If Narcissus lived today, he’d be proud. From our physical appearances to the image we project to all concerned, we seem to be steadily scaling newer peaks of self-obsession on a regular basis. In the present times, vanity is no longer a matter of shame and humility is no longer a virtue. I am no saint and I am guilty of the same in some degree. I cannot pass by any mirror (or even a mirrored surface) without stopping to check if my hair is in place and ensuring that my lipstick is not bleeding. But are we stretching things a tad too far when we start resorting to virtual vanity, that too quite aggressively and obsessively?
Is checking our clothes and make up again and again the same as checking our Facebook notifications in every fifteen minutes? Has the latter become as acceptable as the former? A friend of mine, who is a self-confessed social networking addict, reasons such behaviour like this – “I am not using Facebook for hours on end. That would be an obsession. I just check it for two minutes every once in a while to check if my latest picture or status message has surpassed the number of likes that my last one received.” Well, I am not convinced!
And it isn’t just a picture or a status message that we stop at. Many of us safely hide behind our computers and google search our own names to see what the virtual world is saying about us. What does a search engine result of our name looks like? Is it a social networking page or is it a professional networking page like LinkedIn that is coming on top? Are people appreciating our work? Are there any images? What about personal blogs? It’s true that we have started living dual lives, one inside and one outside our computers and with time, we have started being vain and obsessive about both.
However, before we go ahead and label anybody a narcissist, we should remember that the term ‘narcissism’ has many different connotations, ranging from a personality trait to a psychoanalytic theory. As a personality trait, narcissism is defined as unhealthy self-love stemming out of a disturbance in the sense of self.
Social psychologists and regular people agree that mild to moderate excitement about and involvement in such things is not a major reason for concern. As long as virtual vanity is limited to being a feel-good factor, there is no harm in it. It is when people start associating their sense of worth with it that it starts taking the shape of a problem. Also, more than keeping tabs on oneself, it is the ease with which anyone can keep tabs on another person that is more bothersome.