WASHINGTON, September 20, 2012—Social media, mutual learning, and healing.
Researchers from Western Illinois University and York University recently conducted independent studies postulating that social media platforms (specifically Facebook and Twitter) breed narcissism, the selfish and grandiose feeling and belief that one is the center of the universe and more important than anyone else.
The studies suggests that behavior such as posting status updates announcing our latest job promotion, our latest successful sky-diving excursion, our latest run in with a celebrity, or our favorite picture of ourselves (complete with a little blemish editing), is self-promotion and attention-seeking behavior, which inadvertently feeds and nurtures our narcissistic side resulting in a more and more self-focused and less and less socially-focused society.
If the hypothesis is true, we all need to avoid being influenced by the 58 million Americans who access social media sites “several times daily” and close our Facebook, Blogger, Twitter, and Wordpress accounts. Otherwise, we run the risk of turning into evil narcissists who lie, cheat, and make up stories to feel better about themselves. Plus, using these sites is just a waste of time, anyhow, right?
Despite the focus of these studies and assumptions, there is an emerging trend among active social media users that suggests the complete opposite: people are growing, healing, and becoming more socially active and less narcissistic through social media.
The very act of opening a social media account and creating profile details is certainly narcissistic, but it is healthy narcissism. In order to connect virtually, a little self-promotion is required, and the more positive your self-image, the more likely you’ll make friends (and keep them). Have you ever started following a blog or a Facebook page dedicated to sharing information about why we should hate ourselves? Have you ever sent a friend request to someone you didn’t like? If you are a healthy, conscience-filled person who would rather be inspired than left wallowing in self-doubt and pity, you haven’t done either of those things.
Instead, we “Like” pages and “Follow” blogs and Twitter accounts disseminating messages that positively resonate with who we are and what we believe. By being a friend and/or follower of people, pages, and blogs that share similar experiences, we become empowered and better understand previously unshared feelings, emotions, decisions, and actions. This is the essence of mutual learning, and it’s happening across social media platforms every day.
“Through sharing my personal battles in the California Family Court System, I have created a support group for thousands of women to share their stories and receive advice,“ states Tina Swithin, creator and founder of One Mom’s Battle blog and Facebook page.
Like most independent bloggers, Tina began writing without an audience, a clear direction, or an understanding of her potential impact:
“I began my blog for personal reasons. It was a way for me to purge the emotions and stress resulting from a horrendous, high-conflict divorce. I was tired of burdening my friends and family with my fears, vents and frustrations, and I sensed that they were equally tired of hearing about it. What started as a simple online journal has turned into something healing, empowering, and sometimes overwhelming in a positive sense. To date, I have had almost 150,000 views on my blog and the numbers grow every day.”
In the mutual learning communities of social media, each active member acts as teacher and learner providing unique opportunities for continued learning and healing for themselves and others. Sharing is contagious, and reading other stories helps us to compose our own text and receive feedback. Writing and commenting has an impact on how we cope with trauma and stress. This leads to taking action and making decisions we were once too paralyzed to make.
“In just a few short months, we have attracted over 2600 followers and have successfully helped more than 20 women leave their abusive partners, enter safe houses, and/or move in with friends temporarily. Myself and the other five administrators receive messages daily from women thanking us for saving their lives and educating them about these disorders,” confesses the Canadian founder and administrator of My Emotional Vampire, a Facebook page dedicated to shining light on the connection between domestic violence and abusers with narcissistic personality disorder and borderline personality disorder.
A blog, Twitter, or Facebook page is a community requiring much time and interaction from both the facilitator and participants. Posting a blog entry or status update doesn’t guarantee people will visit and continue to visit or share your page or profile. It takes a commitment and often requires additional facilitation to respond to all comments and follow up when individuals have specific questions and concerns. However, the added efforts seem worth the positive social outcomes and impact:
“Although, I am now healing well emotionally and mentally from my abusive relationship, I take it upon myself to continue to educate and empower women and men who suffer abuse at the hands of these personality disordered Individuals,” adds Canadian founder of My Emotional Vampire Facebook page. “I will continue to fight against domestic violence, even if it means saving just one woman or man per month.”
Share. Nurture. Support. Heal. These are actions taken by individuals seeking inner peace in hopes of helping their communities reach social peace, not actions of highly narcissistic people. Let’s continue shattering the myths and assumptions associated with social media and get active and stay active.
Websites and Facebook pages:
Graves, Donald H., (1990). Discover your own literacy. Toronto: Irwin Publishing
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