Narcissism on the Interwebs

My husband has a love-hate relationship with Facebook. He has created and deleted his account countless times. He knows that, for now, no other social media site does what Facebook does – that’s why he always ends up returning. The part he dislikes – apart from their sneaky privacy policies – is how it encourages narcissism.

facebook like
Likety-like?

I can see his point. There is something about publishing things on the internet that seems to lend them validity. You can go on Facebook and tell people: “Kids are at school, time for my morning coffee!” and chances are, there will be friends who Like your status, or who comment: “Me too! :)” or “OMG I <3 my Timmy’s!” Yep. Morning coffee: validated.

To Sean (and many others, I imagine), this is annoying. Who gives a poop about your morning coffee? Why should this be important to anyone?

And this is just a microcosm of the Greater Interweb, where anyone can be a published writer by starting a blog, anyone can initiate a comment war with a well-placed bitchy remark, and you never know if your stupid video of yourself accidentally face-planting in your kitchen might just go viral.

To me, the internet is simply a reflection of humanity. I’m not going to deny that, unfortunately, it has its evil side. The web validates child porn, white supremacy, and gun violence along with your morning coffee. That’s humanity for you.

At the same time, there are forums to condemn those things. And sources of sheer awesomeness to counteract them.

I see it as an equalizer. You can have your say and I can have mine. The floor is open.

I remember what it was like before the internet. I got my first email address in university, and it was a saving grace for a homesick freshwoman just a bit too introverted to love residence life. You mean, I can write to my family all at once? And they can write back that same day??

It took me longer to enjoy the wider internet. I remember my dad, who has been working with computers since they took up whole rooms, saying, “If you don’t know, you could look it up. On the internet.” I was dismissive; it seemed like too much bother. (HA.)

Now, I can barely imagine life without it. No more calling the Weather Office if you miss the long-term forecast. No more flipping futilely through Leonard Maltin if you can’t remember where you saw that actor before. No more recording grainy songs off the radio with DJs talking over the first ten seconds. No more researching with a mountainous pile of hulking tomes edited by a few academic strangers; Wikipedia weighs nothing, and it’s edited by everybody. Amazing!!

It’s a brave new world, easily accessible.

Aside from its handiness, though, it’s a great reminder that we are never alone. Whether your obsession be belly dancing, quantum physics, vintage cars, or high-quality writing implements with literary cachet {insert *Sean-cough*}, you know that online, you can find your peeps.

If you or someone you love has a miscarriage, postpartum depression, cancer, a broken heart, or anything else, there’s a community.

Also, if you need to laugh so hard you cry, or have your faith in humanity restored, it’s all there.

Some say that blogs are the ultimate example of narcissism. Any idiot can start a blog and start spewing their opinions and minutiae of their lives into cyberspace. True. The quality of blogs ranges from sublime to asinine.

But so what? As with all forms of media, all you need is a filter. If it sucks, DON’T WASTE TIME ON IT. If it smacks of narcissism, find something else.

I barely knew what a blog was when I started blogging; I just wanted to write. Little did I know that it would become the creative outlet I hadn’t realized I craved; that it would be an enveloping source of healing when my son died; that my message of encouragement to my colleagues would be read by thousands of disheartened teachers; that blogging would strengthen old friendships and open pathways to new ones.

It is wonderful, and humbling, to meet a reader for the first time and hear, “I feel like I know you – like we’re already friends!” And it’s not untrue: if you connected with me through my words, then we are connected. I wrote them for you.

I’ve felt similarly reading other blogs, learning so much about that writer and thinking, Wow, I love this person I’ve never met.

Mutual blog-reading and commenting is a unique form of friendship I’d never imagined. You can bond with people thousands of miles away, with whom you would never have crossed paths in life. That’s pretty special. The blogs I gravitate to are written by thoughtful, intelligent people, on all kinds of topics, and it’s genuinely comforting to read and relate to their words – especially after a national tragedy. In a community like Yeah Write, where mutual-readership is on fire, it’s like having a group discussion where we contemplate and compose our perspectives, then offer them to the company. I dig it.

And I don’t consider it narcissism to base your writing on your own experience. After all, that’s what we have to work with that’s most authentic and relatable.

As for Facebook… I like it. People complain about toxic comment threads and nasty gossip; I avoid those things as much as possible. It helps to have really nice friends.

It makes me smile to read about the kids or the garden, or see a photo of a delicious dinner or the dog looking silly. Those ordinary tidbits make me feel close to people I don’t see enough.

