Reflecting on the Narcissist in the Mirror

My husband and I were chatting recently and came to the subject of social media. He believes firmly that most people use social media as a personal quest for celebrity. Everyone wants to be noticed, to be affirmed, to be idolized. On the internet, everyone can feel like a celebrity, standing atop the social media mountain, shouting out their words into the great wide open. Social media, he argued, was essentially a platform to support our own narcissism. As he spoke about this, I could feel my guilty conscience rearing its ugly head. Even though he wasn’t speaking about me, he was unknowingly describing me.

“I feel like people don’t even live in their real lives,” he said. “They’re so concerned with the picture they have to post that they aren’t even appreciating the moment.”

I do that.

“It’s like they just try to accumulate as many likes as possible.”

I do that, too.

“But who really cares?”

I’m not sure.

“Anyone can write anything and people might read it and think it’s funny or interesting, but it’s not like they are having a real impact on anyone’s life. They read it and forget it all within a minute.”

social media

By the end of the conversation, I had come clean to him. I admitted that at some point, my use of social media had gotten out of hand. I had become addicted to the platform, the groups, the notifications, the over-sharing. I felt like I was being robbed of my real life and my real moments in some sort of spiraling quest to feed my own pride. Am I a narcissist? I wondered.

For those unfamiliar with the etymology of the term “narcissist,” it was born in Greek mythology through the story of Narcissus. Though several versions of the story exist, each ends essentially the same – with Narcissus’ death by suicide. Narcissus, a boy endowed with beauty and always the subject of admiration, finds himself unable to love another. No beauty matches his own, and he leaves behind him a trail of heartbreak and devastation. Until finally, upon seeing his own reflection in a pool of water, Narcissus falls deeply and madly in love. Some versions say Narcissus died right there, wasting away while pining after his own image, others that he stared so deeply he drowned. Whatever the ending, the lesson remains; vanity is destructive.

I stepped away from that conversation with my husband committed to doing social media differently. I didn’t go “delete happy” {though admittedly I did remove myself from close to 100 groups}, but, I’ve chosen to be decidedly less of an active participant in those tendencies which seem to feed into my own narcissism. That means fewer pictures {even of my stinking cute kiddos}, fewer clever quips, fewer groups that tend to bring out my more imposing, argumentative side, and just generally speaking – less online interaction.

I’m ready to live my real life again.

Perhaps your conscious use of social media isn’t as dramatic as Greek mythology. Perhaps you’re not flipping through your own images, obsessing over details, getting validation by counting every like or love or share. Maybe you’re just there to enjoy the circus. But if reading this makes you uncomfortable because it strikes a chord, maybe consider taking a step back with me. Maybe consider looking for validation in other ways, because yes, you are important. And I am important too. But it’s not others’ opinions that make that true. It’s not our public persona, built upon a collection of likes and followers. It’s our real life, our real interactions, our children and spouses and friends who validate us with hugs and kisses and phone calls. And sure, you can go ahead and count those social media interactions, but in the context of real life, it doesn’t really seem to matter.

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