Please note that this post is in no way intended to diagnose a personality disorder
With the prevalance of social media in today’s world, a lot has changed with regard to the way we interact with eachother and the world. Still, that pang in your gut when you see a social media profile could be telling you something….
Admittedly, I have a love/hate relationship with social media. I love that I can keep in touch with distant friends and relatives and connect with people I may not otherwise have come to know. I hate that likes and shares have become such an integral part in validation for so many. That’s not a judgement; I step into the trap myself sometimes, and I get as irritated with myself as I do when I stub my toe on a piece of furniture. Be that as it may, social media is as omnipresent as my end table and I have to be mindful of my footing. The overwhelming majority of my social media interactions are pleasant. I give it it’s due credit, but only it’s due credit. I understand that for others, social media presence is incredibly important, especially for those looking to promote businesses and other projects. It’s reach is near limitless, as are the possibilities. However, when you’re dealing with someone with narcissistic personality disorder or someone with high narcissistic tendencies, the world of social media darkens considerably. The first and most important thing that must be understood is that when dealing with narcissists, they are singular in their purpose, and that purpose is narcissistic supply. Supply is sine qua non to a narcissist, and in this day and age, social media provides a most bountiful harvest, and how could it not? It goes without saying that we all tend to try and put our best foot forward when it comes to social media presence, our best face for Facebook. Since social media platforms allow anyone to construct any image they choose, a narcissist, who can only survive by creating a false self, may as well call the platforms “Fakebook,” and “Instasham,” because in essence, that’s what they are; the grandest of the grand facades.
So, with everyone being so selective as to what they show on social media; how do we see bona fide NPD or highly narcissistic tendencies play out? After doing a lot of research and drawing from my own experience, I can site some examples. Keep in mind, I am not a diagnostician, nor do I claim to be. What I offer here is guidance, not gospel. Some situations need to be taken in context. Some people self disclose a great deal on social media, others use the various platforms but tend to remain as private as possible. If a friend, family member or potential lover is for instance starting a business, they will likely employ social media to bolster their product. For example, if you start dating a personal trainer, of course they’re going to have a lot of work out selfies and won’t be covered from neck, to wrist to ankle. These posts will undoubtedly invite thirsty responses; it’s the nature of the beast. If a person primarily uses their social media accounts for business promotion, they may not share the pictures from your hiking trip last weekend. We have to find the balance between our emotional and logical thinking.
What then are some of the things to look for if you think you’re entangled with a narcissist when it comes to social media?
First, they conduct the interactions online very much the same way they would offline and begin the narcissistic cycle of idealization, devaluation, discard and hoover. The added bonus for the narcissist is that social media is a great method of triangulation, and I’ll get more into that later.
Phase 1: Social Media Idealization
If they have added you to their social media platforms, you will be showered with hearts, likes, comments etc. Ne’er a post will be ignored.
Phase 2: Social Media Devaluation
If you are in the devaluing phase or are on bad terms with the narc in question, all of that will dry up. They may even temporarily block your account without explanation. It’s the social media version of a “silent treatment”and they will likely unblock and invite you back once idealization begins again.
Phase 3: Social Media Discard
You are completely blocked from all social media for the foreseeable future, until of course, they want to hoover you.
Phase 4: Social Media Hoovering
Hoovers can be positive or negative. An example positive hoover is employed when the narcissist wants to get back in your good graces and start the idealization phase again. You find you’re unblocked, because they hearted that latest selfie and either commented or privately messaged you that “you look great and I’m glad to see you’re doing so well” or something of the like.
An example of a negative hoover is they’ve unblocked you and plastered pictures of them with their latest entanglement all over their pages just to rub your nose in it.
It is important to note that these things do not only occur in romantic/sexual entanglements. They can happen with a narcissistic friend or family member as well. A narcissistic parent during idealization may post pictures of you in your childhood and gush about what a wonderful child you are. Before long, they’ve forgotten you exist and move on to a sibling or other family member, especially if you’re grey rocking or trying to maintain no contact.
How can one avoid the cycle? What if you are already entangled (or believe you might be) and are unsure if what you are seeing is plausibly deniable or just part of the normal ups and downs of any relationship?
The answer to this is simple, know what the red flags are and pay attention. I will try to cluster these red flags as they would apply to different dynamics (romantic, platonic or familial).
1. Access Denied
You have been seeing eachother for a significant amount of time, maybe a few months and they will not let you anywhere near their social media. Now, some people have accounts out there that they hardly use. However, if they’re checking out and commenting on all of yours and other’s public posts, they are clearly using their social media account. Another variation of this would be they request to see more of your social media, maybe make your posts/accounts more public, while they keep everything private.
