By Louis Ng
I confess I am a cyber-narcissist. If there is a cyber-narcissist anonymous (CNA) group, I’d go seek help. I was skeptical about Facebook initially but it’s now THE book I read and re-read the most. I tease my students about cam-whoring and being selfie addicts but the reason why I don’t take pictures of myself for uploads on social media is that I look terrible in photos. Period.
If I had the looks and body of Ryan Gosling, I’d be the king of selfies!
I’m also no caveman so I am well acquainted with Instagram and Twitter. But I refrained from jumping onto the bandwagon for fear that my followers may just be me, myself and I . . . or worse, my mother masquerading under the pseudonym of @Kitty-cutechick! Blah!
But this blog is not just about me because it will take up more volumes than the Harry Potter and Twilight series combined, plus a prequel and pre-prequel (if there is such a thing).
It’s really about the psychological and emotional challenges the Gen-Yers or the group otherwise known as the Millennials face. This is a very misunderstood generation. They have been accused of being overly indulgent, confident, feeling self-entitled and yes, oblivious to how narcissistic they are.
The good thing about this generation is that most of them are still living with their parents. So they don’t really have to worry about paying rent and utilities . . . or washing their own underwear.
Now, indulge me for a moment and allow me to write from the perspective of a Millennial. According to some sociologists, I still thankfully fall into this category. I don’t live with my parents but my girlfriend buys and washes my boxers.
As Millennials, we largely navigate our way through life with mobile technologies and interact intensely in Cyberspace. As a result, we have to deal with invisible Cyber Reapers daily. Let me begin by sharing the first Cyber Reaper we contend with.
Cyber Reaper #1 – Cyber Narcotics
Let’s face it. Social media is a drug and is highly addictive. It is a place where you create a persona of yourself to vie for attention, affirmation and love. This begs the question as to whether it’s an honest and genuine persona you created, or one you think your friends and followers will like.
Most Millennials go through great lengths to gain a steady following on Instagram, Twitter and take pride in the hundreds, if not thousands of trophy friends on Facebook. Trust me, these are no easy feats.
We crave for the thumbs ups or hearts (likes), the shout-outs, re-tweets and compliments on our pictures and posts. If we can get a conversation thread going, it’s a good indication of our popularity.
When someone flatters our artistry in photo-taking (though it’s but a filtered picture of cat or a half-eaten banana), the mushy words and emoticons exchanged between the praiser and praised is like a Shakespearean sonnet punctuated with ‘@’s. Sometimes, these exchanges can lead to a rendezvous or two. But not for me, because my girlfriend will mutilate my ‘you know what’ if that happens.
And it’s never enough. We return for more every day – cracking our heads about the next post, photo or tweet and ways to solicit for more friends, followers, likes and compliments. It does not help that most of us suffer from FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) too.
Whether we like it or not, this is the New Normal.
But it got me thinking. Are digi-logues more important than real dialogues in person? Have I been so addicted and dumbed-down by Cyber Narcotics that my virtual identity became more important than the real me? Do I honestly get less lonely with the increase in friends and followers online?
And why am I so eager to check in on the responses to my Facebook posts instead of checking in on someone who loves me dearly like my sister? I can’t for the life of me remember when I had a conversation with her but I can certainly tell you when I last read my newsfeeds on Facebook.
In my free time, I did a brief research and hypothetically ascertained that if had approximately 2500 followers on my Instagram account (if i start one), any photo I upload should get me at least 120 likes . . even if it’s nothing more than a black background I may caption as ‘a starless night’. But what do these likes mean? Are they not just mathematical ratios?
What scares me the most is studies have shown that relishing in our online personas can result in a slow but steady metamorphosis from our real self to match the virtual version. This means I may potentially lose sight of who I really am and become what I think my online followers and friends want. Afterall, a drug addict can lose himself to addiction and turn into very different person over time. It’s also no secret that an overdose often results in death. In the case of Cyber Narcotics, it may lead to the death of my real personality.
And let us not forget – Narcissus was so infatuated with, and addicted to his own reflection that he died gazing endlessly at his own reflection by the pool.
My fellow Millennials. We should stop lying to ourselves. Remember. We are not the sum of the likes and number of friends and followers online. Let’s take time to remember who we really are. Embrace those who dare tell us to our faces that our photos suck big time. Call the people who really matter. And if all else fails, let us really consider starting a support group for recovering cyber-narcissists (CNA).
Stay tuned for more on Cyber Narcissism and other Cyber Reapers in our upcoming blog posts. My name is Louis, I am a cyber-narcissist and I have to go call my sister.