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Is Social Media Turning us into Narcissists?

Jeff Bullas New York Times v2

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Social media is a siren call. It tempts us to participate, publish and sometimes seek attention.

It was just over 5 years ago and Facebook and Twitter were growing and beckoning. I joined, watched and was intrigued and captivated. The social networks enabled me to reach friends, family and colleagues while I sat at my desk.

My blog, Facebook page and Twitter account also touched global strangers who enjoyed the same interests, topics and passions that resonated with me. Many became good friends.

It gave me a voice and they started to listen. My spelling wasn’t perfect and sometimes the grammar police turned up to my blog. I pressed on. I learnt what they liked and what touched their hearts and minds. The experience has been a fascination of feedback, challenges and emerging technologies. I was curious… and I still am.

Selfies, Vanity or Creativity

So…do you play to see how many friends you can attract? Is social media a tool for growth or vanity? Does the “selfie” make us look like a culture of self absorbed narcissists or is there a larger opportunity for growth and expressing your creativity and passion?

Here is my take, which was published in the New York Times.

Everyone Has a Voice, Everyone Is Judged

Many believe that the social Web is only used for online attention seeking, leading to a vain, pointless and shallow existence. But in fact it’s having an opposite effect.

We are seeing the democratization of publishing that allows us to express our ideas, insights and creativity for free, whether on a blog, or in a Facebook post or YouTube video. These platforms allow freedom of expression for anyone who has the time, passion and persistence.

Jeff Bullas published in the New York Times

The social Web allows us to receive a response in real time to our voice. This interaction challenges us to grow and learn from an observant and sometimes critical global audience that has similar interests and pursuits. This feedback loop may look like narcissism but in fact it is a means for growth that challenges and changes the creator as readers and viewers comment and interact.

Far from creating narcissists, it makes us stronger, teaching us how to take praise as well as criticism. Authors don’t have to wait any longer for permission to publish by traditional mass media publishers and gatekeepers. They can launch a blog, write an e-book and self-publish on Amazon. The reviews and sales figures are a measurement of people’s interest and opinions. They can either reward or dampen your hard work. 

Musicians don’t have to beg a producer for a recording contract. They can upload a YouTube video. Their community and listeners vote with views. Photographers and artists can publish their media and art to Pinterest, Facebook or Google Plus. They can share it on Twitter. Followers vote with retweets, shares and comments.

Not getting enough attention?

It means you need to try a little harder. Success is not about genius but about doing the work with focused passionate persistence. This social media feedback and attention seeking is not leading to an explosion of narcissism. It is ushering in a new age of human creativity.

What’s narcissistic about that?

Want to read more about the debate in the New York Times?

What about you?

Is social media only for narcissists or has it just given them a platform? Has social media been an engine of personal growth and change or is it just a marketing tool?

Look forward to reading your insights and experiences in the comments below.


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