And when there’s serious news, whether personal or global, it’s heartening to see it through the lens of people I love.

By all means, tell me about your coffee. We can have one together.

continental breakfasts march10
Photo by Lisa of Continental Breakfasts.

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53 thoughts on “Narcissism on the Interwebs

  1. great post! lots to think about!
    i think facebook, has it’s pros and cons, just like anything else and i try to focus on the cute doggy pics too, rather than get caught up in anything malicious.

    and as for the blogging world and everything that comes with that, i too love it. i love the connections i have made (like the one with you), i love to read about other people’s lives and see how they cope with the day to day that life brings. i find it so interesting to read about lives far away in foreign places and i just love looking at the pictures people post.

    i am now curious about yeah write, will look that up now. thanks blog friend!
    mama lola recently posted..new year’s resolution check in.My Profile

  2. I feel the exact same way about my blog. I didn’t know that I had this deep well of creativity, and that once I tapped it I would become, not so much a different person, but a much better version of myself. So glad to have found you through Yeah Write 🙂
    Samantha Brinn Merel recently posted..Crazy-TownMy Profile

    • dilovelyadmin says:

      Isn’t that amazing, to be able to know you are better because of your blog? So great. I hadn’t thought about it that way, but I think I feel similar in that it gives me a great sense of accomplishment (especially since I spend a lot of time doing things I have little to show for, like changing diapers and making meals…). So glad to have found you too!

  3. I like Facebook. I don’t spend a lot of time on it, but still I like it. I have cousins across the country and I get to see pictures of them and their families. I get to keep up with what my step children are doing when they are with their mom.

    The rest? I just scroll right past.
    My Half Assed Life recently posted..Toilet TravestyMy Profile

    • dilovelyadmin says:

      Honestly, Facebook has become another essential for me, almost. We have a lot of faraway family too, and it’s wonderful being able to have updates on how they’re doing, with photos and all. I have also connected with a few long-lost friends over Facebook, which has been a real boon as well.

  4. Cat says:

    Lovely and completely agree. Your comments of you being your own “filter” on Facebook ring so true. I have had only great experiences with Facebook – other than mild annoyance over the game stats spam on my news wall or a slowly growing impatience for people who CONSTANTLY post on the most mundane, minute and utterly boring play by plays of their everyday lives (but luckily these posters are very few and far between… most of my FB friends have made me laugh, cry, and feel more connected to them in meaningul ways through posts, messages and pictures even though we are too far away to see each other as often as we both would want to in a perfect world).
    For the record I love your writing… you have a great knack at connecting with your reader. If I wasn’t so busy I would start a blog as I absolutely love writing and connecting with others in cyberspace as well. I also find it therapeutic. Thanks for taking the time to share.

    • dilovelyadmin says:

      Cat, exactly. I laugh and cry too. It’s great. And thank you so much for your kind words… I hope someday you do find time to start a blog! The therapy is totally worth it.

  5. I agree so much about blogging. In fact, I’m even wanting to have a party for the locals – but I’m scared to tell my husband since he’s gonna think I’m crazy for wanting to have people I don’t “know” (but I do) over. I do FB less because I’m busy blogging but there is still a place for it. I’ll have coffee with you!
    Stacie @ Snaps and Bits recently posted..Growing JeansMy Profile

    • dilovelyadmin says:

      Stacie, what a cool idea to party with the locals! I think knowing someone through their blog is, in some ways, deeper than some other relationships. There’s a lot of honesty and very little chit-chat. Cheers to the shared coffee!

  6. Dana says:

    I’ve had good and bad experiences on facebook, but I’m pretty excited to see the positive experiences to come with yeah write! You’ve made it sound quite lovely.

    • dilovelyadmin says:

      I agree. I know social media can be really dangerous in the hands of those without the maturity to avoid malice; and I feel very strongly that parents need to set limits on their children’s screen time and have frank conversations about social media with them. My son is only three and we have already started working on this, since screens are everywhere, and very addictive…

  7. I am with your husband, I keep putting my account down then back up. Now all we do is google something. I was trying to explain to my kids what an encyclopedia was and they stared at me. Amazing how times have changed.

