According to dictionary.com, narcissism is defined as “an inordinate fascination with oneself; excessive self-love; vanity; self-centeredness, smugness, egocentrism.”
As a 20-something myself, I observe how individuals frequently throw this infamous word around, specifically referencing Generation Y, otherwise known as Millennials: “Look at how they tweet and talk about themselves — such a narcissistic generation!”
And while indulging in Twitter/Facebook updates and Instagram photos could be superfluous, I find that it’s a reflection of the digital age. Social media outlets have now become another prominent platform for communication and instant disclosure.
“Generation Y is a generation like no other,” Ryan Gibson wrote in his 2013 article, “Generation Y & Social Media.”
“For starters, it’s the largest generation of them all and with access to huge social networks, their vast connections allow them to have a voice that is louder and more impacted than any previous generation.”
In a 2012 article posted on Psych Central, a study, published in the Journal of Computers in Human Behavior, illustrates a correlation between social media usage and narcissistic tendencies.
During the study, college students were asked to edit their page on MySpace or Facebook or to use Google Maps. Those who spent time on their Facebook profile reported elevated levels of self-esteem, while those who edited their MySpace scored higher in measures of narcissism. (These nuances may be due to the differences in site formats.)
“Several previous studies found increases over the generations in both self-esteem and narcissism,” the article stated. “These new experiments suggest the increasing popularity of social networking sites may play a role in those trends.”
According to researcher Elliot Panek, Ph.D., it’s Twitter that’s a “megaphone for the cultural obsession with self.”
“Young people may overevaluate the importance of their own opinions,” he said in a 2013 post. “Through Twitter, they’re trying to broaden their social circles and broadcast their views about a wide range of topics and issues.”
A contrary perspective, however, highlights the notion that when we share who are, we ignite a spark that encourages others to share as well. It fuels connection, whether it’s through discovering similarities or differences.
Sometimes, we’re able to connect with people we’ve never met through the medium of online publications; writers’ sentences resonate, and suddenly, we’re relating to these strangers on a personal level. They’ve left an impact and their voice stays with us. And through this ether connection, we could continue to maintain contact. (I’m usually the person who’d email a writer after reading a post that’s incredibly inspiring or powerful.)
Internet writers and bloggers also may be viewed in a self-absorbed light and, though I’m obviously biased, I tend to think that introspection is a healthy process that paves the way to personal development and growth. It’s where we can uncover the best version of ourselves. And once we do, once a particular realization is garnered, we can spread the word (literally), with the hope that readers can identify with our thoughts.
Generation Y certainly makes their presence known via social media networks and the world of blogging. However, is it truly narcissistic? Is there an obsession with ourselves that overshadows our ability to be there for others? Not necessarily. From my perspective, sharing thoughts and feelings and stories, while fostering in-the-moment connections, doesn’t quite depict the traditional form of narcissism.