This post was written in honor of Healthy Narcissism Month.
I’m surrounded by narcissists, and I’d venture to guess that you are, too.
Yes, I work in the theater (the “mus-i-cale the-ah-tuh!” [insert music or drama or dancing lady emoji here] where there tends to be a lot of jazz hands and “Look at me! Look at me! No, pay attention to ME!” going on. That’s par for the course.
But I’m not just talking about actors and writers doing a song and dance in a Broadway spotlight.
I’m talking about the constant, self-promotional song and dance we all do, online.
The tweets and the status updates. The duck-face selfies. The Vines (does anyone still Vine anymore?). The Facebook-lives, the Instagrams (now much more than just pictures of your fancy-ass dessert, gurl!). The Periscopes (parenthetical aside: if you scroll across the Periscope world map to Turkey, you will, nine times out of ten, just see a hot, Turkish hipster jerking off. FYI – try it!).
So hash-tagged, so blessed.
We are, all of us, guilty of this (maybe not the Periscope jerkoff part).
And let us not forget the holy grail of narcissism, the Great God Snapchat, where we essentially become the star of our very own reality series and inundate the rest of our followers with carefully posed (and heavily filtered) glimpses of us on our couch, or in our kitchen cooking soufflé, or out for a crrrrrazy night at ’da club with our sistahs.
More silly then anything, Snapchat is the perfect, bite-sized, storytelling medium: user-generated and disposable (the “snaps” disappear and can only be replayed once) social media platform for the ADD millennial that features amazingballs (and commercially sponsored) special effects that put YOU into the director’s chair. YOU star in and produce your very own big-budget Hollywood film! Where YOU are the star! Where YOU can be a Bee, or a Zombie, or Rainbow Brite (or whatever). Where YOU can, while sitting on the toilet, watch a famous person thousands of miles away pickle preserves in a mason jar, or eat brunch with their boyfriend on a pristine beach, on vacation, in Maui!
But really, who’s watching?
The answer: everyone.
Everyone has the potential, the access, to be viewing, and reading, and listening. Which means that someone is looking at what you are putting out there. And someone is also judging themselves against it – or judging you FOR it.
It’s tough to see your friends at a film premiere, or backstage at their pre-Broadway tryout, and not feel a little pang of jealousy. Or spy on your roommate from college – now happily married, with two-and-a-half perfect children – celebrating an anniversary with butter cream cake, in East Hampton, while you are single, and barren, temping for an accounting firm and living in a six floor walk up with a demon cat and four roommates (one who is a compulsive hoarder – no names mentioned, you know who you are).
Funny, though, how those of us who are so ready to put it all out there for everyone to see also tend to be the most self-conscious and sensitive.
Interesting how a photo, looking all posed and pretty, will statistically garner more “likes” than sharing an important political article. I can put up a picture of myself kissing my chihuahua and 200 people will instantly respond. How cute.
I once had a boyfriend who would perpetually send me pictures of himself: Posing on the beach. Posing on a boat. With a cocktail. A photo of himself, for my birthday. A framed photo of himself – flexing, eyebrows on fleek – as a housewarming gift, for MY new apartment.
But there is a marked difference between being a narcissist and honoring yourself – declaring yourself, authentically, as who you are, online.
It’s not narcissistic to be vulnerable. Sometimes, in “real life,” I have a hard time talking about myself and my creative projects – but it can be easier to do this on social media, by posting about an upcoming show, or uploading a new headshot, or sharing an interview, or review quote.
It’s also karmically positive to be a supporter of other people’s projects and passions.
There’s a big difference between being “that person” who only writes cryptic updates and teases “big news!” or “thrilled to announce…” but never updates about anything else – and the healthy narcissist who shares life achievements and personal anecdotes.
Sure, we’ve all done that “thrilled to announce…” thing before – but there is a classic social media narcissist who does it incessantly – so much that those words lose their weight and power.
I’m currently in the midst of completely rebranding my website – not because some bitchy snob told me it needed a facelift (*some bitchy snob told me it needed a facelift), but because a teacher and close friend gave me some sage words of advice: how do you want to present yourself to the world? What kind of an artist do you want to be?”
Take the time to invest in professional photos and work with a creative designer to make the site feel specific, like you. Shine that light on yourself and your artistic work. Because doing that isn’t narcissistic. It’s the opposite of a duck-face selfie.
At the end of the day, it’s not narcissistic to self-promote across social media. As long as it’s authentic, people will be interested – we want to know what you are doing, and be included on your journey.
Social media narcissists who only post about themselves are transparent – we all can feel it. In the end, people who are selfish in their postings have no sincerity or care for their audience – only what they think they will be getting from their audience.
And narcissists – you can’t hide from us – because we can see right through you.