  8. What a beautiful post. I agree 100% It could be that this whole Status Updating and blogging seems self-indulgent, but on the other hand why should large publishing houses and the likes be the ones to judge what we consume and how we connect? Those days are over and I’m grateful for it, even though it does take AGES to sift through the internet garbage to find the gems.
    Bridgitte Raven recently posted..IncompleteMy Profile

    • dilovelyadmin says:

      Great point, Bridgitte. Why should someone else filter for us? Not to say that publishing houses haven’t published great works, but I know I’ve been grateful to read many wonderful things on the internet that would not have ever been looked at by a publisher.

  9. Yay, coffee! And coffee plus FB is even more fun! What’s the harm in catching up on everyone’s dog/cat/baby photos and then moving on to a productive day? As you said, if you have nice friends it’s a nice experience.
    Louise Ducote recently posted..I Didn’t KnowMy Profile

    • dilovelyadmin says:

      Absolutely! As long as I can move on to a productive day… Heheh. Sometimes I do get caught up and Facebook can be a big time-suck.

    • dilovelyadmin says:

      I do know a few over-sharers (/over-swearers – I have trouble with them too)… I tend to block their feeds when they start to stress me out.

  10. so i guess you and your husband agree to disagree..? or he’s just mad at himself for being reduced to the level of people just hanging out bonding, reading, sharing coffee and a comment?
    i love it all. i’m pretty new to it and actually it’s almost too addicting. and i’ve found so many quality people and writers that there’s not enough time to get to them all.
    great post. lots to think about.

    • dilovelyadmin says:

      Yeah, we don’t have to agree, since he’s got his account and I’ve got mine. And it’s not like he doesn’t love some of the stuff that people post. That’s the thing about Facebook – the people, the friends, are so good that they make it worthwhile. 🙂

  11. Yup, we’re all out here on the slight chance that someone might hear–er–read us, understand us, if we’re lucky, entertain us for a bit. Hopefully not annoy us.

    But for some, yes, this whole social media shebang has gone too far. I don’t care if you’re at Starbucks. (But I am guilty of writing an update of “I just added coppee to my grocery list. Can you tell we’re out?” Don’t want you to care, just giggle.) Cheers!
    Kerry Ann @Vinobaby’s Voice recently posted..Rezoning: An Ode to my Neighborhood & SchoolMy Profile

    • dilovelyadmin says:

      Those little giggles are probably my favourite thing about Facebook. There are almost always a dozen mini pick-me-ups in my news feed.

  12. I think I’d probably really enjoy a coffee with you. I like the way you write and I like the way you think. The internet’s what you make of it, really, and I think you’re helping make something good.
    Jen recently posted..Learning with my handsMy Profile

    • dilovelyadmin says:

      Jen, thank you! Based on what I’ve read of yours so far, I would definitely say the same. Let’s totally have virtual coffee sometime.

    • dilovelyadmin says:

      You “almost” wrote? What stopped you? I’m one of the folks who would enjoy reading a status update like that.

      I was in first year university in 1996…

  13. I think Facebook is what you make it. If you are a kind, honest person, it shows and you have a positive experience. If you are a mean, phony idiot, that shows too, and people will either unfriend or ignore you.

    I so agree with you about blogging. I just started nine months ago, and it is so wonderful to have a creative outlet again after an embarrassingly long dry spell. I love all the folks I’ve met through Yeah Write. It’s such a positive, supportive and talented community. I’m happy you are part of it.
    Kathleen recently posted..Hockey Skates and a Not-So-Lucky CatMy Profile

    • dilovelyadmin says:

      Kathleen, YES. To everything. I started blogging on my first mat leave, just over 3 years ago, and now, although sometimes I feel bad taking the time to write… I know I have to. I won’t be okay if I don’t.

  14. I agree – there is a lot of narcissism, but I’d be a hypocrite if I complained because I’m right there doing it. And blogging has made some wonderful friendships that I would certainly be sad to lose.

    I can’t imagine life without blogging or the internet. I’d feel so much more alone.
    Michelle Longo recently posted..Talking About Bacon.My Profile

    • dilovelyadmin says:

      Michelle, I don’t consider what you do narcissism. We WANT to know details about real people’s real lives – otherwise, there would be no reality TV. You’re a person who can write well, so IMHO you’re out there doing good for the internet at large.

  15. I loved this post. “You can have your say and I can have mine. The floor is open.” That’s exactly my philosophy. I don’t enjoy facebook much. I’m hardly on it. However, you’re right about being able to find a community online and friendships and bond that can form from our blogs, creativity, and writings.
    Gina recently posted..Head to Head With The Elusive…My Profile

    • dilovelyadmin says:

      It’s amazing how connected you can feel to people with whom you have a love of writing in common – it’s a stronger bond than I realized.

