well which is unanimously ascribed to the narcissist: the lack of empathy. Not being able to experience one’s feelings, even less will he be able to recognize those of others. The fact that his behaviors, aimed exclusively at enhancing his grandeur by presumptuously attributing merits and abilities that he often does not have, make others suffer is a sort of side effect of which he does not even have awareness (or, more often, in which he has no interest). His primary goal is not to induce suffering, the narcissist is not necessarily a sadist, but to be able to arouse immense attention and admiration in others.

All that glitters is not gold, however, and whoever has narcissistic tendencies perfectly embodies this proverb. The self-image that these subjects have is distorted in two directions: towards the outside, as it has been said that it is an image that wants to be the center of attention of others, free from defects and subject to flattery; inwards, towards themselves, as they are tremendously insecure, touchy, extremely sensitive to criticism and, surprisingly, apparently endowed with low self-esteem.

This latter feature can generate astonishment as one would expect a person who believes he is more deserving and smart than anyone else to have high self-esteem. However, the meaning of self-esteem is different from that of ego, moreover one should not make the mistake of considering the narcissist as a person who sees reality. The narcissist sees his own self-image as something idealized, precisely because he would not be able to accept his real self-image, the fallible one, that in some ways pathetic of a subject unable to recognize and accept himself. We can understand, then, why when we talk about narcissism, self-esteem also comes into play, in that it can be declined as awareness: to possess the tools to face life and its demands; to know how to use these tools; to deserve to achieve their goals (or, in a broader sense, to deserve happiness). If a person lives the environment in which he is immersed, therefore also the people around him, exclusively as a source of approval, it is evident that he does not have any kind of awareness of his own abilities and the possibility of deserving or not deserving the achievement of the objectives that aims. As we have seen, in fact, this same person has no other goal than to see his own image celebrated. it is evident that he does not have any kind of awareness of his own abilities and of the possibility of deserving or not achieving the objectives he sets. As we have seen, in fact, this same person has no other goal than to see his own image celebrated. it is evident that he does not have any kind of awareness of his own abilities and of the possibility of deserving or not achieving the objectives he sets. As we have seen, in fact, this same person has no other goal than to see his own image celebrated.

Advertising message We are therefore faced with someone who has excluded feelings from their life, who tends to have little self-awareness, who has low self-esteem and who can only see an external image of what he is. At this point, it is legitimate to assume that the narcissist is a sort of selfie of himself and it is precisely to the selfies that the exploratory research presented below is aimed.

To investigate the relationship between self-esteem, social media and narcissism in a completely exploratory way, we conducted anonymous research on a sample of n = 84 participants residing in Italy, of age and who participated voluntarily. The data were collected anonymously, without requiring any sensitive data, such as email address, IP address or other. In addition, informed consent was requested and obtained from all participants. Tests were used to measure social network addiction, self-esteem and narcissism. The results obtained are presented below.

Tools used:

Preliminarily, it should be specified that 82.8% of the sample is made up of women with a level of education divided as follows: 50% have a university degree, 41% high school. 62.8% of the subjects are engaged / married while 31% declared themselves single. In addition, the average age of the participants is 27 years with a standard deviation of 6.

52.8% of subjects use smartphone applications (daily) very often (measured on a likert scale from 1 to 5, where 1 is very little and 5 is very often) and, similarly, 36.6% use social networks very often, always on a daily basis.

As for selfies, 63.6% of subjects publish their selfies on Instagram, 33.6% on Facebook.

Fig, 1 Daily use of social networks

As for selfies, on average, in the sample considered, the participants take 1.3 selfies per day, with a standard deviation of 2.4 while 0.5 are published on average with a standard deviation of 1.44.

Fig. 2 Characteristics of the selfies taken

In addition to the demographic characteristics, we used correlations to investigate the relationship between some of the main variables of this research. We found that: the social network addiction test correlates positively with the narcissism test (r = .730): this means that the greater the use of social networks, the higher the narcissistic propensity of the individuals who have undergone to the test. This does not surprise us much, as social networks are the favorite “place” to share your selfies taken.

Another unsurprising fact is the negative correlation link that emerged between the narcissism test and the self-esteem test (r = -481), which only confirms what emerged in the premises of this work: a narcissistic person has a low self-esteem.

One result that arouses interest is that relating to the age variable. In fact, in our study, age is weakly correlated to the social addiction test (r = -.039) and the narcissism test (r = -.112), but positively correlated to the self-esteem test (r = .237): therefore, the more the age of the subjects increases, the more the self-esteem tends to increase. We also asked participants how satisfied they are with their lives (satisfaction measured on a likert scale from 1 to 5, where 1 is very little and 5 is very much). The results were as follows: satisfaction with one’s life is weakly related to the test of addiction to social networks (r = .088) and to the test of narcissism (r = -.041) but there is a more significant positive correlation with self-esteem test (r = .309). Therefore,

In conclusion, even if this research has produced potentially interesting results, it must be specified that the same cannot have scientific value, but was conducted for exploratory and popular purposes. Furthermore, since research is based on a questionnaire published online through convenience sampling, it is not possible to know if a person has completed the questionnaire several times. Finally, we would like to emphasize that no results were returned to the subjects, therefore, after completing the questionnaires, there was no consideration whatsoever from a diagnostic point of view.