There is a side to our humanity that social media has exploited and that is that we display far more narcissism than we care to admit. That for a significant number of social media users there is this desire to be known. And not just known, but known in a way we want to be known, and want everyone to see us in that way. If you have doubts here is the entry from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V)
Narcissism Personality Disorder 301.81
A pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior) need for admiration, and lack of empathy, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five or more of the following (I will shorten the highlights):
- Grandiose sense of self-importance
- Preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty or love.
- Believes that he or she is “special” and unique
- Requires excessive admiration
- Has a sense of entitlement
- Is interpersonally exploitative
- Lacks empathy
- Is often envious of others or believes others are envious of them
- Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes (p. 327)
When you look at this criteria it is not hard to find a significant group of narcissists using social media is there? You may even be saying this is every person on Facebook! Perhaps you are just shaking your head, or maybe saying, “oh no, that’s me”.
The fact is we are all a little narcissistic. We all have some of these traits from time to time, but that does not mean we have a narcissistic personality disorder. Although for many on social media it may in fact be the case. It is in part I believe the motivation for many users to be on social media. After all is there a better place for someone to say “look at me”. or “I think I am important”.
What is more we contribute to the narcissistic behavior every time we click on a “Like”, “Favorite”, or “+1” icon on the screen. It also can account for why people would put a “selfie” (picture of yourself), in lingerie that you took in your bathroom with your toilet lid up in the back. While I may be criticized for pointing at narcissism, none-the-less we must consider narcissism as a possibility whenn it comes to the motivation of why some people use social media.
I do not believe that all people are narcissists that enjoy and regularly use social media. I am convinced there is something very simple that is happening and that is: People can get immediately rewarded from using social media in a way they cannot in their day to day lives.
Imagine if you could say just anything to anyone, show them any picture and people would tell you how much they like what you said, or write you little notes about how they enjoyed what you said, or perhaps would let you know that they are taking what you said and sharing it with their friends. Imagine if you will it was for saying something that you felt was not important, but were just making an expression and your friends and colleagues face to face did these things. Can I tell you what would happen? No one would be on social media.
Imagine if you will that every time you said something in your staff meeting several people would come up to you and say, “great thoughts”, I will share these immediately”. Chances are you would not be on social media.
Social media does give us something that is important. It is not about self-esteem, it is not about narcissism or some personality issue. Social media positively reinforces our behavior that no other place in our real life gives on a consistent basis…it gives us positive reinforcement for simply getting involved with it.
It is a simple concept, but one that is ignored. It is one concept that works, yet we do not acknowledge it. It is the fact that “praising” people no matter how small can have a tremendous influence on the probability that a particular behavior will be repeated in the future.
If a person has been deprived of “praise” or acknowledgement in their everyday life at home or at work and they receive that praise in the environments of social media just how powerful do you think social media would be? What is more, you or another person may not even be aware that it is that confirmation of your ideas that leads you back to using social media over and over again.
This also explains why some people do not use it. For some people, public acknowledgement or praise simply does not have reinforcing value to them, or perhaps they are getting that from other areas in their life on a constant basis. Social media then is not going to have the same powerful reinforcing value to them.
We are after all human. Social mediology is about behavior. It is about watching how behavior changes as result of what we do and what happens to us when others provide us with positive reinforcement for what we say, post, or do on social media.
It is my opinion that we underestimate just how powerful we can be when it comes to influencing others. Our ability to reinforce others for their behavior has tremendous influence. It is nearly impossible to calculate what a retweet, like, comment, share, favorite, repin, or +1 effect has on another’s behavior.
However, as I have observed, tested, and even analyzed in the behavior of my clients and may own behavior, it is clear that much of a person’s social media behavior is shaped by the interactions they receive. What is even more amazing most of us do not even realize that we have tremendous power in our social media interactions that affect another’s behavior.
This frightens us to even think that somehow our behavior is being altered without our awareness. Yet it has been demonstrated over and over again, and more recent revelations from the world of neuropsychology are confirming much of what we know, and that is the majority of our behavior is not intentional and most of it we perform without our awareness.
Perhaps this sounds somewhat scary to you. I can appreciate those emotions. However, it is important for us as humans to recognize that we have tremendous influence over others. Within the realms of social media we have tremendous power to give people what they are unknowingly are seeking by simply being intentional.
Stay Social My Friends!
Jay Izso, Internet Doctor®
 American Psychiatric Association, (2013). Desk Reference to the Diagnostic Criteria: DSM-5 (5th ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Publishing