Narcissism in the Time of Social Media

photo: Schall & Schnabel

Perfect, care-free, enviable: these used to be the three adjectives that would come up in my mind the moment I would take a look at the shiny profiles of my acquaintances on social media – one cannot really call them friends, right? There would have been plenty occasions in the past, where I would start wondering what my life lacks and is not as “cool” as theirs.

Taking insecurity to a brand new level I would even catch myself feeling sad, if my new post had not received the expected number of likes; choosing my new profile picture would demand a full-fledged strategy, that would put even the most acute Brexit negotiators to shame. However, I would still sense that this is not enough. There would always be someone flaunting various parts of their life they would be most proud of ranging from abs and new pieces of clothing to luxurious holidays – I still refuse to believe the existence of hashtags, such as #moneyisnottheproblem – and partying in the most talked-about clubs.

Investing substantial time and energy in checking out what people I barely know post on social media had the same effect on me as beauty magazines have on women: it made me feel ugly both on the inside and outside.

The minute I realized, how common this phenomenon is, was when I started reevaluating what is most important to me. There were times, that I was in parties where the people eager to show that were having a good time were so many more than the ones who were actually having a good time. I even started seeing a pattern, according to which Facebook was used as a platform to highlight how happy people are, Instagram to showcase how cool they are and Twitter to underline how smart.

At this point, I would like to emphasize that my intention is neither to criticize nor to belittle any of the people adopting the aforementioned approach to social media. I am, also, not interested in demonizing social media. After all, I tend to believe that most of the tools we have at our disposal have a double function, just like a knife: they can be used to make our life better and easier, but also to cause harm; at the end of the day, the user is the one who is in control, not the tool itself.

I simply want to share a story about a point in my life, where I realized that prioritizing my image over other aspects of my life used to stand in the way of my happiness and self-fulfillment. It used to prevent me from realizing that I all I have including my mind as well as my entire outward and inward appearance are enough.

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The visuals you see above are taken from the video installation “I Need A Break from Shining” by the multi-disciplinary studio Schall & Schnabel and the audio-visual artist Lucas Gutierrez. Model and dancer Darwin Stapel dealt with the topic of narcissism and its pathological excess in the context of social media and urban culture.

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