Is Social Media Leading to Narcissism?


The importance of social media as an essential aspect of society, has grown. Not only does it provide educational materials, but it is also helpful for networking, such as for employment opportunities. It is also a medium that allows us to stay connected with our beloved ones who stay miles away. For example, scrolling Facebook helps one to get a quick preview of updates of their friends and colleagues. On the occasions when you miss your parents, the option of video call helps in somehow managing the physical distance.



The Urge of Being Popular

There has been great progress in the field of technology, but it has made us more distant with each other, rather than intimate. It seems that almost everyone has a checklist for social media everyday: upload pictures of oneself with the brightest of filters and hashtags, promote the picture in a manner where you can get maximum likes. When we slowly think about it this is a pretty awkward notion: the more likes one gets, the more popular the person is. With the easy access to almost everything nowadays and zero concern for privacy, millions of pictures of people around the world is available in our fingertips. This constant need to be liked in social media has led many people to partake in various social media platforms, for only one thing: to be popular.


Does social media lead to narcissism?

Many research has been done to have a clearer understanding of the link between social media and narcissism. Various studies have revealed the same, consistent result: excessive uploading pictures on social media platform leads to narcissistic tendencies. One significant and recent study conducted by research team from Swansea University and Milan University mentioned that most participants spent time on social media at an average 3 hours for personal entertainment.


What is Narcissism?

Narcissistic Personality Disorder has been named after the mythological figure Narcissus, who fell in love with his own reflection.  According to the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-V), the following characteristics can be found in a narcissistic person:

  • Profound lack of empathy

  • A grandiose sense of self-significance

  • Jealousy regarding others or a firm belief that others are envious of him/her

  • High obsession with fantasies of glorious success, control and beauty

  • Excessive need for excessive appreciation

Explanation behind use of Social Media


A prominent theory of human motivation known as the Self-Determination Theory (SDT) states that all human beings have fundamental psychological needs, such as autonomy (a sense of personal initiative), competence (to interact effectively in a given domain), and relatedness (to feel comfortable with others). The theory acknowledges that motivation towards behavior does not exist in a vacuum within the individual; rather, it is both influenced by and dependent upon social and environmental. Specifically, the need for relatedness refers to the level of social connectedness one needs. Different people desire different levels of connectedness with other social entities. Thus, it can be said that different needs for relatedness among people will indicate that different levels of social interaction will satisfy their social needs, i.e., needs that are vital to psychological well-being and social satisfaction.


This theory also mentions about the impact of environmental factors on one’s motivation (or sense of self-determination) through the concept of need satisfaction. People are at their most self-determined in an activity when three psychological needs are satisfied. However, when the psychological needs are not met, negative psychological effects ensue and the resulting sense of ‘emptiness’ leaves the individual with a need to fill this emptiness with external or extrinsic goals and behaviors.


Thus, it is important to understand Social Media as an autonomous environment. Individuals feel competent in their mastery over the technology and autonomous in how they choose to use this medium and how they relate with others.


The Present Scenario


Wherever you go, you will see people sitting in the most happening eating places. Yet, they are either busy capturing the food being piled up on table, or a quick selfie before they start mindlessly scrolling again. The same picture is at every social venue. It seems that we are forgetting how to have a face-to-face conversation. Rather, we prefer sending messages with emoticons, while the real emotions escape through the spaces. These social media websites push people for self-promotion. People want to portray that they are someone of high significance, they have an innate desire to be exceptional and that everyone gives them attention and like them to the extent that you become a “follower.” Sadly, almost everyone presents a half-baked portrait of themselves. Everyone chooses the most alluring snaps of themselves, distorts them more with more colorful filters and then utilizes them as profile pictures. And, then the wait begins: to get the maximum likes.

It is a never ending curse: you upload a photo, you get validation, but, you end up craving more! Hence, this cycle of needing approval from others is making people forget their own personalities and to create an ideal image for others.


Is there any solution?


We need to remember that at the end of the day, these are just apps. No matter how much we get engulfed in them, our insecurities and fears cannot be compensated by them. We should cherish face-to-face conversation and remember to keep the phone at bay while meeting our closest ones. Our self-esteem should not depend on the number of likes one gets. Rather, we should accept both our strengths and weaknesses. Stop hiding behind the tinted filters and emoticons and be proud of your face and yourself and your identity. Stop wasting time on making the perfect Instagram story.

Let’s stop being called the generation of self-obsession. Uninstall those excessive photo apps. Start being aware of how these social media platforms are affecting you and then utilize them with a more balanced mindset.



Project funded by

ReachIn is an online platform created by SOLS Health for individuals to access resources about mental health. Supported by CIMB Islamic Bank Berhad, ReachIn became part of the CIMB Islamic Safe Space Programme which consists of 5 initiatives with a goal to pioneer social inclusion through the implementation of community mental health services. The programmes have benefitted children, youth and families living with general mental health challenges, developmental and behavioural difficulties, and also survivors of trauma and abuse.

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