Social media is now becoming an inevitable source of meeting and engagement than before. Teens and adults spend hours posting and scrolling on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and a host of other platforms. It is easy to figure out such people who absorbed in a social media frenzy, especially those who post everything about their lives online. One of the integral uses of social media is the ability to display one’s life to the whole world, that makes some people express and post the inordinate amount of information about themselves. Perhaps, for many, posting on social media involves some degree of seeking attention. The question is how this ‘attention-seeking’ behaviour converted into narcissism or, even worse, collective narcissism.
Since 2008, I am active on social media sites like Facebook and Instagram. The purpose was the same to display my work and shared it with wider audiences, including my students and their parents. All these years, I have witnessed a particular trend where people gathered in a group and tried to exaggerate the positive image of their group members. These exaggerations can be based on their religion, social class, race, political stance, language group, employment status, education level and cultural values. This kind of trend commonly coined as ‘Group or Collective Narcissism’ where people considered their own groups better than other groups that can lead to intergroup biases.
Dr Phil Reed, a professor of psychology at Swansea University, believe that two types of environments helped flourished the collective or group narcissism. Firstly, an environment where individuals often display low self-esteem and fragile egos. Secondly, a kind of environment that offer such ego-centric or ego-reinforcement opportunities. For example, individuals who feel unrecognized by society or their social circle may find a sense of entitlement in such groups.
A recent study of gamers suggests that the difference between a person’s view of themselves in real-life, and what their digital activity provides, motivates their online behaviour. Gamers who felt less powerfully controlled by others in-game, compared to in the real world, played games more. In contrast, people who felt more internal control in-game than in real-life were more likely to display problematic gaming.
So how would you recognize a person who can be vulnerable to recruit into a collective narcissist group? According to Dr Phil Reed, there is no ‘fool-proof’ way to spot who are at risk of collective narcissism. But it can be suggested that self-focused individuals who used negative or confusing words, mentioned emotional grievances like scars or wounds, and were more likely to discuss TV shows/movies are more likely prone to such narcissist groups. It can happen even in a workplace or office.
So, sir, are we stop using social media sites just to avoid such narcissist groups or individuals? The answer is No. However, responsible use of social media can be a way to prevent and recognize such dangers. The evidence highlights real risks for certain groups of people, and that digital-environments facilitate the development of collective narcissism. Social media offers opportunities for in-group bonding by mutual support, not of any old nonsense that may bind the group. Being aware and recognizing this is the first step to stopping it.