Schazharade Halfaoui says there’s nothing new about narcissism, but social media have intensified the glare of self-regard.
Social media offer us escapism, an opportunity to escape physical reality and instead live in the digital world; a world of endless bragging and showing-off. Yet social media did not create the desire in us to be seen and heard. That desire has always been present, and now, with the advent of social media, there is further fuel for it. As one critic suggests, our already-narcissistic generation has been given ‘a platform through which we can inflate our egos even more’ (McAuliffe; 2014). And this, in turn, has intensified our need for validation.
In some ways, we are liberated but in other ways we are disempowered: we feel important or valued only when our looks are complimented or given the online seal of approval. And if the need for validation has always existed, the need for constant validation from an infinite number of strangers is surely unprecedented.
The funny thing is that most people are not the same on social media as they are in the rest of their lives. Our social media personas are always more illustrious and famous than their ‘real life’ counterparts. With social media we are able to present the best sides of ourselves, through the content we tweet or the pictures we post. We use filters to edit out our imperfections (or to accentuate the parts of us we do like); and we can’t do that so readily in reality.
To be honest, I’m a social media addict myself. I just can’t live without Instagram and Snapchat. I can press that one button and magically my pics are uploaded for the world to see. Not only have I gotten myself obsessed with the selfie culture but I also like to exhibit my latest gadgets, my new iPhone or my new Dr Dre beats. Materialism has never so easily celebrated as it is now.
Its saddens me to think that people might be losing the capacity for direct interaction. It is possible that we are slowly becoming more isolated and lonely as a result of this virtual world which we just can’t get enough of.
Perhaps we should do more to remind ourselves that vanity is only OK up to a certain point – a point which many of us may already have exceeded.