Research from Brunel University in London reveals that human beings who frequently post workouts and achievements on social media are—quite frankly—narcissistic.
Most people have heard the word narcissism before, and although the term certainly carries negative connotations, its common definition in the Oxford English Dictionary is merely “excessive self-love or vanity; self-admiration, self-centeredness.” These definitely don’t sound like positive character traits, and virtually no one enjoys being labelled as a narcissist—but is narcissism really that bad? Well, the OED also provides a psychological definition of the word: “The condition of gaining emotional or erotic gratification from self-contemplation, sometimes regarded as a stage in the normal psychological development of children which may be reverted to in adulthood during mental illness.”
As can be seen, the second definition makes being labelled a narcissist much less tolerable and much more offensive—who wants people to think that they gain childish “erotic gratification from self-contemplation?!” Moreover, Emily Levine offers even greater clarity on the subject: “I am a recovering narcissist. I thought narcissism was about self-love till someone told me there is a flip side to it. It is actually drearier than self-love; it is unrequited self-love.” Everyone knows that unrequited love just sucks, but “unrequited self-love” definitely seems significantly worse. Finally, Jeffrey Kluger argues that, “Since narcissism is fueled by a greater need to be admired than to be liked, psychologists might use that fact as a therapeutic lever—stressing to patients that being known as a narcissist will actually cause them to lose the respect and social status they crave.”
This last point is vital, because it highlights how narcissistic behaviour usually accomplishes the exact opposite of what a narcissistic individual desires, which is “to be liked.” But when it comes to social media, posted workouts and relationship updates usually receive a significant number of “likes,” “loves,” and even “wows!”—which seems to argue against the idea that when people post these topics on social media it compels other people to dislike them.
However, Dr. Tara Marshall of Brunel University offers insight into this apparent contradiction: “Although our results suggest that narcissists’ bragging pays off because they receive more likes and comments to their status updates, it could be that their Facebook friends politely offer support while secretly disliking such egotistical displays.” Indeed, if you think about it closely, this makes perfect sense and is likely true almost 100% of the time. Most people click “like” or “love” without giving it much thought, and even if they do contemplate before clicking, oftentimes individuals will hit the “like” button just because they think it will make their friend happier—or because they think if they don’t, it will make their friend sadder.
Of course, if posting workout routines and relationship updates on social media actually motivates you to accomplish things to begin with, perhaps the juice is worth the squeeze after all. But if you do it so that other people will genuinely like you more, it’s now fairly certain that in reality your efforts have mostly been wasted—if not counterproductive.