The Ugly Face(book) of Narcissism

In reading Facebook “statuses” over the last few months, I have become increasingly concerned about a growing epidemic: narcissism.

When this narcissism was “confined” to photos (i.e. under a photo of a world landmark that your friend visited on a recent trip: “Cool! I went there too! That’s where I met my girlfriend!”), it didn’t really hit me that hard. Now, this self-centered attitude has infiltrated – of all things – birthday wishes.

On a friend’s “wall”, whose birthday was this week (date to not be mentioned for obvious reasons) someone wrote:

“Happy Birthday to a fellow March ##ther”

In essence, this person is posting “Happy Birthday” to THEMSELVES – but on someone else’s wall. The message reads more like “wish me happy birthday too!” than it does a birthday greeting to a friend.

Is being selfless that difficult that we can’t let someone have a birthday wish all to themselves?

As life complaints go, this is not one that should keep you up at night. It is but one innocuous example of an all too common occurrence. It happens EVERYWHERE. I invite you to listen for it in your conversations – making sure to notice it in yourselves as well as in others.

I used to be one of the worst offenders. Someone would tell a story and, often just as they were finishing a sentence, I would pipe up to share a similar story to theirs, “one-upping” them. After I admitted to myself (that’s the first step, I think) that I was guilty of this spotlight-stealing, attention-grabbing crime, I wondered why I did it. The answer I came up with shouldn’t shock anyone who has known me for a long time. I was tired of being lonely and I wanted to show people that I was like them. I was relevant. I had stories like they had. And when I thought my story was even better, I told it so that they would envy me, if only for a few seconds.

Anyone who has ever had their spotlight stolen knows that the result is exactly the opposite. Everyone saw what I had done and was annoyed by it. I was too blinded by my own hopeful self-importance in the moment to notice their reactions were the farthest thing from what I had hoped to achieve.

A little generosity goes a long way. Let people have their moments, their stories, their minutes of fame. At the very least, let people finish their thought before taking it over.

Before I post something, before I interject in a conversation, I ask myself one simple question: “is what I am about to say going to contribute to this conversation or hijack it?” Knowing the difference, objectively, is key. And though I still make mistakes, I have learned without a doubt that while I am someone who definitely takes his place in conversation, the real value is in making room for others to take theirs.



  1. I wouldn’t want to be “l’avocat du diable” but..
    If someone has actually accepted you as a friend on FBook, then we assume that they know each other. Now, what if the “wish-me-happy-birthday” thing is in fact an inside high school running joke?

    Otherwise, I agree that for different selfish reasons, we often tend to talk of us way too much (and this is where I do NOT write a story-of-my-own :-P).

    In my opinion, it’s a lot about “The art of listenning”.

    Being happy for others. Truly happy. Happy without benefits.
    Accept criticism. Without interrupting.
    Being able to shut up and listen. You’ll have plenty of time to choose what suits you AFTERwards.

    If someone is kind enough to give you some of his personal precious time to talk about you (could be your work, something you did or created…); then this person is worth your complete attention. Especially if you were the one to ask for those comments…

    We do not always need to justify ourselves.
    It sometimes only make people believe that we are not in control.
    And it’s annoying.

    J’adore: “(…) while I am someone who definitely takes his place in conversation, the real value is in making room for others to take theirs.”

    • Re: “J’adore: “(…) while I am someone who definitely takes his place in conversation, the real value is in making room for others to take theirs.”

      Merci, Intrigue. If we don’t make place for others in conversations, we’re just talking to ourselves.

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