22 Signs of Online Destructive Narcissists in Forums and Blogging Communities.

honore_daumier
Honore Daumier

If we’re blogging about pathology, at some point we’ll face a critic, an accuser. This can be a bewildering mess if we assume s/he will listen to reason. If we defend ourselves, the ante will be upped. If we over-explain ourselves, s/he declares victory, becoming increasingly strident with the reward of attention and sympathy. — CZBZ of The Narcissistic Continuum.

I just read a fabulous article about how narcissism works in online forums and blogs. I think it just may be the best article about this particular cyber-dynamic I’ve ever read. I liked it so much, I got permission from its author, CZBZ (owner and author of The Narcissistic Continuum), to reblog it here.

There are 22 “red flags” that the forum or blog you are on is run by a narcissist (or narcissists). I can attest from personal experience that every single one of these red flags is spot on. That goes for forums and blogs about ANY topic, all over the web universe–and blogs and forums about narcissistic abuse are not exceptions to this rule. You can’t get away from it.

Obviously some topics will attract more narcs than others–for example, a psychology or self-help blog or forum is probably going to attract (and be run by) fewer narcs than say, a cosmetic surgery (somatic narcissism) or political (cerebral narcissism) blog. A blog about improving relationships is going to have fewer narcs lurking about than, say, a celebrity-bashing one (like The Justin Bieber Hate Blog, as just one example) or even a blog that hates on the fans of a celebrity–yes, they do exist. But you never know where one will turn up. They could even be lurking on a charitable blog about helping the homeless.
Don’t forget that the serial killer and sexual sadist Ted Bundy spent time working in a rape crisis center!

Every forum manager or blogger necessarily has some narcissistic traits–otherwise they wouldn’t be running a forum or a blog! While not every blogger is a narcissist, there’s a narcissist in every blogger–if that makes sense. There is definitely a “me, me, look at me!” aspect to running a kind of online kingdom, even if it’s not the admin’s or manager’s primary motivation for writing the blog (or running the forum).

I’ll be the first to admit there’s some of that for me too. But I think for most of us, it’s healthy narcissism. Yes, there is a such thing. Without it, we’d all be walking around dragging our foreheads along the ground, leaving a trail of blood in the dirt, while wearing a sign that says, “KICK ME.” A little narcissism helps us survive. Without just a smidgen, we’d probably be dead. Almost anything, when there’s too much of it, turns bad. Narcissism stops being a vitamin and becomes a poison at very low doses. Think of those heavy metals in your blood–like iron or magnesium. In tiny doses they’re necessary for physical survival; but raise the levels of those metals infinitesimally, and you’re dead meat.

But I digress. I think CZBZ makes some very astute observations here about what to look for in blogs and forums to tell if you might be being taken for a ride by a narc in shining armor–or if the admin or forum manager’s intentions are honest.

I’ll also add one of my own here (although I think CZ mentions it too): Snark. The mean-spirited kind of snark. You know, the “I’m so cool/mighty/right and you’re a worthless idiot/lunatic/minion of Satan” condescending wittiness that makes you feel like the most lowly piece of pond scum in the lake–as you find yourself wondering whether the jokesters are really joking (and you’re just being too sensitive) or are just plain mean. Well, they’re actually both.

22 Signs of Online Destructive Narcissists in Forums & Blogging Communities

HonoreDaumier_MeetingOf35HeadsOfExpression_zps0853d8ba
Honore Daumier — “Meeting of 35 Heads of Expression”

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed finding new bloggers through the Slayer Award and reading their stories and personal insights. Ursula, the author of An Upturned Soul, posted an excellent article asking her readers an intriguing question: Online Narcissists–Does the blog you follow belong to a narcissist?

She asks:

“What if you are following the blog of a Narcissist? Does it matter? Does it affect you? Do you even notice? After all, bloggers are supposed to write about themselves, about their lives, and share their thoughts and feelings, and do so in a way which is creative and perhaps even exaggerated for effect and entertainment purposes…I think if you’ve never been in a relationship with someone who has Narcissistic Personality Disorder, then Following the blog of a Narcissist, won’t make any difference to you. It’ll inspire and entertain and that’s that. But what if you’re recovering from a relationship with a Narcissist and you follow a blog which is powered by Narcissistic Personality Disorder?” ~An Upturned Soul

