It’s Narcissist Friday!
I recently read a Facebook post by a “friend” who began this way:
“Didn’t know I was a narcissist.” (Smiley face)
He explained that the “diagnosis” came from an article and posted the article. The article was about people who post their gym workouts and other exercise information on Facebook. It said that these people need attention and have psychological problems. Then it said they were narcissists. Here’s the quote:
“Narcissists more frequently updated about their achievements, which was motivated by their need for attention and validation from the Facebook community” (link below)
So the suggestion is that those people who post their exercise accomplishments are narcissists. That made my FB friend laugh. He thought the article was “hilarious.” Not only that, but he accepted the label of narcissist with no concern. When others commented on his post, they affirmed him and did not find the label offensive at all. In fact, one commenter wrote: “continue on, you narcissist.” Ha ha ha.
Well, I have written about this before. Three things are at work here. First, there is the unfortunate “study” that was done. The idea that posting your accomplishments on Facebook reveals that you are a narcissist is foolish. Facebook and other types of social media allow just enough anonymity and community for otherwise timid or quiet people to risk putting out something positive about themselves. Many motivational teachers tell people to go public with their goals and progress as a way of accountability. The encouragement that comes from a supportive community helps a lot. I do not doubt that some of the people who toot their own horn on Facebook are narcissists, but I know for a fact that many are not. For some of the people I know, posting on FB at all is a frightening thing.
The second thing that is obvious here is that the term, “narcissist,” has become so popularized that it is losing both its true meaning and its negative connotations. Some people think it means a person who needs attention or affirmation. But listen: we all need affirmation! That doesn’t make us narcissists. No, the narcissist will abuse you and manipulate you to get affirmation. He/she doesn’t care anything about others, except to use them. To be a narcissist is a negative thing. It means you are hurting others. Nothing to laugh about. Nothing at all.
And that brings me to the third thing at work here. When the narcissist is given a label, he/she may well accept it as a way to ridicule the person who gave it. If you call your problem person a narcissist, he/she will not be ashamed, nor be inclined to make changes. Instead, you may become a focal point for revenge or ridicule. “Oh, well, miss psychiatrist thinks I am a narcissist! Well, I guess that’s what I am then.” “Oh, I’m sorry, I guess that’s what you should expect from a narcissist.” (Read those words with dripping sarcasm.)
The friend on Facebook was not ashamed to find himself labeled a narcissist, nor was he moved to stop posting his accomplishments. Instead, he made it into a joke and a way to receive even more affirmation from his followers. Is he a narcissist? I don’t know because I have never met him or talked with him. I just read his posts. He is superior and insulting, I will say that. Not a particularly nice guy, but that’s another thing Facebook seems to bring out. My point here is that his reaction to the article was not to reject the label, but to embrace it.
This is why I have consistently suggested that the labels are for our understanding, not for throwing at the narcissists in our lives. It may help you to understand why a certain person acts a certain way. It gives you a category that you may not have understood before. But be careful when you use the word with others. Some will think it is funny; some will embrace it for themselves; almost all will misunderstand it.
(I do wonder, though, if my Facebook friend would have been as happy to be called a “parasite,” someone who gets life and energy from the exploitation of others. That might not seem quite so funny to him.)