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Is Facebook Making Us Lonely and Vain or Just Totally Narcissistic?


There has been a lot of research of late claiming Facebook is making us lonely.  A rather damning article in The Atlantic suggests that many people withdraw into the world of Facebook but feel worse about their lives in comparison to everyone’s displays of happiness.  While others like this Slate.com article by Eric Klinenberg refutes that claim with research that, “the quality and quantity of Americans’ relationships are about the same today as they were before the Internet.”  So take from that what you will.  Personally, I’ve had a few minor meltdowns comparing my life to others on Facebook or when the “People You May Know” section brings up people I no longer want or have in my life.  I don’t think those things are making me lonely, but feeling shitty for an afternoon? Sure.

However, I’m am concerned Facebook is increasing our vanity. And even more so, Instagram. It captures one moment. One moment the owner has carefully selected, filtered and uploaded. If only life allowed for such control over life’s moments.  I don’t know any woman that doesn’t de-tag unflattering photos.  I’ve been emailed by friends to remove a photo that they thought was unflattering when I thought they looked fine.  I think it’s a fairly feminine trait to be picky about pictures. Like a lot of women, I’m not thrilled with about 60% of photos taken of me.  I think I’m not alone in caring more about people’s pictures than any of their status updates or “about” information.  If I want to stalk an old high school nemesis, I’m doing it through her pictures. We are all taking photos and sharing them, so I understand the need to try to control those photos.  I hadn’t finished walking down the aisle before friends had uploaded photos of me on Facebook.  Thankfully after an afternoon in hair and makeup, I was satisfied that I looked okay in all of these pics. But this world of instant moments and photos shared with hundreds if not thousands of “friends” makes me worried more about the Facebook narcissism phenomenon than its loneliness effects.  Then again, that’s sounds like a vain viewpoint.

No one can take a picture without checking to make sure the camera owner is pleased with themselves in the photo, retaking it, or if it’s a good photo – immediately disseminating said photo to Facebook, instagram or twitter friends.  As a whole, taking pictures is starting to suck.  Are we getting more narcissistic?  I’ve read that most of the people on reality television have Narcissistic Personality Disorder (yes, it is a thing).  Narcissistic personality disorder is a condition in which people have an inflated sense of self-importance and an extreme preoccupation with themselves.  But with that definition, every high school jock, cheerleader, as well as half of LA inhabitants have NPD.

A May 2012 New York Times article discussed the Facebook/narcissism issue.  Surprisingly, it revealed that in a recent study of college-age Facebook users, “frequency of Facebook use, whether it was for personal status updates or to connect with friends, was not associated with narcissism. Narcissism per se was associated with only one type of Facebook user — those who amassed unrealistically large numbers of Facebook friends.”

Uh-oh, I have almost 1,000 friends on Facebook and most of the comics, writers or actors I know have that much or more.  Then maybe Facebook itself isn’t making us narcissistic, but our chosen profession shows it’s already there and Facebook is just an outlet?  Does one’s profession make them narcissistic?  I don’t consider myself to be that, but then again, I live in LA.  Maybe we all are and Facebook just makes it that much more obvious? I don’t know.  Maybe even an awareness of the influence of Facebook is enough.  Studies seem to show that if you were lonely or narcissistic before Facebook, you’ll still be lonely and narcissistic on it.  On the flip side, I do love seeing everyone’s pics and updates.  Who knows?  I guess it’s a part of life and we learn to live with it.  Facebook is here no matter what it’s psychological effects are, and it’s not going anywhere.  In fact, if Justin Timberlake has anything to do with it, we’ll have even more pictures and updates on the new Myspace pretty soon.  In the meantime, I’ll try to keep any narcissistic personality traits in check.


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