There’s a distinction between trait narcissism as measured in social network studies and the “destructive narcissism” we discuss on blogs about pathology (clinical disorders). How normal narcissists affect readers and society is fascinating, too; but for today, my focus is on the impact destructive-to-pathological narcissists have on others and how we might inform ourselves before we’re harmed. So my answer to Ursula’s question is that yes, it can be dangerous if vulnerable people are “following” someone with a Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

My short answer is this: narcissist’s unstable self-esteem and grandiosity is hyper-sensitive to ego threats. Narcissists are more willing to use aggression than non-narcissists. (Bushman) Narcissists are particularly likely to displace their aggression on innocent bystanders. (Buffardi) Good people serve as scapegoats because they limit the degree of harm they’re willing to inflict on others. Their private emails may be posted publicly, private pictures may be circulated on the net, hate blogs may be written—all in the narcissist’s attempt to regulate self-esteem by destroying others. If you have befriended an online narcissist, you will eventually say something perceived to be an insult and you may be treated more cruelly than you were by the narcissist propelling you to the Internet.

And my long answer is the following. Pack a lunch. This is complicated.

Read the rest of the article here: http://n-continuum.blogspot.com/2014/01/21-signs-of-online-destructive.html

Also Read Part 2 of Online Narcissists: A Case Study Called Puppygate.
http://n-continuum.blogspot.com/2014/02/online-narcissists-case-study-called.html

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Wolves in sheep’s clothing.

wolvesinsheeps

I wrote an article about this issue a while back, but I decided it was time to write about it again because I have seen this sort of thing happen so many times online, including within the ACON community. It’s a real problem for those of us recovering from narcissistic abuse. We are fragile and it’s so hard for us to trust anyone anymore, but we want so much to trust people who have been through similar experiences and connect with them.

The sad news is that you just can’t trust everybody you meet online.

If you’re a member of the narcissistic abuse community and participate in social media groups, blogs or forums intended to help or inform victims of narcissistic abuse, remember you are engaging with a lot of hurting and damaged people. There are people in this community who may themselves have been so damaged by their abusers they developed narcissistic ways of relating to others.

Narcissism is contagious, just like a disease. If a person was raised by narcissists or were in a close relationship with one for any length of time, they can pick up what’s known in the ACON community as “fleas”–narcissistic behaviors that stick to them the way fleas stick to a dog. If the fleas stay around long enough or become severe enough, it’s possible to actually become a narcissist!

Most narcissists aren’t aware they are narcissists. In the narcissistic abuse/ACON communities, there are narcissists who you would think are anything but. Don’t be duped into thinking just because someone’s a victim of abuse and hates their narcs (and narcs in general) with the white hot heat of a thousand suns, that automatically means they aren’t one. They probably don’t even know they are.

Some people who seem holier than thou may have developed full blown narcissism. They appear to be sheep, even though they are actually wolves. Unfortunately it’s hard to tell until you cross them or disagree with them.

Narcissists project onto others traits they hate in themselves. Just because a person was abused and professes to hate narcissists does not mean they are free of their own narcissism, which they deny in themselves but project onto those they disagree with.

In particular, be very careful around anyone who uses religion to intimidate or abuse you or attacks your beliefs. There are many religious people in the ACON community who have turned to Christ after their abuse, and of course there’s nothing wrong with that. But if someone is intolerant of your religious beliefs (or lack thereof) or calls yours a “false religion,” that’s a huge red flag, in my opinion.

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There are unfortunately people even in this community who either pretend to be victims to exploit people they see as “weak” (I think there aren’t too many of those though, and the ones that are are usually on social media such as Facebook) or actually are victims, but have become narcissistic due to the abuse they endured. (because I am not qualified to diagnose anyone, I cannot say they actually have NPD).

But there are red flags you can be on the lookout for:

— They act “holier than thou” and use religion as an excuse to treat others badly or judge those they disagree with.
— They never seem to get any better.
— They think there is something wrong with you because you are growing and no longer wish to hang onto your rage.
— If they see someone is changing or letting go of anger, they accuse them of betrayal or worse (if they’re religious) say they are being influenced by Satan. Pathological envy? I don’t know. Maybe.
— They use personal information they were given privately against the person they are targeting. They may even state this private information in public against your wishes. Be careful what you tell people unless you know them very well.
— They attack and smear those they disagree with.
— They overreact to slights or criticism.
— They overreact to opinions they don’t agree with. You are not allowed to have a differing opinion.
— They are self righteous and never apologize.
— They talk a lot about empathy but don’t seem to really have any.
— They show no remorse for their hurtful actions.
— They ban or attack people who defend those they disagree with.
— They misquote you, twist your words, and accuse you of saying things you never said. That is gaslighting.
— They are quick to call people they disagree with narcissists or at least make obvious hints to that effect.
— They will introduce a hurtful criticism or a projection of their own narcissism onto you with a phrase such as, “I don’t mean to hurt you, but…” Bullshit they don’t mean to hurt you.
— If you object to this online abuse, they might tell you in a condescending or smarmy way that they are “only trying to help” or are “praying for you.”

