It can be said that social media and the online world can be blamed for producing or initiating narcissistic behaviour. But the fact of the matter is, narcissism has always existed and social media has just given them an extra tool to terrorise individuals.
Narcissists use social media for a variety of reason however, the main one being to feed an over inflated ego and hide behind technology to conceal their many identities. In my Tuesday live session #14 many followers commented how they had found their narcissistic partners with multiple social media accounts, sometimes using language and pictures which they did not recognise. Whilst others commented how they had caught their partners out and confronted them only to be lied to.
It just goes to show that their social media usage and profiling goes to serve as an 'extra' mask. With fake profiles you can be whoever you want to be without ever being found out. This disguise is dangerous and can be thought of as a predatory behaviour. You can find out a lot about a person by just their bio, social media sites such as Facebook, you can learn quite a bit about the person in the 'about me' section. Similarly on Instagram or Snapchat you can find a lot about a person by pictures and some sites have a location or 'tag yourself' option displaying all the places that you have visited or places you are at. This type of information provides answers for personality types such as these. So I urge you to be careful what you choose to display and disclose on social media. You don't know who's watching or following you!
Online dating is a playground for narcissists, its like a catalogue of prey, they can pick and choose who they want. While malignant narcissists can be found anywhere and everywhere and there are certainly decent people on dating websites, the online world of dating provides predators with a platform where they can gain access to multiple victims without accountability.
Online dating gives malignant narcissists and sociopaths access to numerous sources of what is known as narcissistic supply – people who can provide them with praise, admiration, and resources – without any need for any form of investment, commitment or accountability. These digital platforms also enable narcissists to construct a very convincing and compelling false mask that lures potential targets into various scams. But perhaps the biggest ‘scam’ is when a narcissistic predator ‘cons’ his or her target into an abusive relationship, while presenting himself or herself as the ideal partner.
This is easy to do online, as emotional predators can ‘morph’ into whatever identity they need in order to hook new victims and also ‘mirror’ their victims by finding out more about them through social media, as many apps now offer the ability to link to social media profiles. Predators can also adapt their profiles to create an image of themselves that appeal to their potential victims; a majority of online dating users have been shown to have profiles that stray from the truth in some capacity (Wood, 2012).
Here are some other examples of how narcissists may use social media:
1. To triangulate.
Social media is a veritable playground for malignant narcissists. It gives them easy access to multiple victims and the ability to manufacture love triangles in covert, insidious ways. In order to understand how and exactly why narcissists use these platforms for such petty power plays, it’s essential that we remember that they tend to be insatiable in their attention-seeking and their desire to create harems of people who adore them. They will, of course, deny that they are doing this – and it’s easy to convince anyone who is suspicious of their behaviour that such a focus on their online behaviour is “crazy.”
Now, it’s certainly possible for someone lower on the spectrum of toxicity to aggravate their partners with their lack of discretion and loyalty without meaning to; sometimes garden-variety jerks or cheaters are not even fully cognisant they could be caught. However, true, full-fledged narcissists create love triangles deliberately in order to provoke their significant others. They enjoy seeing their reactions to their despicable behaviour. They trespass the boundaries of their relationships frequently and with malice, with the intention of skirting accountability and with callous disregard for the feelings of their victims.
Narcissistic partners can flirt with numerous people by sending them messages on Facebook, inappropriately commenting on their photos with sexual or obscene messages for all to see, ‘following’ a number of shady accounts, as well as posting photos of themselves with exes, crushes, and people with whom they’re having affairs, all under the guise of them being ‘friends.’ Should their victims ever call them out on their strange behaviour, the narcissist will then gaslight the victim into thinking he or she is going crazy.
2. To infiltrate.
Imagine that narcissists are like trained spies in the figurative Trojan horses that are social media accounts. They want to know anything and everything about you, so that they can later use your wounds against you. Having access to your social media accounts can give them an easy way to find out more about your likes, interests, hobbies, and desires. These investigative digs are crucial for the narcissist’s love-bombing stage, where they are first pursuing you with ardent fervour and need to unearth your vulnerabilities to do so.
It is also valuable for the devaluation stage, as it allows them to assess whether you’d be a viable target for their pity ploys and mind games. Solution? Don’t give them much access in the first place. Be selective about who you allow into your online spaces and make your privacy a top priority. It’s a good rule to have regarding anyone, regardless of whether or not they’re toxic, because it allows intimacy to unfold naturally at its own pace. By doing this, you communicate an important boundary to those around you: trust has to be built organically and cannot be earned blindly.
3. To stalk and harass you.
We all know that narcissistic ex-partners don’t leave us alone, even after the ending of a relationship. Even if you block them, they can make fake social media accounts to ‘check up’ on your whereabouts. They can create anonymous e-mails to send you daily or monthly taunts. They can even troll you on your work-related platforms if you have a public presence. This is all a way to make you feel unsafe. It’s a way to cast micro-assaults on your agency online. To feel as if someone is always “watching,” and monopolising your existence, whether in real life or online, can be terrifyingly brutal. It creates a sense of violation that is unfortunately rarely prosecuted in realm of the law.
4. To bully and taunt.
Research reveals that online trolls possess the Dark Tetrad traits of narcissism, psychopathy and Machiavellians. In other words, online narcissists take sadistic pleasure in provoking others. So it’s no wonder that many narcissists in cyberspace are the types who hand out death and rape threats as easily as they would party invites. Misogynistic trolls are an example of how malignant narcissism manifests in digital spaces; they are cruel, they are callous and they are violent in their threats and insults.
Trolls will lie, exaggerate, and offend to get a response. What kind of person would do this? Some Canadian researchers decided to find out. They conducted two online studies with over 1,200 people, giving personality tests to each subject along with a survey about their Internet commenting behaviour. They were looking for evidence that linked trolling with the “Dark Tetrad” of personality traits: narcissism, Machiavellians, psychopathy, and sadism. They found that Dark Tetrad scores were highest among people who said trolling was their favourite Internet activity.” – Dr. Jennifer Golbeck, Internet Trolls Are Narcissists, Psychopaths and Sadists
Whether they’re harassing former exes or bullying complete strangers, empathy-deficient individuals are dangerous to the psyche of their victims. Online or offline, malignant narcissists leave a trail of ‘bodies’ wherever they go, leaving society and their future victims to pick up the pieces.
All of this comes as no surprise for those of us who have experienced the narcissist in our lives. They come in all shapes and sizes with a variety of never fulfilling promises. An excessive sense of entitlement with little to no regard for the rights and needs of others. Please do think about your social profiling and how much information you put out there for people to see. Please do look after yourself and develop robust boundaries.
For those of you that missed the live session #14 on YouTube here is another chance for you to catch it, or watch the discussion and please add your comments in the bottom section.