Friday, 20 February 2009

Facebook and Narcissism

Thinking a lot recently about; scrapping my personal facebook account or at least facebook and what it implies about people in general.
Having lots of thoughts about ‘Narcissism’ and people who are (for the most part) subconsciously egotistical, sometimes in ridiculous amounts.
Someone close to me came out with this thought recently; ‘people in general (that combine themselves with facebook) are just so narcissistic’ and that is something that I have thought about a lot since it was mentioned to me.

So, the title of today’s effort …. Facebook and Narcissism

Facebook, for most if us, is now an apparent part of our day to day lives, and I feel is in most cases, becoming detrimental to us as living beings.
This might sound deep already, and if it sounds too deep for you, then you probably should keep reading.
Because it’s so widespread and used by so many people just like you and I, I think the subject of Facebook and its relation towards monotony and narcissism are ones to be addressed, whether here on paper, or in our own minds.
It all boils down to expressing your ‘individuality’, and just like the driving force of consumerism, the ‘individual facebooker’ is really no different than the ‘individual consumer’.
Like consumerism, there are few ways to escape the grasp of Facebook completely if you still want to use it and have an account, but there are numerous ways for getting 98% there.
(The relationship to consumerism; if you still want to wear clothes, then you will be caught up in consuming clothes somehow, whether it’s buying shirts to write messages on, or ruthless sweeps of the rails in charity stores. But you can get 98% towards not being a part of the machine, if you really want to.)

People feel they are being original, uploading their latest ‘night at wherever’ in its entirety, frame by frame, shot by shot, when in reality, this couldn’t further from originality, as it’s all I see now when I log in.
When it snowed in England the other week, the amount of ‘snow’ albums that popped up a day or two later was ridiculous.
I saw one picture that I thought was artistic and original, out of maybe 300. To me, that says something about how generic most people have become, without realising it.
Recently, I have taken photos down off of my page, for the simple reason that I want my ‘page’ to be more about the cause I am fighting for than about me as a person. Me as a person is what my close friends and family gets to see and experience. For the ‘cyber community’ it’s not important for them to see where my latest drink was, or my collection of ridiculous faces caught in a blink of an eye with the flash-burn.
The photos that do go up are of two kinds. Thought provoking / controversial, and/or artistic in nature. The photos I take and fuck around with on photoshop, I like to think as being a touch artistic or at the very least, expressive and original. The others, are photos that I come across everyday that move me and catch my attention from other sites, I also put up.

When you have 12 hours a day to research and use the net (like I have been fortunate enough to have recently), you realise how much the ‘same’ everybody is on our ‘cyber social community’. Vary rarely do I look at new photo albums now, simply because they are so boring. Even the travel pictures. I already have an image in my mind of what the album will look like. The photos are going to be of scenery, people and themselves. The shots will be slightly blurred in most cases, not cropped and just pretty unoriginal, to be honest.
I think if you’re somewhere that you really want to be, so much so, that you feel you have to show everybody else how great it is, at least do the fucking area justice and take a photo of it properly? Learn a few different functions on your camera to make it stand out that much more, so it becomes harder to distinguish between the moment experienced and the moment captured.
There are a very small number of people I know that do actually take the time to make an effort. I think if we’re online or if people are looking at our shit, they should have a reason to come back and check again, or if not, at least enjoy and remember the time they spent checking our stuff out for their first time.
It may sound a bit much, ‘Oh but it’s only Facebook’ but to be honest, this is a powerful tool for inspiration and reaching people. When people aren’t with each other physically, where are they? Most of them are connecting other ways; via telephone, internet, messenger etc. So why not put these tools to good use and make something of them, rather than just another generic template, within the template. The layout and everything about these social network site-designs is pre-thought and pre-structured, much like the architecture of a city. And just like the street artist or street activist, does it not make sense to use our generic surroundings and the blank canvases within them, to our advantage?
Think of the hundreds of people that will pass that wall. Or your profile page. What is going to make them stop and think? And what is going to make them stop their ‘profile-hopping’? Something generic, or something that captures their brain for that split second?

What can you put up or take down on your page, that might just help someone else out, other than yourself, for just a few seconds?

Narcissism, to some degree, is present in all of us. Or at least ‘selfishness’ is. It’s part of survival. But showcasing yourself off to others just isn’t necessary. In this day and age, where narcissism has almost become a founding philosophy in most people’s lives, it is however, difficult to push aside.

