- The Love Safety Net -
Full Transcript of Show
"Narcissism and Social Media"
The Love Safety Net
STEVE: Hi everyone. Welcome to The Love Safety Net.
KIM: I'm Kim.
STEVE: And I'm Steve. In today's show, we are talking about narcissism and social media.
KIM: Is there a link between the two? Does one cause the other?
STEVE: You know, a lot of people say that it does. A lot of people say social media is getting so out of hand that it's breeding a new wave of narcissists, Kim. What do you think?
KIM: Yeah…well…we have actually stalled for a long time doing a show on this, but I have really looked forward to it. I must admit that when I hear those claims I do get a bit annoyed. And I get annoyed on a couple of levels. I think the first is that the people talking about this don't really seem to understand how serious a problem narcissism really is. Sometimes I don't even think they know what they are talking about.
KIM: That may not be their fault really, because the word narcissism has changed a little in history. You know, it used to mean that you were just showman-like or a good performer, where now it has come to define a personality disorder, which is a really serious problem.
STEVE: Let's just talk about that for a minute, Kim. Let's talk about what the false concepts of narcissism have become first. Just quickly, what has narcissism become that the media is calling it now?
KIM: I think when they talk about narcissism, and particularly narcissism and social media together, they are talking about self-centeredness. They are talking about kids just becoming obsessed with their Facebook profile and not really caring about their life or their responsibilities of their life and maybe not being as interested in other people as they should. where really, I think that is just part of being a teenager.
STEVE: Yeah, for sure. Definitely.
KIM: And I think it's kind of humorous that we often see Baby Boomer accusing Gen Y, or they call them millennialists now, I think, of being narcissistic and self-centered. And I just have to smile and laugh at that. Maybe that's because I am Gen X, but really has there been a generation more self-centered than the Baby Boomers?
STEVE: Well, maybe we are getting onto difficult ground there, Kim, because I don't know if we can really support that with much evidence. So let's just keep going forward on that one. (laughing)
KIM: Yes (laughing)
STEVE: Okay, so if you have never seen us before, Kim has written a lot of books on narcissism. She has written books and we coauthored a book as well, about how narcissism presents itself within relationships. So, Kim, just quickly tell the audience a clearer picture on narcissism.
KIM: I think relationships are the key. When you are talking about narcissistic behavior in terms of Narcissistic Personality Disorder, which is usually what people are talking about now when they talk about narcissism, you are talking about a disorder with extremely serious consequences. It is not just the arrogant bore at the party that everybody can spot that is really only a nuisance to himself, and becomes ostracized and lonely. Narcissism is actually the person who is convincing, but is at the same time deceptive. And that can be right through to ministers who are preaching high ground morality while at the same time they are trolling the streets looking for young boys as prostitutes. It can be the parents who are spending too much time on dating sites online, pretending they are single when actually they are not and they are neglecting their family in the process. With narcissism, you really have this level of deception going on and usually the person with the narcissistic behavior is really quite successful at deceiving people and with covering the double life they may be leading.
This really has catastrophic consequences on society. It causes a lot of the chaos we see around us now with broken marriages, multiple relationships, with the problems that we have in not being able to trust our government and politicians, the trouble we see with corrupt banks and corrupt corporations. Within all of this is really a very strong portrayal of narcissistic tendencies.
So really to turn around and talk about social media causing this I think is really trivializing the problem.
STEVE: Sure. It was interesting, Kim, that you talk about the deception. When someone is acting narcissistically, they are acting in a deceptive way. How that relates to social media, let's just talk about that a little bit and break that down a little bit.
If someone is really obsessed with social media, and they are being deceptive, what kind of dangers are we going to see with that kind of behavior coming on? I know there are some examples like you have mentioned before, Kim, like particularly World of Warcraft and games like that where people can go into a false reality.
STEVE: So let's just talk about that link between narcissistic deception and social media and false reality.
KIM: Okay. Well, I think you brought up a good point there. Before we talk about social media, I think there is really much more dangerous online pastimes people are involving themselves in that do feed narcissism and narcissistic behavior—as you mentioned things like World of Warcraft, things like chat room sex and pornography sites, that really do encourage people to disengage from their normal moral code of behavior, or the moral code of behavior they would portray to their family or to the public. And these games and pastimes are really quite consuming and encourage the person to invest a lot into that fantasy image or portrayal of themselves. Compared to this, I think social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus are really innocent in comparison. There are obviously still dangers there, and we will get to some advice in a moment of how to manage that a little bit better. But in terms of them leading to narcissist behavior, I think that is kind of like trying to say that eating makes you fat. It's like, okay, well eating CAN make you fat but it doesn't mean you shouldn't eat.