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A non-narcissistic person will not do these things. Yes, they may disagree with you. Disagreement is normal and is to be expected. I certainly don’t expect everyone to agree with everything I write. I’m well aware some of my opinions are controversial and even unpopular. That knowledge won’t stop me from posting them though. But I welcome dissenting opinions, because that can make a discussion more interesting than if everyone agrees with me all the time. There is nothing wrong with a good, healthy debate. I could even learn something from you, and I’ve admitted when I’ve been wrong. Hey, I’m not perfect and never will be.

If there are disagreements, as there will be, a non-narcissist will just say they disagree with you, state their case, and possibly give their reasons why they disagree with you. If they feel especially strongly about an issue, they could stop following you or decide your blog is not one they wish to read or participate in anymore. All of that is fine. It happens. You shouldn’t take it personally if someone is so offended by something you wrote they stop following you or stop commenting. But it should stop there. A normal person will simply move on and not bother with you anymore. A non-narcissist is not going to start a smear campaign against you, talk down to you as if you’re beneath them, call your religion a “false religion,” tell you you’re influenced by the devil, call YOU a narcissist, twist what you said into something you did not say, misrepresent you, or publicly bring up a personal issue you talked to them about in private just to embarrass you.

All of us can behave narcissistically when triggered. I understand that. I do it myself. If you tell someone who has attacked you in a narcissistic way because they were angry, hurt or triggered that their actions upset you, a non-narcissist will be chastened and will apologize or try to make amends in some way. If the person fails to do that, even after they are told how much their actions have hurt you, suspect a narcissist. They don’t have empathy for how you feel. You are not a person to them. They don’t care. You are wrong, they are right, and that’s that.

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The insidious thing about narcissism is it’s those you would least suspect of being narcissists who in fact may be. Sometimes the Internet can feel like a minefield, and you have to be so careful where you step to avoid detonation.

Something happened to me several months ago that was a real wake up call and made me realize how careful we have to be when engaging with people online. There as a woman on Facebook who talked about her relationship with her husband, a man she said was a malignant narcissist. She said she had found a way to make her relationship with him work. Intrigued but skeptical, I sent her a private message asking what she had found out. I also sent her a friend request.

She did not accept my friend request (saying she did not know me well enough) but sent me back a strange private message that said, “I have been wanting to talk to you.” Instead of being alarmed, I was intrigued.

We talked about her “malignant narcissist” husband and the way she “handled” him. The woman’s Facebook posts were always so heartwarming, effusively proclaiming the deep love she had for her husband. She constantly posted pictures of herself with him, along with comments about how much she loved him. I looked at the photos of this guy on her timeline, looking for anything in his face or eyes that would indicate malignant narcissism (they usually have a hard or cold look, or dead, flat eyes). I didn’t see it. If anything, I thought the guy looked weak and even a little scared. In fact, his face and body language screamed codependent. The woman always wore a huge smile, but something in those photos suggested a predator “possessing” their prey. Yes, she was larger than he, but there seemed to be a look on her face that said, “he’s mine. I can do what I want with him.”

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I should have smelled a rat. Instead, I thought, “what a wonderful woman, who loves her husband that much in spite of his disorder.” We had several more conversations. Eventually I told her too much about myself. I told her about my psychopathic ex-husband, and how much I envied her for being able to “make things work” with her husband, but that what she did would have never worked for me because my ex was a psychopath and didn’t have enough self awareness to be able to “work with me” on controlling his narcissistic and abusive behaviors.