2. The coterie of “cute”
It is the title of this post because it is one of the most glaring yet overlooked (no judgement, I’m guilty of this myself). They allow you on their social media, and you check out a few posts and notice that out of 100 likes on that last selfie, 85 are tarted up, filtered, well angled profile pictures of the opposite (or same, depending on preferance) sex. You get a sick feeling in the pit of your stomach, and for good reason. They want you to be very aware that you are not the only filly/colt in the stable. You will also notice that posts from these profiles get the most attention. If you dare ask who they are or how they know these people, you may be given a dismissive answer such as “oh, just Facebook friends/people I follow etc. They mean nothing” (which is true, since the only person that means anything to a narcissist is themselves). You may also be given the sharp response of “why are you so insecure?” or “what, am I not allowed to have friends?” Granted, they could just be social media friends and followers. However, you can’t help but notice they interact with them as if you don’t exist (they’re flagrantly flirtatious, doting etc.) and you never receive that same treatment (or you don’t anymore). As I mentioned above, narcissists need supply. Social media is a great way to get a quick hit, it is also a great method of triangulation. Remember what I mentioned above about you not being the only filly/colt in the stable? The goal here is to covertly play on any insecurities you may have. Even if you are normally a pretty secure person, something about these interactions makes you feel uncomfortable. If that is the case, go with your gut.
3. No Photography Allowed/No Labels
You and your interest are hanging out together and you take a selfie of the two of you. While you’re on your phone opening your Facebook app, their eyes go wide with horror before they spout off with “don’t post that on Facebook!” An inquiry as to why might yield some story about a crazy ex who stalks Facebook posts and they don’t want you involved in “drama.” This could be plausible. However, if you scroll back on their profile and see pictures of them and their exes or other opposite (or same depending on orientation) “friends,” you might be dealing with a narcissist. You may get the “I don’t do the labels/”Facebook official” routine. Again, looking back, they have previously changed relationship status with someone else.
4. Clapping Back:
Just because someone is narcissistic does not mean they are completely devoid of skill or talent. They may exaggerate their achievements, however, I’ve known some very narcissistic people who are very talented. What you will often notice on social media is someone narcissistic doesn’t really want friends, they want fans. They may post about their latest venture and revel in congratulatory messages and well wishes, which is okay. Who wouldn’t? The problem seems to arise when it comes time for others to shine.
Your friend is boosting their business/project on social media. As anyone who wants to show love and support would do; you like, comment, subscribe, and share to show your support. Congratulations, you’re a supportive partner. Now, say you have a YouTube channel, a business page or a blog, you have followers and feedback from people, but your significant other is conspicuously absent and silent. Is it really that big of a deal? Sometimes, yes and sometimes no.
I once invited a friend to “Like” my blog page on Facebook and they told me that they don’t follow people’s business or side gig pages. It may sound harsh, be they really don’t follow people’s business pages. They have friends since childhood whose pages they don’t follow and could care less if anyone follows theirs, so it’s not really a big deal. Now, if my friend expected or demanded that their friends support their projects on social media meanwhile showing no support for anyone, that would be a problem. As I said; some people want friends, others want fans.
It is a big deal when you notice that your significant other publicly supports many other people and won’t show any outward support for you (be aware, platonic friends and family members will do this as well). They want you to support their venture as much as possible and help their project get exposure, yet they barely make an effort to do the same in return.
This is a hallmark of trauma bonding. They want you to feel self-conscious and/or inferior. They could also be attempting to triangulate you with other people so you’ll both be vying for their attention. Another possibility to consider is they’re threatened. They feel the success of another person in their circle might diminish theirs. Narcissistic and extremely self-centered people do not enjoy sharing limelight (unless it benefits them). Remember those “likes,” “shares,” and “comments” are a form of supply, and they guard supply like Ebenezer Scrooge guards money.
What to do:
If you’re uncomfortable with the online interactions and you get the dismissive or sharp responses such as the ones listed above; you may want to consider not pursuing a romantic relationship with them. If your boundaries cannot be respected nor your feelings taken into consideration, this will likely not be a healthy relationship. If they refuse to allow photographs or will not do anything publicly to show they’re with someone (online or offline), they’re likely either hiding someone from you or you from someone else.
Below I will link to a couple great articles and resources for further reading.
I will be back with Part 2 – Narcissistic Friends on Social Media