This week I was invited to be on Huffington Post Live show to talk about narcissism on the web on a segment called “Obsessed with Ourselves.” The producers found me because of a blog post I wrote in 2009 titled “Why Narcissism is Necessary on Twitter.”
I had almost forgotten about the post but being on the segment and also preparing for it gave me some time to return to the subject with some fresh thoughts and perspective.
So the question was posed to us: What’s this obsession with ourselves all about?
Narcissim isn’t new. Social media just makes it easier.
We now literally carry the web with us in our pockets now and have access to tools that allow us to broadcast our lives 24 hours a day.
Social media is simply a tool to share the story of your life in real time with the world (or whoever follows you). And free admission to the watch the ongoing movie (or story) of other people’s lives: who they are, what they are like and what they are doing or seeing.
For me it’s about self expression for myself as well as being a spectator of other people’s lives. (It’s also about business and information and knowledge too as I leverage these tools to connect and engage with partners and customers.)
But I DO want those I follow to tweet things they are doing, to post photos of them and their lives on Instagram … and to tell me all about their latest adventure on Facebook or where they are eating on Foursquare (although I rarely use it).
I’m genuinely interested in them or else I wouldn’t follow them. And that’s one of the key points I wanted to draw up in the discussion about our obsession with social media … it’s opt-in!
It’s not mandatory that you follow anyone. It’s not mandatory. At any point you can choose to mute them, or unfollow them.
If I get uninterested in someone … that’s what I do. I simply turn off the noise.
We were also asked: Can it go too far?
Absolutely! As the saying goes … everything, in moderation.
We can overshare. We can become too self-indulgent, too self-absorbed. But your audience votes by following or unfollowing you and engaging or ignoring you.
“If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”
And let’s face it … no one wants to be around a Me Monster, let alone follow them online!
So with all of this in all this in mind, I wanted to share some thoughts on how to approach social media without going overboard drawn from my own life.
6 Keys to Maintaining a Healthy Dose of Narcissism on Social Media
- Practice Sensible, Reasoned Self Expression — Yes, I censor myself. A preacher once said that if we knew everything you thought, we wouldn’t let you in the doors. And if you knew everything in my heart, you wouldn’t come. But I share the things I care most about online for others to know about. It’s a means of self expression. Sometimes I just need to say it, even if nobody cares. At times it’s a sort of therapy … to get things off my chest. But for the overwhelming other times, it’s simply sharing my values, philosophies, principles, thoughts, opinions and feelings with others. Some agree, some might disagree. Some care, many problby don’t. But I choose to put those things out in the world for others. Just like art though, it can offend at times. So I seek to make art that people will enjoy, find interesting or be challenged by. I’ve been guilty of ranting and being ugly online, but I always, always regret it. No one wants to see our warts.
- Balance My Offline and Online Life — I seek a healthy balance between my “online” life and offline. Moderation in all things. Excess leads to abuse, obsession, addiction. When I neglect my personal relationships because of it, I realize I need to make changes. Thus, I clock out every day and sometimes for days … and go off the grid every day. Balance is healthy.
- Establish Clear Boundaries — I’m selective about what I share. There are lines I don’t cross. There are things I don’t do. Like sharing the location of my house. I don’t share personal intimate stuff that I don’t have permission to share. Oversharing is often self-defeating if you really want people to follow and be interested in you by the way.
- Don’t Judge My Self Worth By It — Sure, I want 30 likes on every photo I post of my son, Caloway, but I definitely don’t base my self worth (or his) on it. But if I stopped getting them, I’d simply keep texting them to my parents who want to see every picture of him. I also have a healthy perspective about myself. I’m not delusional to think everybody on earth cares about me or my thoughts or pictures. I base my own self worth on who I am, not what the crowd thinks.
- Be Genuinely Interested in Others Too — I always seek to be genuinely interested in other people too. Because I know I exist in the world with many other interesting people … and want to know about them and the story of their lives, what they believe in. Without mutual interest, it is mere vanity … and I’d be alone in a mirror because no one would care. (For friends in business or just in life who have kids … I’m going to like every photo they post of their kids and ask for more!)
- Remember, People and Relationships ALWAYS Come First — The knock on social media is that is weakens or replaces personal, face to face relationships. I disagree. It can of course, but it should be a means to DEEPEN them. By following people online I get a glimpse into their lives I probably never would have known. A richer, fuller one. Seeing a pic of the ballgame he went to last night (and I didn’t know he even likes sports), or what someone is reading on their Kindle or listening to on Spotify.
What do you think? How do you achieve balance in your offline and online world? How do you seek to put people and relationships first?