KIM: Of course people can behave narcissistically on social media sites. They can put forward a false pretense of who they are in a way that is corrupt and maybe deceptive and maybe is damaging to their own relationships with other people and with themselves. But I think that danger has really been overemphasized.
STEVE: Mmm. So Kim, the other one that comes up a lot is celebrity narcissism. We have heard that recently. There has been a book that was released a few years ago now about the narcissism epidemic and how it relates to celebrity narcissism going wrong. There are some suggestions in that book that the culture of celebrity narcissism means that people want to put forward a false profile of themselves such as celebrities do and this is causing some kind of split in the population's thinking, and somehow social media and that portrayal of what we know as a profile on social media when you are talking about Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus or whatever it is, is that that is something that is false. So just having you say that, you are saying that perhaps social media is useful if you can just be mindful that it's not something that should be false. It should be real, it should be yourself. So what are some of the dangers there with people putting across a false profile on social media.
KIM: Well, whenever you are putting across a false profile of yourself, it means that person can't develop and that person can't grow. It becomes very limiting. Sometimes people invest so much into a false idea of themselves which is only aimed at appearances and is quite shallow and is built on false pride. And sometimes they do this very well, so until the years go on people don't actually notice until that personality starts becoming more obviously shallow or faulty or --
STEVE: Incongruent maybe.
KIM: Yes, Incongruent with how old they are. And I think that's what we are starting to see now with people like Hugh Hefner, for instance, who is still behaving as if he was 20 when you know—how old is he?
KIM: Yes and it becomes very sad and the reality of the narcissistic conundrum comes out when we see these celebrities who are still trying to look 20 when they are 60 or even 70 and how much of their life they are missing in that process. The grace and dynamics in growing older and being allowed to grow old and move through different stages of your life, and have a rich life and rich relationships that develop because of that.
STEVE: So Kim, just dragging you back a little bit on the celebrity narcissism, you touched on where celebrities don't grow and they sort of get stuck trying to be somebody they are not, trying to recapture their youth. But what of celebrities whose entire life, almost, is a false profile? How does that relate to people like us or anybody watching who don't have a public profile, but all of the sudden have discovered they have a public profile in social media and they are feeling like maybe, "I don't know, this is not comfortable for me."
KIM: Well, I think to a certain degree, this happens with everyone, Steve, whether we realize it or not. I think we all have a public persona and a private persona. Even from the most quiet, reclusive person that maybe only goes to church on the weekend, they will still have a slightly different persona they put forward at church than they do to their family. That in itself is not necessarily unhealthy—as long as the values between those two different personas are congruent. The problem happens when the values are incongruent and they don't match.
KIM: I think it's extremely important that we do acknowledge that there is a difference between our public profile and our private profile. I think men often understand that intrinsically better than women do.
KIM: Men know they can't show their feelings in public. They know it is not going to be acceptable for them to cry at a board room meeting or in the locker room after playing a sport, no matter how upset they may be. And I am not saying that's wrong. That's just how it is. And I think women might actually learn from that. We do have to be aware of managing that private and public profile. So, you know, in managing your public profile, we see our kids going through that now. We try and give them space at home to try out new ideas, or try out new fashions, or new looks, or new ways they might want to put themselves across.
STEVE: Reinventing themselves a little bit—giving them space to do that.
KIM: Yeah, and making sure that they have space in kind of a secure group of people to try those ideas out before they actually take them out and run with them in public.
STEVE: Give them a test run, sure.
KIM: And I think it's extremely important that everybody has that. If you didn't have that with your family—for instance, if you come from a quite abusive family that would only ridicule you or laugh at you for trying out new ideas of how you want to present yourself in public, I think then it's very important that you create that safe space or that group for yourself. And I think social media has an enormous amount to offer in the possibilities of choosing your own mentors, of choosing your own group of people—maybe an inner circle of people—that can help you. Because even celebrities update their image from time to time or reinvent themselves.
STEVE: Sure. They do. While you are touching on that, Kim, let's talk about some strategies in terms of what social media can offer you in terms of building a safe environment for you in your social media world. Because it is expected of us now, I guess, isn't it? In many ways, people do expect that you have some kind of social media profile.
STEVE: So let's talk about some strategies about how to avoid some of the pitfalls we brought up earlier in the show, Kim.
KIM: I think that's really important but really we are not social media experts. What we are experts at is the kind of relationship skills that have been forgotten and have been lost as we have seen this kind of epidemic of narcissism taking over the world, and I don't argue with that—it really has. And it's creating a lot of chaos and creating a lot of despair as people are lamenting the loss of close relationships with family and with friends. And I think what we have traded it for is peer attachment, so that rather than having healthy relationships—and I hope this is leading to answering your question—having healthy relationships in the community is about having attachment with all sorts of different people, not just people in the same peer group as ourselves. If we are only networking with people online who are the same age as us, who have the same political beliefs as us, who maybe went to the same school and who maybe even played the same sport. The more and more narrow this becomes in the people we associate with, the more we are likely to be deceived about how well we are really coming across or how open-minded or mature we actually are.
