Researchers at Western Illinois University studied the Facebook habits of 294 students, aged between 18 and 65, and measured two “socially disruptive” elements of narcissism – grandiose exhibitionism (GE) and entitlement/exploitativeness (EE).
GE includes ”self-absorption, vanity, superiority, and exhibitionistic tendencies” and people who score high on this aspect of narcissism need to be constantly at the centre of attention. They often say shocking things and inappropriately self-disclose because they cannot stand to be ignored or waste a chance of self-promotion.
The EE aspect includes “a sense of deserving respect and a willingness to manipulate and take advantage of others”.
Want to know something interesting? I’ve posted 1,401 blogs as of this one. I think the most highly trafficked piece I’ve written was on “narcissistic personality disorder.” It’s two years old and gets traffic like I posted it yesterday. Whatever you think of this “disorder” (I continue to contend that this is primarily a spiritual problem, not a psychological one), it’s very clear from the Internet searches that occasionally lead the odd straggler to this blog that many, many people are dealing with a level of narcissism they do not understand.
Is Facebook to singlehandedly blame for all this? No. You can use social media well or poorly. There are some inherent temptations on Facebook, though, and those do relate to the desire to draw attention to oneself. Social media more broadly puts us all in an interesting position when it comes to self-promotion. There is a need for continual spiritual temperature-taking as we use these media. Why am I posting this? Is this calling attention to God and big things of him, or is it merely a shout in a crowded room for people to look at me? Am I writing this to edify people and point up the gospel, or do I simply want more traffic my way?
And it’s worth noting that whether we use Facebook or not, we could all use less personal grandiosity and more divine grandeur. There is no limit, no satiation point, for our study of God, for our meditation on his perfections. However we use or don’t use social media, we all need less immersion in our narcissistic, self-driven world and more immersion in the “world of love” that is communion with God through union with Christ.
A good rule of spiritual thumb: less of us, more of him (John 3:30).