Age of Digital Narcissism: Teens and Social Media

Prabha Gupta

Principal, Shri Ram Global School, Karnal

“You're obsessed with your own social media profile—and so is everyone else.”- Chloe Metzger

“I'm in love with myself!” - the most common thought amongst today's generation who have an endless desire for fame.

The recent proliferation of TV programming for the tween audience is supported on the internet with advertising, fan clubs, and other online communities. These internet tools expand TV's potential influence on human development. Little is known about the kinds of values these shows portray. What’s sad is that for some people, the vacation did not happen or the charitable work does not count unless it is on social media. It has to be uploaded, seen and liked to matter.

Photo editing has become an open secret in the land of social media. Apps like Instagram and FaceTune have made it so easy for us to change the way we look ― through filters, retouching or a combination of both ― that it is becoming harder to determine what’s real and what’s not. We’d also argue that these apps are enabling us to perpetuate a homogenized expression of beauty, as opposed to celebrating true individuality.

An example is a tween TV series, Hannah Montana. Hannah Montana, with a global audience of over 200 million, yielded 31,600,000 hits on Google and 727,000 videos. Every single teen has a passion for becoming a famous face like Hrithik Roshan, Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan, Deepika, Alia and many more. This list is endless, and so is the teens' madness.

“What used to be thought of as narcissistic, vain, and self-centred behaviour is now the guiding norm of society,” says Elias Aboujaoude, M.D., clinical professor of psychiatry and behavioural sciences at Stanford University and author of Virtually You: The Dangerous Powers of the E-Personality. “We’re living in an era where humans are putting forth these edited and inflated versions of their lives, this ‘idealized self,’ and then they are, quite literally, falling in love with themselves.”

That’s not to say we are all harboring a secret desire to take our Instagram profiles out on a hot date, but rather that we are obsessing over our online personas as if we were actually in love.

Even as we are inwardly judging others for posting unrealistic content, we are doing the same thing to varying degrees, curating an image of ourselves that we want people to see, while softening or omitting the stuff we would rather keep hidden.

Genuinely speaking, digital narcissism can be defined as “a self-promotional madness driven by our need to manufacture our fame to the world continually”.

Self-esteem has been changed into Selfie-esteem

Teens say selfies give a confidence boost. They generally believe social media helps deepen friendships and are more likely to equate their social media use with positive emotions – but this positivity is far from reality.

Teens post about a range of topics on social media, with posts about their accomplishments or family playing an especially prominent role. They are more likely to say social media makes them feel more included and confident rather than excluded or insecure. Selfies may be popular on social media, but around half of the teens say they rarely or never post these images.

Antidote to Narcissism: Authenticity

The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.” ― Carl Jung

I am not saying social media is evil, or that you should not try to make some money online. But do not lose your soul in the process. Invest in yourself and hone your craft.

The cream always rises to the top. All the pop-ups, Facebook likes, photos with “thought leaders” and “social proof” will not make you a better painter or writer. Only dedicated, hard work will do that.

If more people shunned the empty rhetoric of the internet and invested in their own artistic and personal growth, I think we would see the death spiral of digital narcissism. Maybe even a renaissance like a return to more profound, more meaningful art and personal expression. How cool would that be!

Be yourself. Love your family. Embrace your authenticity. Hone your craft. See the humanity in others.

Let us be ourselves.

Prabha Gupta

Principal, Shri Ram Global School, Karnal