STEVE: Sure and I think it's important to say within our peer groups we tolerate more sarcasm and we tolerate more immature humor with people our own age. We tend to run that kind of sarcasm past each other more within our own peer group, we feel safe to do that. I think in social media it doesn't always come across that well with the written language in particular.
STEVE: You can get in trouble by trying to be funny with sarcasm or something a little bit negative and it can come across so badly. I think that relates to what you were saying, Kim. When you have a lot of people in your own peer group close to you, it's very easy to get into that—like you were saying before—that locker room kind of humor that doesn't always translate well to people who are older than you who are perhaps employing you or are other people in the community that you need to be forming a bond with.
KIM: Yeah, and in that situation it's all too easy to form mutual fan clubs where people pump each other up, but really are blinding themselves to maybe how they are not maybe growing, or they are maybe not quite as wonderful as their peers might encourage them that they are. On one hand, this can seem like maybe it's just trivial and normal, but when you really take it through and see what is happening in our society, there are enormous dangers in this.
You know, there is the obvious, straightforward dangers of people destroying their families and their careers through things like sexting and inappropriate language and inappropriate sexual behavior that they may think is appropriate and they may think is still within their peer group, but suddenly they find out, ooh, actually I took this too far. As we have seen in the media recently create disaster for a number of politicians.
KIM: Through to the other extreme of highly unethical behavior that comes to be seen as normal, from peer attachment, where you have a group of say investment bankers --they seem to be copping a lot of flack these days and probably deservedly so, but I guess what I am saying, might even come to their defense a little bit -- because if you have a group of any people who are too isolated from the views of the rest of the community, the danger comes in that they can just start excusing themselves and each other for unethical and questionable behavior until they get egged on to take it way too far.
STEVE: Right and social media is this amazing way to put a footprint out there. You know, your social media footprint doesn't go away.
STEVE: It's real, it's there, and it will stick around.
KIM: I think I would just like to add something here Steve. Because when I talk about this moral behavior or this ethical behavior, I think that all too often when we talk about morals and ethics now, we forget how closely tied this is to the health of our relationships.
KIM: A healthy person who has healthy self-esteem and who is truly successful and truly respected in their home and their community needs to be respected by a much larger group of people than just their own peers.
KIM: How can you be successful as a father. How can you be successful as a mother. How can you be successful as being a role model or a good citizen if you're only abiding by the moral and ethical standards of a small group of people, which is your peers. And I think a really good way of looking at this—or a suggestions I can make is to form a group of support people that you trust their opinion. Particularly if you are a professional person, in putting together your social profile or your public persona, don’t just trust yourself in doing that. Maybe you were someone who was fortunate enough to have a mother and father that you love and respect and that are mature and good role models and can give you guidance with this. Be friends with them on social media. Include them in your conversations and even if you don't do that literally, they can still be a part of your conscience in your own head.
KIM: You know, what would my mother or father think of me doing this. Now, unfortunately, not all of us had that experience of our parents. A lot of our parents were immature and maybe even abusive. If this is the case, again I think social media offers a wonderful opportunity where we can choose our own mentors and role models. We can choose better--let's say parents—for ourselves. Better role models. We don't have to be like Ned Flanders on The Simpson's that we call these people up every time before we do something and check that it's okay. These people can just strengthen our own inner conscious, that before we send some message that we can think in our head, Now what would my inner circle think of me doing this?
STEVE: Sure. Even if some of your friends might find it funny, it may be worth leaving it on the shelf and not putting it online.
STEVE: So, Kim, that's a really good suggestion you saying look for some people within your circles—I don't know if you want to talk about with Google Plus that there is an option with circles.
KIM: Yeah, it's very elegant and I like the simplicity of how you can choose the circles of people you want to share the information with. But at the same time, what we are suggesting here is really do also making sure most of what you are saying isn't things you would not like everybody to hear.
KIM: I mean, how you use those circles is really about consideration for other people more than it should be about hiding information that you think would not be proper or that might get you in trouble on moral or ethical grounds. I think that's the most important thing for yourself to know in terms of keeping your behavior healthy. You know, there shouldn't be differences in your values across your circles, if we want to use that terminology.
But circles are a great thing, because not everybody wants to hear all the same information about you.
STEVE: That's right, absolutely. So forming a mentor group, Kim, how do you start?
