Are we turning into narcissists?

A recent debate on The New York Times addressed the possibility of social media turning us into narcissists.

Psychology professor Jean Twenge remarked that it isn’t clear if social media directly causes narcissism, but people who need a little pat on the back find comfort in social media. Writer and social media strategist Jeff Bullas argued that social media makes us stronger as we learn to accept different kinds of feedback – both praise and criticism – and there’s nothing narcissistic about that.

This made me think of a postcard I once chanced upon that read: Many people like to speak to appear smart in front of others.

While there hasn’t been conclusive evidence that shows every Facebook post is intricately linked to narcissism tendencies, many of us are guilty of trying to sound smarter than we really are with a carefully-crafted status update, or feel a sense of satisfaction when the number of likes start rising.

I’m a strong believer in the freedom of speech and expression – some like to post pictures of every meal as if it were their last; others update on their every move throughout the day, littering it with hash tags. No one’s likely to read it, but if there’s delight in sharing that information, that’s cool.

What I do appreciate though, is when my friends share groundbreaking news articles, discuss thought-provoking ideas and drop the occasional hilarious 9GAG meme.

I know I’m not alone in appreciating this. There are others who aren’t excited about self-serving social media behavior.

Expectations apply all the more to brand Pages. Upload a condescending or insensitive post and you’ll find your fans attacking the ‘unlike’ button. Condescending Corporate Brand Page has a wall of shame you’ll want to avoid.

Before we start crafting our next status update, it’s worthwhile considering if we’d make the same comment if we weren’t behind a digital veil, and give some thought to the intent behind saying the things we’re about to say. How is this going to lift the mood of those who follow me? Will it entertain, enrich or inform?

Is it a self-serving post about a new pair of fancy sneakers we recently purchased? Is it an exposé on the plight of foreign workers that should come to light? And more importantly – will what we’re about to say be harmful as it flashes across someone else’s news feed?

For brands in particular, can this be taken as insensitive and narrow-minded?

When we start putting more thought to the content we upload and its possible effect on others, it’s safe to say we’re moving further away from the territory of narcissism and headed in the direction of social consciousness. Trust me, you’ll not only appear, but probably also become genuinely smarter in the process.