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A Playground For The Narcissistic: Surviving Social Media With Dignity

I know a thing or two about narcissism. I’ve been blogging for over ten years in one form or another. I obviously think I have important things to say. Enough where I’ve spent a lot of time crafting messages that get read by a relatively small number of people.

There’s no punchline there either. I don’t think you write as long as I do without a healthy dose of ego. It’s not something to be proud of, just reality. Something has to fuel you through commentless posts and bad ideas. You have to be good or delusional (or both in my case, depending on the day).

So when I read a quote by Laurie Ruettimann in a post about Twitter, it resonated with the little part of me who writes:

I’m only on Twitter as an extension of my narcissist self… and I’m nearly bored with it, which is saying a lot.

And then I think about the reaction one friend gave me when she found my Twitter account: “Why do you have 3000 followers on Twitter? I read some of your tweets. I don’t get it.” She was serious too. And right.

I later read a post by Chris Ferdinandi about how he thinks Twitter sucks now. He wrote:

Two years ago, it was really easy to find meaningful conversations on Twitter. Lots of signal. Little noise. Sometime over the last couple of years, though, things changed.

Now there’s lots of noise. Mindless retweeting. Daily quotes. Follow Friday has devolved into a laundry list of everyone you follow.

It’s really easy to become cynical about social media. You see the way people automate, degenerate and exploit a system that was really built to democratize content distribution and it is easy enough to say forget it. Unlike Chris though, I don’t think this is a recent change. Blogrolls, lists, SEO blackhat and spam to even common social tricks like trolling and sock-puppetry have all been a part of the explosion of social media.

If you’re a decent person, you’ll probably tire of it. And there are a couple different options.

  1. Flip the switch off. You’re done and you get more vitamin D.
  2. Be annoyed and cynical all of the time. You’ll participate but not enjoy it.
  3. Power through with positivity. See how that goes for you!
  4. Turn to the dark side. Embrace the bullshit and become what is wrong with the internet.
  5. Make social media a utility. You use it for its purpose but it isn’t the end all be all.

And in case it isn’t completely obvious, I choose number five. I use social media like I use the telephone or e-mail. Sure, there are people who still abuse the telephone and e-mail. Most e-mail messages are still spam after all but it doesn’t make it any less useful for me.

This isn’t some sort of battle of principle either. How you decide to use social media doesn’t have a major impact my usage. I use it to connect with the people I want to connect to in the way we both decide to connect with one another. How you choose to use it only impacts whether I choose to connect with you or not.

And if you’re being a jackass or even just really annoying on social media, that doesn’t make blogging or Facebook or Twitter suck. It makes you suck. And if you’re a decent person who just wants to connect with great people, cull your friends list or blogging buddies list down as low as you need to go and use it that way. I met a lot of great people when I only had a few people reading this blog and I meet many people everyday using social media as my utility.

I guarantee you, the narcissism will find whatever new piece of social technology that comes out next. Finding the next Twitter or Facebook is only a temporary refuge. Create your own sane space on the playground and live in it.

By Lance Haun

Strategy for The Starr Conspiracy. Former HR pro. Portland guy (Go Blazers!) and WSU alum (Go Cougs!). I get to write about what I want here.

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