Mental Health

Social Media: Is It Leading to Narcissism?


Social media has grown to be an essential aspect of society. Not only does it provide educational opportunities, it is also helpful for networking. It is a medium that allows us to stay connected with our beloved ones from miles or even continents apart. For example, scrolling Facebook helps one to get a quick update of their friends’ and colleagues’ life. When you miss your parents, the option of a video call somehow manages to negate the physical distance.

The Urge of Being Popular

There has been great progress in the field of technology. But ironically, instead of making us more intimate and close, it has drew us apart. It seems as if almost everyone has a checklist on how to “social-media” each day. Upload pictures of oneself at a fixed frequency throughout the day, spread evenly through the week, and all through the month. These pictures must be slapped together with the brightest filters available and the maximum amount of hashtags. Then, promote these pictures in a manner where you can get the maximum amount of likes.

When we slowly think about it, this is a pretty weird notion: the more likes one gets, the more popular the person is. The ceiling for achieving fame is now drastically low. With the ease of access to everything nowadays and the zero concern for privacy, millions of pictures of people around the world is available at our fingertips. This constant need to be liked on social media has led many people to partake in various social media platforms, for only one goal: to be popular.

woman leaning on white wooden table while holding black Android smartphone

Does social media lead to narcissism?

Many research has been done to have a clearer understanding of the relationship between social media and narcissism. Various studies have revealed the same, consistent result: excessive uploading of pictures on social media platforms leads to narcissistic tendencies. One significant and recent study conducted by a research team from Swansea University and Milan University mentioned that most participants spent an average of 3 hours on social media just for personal entertainment.

What is Narcissism?

The Narcissistic Personality Disorder has been named after the mythological figure Narcissus, who fell in love with his own reflection.  According to the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-V), the following characteristics can be found in a narcissistic person:

  • Profound lack of empathy
  • A grandiose sense of self-significance
  • Jealousy regarding others or a firm belief that others are envious of him/her
  • High obsession with fantasies of glorious success, control and beauty
  • Excessive need for excessive appreciation

woman putting liquid lipstick on her lips while looking at vehicle's mirror during daytime

Explanation behind use of Social Media

A prominent theory of human motivation known as the Self-Determination Theory (SDT) states that all human beings have fundamental psychological needs, such as autonomy (a sense of personal initiative), competence (to interact effectively in a given domain), and relatedness (to feel comfortable with others).

The theory acknowledges that motivation does not just originates out of nothing within an individual. Rather, it is both influenced by and dependent upon social and environmental influences. Specifically, the need for relatedness refers to the level of social-connectedness a person needs. Different people desire different levels of connectedness. Thus, it can be said that there are those that require a higher amount of social interaction, as their need for social-connectedness might be higher.

woman looking at phone beside body of water

This theory also addresses the impact of environmental factors on a person’s motivation (or sense of self-determination) through the concept of need satisfaction. People are at their most self-determined (in an activity) when three psychological needs are satisfied. However, when we did not meet our psychological needs, there will be negative psychological effects, and the resulting sense of ‘emptiness’ leaves the individual with a need to fill this emptiness with external or extrinsic goals and behaviors.

Thus, it is important to understand Social Media as an autonomous environment. Individuals feel competent in their mastery over the technology and autonomous in how they choose to use this medium and how they relate with others.

The Present Scenario

Wherever you go, you will see people sitting in the most happening eating places. Yet, they are either busy capturing the food on the table, or a quick selfie before they start mindlessly scrolling again. The same picture is at every social venue. It seems that we are forgetting how to have a face-to-face conversation. Rather, we prefer sending messages with emoticons, while the real emotions escape through the spaces.

These social media websites push people for self-promotion. People want to portray that they are someone of high significance, they have an innate desire to be exceptional and that everyone gives them attention and like them to the extent that you become a “follower”. Sadly, almost everyone presents an masked version of themselves. Made up, pretty, but empty. Everyone chooses the most alluring snaps of themselves, distorts them more with more colorful filters and then utilizes them as profile pictures.

And then, the wait begins: when the first like pops up, and the next, and the next, and so on and on and on.

It is a never ending curse: you upload a photo, you get validation, but, you end up craving more! Hence, this cycle of needing approval from others is making people forget their own personalities and to create an ideal image for others.

turned on MacBook Pro near Starbucks cup social media

Is there any solution?

We need to remember that at the end of the day, these are just apps. No matter how much they engulf us, they cannot compensate our insecurities and fears. We should cherish face-to-face conversation and remember to putting the phone aside while meeting others. Our self-esteem should not depend on the number of likes one gets. Rather, we should accept both our strengths and weaknesses. Stop hiding behind the tinted filters and emoticons and be proud of your face and yourself and your identity. Stop wasting time on making the perfect Instagram story.

Let’s stop being called the generation of self-obsession. Uninstall those excessive photo apps. Start being aware of how social media platforms are affecting you, then utilize them with a more balanced mindset.

silver iPhone 6 on top of yellow wooden surface

You can read our article on how to achieve well-being.

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