Shortly after divulging my own situation, I received a puzzling and upsetting private message from her. I won’t quote it here, because it was too long and I no longer have it anyway. It was a very nasty message. In a condescending, insulting way, she had the gall to let me know that my ex couldn’t have been a psychopath (really? did she know him personally?) She said, “I don’t mean to hurt you or anything, but frankly, there is something about you that is a little “off.” That hurt a lot, but was also a huge red flag. She continued, saying that she suspected I was actually the narcissist in our relationship. Oh, really? Was she a fly on the wall during our marriage? Did she have some God-like omnicience to be able to “know” all this about a person she barely knew? Then she ended her long diatribe saying that “prayer is not going to help you” and “I am trying to help you see the truth about yourself.” It was one of the nastiest messages I’ve ever received, and it was sent under the guise of “being helpful.” I could have received more “help” from a serpent.

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The next day I got two private messages from two of my Facebook friends informing me this woman had PM’d them and told them that I was crazy and to stay away from me. The bitch was gaslighting me and triangulating against me, attempting to turn my friends into flying monkeys! I promptly blocked this woman and later found out she had done this to several other women who she envied for one reason or another. It dawned on me that she had been projecting her own malignant narcissism onto her husband, who I am sure was the real victim in their relationship. It explained the possessive, predatory way she had posed with him in their photos. It explained everything.

I want way too much to trust people in this community because so many people have experienced the same type of abuse that I have, some less so and some more. It’s natural to feel like you’ve found a haven of like-minded people who are your friends by default because of their similar stories. You simply don’t want to believe there may be wolves in sheep’s clothing lurking within the community who may have suffered devastating abuse but have actually turned to narcissism as a way to cope with what happened to them. When you realize this, it can come as a shock and you feel so horribly betrayed. You begin to wonder if anyone can be trusted.

Yes, there are people you can trust but online, as in any other community, you have to be careful. Don’t assume someone isn’t a narcissist just because they are anti-narcissist, have a blog for survivors of abuse, or have a sad abuse story of their own. That doesn’t really mean anything. Use the person’s actions and behavior–and your own intuition–as your guide. If someone makes you feel like you always have to be careful what you say around them, if they intimidate you or make you feel like you’re walking on eggshells, proceed with extreme caution. Even if they’ve shown no narcissistic behaviors (yet), be watchful and vigilant. Don’t ever give personal information to anyone you don’t know extremely well.

The Internet is a wonderful resource for abuse survivors, but remember there are wolves in sheep’s clothing online too. Please be careful.

Narcissism on the Internet: what Vaknin has to say

Narcissistic? Me?

Oh, hell. I’m going to milk this thing for all it’s worth at the moment. I admit it, I want this upward momentum to keep going for a little bit longer.

Let me start by confessing I’m just a wee bit star-struck because a somewhat famous person who writes about narcissism gave me validation and in doing so helped my blog become more visible, even though he’s a narcissist and we victims are all too aware what no-good gaslighting, manipulating, triangulating mind-fuckers narcissists are. I must remember that he IS a narc and is NOT my friend. I must not allow a few crumbs of flattery to somehow suck me into becoming some kind of online narcissistic supply to this man. I gotta keep it real.

But no worries: in a day or so (if not my next post), I’ll return to my regular scheduled programming and write a fluff post about something like kittens or a rant about fracking or toenail fungus.

In my second blog article about Sam Vaknin, he commented (when asked) that he did, in fact, Google himself (hey, don’t we all?) and that’s how he finds out which bloggers are writing about him. He provided an explanation as to why he looks himself up on Google and linked to his website. I decided to repost his journal entry because there’s a whole Pandora’s box of truth here, and whether we like it or not, there’s a little or even a lot of Narcissist in all of us who blog and find ourselves giddy with excitement when our blogs get views, likes, comments, or suddenly take off like 4th of July firecrackers.

WARNING: In typical Vaknin fashion, this post is extremely long winded. That said, it’s definitely worth your time to read the whole thing. There’s some great insights here that still apply today even though it appears to have been written some years ago.

Cyber (Internet) Narcissists and Psychopaths

To the narcissist, the Internet is an alluring and irresistible combination of playground and hunting grounds, the gathering place of numerous potential Sources of Narcissistic Supply, a world where false identities are the norm and mind games the bon ton. And it is beyond the reach of the law, the pale of social norms, the strictures of civilized conduct.

Indeed, many of the innovators who gave us the Internet and social networks can easily be described as narcissistic. Technology did not invent or even foster narcissism – rather, it was driven by it: an increasingly narcissistic populace demanded empowerment, self-expression, self-gratification, and self-aggrandisement via gadgets and software applications that catered to its pathology.

