Social Media: Positive Reinforcement or Breeding Narcissism?

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Social media has radically altered the way most of us communicate in the 21st century. The brief history of social media goes hand in hand with the start of the first major Internet service provider, CompuServe making its dial-up debut in 1969. As the Internet began to advance, the information age exploded. We can look up, research, dig, snoop, and pluck out anything we need because of the Internet.

In-person conversations, while necessary, are more reserved for occasions that absolutely require it. The need for community, human contact, relationships and friendships can now be almost all satisfied cyberly. People who were never ordinarily able to connect, those that live across the country or across the world, can communicate more so now than ever before. Social media is blamed for being a time waster, a distraction and teaching this generation how to be a narcissist by rewarding them with “likes.”

There are a host of popular social media sites today that help brand, sell, market, connect and show off any product or person out there. Extroverted or shy as hell, social media allows for everyone to publish their thoughts while gaining the admiration of their cyber followers, many of whom are total strangers. There are so many social media apps and sites today that adjust to any smart phone, tablet, or computer. While not all listed, here are the more popular sites.

socialmediagraphicThere are social media sites such as Getglue that help us talk about our favorite movies or shows we are watching. We’ve got Yelp to help us find just about any type of business and see where it ranks according to customer reviews. Today, Yelp has helped so many businesses and have also hindered some, as so many people today lean heavily on Yelp to decide the best place to go for just about any need or service. Whether it is the best hair salon in your area or the best sushi restaurant, you name it Yelp has got it. Foursquare attempts to model other sites that are nothing more than methods for people to document where they were last. It is another reward based system that gives people badges and stickers for all your check-ins. Reddit is forum for article sharing, text comments, rants, reviews, critics, and so much more. Reddit can also be a good tool for journalists and writers to gain readers while promoting their stories. +Google, Tumblr, Stumbleupon, Digg, Newsvine, Pinterest are all somewhat similar. They all to some extent allow people to share what’s on their mind. And let’s not forget, they are based on a popularity contest.

The more votes or likes you get, the more readers, the more followers, the more you can market just about anything “grass-roots” style. It’s a virtual “word of mouth” type of way to connect and viral market at little to no cost. LinkedIn is another site that was once just used for professional networking. Now, it has incorporated personal updates, professional groups and interests. People can now virtually mingle and connect with like-minded folks within a chosen interest or profession.

Last but not least, we’ve got the obvious Twitter, which has quickly caught up with Facebook as far astumblr_l2zkxmIQQv1qaojha popularity. Twitter is today’s tool for most news sources, journalists, marketing pros and anyone trying to advertise their way to getting more eyeballs and clicks on their site. Above all social media platforms, Facebook still ranks number one and has the most people spending time on it. Facebook has professional and non-professional groups such as LinkedIn, but also has the more non-professional sharing. Never in history have people been able to share their daily where abouts, opinions, dislikes, sadness, happy moments, and bragging rights so publicly as today’s Facebook-generation.

Perhaps Facebook does encourage narcissism, as people posts: their new cars, their shredded six-pack, and throw up pictures of their hot beach bikini bodies, show off that awesome picture of them looking like a rock-star next to some celebrity. Those who are really good at it can share paragraphs of explicit personal detail regarding their break up, divorce, bad day or crazy hang over and end up generating enough likes or comments to perk them up.

Once a post is up we check Facebook on our phones or on our computer to see just how many people we’ve managed to garner sympathy or encouragement from. Again, while this is a form of narcissism those who are on Facebook the most seem to be ones that respond the most to how it makes them feel. All the likes are forms of quick gratification, or maybe this says a lot about how needy the Facebook-generation is when it comes to positive reinforcement. Facebook, like many other social media sites is a great marketing tool for many small and large businesses. For the everyday person, it can also serve as a harmless tool that helps cheer people up.

I am totally guilty of checking Facebook after I post a picture or an update. I too have caught myself looking to see how many “likes” I get. If anything, perhaps social media today has tapped into the very human need that we all share, that desire to get a pat on the back, a job well done, a virtual hug and a high-five. Life can be very ordinary. Life can also be extremely chaotic and difficult.

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Through the ups and downs, social media is here to stay and will likely only continue to grow and expand. Everything in life can be bad for us. Maybe we are doing a little humble-bragging and a little showing-off, maybe we’re a little more arrogant than pre-social media days. Then again, like many of us, I cannot imagine life without the Internet or social media. Yes, I do take a social media and technology break from time to time. But, I do believe that the need to be reassured via social media is not necessarily the worst thing in life. If you are one that cannot handle social media because you think everyone brags, boasts, and it fosters unfair comparisons. Well, in some ways this is true. It can, but if you can’t handle it then maybe you shouldn’t be on it. Hey, people now days love sharing what they ate or watched and etc. There are more bloggers, and more people in general using social media platforms to make public their daily life. It works for them, it may not work for everyone. I think social media can be an extremely powerful and effective tool if used properly.

If done incorrectly, it can sometimes lead to depression, make people feel as if they have to compare themselves to the person that just bragged about their brand new house and etc. A downfall according to an ABC report is that Facebook tends to foster envy. According to the article, researchers conclude that ” ‘friends’ post their successes in all aspects of life, displaying their seemingly flawless world, the viewer’s life often appears, well, pathetic.” Researchers equally have identified what American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) have officially recognized something now called Facebook Depression. Which stems from how easy it is for most people to make their lives look flawless on the Facebook social canvas. Those that do not lead such perfect lives in comparison, falls short. Isolation and loneliness from social media overload, are also said to be side-effects.

Are people more narcissistic now as a result of social media? Probably. Can today’s generation get struck with Facebook Depression? It’s possible. Can it be annoying to deal with social media arrogance? Absolutely. But, that’s why you can choose to unfollow, unfriend, block, and select to receive updates on Facebook of your choosing. You don’t have to see everyone’s updates. Again, if one cannot handle social media, one shouldn’t be on it. I have several friends I know that choose to not use or be on any social media.

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Like media, video games, and now social media- all of it gets blamed for someone’s poor choice, negative feelings, or actions and decisions. The only other solution would be to live like the Amish and essentially turn away from anything modern, electronic, technological and media related. Our future is evolving and people, social media and the Internet is here to stay, as the digital world will continue to grow.

Anything can be bad if done too much and used incorrectly. Ultimately it is the responsibility of the individual to take a little more ownership of their lives and stop blaming media on every human flaw or crisis facing society today.

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3 thoughts on “Social Media: Positive Reinforcement or Breeding Narcissism?

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    […] these days is harder and harder to do. Especially with the advent of social media, as stated in a previous article; we’ve become the “selfie” generation dangerously testing the narcissism boundary. Anyone on […]

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