KIM: Okay, well this is maybe one of the most important decisions a person, particularly if they are a professional, may make in their entire career, so it's NOT something to do overnight. It's something you really need to put a lot of thought and a lot of consideration and a lot of wisdom into. I know when I was looking around at who would be my mentor group or who would be my inner circle of people I would really trust for giving me feedback on the work I was doing, I met a lot of people who were incredibly abusive.
KIM: People who were even recommended by other people, but then when I talked to them were very critical in a way that was really not constructive and just seemed to be wanting to put themselves up on a pedestal and keep everybody else that was following them "down there". And I think that is really important to look out for. If you are looking for help or advice or mentoring from people in your career, whether it is about how you put together your social media profile or your public profile or really anything for that matter. I don't care if it's an accountant you are looking for. I think it's somebody you really need to trust and you need to feel comfortable with. You need to be able to ask questions without them becoming defensive. If it takes time to find that person, put the effort in and take that time. It might be a nice point here as well to thank Chris Lang for passing on this movie to some of his network. He is someone who I have chosen as part of my inner mentoring circle. That was really because I found Chris quite honest. I found him somebody that I really believed in and who didn't put himself above me, even though he knows a lot more than I do.
I guess that is the other point that is important when you are choosing an inner circle for yourself of people in the social media world is don't be frightened of choosing people who are smarter than you.
KIM: Unhealthy narcissism will see us wanting to be the smartest person in our circle of peers, wanting to be the leader everybody looks up to.
KIM: And you don't have to think about it much to actually realize how foolish and unhealthy that is. How are you going to learn if you don't surround yourself with people who are smarter than you.
STEVE: Yeah, wow.
KIM: That's really important. I think I need to say again we are not social media experts. That is not our area of expertise. We do know a lot about narcissism, however. We know a lot about Narcissistic Personality Disorder. And more importantly, we know a lot about the kind of healthy relationship skills that I think are becoming lost these days as we see this kind of confusion and chaos spreading.
KIM: You know, it circles more and more around us this epidemic of narcissism our society is creating. These relationship principles are not magic wands. They are not things that are going to just suddenly make everyone love and adore you—that's now how it works. They are principles that can really help you through some difficult times. We have seen in our own marriage, and in the hundreds of testimonials we have received too we have seen they really do stand the test of time in building strong and healthy relationships that do withstand a lot of the pressures and tests that are put upon relationships now, with all the temptation that is out there. The online environment really does open up a lot of temptation.
STEVE: Yeah. And it does put pressure on your relationship. The work Kim and I do, we are really aiming to build stronger relationships with your partner, with your family, and with the people close to you. By doing that, it sort of limits the chance of you being narcissistic, in many ways. The better your relationship is, the more dependent you are on each other, the more healthy that bond is, the less chance you are going to get caught up in any kind of narcissistic behavior—whether it be online or in the real world. So our work really helps buttress that kind of goal most people have of having a better life. Better quality attachments of people out there in the world. Having a successful career, a better professional relationship with other people and having an easy holiday season when it is time to get together with your family, that there is easy and grace, and you are not worried about tripping up on your false profile.
KIM: I think that is really wise, what you say, Steve, because when it comes down to it, it really is the health and the depth of our connections with others and the health and depth of our relationships that determines our true wealth. But we all get carried away with ourselves sometimes. That is human and we all get tempted to do things that maybe we know are not really what we should be doing. So that is why I think it is really wise if people actually do create that kind of protection for themselves, in setting up a little bit of your own sort of watchdog mentoring network or system of people if you are closing yourself off from other people. If you are creating false identifies and false profiles to do things online that otherwise you would not consider doing under your own name, you have to stop and think about that for a minute and think, what am I trading here? Is this really going to be worth it in the long run?
STEVE: Sure, Kim. So let's wrap up.
If you haven't heard of us before, and this is the first time you have heard The Love Safety Net with Kim and Steve, you can check us out on a couple good web sites…Kim?
KIM: HYPERLINK "http://www.narcissismcured.com" www.narcissismcured.com has a near encyclopedia of information if you are in an abusive relationship or if you have been through multiple relationships or for any reason you feel like you would like to develop better and healthier relationship skills.
There is also HYPERLINK "http://www.fightbusters.com" www.fightbusters.com , which is a little bit more general information, but on there we have 12 Steps to End a Fight in Progress, which is a free resource on that site. It may come in handy over this holiday season—if not for yourself, there may be somebody else you know that could use that information. That is at http://www.fightbusters.com www.fightbusters.com , or http://www.narcissismcurred.com www.narcissismcurred.com .
STEVE: We hope everyone has a really great holiday. Everyone down in the southern hemisphere, stay cool. Everyone in the northern hemisphere, stay warm. We will be back next week on The Love Safety Net. Thanks for listening!