The somatic finds cyber-sex and cyber-relationships aplenty. The cerebral claims false accomplishments, fake skills, erudition and talents. Both, if minimally communicative, end up at the instantly gratifying epicenter of a cult of fans, followers, stalkers, erotomaniacs, denigrators, and plain nuts. The constant attention and attendant quasi-celebrity feed and sustain their grandiose fantasies and inflated self-image.

The Internet is an extension of the real-life Narcissistic Pathological Space but without its risks, injuries, and disappointments. It allows the narcissist to enact and act out his grandiose fantasies of omnipotence and omnipotence, brilliance and perfection, self-righteousness and superiority with impunity.
Many moderators and owners of discussion groups and support forums, for instance, are tyrannical narcissistic bullies with little or no impulse control and the tendency to form cult-like settings where the wayward are sadistically penalized and publicly humiliated by peers for speaking out of turn and in contravention of the “party line.”

In the virtual universe of the Web, the narcissist vanishes and reappears with ease, often adopting a myriad aliases and nicknames. He (or she) can thus fend off criticism, abuse, disagreement, and disapproval effectively and in real time – and, simultaneously, preserve the precarious balance of his infantile personality. Narcissists are, therefore, prone to Internet addiction.

The positive characteristics of the Net are largely lost on the narcissist. He is not keen on expanding his horizons, fostering true relationships, or getting in real contact with other people. The narcissist is forever the provincial because he filters everything through the narrow lens of his addiction. He measures others – and idealizes or devalues them – according to one criterion only: how useful they might be as Sources of Narcissistic Supply.

The Internet is an egalitarian medium where people are judged by the consistency and quality of their contributions rather than by the content or bombast of their claims. But the narcissist is driven to distracting discomfiture by a lack of clear and commonly accepted hierarchy (with himself at the pinnacle). He fervently and aggressively tries to impose the “natural order” – either by monopolizing the interaction or, if that fails, by becoming a major disruptive influence.

But the Internet may also be the closest many narcissists get to psychodynamic therapy. Because it is still largely text-based, the Web is populated by disembodied entities. By interacting with these intermittent, unpredictable, ultimately unknowable, ephemeral, and ethereal voices – the narcissist is compelled to project unto them his own experiences, fears, hopes, and prejudices.

Transference (and counter-transference) are quite common on the Net and the narcissist’s defence mechanisms – notably projection and Projective Identification – are frequently aroused. The therapeutic process is set in motion by the – unbridled, uncensored, and brutally honest – reactions to the narcissist’s repertory of antics, pretensions, delusions, and fantasies.

The narcissist – ever the intimidating bully – is not accustomed to such resistance. Initially, it may heighten and sharpen his paranoia and lead him to compensate by extending and deepening his grandiosity. Some narcissists withdraw altogether, reverting to the schizoid posture. Others become openly antisocial and seek to subvert, sabotage, and destroy the online sources of their frustration. A few retreat and confine themselves to the company of adoring sycophants and unquestioning groupies.

But a long exposure to the culture of the Net – irreverent, skeptical, and populist – usually exerts a beneficial effect even on the staunchest and most rigid narcissist. Far less convinced of his own superiority and infallibility, the online narcissist mellows and begins – hesitantly – to listen to others and to collaborate with them.

Ultimately, most narcissists – those who are not schizoid and shun social contact – tire of the virtual reality that is cyberspace. The typical narcissist needs “tangible” narcissistic supply. He craves attention from real, live, people, flesh and blood. He strives to see in their eyes their admiration and adulation, the awe and fear that he inspires, the approval and affirmation that he elicits.

There is no substitute to human contact, even for the narcissist. Many narcissists try to carry online relationships they nurtured into their logical extension and conclusion offline. Other burst upon the cyber scene intermittently, vanishing for long months, only to dive back in and reappear, reinvigorated. Reality beckons and few narcissists resist its siren call.

Narcissists, Social Media, and Porn

Social media, such as Tumblr.com, have become the playground of narcissists, psychopaths, and sadists who post extreme and, at times, illegal porn and revel in the reactions to it, thus garnering vicarious narcissistic supply. Via such postings, they express their rabid misogyny by objectifying women and subjecting them to humiliating subjugation and to aggression bordering on outright violence.

