Narcissism in digital culture takes many forms, sometimes a subtle focus on the self, other times an outright pathological need to seek constant external recognition. From idealizing images to competing for attention and likes, these patterns are becoming a daily occurrence in our virtual lives. But doesn’t this created reality distract from real values?
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Is modern upbringing conducive to narcissism?
In many cases, the problem begins in early childhood. Children are often told from an early age that they are unique and one of a kind. They are rewarded with praise for every achievement, even the smallest, while completely lacking any criticism. Social pressure for achievement means they may not be able to cope with failure in adulthood. This is often accompanied by an excessive focus on image.
This message is reinforced at every turn by modern culture, which often appeals to our lowest instincts. We hear from all sides that the key to fulfillment is beauty, wealth and fame. Advertisements for luxury cosmetics promote an unrealistic ideal of beauty, while pension funds tempt with visions of old age spent on exotic travel and golf. Because, after all, “you are worth it.”
But the truth is that happiness often involves the ability to accept one’s limitations, to be humble in the face of the impossible, and to enjoy what one has. It is not accompanied by greed or the constant pursuit of “something more.”
Selfie culture – narcissism in digital culture
The promotion of narcissistic attitudes in particular is fostered by the way many of us use social media – a phenomenon that is sometimes referred to as ” selfieculture.” Its symbol has become the self-facing camera, although of course, it cannot be said that the problem affects everyone who takes pictures of themselves. The Internet offers a great many tools that are primarily used to promote oneself. While they can be useful and have many valuable uses, they often reinforce and sustain narcissistic attitudes.
Every day, users of each platform “document” their lives, while trying to convince others that their daily life is attractive. Authenticity in this issue is very often staged – for example, it refers, admittedly, to “naturalness” and “contact with nature,” but instead of actual photos from a walk, we see very carefully thought-out shots from a session among pumpkins or haystacks. When looking at polished frames with nicely dressed smiling children or photos from exotic trips, it is very easy to forget that they present only a certain slice of reality.
In the long run, selfie culture leads to alienation. By striving for perfection and constantly comparing ourselves with others, it is very easy to create a sense of inferiority, which can result in depressive states or compulsive behaviors such as Internet addiction or shopaholism.
Narcissism and consumerism – is the path of sacrifice the only salvation?
On the other hand, however, is it a matter of explaining to a woman who is overtired with childcare and professional work that she is selfish because she succumbed to the vision of youth, beauty and elegance peddled by an Instagram celebrity and bought an expensive cream? Such mealy-mouthed criticism of consumerism also seems to lead nowhere. On the contrary, it creates the false belief that the only alternative to hedonistic behavior is the path of sacrifice and suffering. In this way, it is easy to fall into a dead end balancing between extremes.
However, it’s worth taking a better look at why the unrealistic messages coming from commercials, movies and social media can sometimes be so appealing. This is very often due to the fact that many of us do indeed have some unmet needs – but other than those appealed to by advertising: for example, human interaction, valuable connections with others, time for reflection, leisure or outdoor activities. We try to compensate for neglect in these spheres by compulsive shopping or perfectionism, raising the bar for ourselves and trying to achieve exorbitant goals. In the long run, such behavior does not give happiness at all – another blouse bought on sale quickly ceases to please, and we burn ourselves out in the race for promotions and success.
Slow life – how to enjoy life while achieving goals at your own pace?
The answer to these challenges may be slow life – a lifestyle that involves intentionally slowing down, reducing consumption and giving oneself a chance to fully experience the here and now. It’s an approach in which it’s very important to take care of relationships with others, get in touch with nature and allow yourself to grow at your own pace.
Take care of interpersonal relationships, but also time alone with yourself
What brings happiness in life? It turns out that scientists know the answer to this question. A very interesting study was conducted at Harvard University – as part of a remarkable project Harvard Grand Study (or more accurately: The Harvard Study of Adult Development) has been collecting data on more than two hundred participants for 80 years since 1938: on their health, families, career paths, achievements, key decisions, among others. Psychiatric interviews, psychological tests, follow-up tests and medical examinations were conducted. The enormity of the research work translated into unambiguous conclusions: the most important thing is to have good relationships with other people: having a close circle of relatives or friends who are supportive and can be relied on in difficult situations. Loneliness literally kills – almost like alcoholism or nicotinism. At the same time, it is important to remember that it is impossible to build valuable relationships with others by forgetting about yourself and your needs. For this reason, time spent alone is also very important – moments when we can look “inside ourselves” and organize our thoughts.
Set goals and priorities for yourself
Do you feel like time is slipping through your fingers? Are you constantly busy and tired, even though you haven’t actually done anything in particular? Perhaps your problem is that you are losing sight of your most important goals and priorities. Many people get burned out in the daily grind, wasting time on unimportant things. Pay attention to what consumes your energy. Of course, sometimes it’s good to just relax and “miraculously do nothing.” But don’t let destructive conflicts, shallow TV shows and media that feed on heating up extreme emotions “steal” your attention.
Stay close to nature – make sure you are active outdoors
In many cases, the cause of poor well-being may simply be “distancing” from nature: fatigue from hours of sedentary work, in artificial light, among screens, eating highly processed foods. After a long day at the office or on the checkout counter at the supermarket, it may seem most tempting to watch a TV series, but in reality you are much more rested during a long walk in the woods.
Don’t hoard unnecessary items
Many people, when doing major cleaning or moving, discover that they are even swamped with a huge number of items – clothes, accessories, souvenirs or electronic gadgets that they don’t need at all. In many cases, these were ill-considered, spontaneous purchases under the influence of emotions, in moments of weakness, boredom or nervousness.
Develop your interests
Passion gives meaning to life, allows you to organize your time in a satisfying way. It is worth spending your days developing your skills. This is a good way to establish valuable relationships – it happens “by the way,” and at the same time it’s easier, as topics for conversation, common problems and challenges naturally arise right away. Don’t be afraid to try new things. It’s not always about doing only what you are likely to be really good at. Even if you’re not in the best physical condition, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try a new sport recreationally – you may find it’s a lot of fun and the very benefits to your health and figure.
Pay attention to how you use social media
There is nothing wrong with liking to use Facebook or Instagram. These are places where you can rebuild relationships with long-lost high school friends, make professional contacts or share your passion with others. However, it all depends on how you spend your time on these platforms. Psychologists strongly advise against logging in solely to mindlessly scroll the board and “peep” at others. Very often in such a situation there are unfavorable comparisons – it is easy to forget that friends present only a certain fragment of their daily life, properly arranged. You may get the impression that most people around you are living a much more attractive life, which is not true at all.
Take care of yourself
Anyone who has flown on an airplane has heard the message to put the oxygen mask on themselves first and then the child if necessary. This principle also applies to other areas of life. If you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be able to help others. The fact that you are mindful of your needs (for example, taking care of healthy food, physical activity, sleep or quietness) is not yet narcissism.
Don’t be crazy
Remember that life is not about chasing a particular ideal. In many cases, the way to fulfillment is to accept that certain things are not possible; to take a realistic view of the world. Following in the footsteps of perfect selfies, filtered life moments and self-worship, digital culture is becoming not only a mirror of reality, but also an arena for narcissism and narcissistic behavior. As we delve into this world filled with the appearance of perfection and self-glorification, it is worth wondering – does what we see online reflect the true value of the individual