I am a creature of the Internet. I’m a social media manager by day and by night I am a community manager, podcaster, moderator, social influencer, blogger and content creator. Like a Social Media Sailor Moon I am fighting evil by moonlight and by evil I mean spam comments and Nigerian prince scams and winning love by daylight and by love I mean the likes, comments, clicks and retweets of my fans/followers. It’s a delicate balancing act of managing this for my clients and then for myself. But I wanted to talk about when your personality and your content is quantified and how that feels.
Before we dive in too deeply I wanted to discuss a word I’ll likely be using a lot in this post: narcissism. The word itself stems from a Greek myth about a man named Narcissus who was so enamored with his reflection that he literally drowned in a reflecting pool after gazing at his reflection in the still water and some strange nymph creature said “Wow, this is totes sad. I should like make this dead dude a flower instead of like bringing him back to life or anything.”. The psychological use of the word describes a series of personality traits that then can lead to a diagnosis of Narcissistic Personality Disorder. NPD is characterized by an inflated sense of self-worth, egoism and immense self-preservation even in a negative light. The Narcissist does not care for others, only for the self. The Narcissist only sees people as a means to an end and that means is for adulation, praise and attention. When I use the word narcissism, I mean less the disorder and more the trait. It features all the same egotistical behavior as the condition but not in a pathological way. A person who is narcissistic may be annoying but they probably can’t hurt you. On the other hand someone with NPD may be more troubling and difficult to deal with.
I like most young people display a fair amount of narcissistic tendencies. A coworker casually commented on my despondency over a low number of Facebook friends and she asked rather coldly “What is the point?” to which I audibly gasped. The point? For heaven’s sake, I am a social media manager. What am I without a sizable following? And the pressure to maintain numbers is quite daunting. I was elated to reach over 2000 followers on Twitter and the fact that this humble blog here is quickly approaching 2000 views makes me happy while also puts a fair amount of stress on me. I am worried about the content I produce, I am worried about schedules and graphics and everything. I want people to see what I do since I am going through the trouble of posting it. I am not aiming to shout into the ether.
But what really got me thinking about self-worth and numbers was the release of analytics for personal accounts. Most social media platforms only allow and collect data for businesses: I’m a social media manager so I use this data for a wide variety of functions at work. I’ve never had to worry about my own analytics. Twitter was first and I did more and more to increase that number of followers, even setting goals to reach at least 1000 people per day. I beat myself up emotionally when those numbers fell and that determination led me to where I am on Twitter. Facebook then allowed a similar metric rating of your own personhood. Facebook suddenly let you see how many people were commenting, how many reactions you got and how far your content spread whether it was a brunch photo or a touching in memoriam to a lost loved one. I blog here on WordPress and I am very aware of how many people see what I post. I am due to the hardline nature of my social media role concerned with numbers but also as an image-conscious person I am enticed and drawn to pulling in bigger numbers. I have had some narcissistic personality traits for decades: I am an only child, after all. But this drive to succeed and to be seen is a hollow one.
There’s a funny trick about narcissism. A true Narcissus doesn’t actually like themselves very much. It’s all a show, it’s all a carefully planned out act. Think of the Insta-famous models and influencers. No one does this because they enjoy it. They do it because they feel like that have to. It’s exhausting to whittle down your self-worth to a series of numbers. It’s tiresome to be awoken by every alert and notification. It’s not fun to see your entire point as a person reduced down to how many clicks you get on a post.
So instead of just calling your social media concerned friend a raging Narcissus, consider the society we live in that values a woman more for her likes than her opinions. Consider that this is our making. And consider that maybe just throwing around a buzzword as a psuedo-insult doesn’t make anyone feel better: it just makes us all look a bit reductive.