Yahoo and Tumblr’s protestations to the contrary notwithstanding, some of the content is illegal and can land even an accidental viewer in hot waters. Relatively innocuous search terms such as “family”, “wife”, “sister”, or “daddy” often yield sleazy and actionable photo and video results, displayed automatically on the user’s screen and saved to his or her browser cache without any warning or consent. Tumblr is not alone in this. Twitter and Facebook, although to a lesser degree, also host porn on a massive scale.

Porn addiction ties well with the narcissist’s fantasy sex life. Social media enable and legitimize a host of sexual fetishes and paraphilias, including pedophilia. Via these platforms, the narcissist finds an eager audience and a sense of empowerment and immunity, aided and abetted by his anonymity.

Interview granted to Misty Harris of CanWest on February 23, 2005

Q. How might technology be enabling narcissism, particularly for the Internet generation?

A. To believe that the Internet is an unprecedented phenomenon with unique social implications is, in itself, narcissistic. The Internet is only the latest in a long series of networking-related technological developments. By definition, technology is narcissistic. It seeks to render us omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent – in other words, Godlike.

The Internet allows us to replicate ourselves and our words (through vanity desktop publishing, blogs, and posting online content on Web sites), to playact our favorite roles, to communicate instantly with thousands (narrowcasting), to influence others, and, in general, to realize some of our narcissistic dreams and tendencies.

Q. Why is it a bad thing to have a high opinion of yourself?

A. It is not a bad thing if it is supported by commensurate achievements. If the gap between fantasy and reality is too big, a dysfunction that we call “pathological narcissism” sets in.

Q. What does it say about our culture that we encourage narcissistic characteristics in people? (example: Paris Hilton – we made her a star for loving herself)

A. Celebrity culture is not a new thing. It is not a culture-dependent phenomenon. Celebrities fulfil two emotional functions for their fans: they provide a mythical narrative (a story that the fan can follow and identify with) and they function as blank screens onto which the fans project their dreams, hopes, fears, plans, values, and desires (wish fulfilment).

Western culture emphasizes ambition, competitiveness, materialism, and individualism. These admittedly are narcissistic traits and give the narcissist in our society an opening advantage.

But narcissism exists in a different form in collectivist societies as well. As Theodore Millon and Roger Davis state in their seminal tome, “Personality Disorders in Modern Life”:

“In an individualistic culture, the narcissist is ‘God’s gift to the world’. In a collectivist society, the narcissist is ‘God’s gift to the collective'”.

Twitter: Narcissism or Age-old Communication?

It has become fashionable to castigate Twitter – the microblogging service – as an expression of rampant narcissism. Yet, narcissists are verbose and they do not take kindly to limitations imposed on them by third parties. They feel entitled to special treatment and are rebellious. They are enamored with their own voice. Thus, rather than gratify the average narcissist and provide him or her with narcissistic supply (attention, adulation, affirmation), Twitter is actually liable to cause narcissistic injury.

From the dawn of civilization, when writing was the province of the few and esoteric, people have been memorizing information and communicating it using truncated, mnemonic bursts. Sizable swathes of the Bible resemble Twitter-like prose. Poetry, especially blank verse one, is Twitterish. To this very day, newspaper headlines seek to convey information in digestible, resounding bits and bites. By comparison, the novel – an avalanche of text – is a newfangled phenomenon.

Twitter is telegraphic, but this need not impinge on the language skills of its users. On the contrary, coerced into its Procrustean dialog box, many interlocutors become inventive and creativity reigns as bloggers go atwitter.

Indeed, Twitter is the digital reincarnation of the telegraph, the telegram, the telex, the text message (SMS, as we Europeans call it), and other forms of business-like, data-rich, direct communication. Like them, it forces its recipients to use their own imagination and creativity to decipher the code and flesh it out with rich and vivid details. It is unlikely to vanish, though it may well be supplanted by even more pecuniary modes of online discourse.

Interview granted to Agencia Efe, Spain, April 2008

1. Does the Internet make a special amplification of narcissism or is just the reflection of reality? How, despite of the fact that many people is disturbed by the anonymous characters that you can adopt in the Internet, the exhibitionism is, maybe, more usual. I mean, in terms of narcissism? Can a person be addicted to the web because is own narcissism?

A. The narcissist likes to appear to be mysterious. It enhances his self-perceived sense of omnipotence, it renders him “unique” and “interesting”. The right moniker (Internet alias or handle) imbues the narcissist with a sense of immunity and superiority and permits him to commit the most daring or heinous acts.

