The world is an immense Narcissus in the act of thinking about himself – Joaquin Gasquet.
Call it the myth of Sysiphus or the paradoxical tell- tale question of the chicken or the egg, but man and his constant tryst with vanity has made stories for centuries. The mystery of human
narcissism and vanity can be traced from the history of the Greek youth, Narcissus, to every other millennial who pines away sharing his selfie across every other social media platform.The statistics speak : a whooping 80M photographs uploaded to Instagram: daily human interactions amassing 3.5bn likes on Facebook ; 1.5bn people staging their life in Facebook daily: 20% of the world population ,and now humans hardly have anytime left other than for expressing their vanity.
From where does this expression for increased sense of appreciation come to humans. Maybe, it can be traced to the innate human character, a primal need for recognition. Over the ages, this has found new ways of expression, from the pre- historic cave paintings to renaissance art and onto the digital mixed media art, memes and trolls of the millennials – we have always been in the chase for it. The recognition of beauty and appreciation has always been our drive. With the onset of this digital era, we have a population that is already endowed with the power of content. Each individual is endowed with the power of creation and this form of expression gives an individual the power to superimpose his image and ideas on the minds of his followers, friends and subscribers. Each social media platform is therefore an attempt at our own human vulnerabilities.
For by giving into the power of expression, these corporate giants create in us a human divide, a divide that tries to epitomize the individual ego. The impact of narcissistic behavior on people hasn’t been studied in India as much as it has been in the USA. In the USA, narcissistic behavior and narcissistic people have been identified with reasons ranging from the fallout of families to the spike in the divorce rate and the increase in the number of adolescents who stay single by choice.
‘The long term impact of narcissism has to be seen on the Indian populace or it has to be studied and identified with’ says Dr.Swathi, HOD – Psychology, Osmania University. According to her, teenagers who spend a lot of time in social media maybe be using it for a multitude of reasons and not necessarily for their increased sense of expression of narcissism.
The tide of narcissism is visible in countries with high developmental index. According to a recent study the Narcissistic personality disorder of this generation has spiked up by about 60% when compared with the 80’s. The idea of narcissism slowly sweeps into our culture as art, memes and trolls. The idea of providing content that visually enthralls is at the core of it. Alternate subcultures that have developed out of trolls and memes shows the increased sense of narcissism in the society.
A pretty successful artist named Pablo Picasso once said to one of his friends: “God is really
an artist, like me… I am God, I am God, I am God.”
‘The line of divide between narcissism and self – expression is very vague and particularly ambiguous in the case of artists who work out of Facebook and other social media platforms’ says Jawed Akthar, journalist and curator of the Facebook group – Coffee Table Romanticisms, where artists of all media forms share and promote their content. Jawed who has been using Facebook for around 10 years developed the concept of micro- narratives in his Facebook, in which he uses portraits of women to go along with short narratives and texts from literary classics. His new age form of art has a huge taking and he believes that woman are ready to feature in his narratives because they feel that they are given a bigger platform for appreciation and expression.
Poet and publisher of Undergroundbooks – James Browning Kepple also believes ‘Artists are narcissists, but for most of them it is about self – expression’.
The line of divide between art and narcissism is very contextual and with the integration of new social media platforms and apps into our life, the line becomes more and more vague.