This is summed up pretty well by these lyrics, from a band called ‘August Burns Red’
The song’s title, interestingly enough, is called ‘Consumer’
‘Let’s watch where it takes you.
You really don’t have it that bad.
Try looking through the glass of beauty.
It will show you the truth.
We are all guilty of self-centeredness.
We have committed the crime,
but what we fail to realize is the dent it leaves in our soul.
Everyone is full of it in their own way.
A young boy cannot comprehend social status,
and this boy is better off than any of us.
Life will pass by us like a summer storm,
and if we consume ourselves with ourselves,
we will surely look back with sorrow.’

I myself, each day, am trying to lower the amount of time I spend thinking about me, and instead, increase the amount of time I can spend thinking about how to accomplish something better for other people.
We can take self glorification and use the energy involved, to reverse the process.
That’s one thing I like to do. Yeah, so I’ll take a photo or two of myself, but it’s not to be self glorifying. Instead, I want it to stand out, to catch people’s attention and hijack their brain for a second, by being controversial and sometimes mildly offensive.
All my life I have hated having my picture taken, especially for stuff like ‘the family album’ and shit like that. In fact, it’s quite funny, because from the age of about 12 to the present day, there is no ‘me’ in the family album anymore, just blank pages.
I don’t have a smile. I don’t have the generic smile-shot I ‘use’ for my showcase photos. I pull stupid faces to merely abuse the situation of ‘trying to look good for myself and other people’. To be honest, I don’t really care how the shot comes out when I fuck around. And when I’m trying to make a point with a picture, it is not me that is the focal point, but merely an addition to the message in the picture as a whole.
A lot of people may argue, ‘But that’s what I am doing when I take photos, just fucking around.’ That’s fair enough. Then if they aren’t that special, why bother showing them to the cyber world?

Do you ever get the friend requests from the people that never talk to you in person or the people that you never go out of your way to talk to when in a real-life situation?
Then why the fuck are you clicking accept? Honestly? To me, it seems ridiculous.
Unless you are trying to get a point across to your entire ‘friends’ list, what is the point of having so many people added to your cyber ‘self-temple’, if there is no meaningful interaction between you and them?

For the most part, the average facebooker just reminds me of the average graffiti artist. They have no real artistic interest or talent, and they simply want to get their name on to the wall, for no other means than self glorification.

So what do you do, in order to view yourself as less of a demi-god?

Some thoughts and processes towards being less narcissistic:
1. What photos are you putting up? Did they take effort on your part, do they have a message or moral behind them, or were they just snapshots of moments which you seem to experience 3+ nights a week?
2. And similarly, what photos are you taking off? Are you removing the ones of you pulling the same smile in one hundred different places? Those photos which when you look at them, you could never guess where on earth you actually were?
3. No one that I know judges whether or not someone is going to be their future friend, by looking at their interests and ‘about me’ sections. Don’t bother. They’re pointless. For people that know you personally, these boxes are irrelevant. For people that don’t know you thoroughly enough, well, what ever happened to just asking someone a question or two about themselves?
4. What are you really achieving by adding people that you’ve never really had a connection with or had an intelligent conversation with? If your facebook page is on route to becoming something more truly influential and motivational, then keep these people in your lists, as they mind stumble across your page one day and actually take something from it.
However, if your page is still your own little place for you to worship yourself, then I challenge you to delete 10 ‘friends’ off of your list, tonight.
5. Once your page is less narc’d out, why not just result to using Facebook as a means of free, genuine, communication? Send private messages to people you genuinely care about because you cannot travel a few minutes to see them in the flesh. Send someone a link to something that they mind deem special, or copy and paste a quote to someone that is just sat there waiting for their inbox to come alive, updating their status with ‘I am updating my status’.
6. Get on this site, , and see what groups and meet-ups are happening in your area.

I am just as guilty as the very people that create the narcissistic pages that I come across in the first place. But, I think there’s no harm done in trying to become less self-indulgent, and instead, more motivated to help those around us, whether it’s in the land of ‘cyber’ or in the real world that we face everyday.

If I have you on my friends list, it’s because I value your attention. Not your attention towards me, but towards what I have to say, or a point I am trying to make.
These somewhat ‘generic templates’ that surround us in our say-to-day lives, whether is it Facebook pages, Blogs, Profile Pictures, walls of a building; all these blank canvasses can be used to glorify ourselves if we really wish. But just as you can draw a self-portrait on the piece of paper, you can also write down the message that is capable of changing someone’s life.

Peace and rice,

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