2. What kind of lacks or necessities there are behind this behaviour? What are we expecting when we search our name on Google? Can we construct our image with the pieces of us in the internet?

A. The Internet is the hi-tech equivalent of a giant mirror. Like the mythical Narcissus, it allows us to fall in love with our reflection every day anew. We gaze into the depths of the Internet to reassure ourselves of our continuity and very existence. It is our modern photo album; a repository of snippets of our lives; and our external memory.

In psychoanalytic terms, the Internet replaces some of our ego functions: it regulates our sense of self-worth; puts us in touch with reality and with others; and structures our interactions (via its much vaunted peer-pressure of the Netiquette and the existence of editors and moderators).

We crave attention and feedback: proof positive that we matter, that someone cares about us, that we are not mere atoms in a disjointed and anomic Universe. In this sense, the Internet substitutes for God and many social functions by reassuring us that we fit into a World that, though amorphous and protean, is sustaining, predictable, constant, and nurturing. The Internet replaces our parents as a source of nourishment, support, caring, discipline, and omniscience.

3. In the case of the blogs, what’s the point in common in the idea of doing a private diary and be available for everybody?

A. I am not sure what you mean. Blogs are anything but private. They are explicitly meant for public consumption, thrive on public attention, and encourage interaction with the public (through the comments area). One can set one’s blog or online journal to “private”, though, as the hi-tech equivalent of a personal diary.

4. Internet, with their blogs, Facebook, Myspace or YouTube, has create the possibility of make yourself famous without promotion, just with the progressive diffusion of your material. Examples like the singers Mika and Lilly Allen or many bloggers, can it make a new way of realizing the “American dream” for the users of the Internet?

A. Being famous encompasses a few important functions: it endows us with power, provides us with a constant Source of Narcissistic Supply (admiration, adoration, approval, awe), and fulfils important Ego functions.

The Internet caters to our narcissistic traits and propensities and allows us to become “celebrities-by-replication”. The image that the blogger or artist projects is hurled back at him, reflected by those exposed to his instant celebrity or fame. By generating multiple copies of himself and his work, he feels alive, his very existence is affirmed and he acquires a sensation of clear boundaries (where he ends and the world begins).

There is a set of narcissistic behaviours typical to the pursuit of celebrity. There is almost nothing that the Net celebrity refrains from doing, almost no borders that he hesitates to cross to achieve renown. To him (or, increasingly, her), there is no such thing as “bad publicity”: what matters is to be in the public eye at any price.

Because narcissistic individuals equally enjoy all types of attention and like as much to be feared as to be loved, for instance – they don’t mind if what is published about them is wrong (“as long as they spell my name correctly”). The celebrity blogger or artist experiences bad emotional stretches only when he lacks attention, or publicity.

It is then that some bloggers, artists, and Webmasters plot, contrive, plan, conspire, think, analyse, synthesise and do whatever it takes to regain the lost exposure in the public eye. The more they fail to secure the attention of the target group (preferably, the entire Internet community), the more daring, eccentric and outlandish they become. A firm decision to become known is transformed into resolute action and then to a panicky pattern of attention seeking behaviours.

It is important to understand that the blogger/artist/Webmaster are not really interested in publicity per se. They appear to be interested in becoming a celebrity, but, in reality, they are concerned with the REACTIONS to their newly-acquired fame: people watch them, notice them, talk about them, debate their actions – therefore they exist.

5. There are many new applications to feed human narcissism on the net: Googlefight, Egosurf.org, the blogs themselves… Could be used narcissism as a business?

A. Every good business is founded on the mass psychology of its clientele. In a narcissistic civilization, business is bound to adapt and become increasingly more narcissistic. The Internet started off as an information exchange. The surge of (mainly American) users transformed it in profound ways. User-generated “content” is a thin veneer beneath which lurks the seething and pathological narcissism of the masses. Narcissism is our main business organizing principle outside the Internet as well: cosmetics, fashion, health, publishing, show business, the media, and the financial industries all rest on firm narcissistic foundations. The management class itself is highly narcissistic!

6. Can be satisfied the true and pathologic narcissism just with the feed-back on the Internet or it needs, finally, to put in “real” his power of attraction.

A. What’s not real about the Internet? This dichotomy between virtual and real is false. The Internet is as real as it gets and, for many of its users, it is the only reality and the only frame of reference. It is “reality” as we used to know it that is gradually vanishing and being replaced by “virtual” substitutes: print media are dying and giving way to blogs and online news aggregators; iTunes and Napster and BitTorrent and eMule are ruining the very physical music CD; there is more published on the Internet than is available in many brick and mortar libraries, and so on.

