“I loathe narcissism, but I approve of vanity.” Diane Vreeland
We’re awfully vain people. Try as we might to be humble, we really aren’t. As soon as we hit social media, we become self-absorbed. We spew out selfies and tweets faster than a restaurant serving two dollar tacos.
Self-absorbed, distracted by our reflections, we create our own fanfare. In a recent New York Times article, Jane E. Brody says we’re guilty of what The American Psychiatric Association’s diagnostic manual calls, among other things, “…excessive attempts to attract attention.”
Most people blame social media, figuring if it wasn’t there, we wouldn’t want so much limelight but, as Brody explains, we all have narcissistic traits. What’s turning us into “extreme narcissists” is what could be called “one-upmanship.” Social media is simply making us more competitive and self-absorbed.
They get turned on by who they are — or who they think they are based on favourable tweets, comments and likes.
Competition is as a strong aphrodisiac. Dr. Joseph Burgo, a clinical psychologist, pointed out in his book “The Narcissist You Know,” narcissists like to demonstrate their “winner status,” which is why so many are drawn to sports, politics and entertainment. Many fall into the category of “extreme narcissists.” They get turned on by who they are — or who they think they are based on favourable tweets, comments and likes.
Take the young woman who described herself online as a 25-year-old female, 5’ 8” tall, weighing in at 132 lbs. with dark brown medium and green/hazel eyes. “I’m flat chested,” she admits, “and the curves I have are built by hours, months and years working out at the gym.”
“What do I deserve?” she asks. “I deserve to be treated like a human, not just a woman. I deserve not to feel silenced by your yells (men’s yells, I guess), to feel sexy in my own skin without feeling like I’m here to bait you.”
We don’t have to accept “wolves,” or anyone else. Social media is a big place.
She concludes with a professional shot of her in her compression shorts and sports bra, telling people (women) she wants to hear their stories. At last count, she had over six hundred and forty-seven comments, most agreeing they’ve had similar experiences with “the wolves.”
Feeling good about ourselves offers a new “narcissistic groove.” Not only are we competitive, now we’re combative. We want a new level of respect commensurate with our likes, comments and tweets. We don’t have to accept “wolves,” or anyone else. Social media is a big place.
Nowhere is this more evident than with sex, where everything intersects eventually, like a big sociological sieve. We expect more, and with that comes skepticism. As much as we want love, sex and relationships, we set a high bar because our “hits” suggest we can. So the skeptic comes out in all of us.
“I assume that either it’ll go nowhere,” one female reader admitted on reddit to the question of online hook-ups,” or if we decide to meet up, it’ll be a disaster.”
If social media has taught us one thing, there are more goofballs out there than decent sorts. Even if we find a goofball we like, they have to meet a certain standard, which is often decided through the comments of others.
“They’re all amorphous blobs until they prove otherwise,” one woman explained. “They have to bring their A game or no dice.”
We expect a lot from people — in and out of the bedroom. The “A game” of, say, 20 years ago, isn’t what it is today. Back then, you had to make your own judgments. You had to decide how you really feel.
Advice comes fast and furious on line. Everyone’s a yoda. Everyone’s had a similar experience, or they just don’t put up with amorphous blobs.
Today, you take it online. You join discussion groups. You find out if his snoring is something other women would tolerate. “Roll him on his side,” a woman responded. “If that doesn’t work — or he gets pissed off — I’d keep looking. My parents were in separate bedrooms their whole marriage.”
Advice comes fast and furious on line. Everyone’s a yoda. Everyone’s had a similar experience, or they simply don’t put up with amorphous blobs.
Given the scrutiny we see today, combined with our narcissism, it’s hard to imagine any relationship working out. Like I said, social media’s a big world. The opportunities — like the hits — are endless.
Narcissists aren’t settlers. Move into the “extreme narcissist” category, and you’ll kick a goofball out of bed for petting your dog. “The minute his attention goes off me,” a reader wrote, “he’s outta here. It’s my dog, anyway. He can go home and pet his own dog.”
Discussion groups make us brave. We can pine for love, respect and, of course, sex, but our real turn-ons are tweets. The “morning after tweets,” the “sad Saturday night” tweets. We’d rather tweet than resolve.
Where have all the good men gone? Any Prince Charmings out there ? Any frogs? Do I have to find love at a petting zoo?”
The more discerning we get, the more likely we are to cut bait and look elsewhere. When “elsewhere” runs out, we realize we’re screwing ourselves. Sometimes it’s figuratively, sometimes literally.
One of the most common signs of “screwing ourselves” comes in the form of explanations online. Every dating site has this comment: “I was here before, but didn’t have much luck. Where have all the good men gone? Any Prince Charmings out there ? Any frogs? Do I have to find love at a petting zoo?”
Sometimes narcissists have a hard time comparing their “like tweets” with their online dating. Popularity on one doesn’t always translate to the other. Rather than being realistic, we become pessimistic, like the song “Where Have All The Cowboys Gone?” Where is my John Wayne/Where is my prairie son/Where is my happy ending/Where have all the cowboys gone
Well, John Wayne’s dead and “prairie songs” became country rock. Neither have the allure they did in the John Ford days. It was a bit of cinematic illusion, anyway. Romantic vistas, sitting on the front porch drinking lemonade, all this got gunned down with online narcissism.
We’ve let the bad guys — and the good guys — get away.
Riding off into the sunset has become a series of unresolved needs and wants. It’s narcissism played out against a backdrop of , well, us. We want a happy ending, but it looks like we’re more interested in the credits. We’ve let the bad guys — and the good guys — get away. And that’s where the movie ends. No kid is yelling “Shane! Shane!” He’s probably blogging his brains out.
We’ve become uncompromising, asking too much of the script. Scripts rarely deliver (even John Ford knew that) especially when we give ourselves a star rating — something the “likes” gave us but the audience didn’t. We come away comfused and unfulfilled, wondering why everyone else is happy on Facebook and we’re not.
As much as it sounds good saying “I won’t settle,” life is about settling.Otherwise, as one reader, Charlotte Franklin, wrote me, “If you expect perfect from everyone, you’ll end up perfectly alone.” Food for thought.
“It seems like someone else keeps getting / What I’m wishing for / Why can’t I be as lucky / As those other people are / I guess I must be wishing / On someone else’s star.” Bryan White
Robert Cormack is a freelance copywriter, satirist, journalist and novelist. His first novel “You Can Lead a Horse to Water (But You Can’t Make It Scuba Dive)” is available online and at most major bookstores. Check out Yucca Publishing or Skyhorse Press for more details.