  16. I don’t know how I feel about Facebook. The truth is that I forget to log on for days at a time, so I guess it’s not really all that important to me. Twitter and email and blogging, on the other hand, I do every single day. I do think that social media is kind of narcissistic. But people are kind of narcissistic. It’s in our nature. That’s why social media works as well as it does.
    Stephanie recently posted..Treasures to Dig ThroughMy Profile

    • dilovelyadmin says:

      Stephanie, such a good point. I guess as a species, we are pretty self-involved naturally. And come to think of it, so are other species, right? I mean, who do lions and spider monkeys and bluejays care about? Themselves and their kids!

  17. Amen. I completely agree with every single sentence here. Where’s that “like” button?

    Thank you so much for writing this defense of the Internet. I’ve read so many tirades lately about over-sharing and narcissism and why doesn’t everybody just shut up? Well, I remember the good old pre-Internet days and they weren’t that good.
    Azara recently posted..Make it fast and make it expensiveMy Profile

    • dilovelyadmin says:

      Thank you, Azara! Or, you’re welcome. I do sometimes (okay, pretty often actually) find myself on some other site and looking for that Like button…

  18. Mary Snow says:

    I admit it – I’m on FB everyday (several times). But you know me – I like to be connected to people (and connecting people) and it has been instrumental in terms of networking and promoting our troupe and our shows! I totally attribute a huge factor of our growth to FB! To me, FB is a tool – use your brain, use discretion. I’d say that having almost 500 contacts and only having to Block 3 because of annoying/constant/negative updates – that’s not bad. Sometimes I see an update like a friend I haven’t seen in ages had a baby. On one hand, I think “Oh, isn’t that kind of sad that I learned this through FB!” but then on the other hand, had FB not existed, I’d probably not know at all! I personally enjoy seeing people’s paths through life and the funny/odd things people post. Gives me glimpses into their personalities. And of course, who DOESN’T want to see a million photos of my super funny adorable baby girl??

    I think we’ve bonded tremendously through your blog and personal emails (even though we see [saw :(] each other every week!). You and I are literary people – that’s how we connect. Sometimes it’s hard to make as personal a connection in the midst of a gaggle of girls (which is its own type of connection!).

    • dilovelyadmin says:

      Mary, you’re absolutely right. Reading and writing can be powerful ways to connect, if that’s your personality (which it obviously is, in our case). And I’ve had the same experience with pregnant friends on FB – one just the other day, actually – but like you, I usually look on the bright side: at least I know! It’s amazingly easy to lose touch with people you care about, but FB does make it remarkably easy to remedy that as well. And photos… well, that may just be the best part.

  19. I really should be sleeping… but just wanted to say this is a great post. Very relevant. I often fret over my blog coming across as narcissistic, but in the end I don’t care. My blog is a chronicle of my life as told by a side of me that doesn’t often come across in person. People are always shocked that I’m ‘so funny’ in writing when I’m so serious in person. I don’t know what it is about the medium, but it allows different sides of my to come out. It’s my way of putting a funny spin on things that are otherwise frustrating or depressing. I have to be able to laugh at myself! I feel like I had more of a point to make but I can’t thin through the exhaustion.

    • dilovelyadmin says:

      Thank you, Shan. I fret over the same thing, even though I love reading blogs and I know it’s probably silly for me to fret. And I fully agree, it’s a great way to exercise new perspectives that are still mine. I find I notice life with more detail now that everything is possibly bloggable. Being able to laugh after the fact is super-important.

      I hope you will be getting some good sleep very soon…

  20. Mama says:

    I abolutely don’t know what happened, but I missed this post when it came out. (Maybe that was during the time when I was failing to receive notifications of new posts? I thought I had caught up on all of those but perhaps I missed this…) Anyway, you sure made a splash with it! People certainly do care about the ‘net, don’t they (we)? You make excellent points. I like what you say, especially about creative outlet and being your own filter. We don’t have to be slaves to the ‘net but can rule in our own spheres. The one thing that persists in worrying me is the potential for real baddies to wield their badness more destructively, as in the case of Rehtaeh Parsons. Oh, and also that the process of writing on FB or a blog coincides precisely with a lack of exercise! (A big research report recently came out about that topic, just about when I was thinking maybe I should start a blog. Guess not…)

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