7. Could presence or non-presence in Internet create a new kind of social class?

A. Like every other social phenomenon, the Internet gave rise to a stratified society with hackers, crackers, nerds, geeks, Wikipedians, bloggers, etc. occupying various niches. Not using the Internet – a kind of Internet Luddism – may yet become a badge of honor. Internet addicts may become either outcasts or the new elite. Who knows? Everything digital is still in its formative years and still in flux.

8. How dangerous is narcissism, inside or outside the web?

A. Very dangerous. Just read the list of diagnostic criteria for the Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD): the narcissist lacks empathy, is arrogant, exploits people, is envious, has a strong and unjustified sense of entitlement, and is obsessive and delusional. Many narcissists are also psychopaths. Pathological narcissism is often diagnosed with other mental health disorders (a phenomenon called “co-morbidity”). Narcissists are over-represented among criminals, gamblers, and people with reckless and inconsiderate behaviors.

Interview granted to About.com about Online Dating

1. In your opinion, why does the Internet seem to be an easy forum to fall in love?

A. Frequently, in online dating, the partners are treated as “blank screens” onto which the online dater projects her dreams, wishes, and unfulfilled needs and yearnings. The Internet allows the two sides to maintain an emotionally riskless intercourse by fully controlling the interaction with their interlocutors or correspondents. While thoroughly gratified, they are less likely to get hurt and feel less vulnerable because they invest – emotionally and otherwise – far less than in a full-fledged, “real” life liaison. Of course, they are usually disappointed when they try to flesh out their online fantasy by moving the relationship offline, “down to earth” and into “brick-and-mortar” venues.

2. Despite an online relationship being made up of text messages and pictures, why does it seem people more easily get into Internet relationships than they do in real life?

A. “Internet relationship” is an oxymoron. A relationship entails the existence of a physical dimension, time spent together, friction and conflict, the satisfaction of all the senses, and experiences shared. IM, chat, webcams, and the like can seemingly bring people closer and create the illusion of intimacy, but actually it is a narcissistic sham, an echo chamber, a simulacrum. People “fall in love” with their own reflections and with idealized partners, not with the real items. Their counterparty is merely a peg on which they hang their desire for closeness, a sounding board. It is like watching a film: one can be moved to tears by what is happening on the screen, but very few confuse the flickering lights with reality itself.

3. What dangers are there in falling in love online?

A. Online “love” is not love at all and, therefore, it is less prone to heartbreak and disappointment. The parties fully control their side of the interaction and limit it at will. The information exchanged is doctored and there is no way of verifying it (for instance, by paying attention to body language and social cues). Online “love” is more akin to infatuation, comprised of equal measures fantasy and narcissism. The parties fall in love with the idea of falling in love: the actual online partner is rather incidental. The extant technology dictates the solipsistic and self-centered nature of these exchanges.
Online dating is inherently unsafe as it affords no way to ascertain the identity of your interlocutor or correspondent. When you date online, you are missing out on critical information such as your potential partner’s body language; the pattern of his social interactions; his behavior in unexpected settings and circumstances; his non-scripted reactions; even his smell and how he truly looks, dresses, and conducts himself in public and in private. The dangers, like in real life, is when one comes across a predator: a psychopath, a stalker, or a bully. Click on this link to learn how to avoid these people: How to Recognize a Narcissist or Psychopath Before It is Too Late?

4. What tips can you share with readers who have fallen in love online and have been burnt by the rejection of a breakup online who might do it again?

A. The Internet is merely a sophisticated, multimedia communication channel, a glorified videophone. “Distance relationships” don’t work. Real, lasting, emotionally-rewarding relationships that lead to happiness and personal growth require propinquity, familiarity, intimacy, and sacrifices. Don’t make the Internet your exclusive dating venue and don’t use it to shield you from life itself . Deploy it merely to find information and reach out and, on the first opportunity, log off and go out there to confront multidimensional reality with all its complexity and ambiguities. Do not use the Internet to fend off potential hurt: there is no growth without pain and no progress without experience.

5. Despite some problems, do you think the Internet should be sworn off as a means of finding love?
A. Online dating is a great tool for people who, for various reasons, have limited access to other dating options or venues where you can date “real” people face-to-face, instead of mere avatars.