Increasing presence of social media decreases empathy, increases narcissistic behavior

By Alex Pinsk || Layout Assistant

Competitive. Media-oriented. Variable. The world we live in today is nothing like it was a few decades ago. We are more material-based, less empathetic, and more merciless than ever before. Our levels of compassion for others have gone down and more significantly, narcissism has become a ubiquitous trait in today’s youth. According to Psychology Today, “approximately 70 percent of students today score higher on narcissism and lower on empathy than did the average student thirty years ago.” Why is this? How can the narcissism prevalent in our society have increased so much in a mere thirty years?

I think the leading cause of this increased narcissism is social media. The past decade has seen an extreme rise in social media usage; people are constantly on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat. A narcissist is often someone who lacks good communication skills. People are constantly texting. Rather than seeing each other in person or talking to each other on the phone, people are messaging each other on various forms of social media without any verbal communication. This is a serious issue because the less frequently people communicate with each other in person, the worse their communication skills get. Additionally, narcissism can stem from the photos or words that we post or tweet. Everyone wants to look the best in every photo that they post; everyone wants to get the most likes or gain the most followers. Too often when people gain followers, they feel like somehow they have validation and have moved up in the world. Thus, they become more narcissistic. Although this may seem trivial, when so much social media usage builds up, resulting in less face to face communication, ultimately people become more self-involved and care less about others.

Narcissism has definitely become a social issue due in large part to social media. But I think a major aspect in the rise of narcissism is in parenting and the way children are brought up today. From my observations, many parents like to compliment their kids left and right constantly. Children are repeatedly praised by their parents as being the best or the most special and gifted. While this is definitely a confidence booster, this kind of overly reinforced encouragement can lead kids to believe that they actually are the best and that no one can tell them otherwise. This is dangerous. There is a fine line between self-confidence and narcissism, and if kids think so highly of themselves that they lack basic humility, narcissism begins to show. While too much encouragement is not a good thing, not enough encouragement is arguably just as bad. I have observed that when parents tell their children that they are not good enough, that they should work harder and be better, the kids are left feeling as though they have disappointed their parents and feel that they need to make themselves bigger and better in order to impress them. Thus, they are, too, on a slippery slope toward narcissism. In addition, drug abuse and alcoholism have become even more widespread in the past twenty or so years. It appears that when children are brought up in a household where their parents are drug addicts or alcoholics, kids often feel neglected. They often do not get the attention they deserve, need, or want. Thus, they long for attention; they long to be recognize. As a result, they feel the need to build themselves up all the time because they are not getting support from their parents.

The society that we live in is a competitive one. At times it is exceptionally difficult to think about others to the extent that we think about ourselves. We’re all stressed about something or other and sometimes this stress can take up so much of our mental capacity that we forget to to think about other people. Although much of the pressure is not our fault, we still have a responsibility as students and as members of the F&M community to show compassion and be empathetic.

I believe the only way to reduce the narcissism clearly evident in our generation is to promote empathy and kindness.

First-year Alex Pinsk is a layout assistant, her email is mpinsk@fandm.edu.

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