ANALYSIS ON THE CHARACTERISTICS AND FEATURES OF FACEBOOK THAT PROMOTES NARCISSISM ON THE FILIPINO YOUTH THESIS STATEMENT: Although social networking sites open different opportunities for the users to socialize effectively, communicate faster and relatively cheap, and gatherinformation, the medium of communication promotes psychological incapacities, specifically narcissism.
With 93.3% of the nation signed up in Facebook in 2011, Philippines was named as the “Social Networking Capital of the World” (Russel, 2011). Filipinos, as citizens of the country, are proud of this achievement, but everything has consequences. Although Social Networking Sites (SNS), like Facebook, open different opportunities for the users to socialize effectively, gather information, and communicate faster and in relatively cheap venues, the medium of communication promotes psychological incapacities, specifically narcissism.
A narcissist view himself/herself in a positive but unrealistic self-concept. It also results in lack of interest in forming relationships, and a commitment in regulating one’s self to ensure a positive view (Campbell & Foster, 2007). Narcissists tend to live with this style of life which is a result of wanting to be safe by living all by themselves, and to develop high self-esteem. Every SNS has its unique features that attract users. These features contribute to the increasing number of adolescents and young adult narcissists in the Philippines. Some SNSs have technical and functional features that allow the user to show his list of “friends”. Most SNSs require users to have a profile picture. Other SNSs have a feature that focuses on “about me” of the user, some let the users tag photos, post photos and create status posts and updates. (Boyd & Ellison; Davenport, Bergman, Bergman, and Fearrington)
SNS as web-based service allow individuals to construct a public or semi-public profile within a bounded system, articulate a list of other users with whom they share a connection, and view and traverse their list of connections and those made by others within the system. The nature and nomenclature of these connections may vary from site to site (Boyd & Ellison, 2007).
In 1997 the first SNS, SixDegrees.com, was created and introduced to the public. SixDegrees.com created a feature that allows the user to communicate with “friends” by helping the user to connect and send messages.(Due to the increasing number of users, the website was shut down in 2002 because it failed to generate income for its maintenance (Boyd & Ellison). Since then, hundreds of SNS were created, and Facebook is one of them.
Despite being called as “social networks”, user activity on networking sites is focused on the self (Gentile, 2007). Gentile (2007) found out in her study that people present themselves in SNSs in a socially and desirable, but not realistic idealized self-view.
History of Facebook
Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook in 2004 as a local social networking site for Harvard students; it was first named as “My Facebook” (The Social Network, 2010). Before signing in into the website, students need to have a harvard.edu email address. This requirement was a key to keep Facebook a private community.
In 2005, when Mark Zuckerberg and his team started expanding “My Facebook” to nearby universities, high school, corporations, and eventually to everyone, they changed its name to “Facebook” and removed the initial requirement in signing up but changed it to a valid email. Facebook adapted SixDegrees.com’s unique feature of messaging, and like SixDegrees.com, the feature (messaging) and other new features (e.g. profile picture, microblogging, photo sharing, wall post, applications and etc.) attracted millions of users.
Based on a model created by Ashwini Nadkarni and Stefan G. Hofmann in their research titled “Why do people use Facebook?”, Nadkarni and Hofmann discovered that people use Facebook for two primary needs: first is to satisfy their need to belong, and second, to satisfy their need for self-presentation.
Baumeister & Leary (1995) said that humans are highly dependent on social support, and exclusion from a social group may have negative effects to one’s self-esteem. Humans also cannot live without social interaction (Sullivan, 1957). These findings explain the first need of an individual why he/she uses Facebook; the need to belong. The second need of an individual for using Facebook, the need for self presentation, is motivated by the “continuous process of impression management” as stated by Nadkarni and Hofmann.
Why Facebook and Youth?
The research is focused on Facebook because it has over 1.1 billion users worldwide, almost 16% of the world’s population. With this number of FB users worldwide, Facebook is considered as the most popular SNS in the whole world. In 2011, a research used Facebook usage as a measurement to determine the world’s capital for social networking. Researchers concluded that Philippines has the highest percentage of SNSs users with 93.6%. Since almost 95% of the Filipinos use Facebook, it is the most effective SNS to use in this research paper. Another thing is that, 83% of Facebook users are young adults. Youth presents themselves online with different aspects of life, such as their real self, ideal self, and false self. With this modern world, they can present themselves using different medium, especially Facebook since most of its users are young adults. The Needs of a Narcissist and his/her way to compensate for it through Facebook.
Narcissists regulate their self-presentation to ensure positive self-view, they also tend to lack in interest to form relationship. Unique feature and characteristic on Facebook is perfect to aid these traits of a narcissist.
The unique features of Facebook are mostly technical features (e.g. applications, photo, news feed, friend list, poke, status, video, group, chat, and like), some of these unique technical features satisfy the needs of a narcissist for exhibition/self-presentation (e.g. friend list, status, photo and video). Another feature of Facebook is its unique way of adding friends. Narcissists are afraid of forming strong bonds; they are attracted to Facebook because they can create relationship with loose or “weak ties”.
A person with high personal preference for exhibitionism/self-presentation feels free to take the center of the stage and to attract attention (Bulatao, et. al.). Exhibitionism is defined as calling an attention to oneself and leaving an impression (Hall. et. al.). SNSs, like Facebook, allow users to control their self-presentation. This unique characteristic attracts narcissist because they will have more opportunity to alter their appearance and personality in online SNSs than in face-to-face interaction. Given that users of SNSs have almost full control over information disclosure, they can be more strategic in managing self-presentation.
Profile picture is the most important aspect or part of self-presentation because they represent the individual in most of his online actions and activity. To affirm their positive but unrealistic, idealized and inflated self-view, narcissists tend to make their profile pictures more attractive and self-promoting. They choose profile pictures where they look more physically attractive; they also edit and refine their photos to hide their flaws.
In a research done by Laura E. Buffardi and W. Keith Campbell, they found out that narcissists post in their “about me” section and status updates are mostly self-promoting. They do this by posting less entertaining but much more intelligent quotes.
In the same research, they also found out that narcissists’ photos are more attractive that those of the nonnarcissist. They also post photos in which they look more attractive and self promoting.
Narcissists are also afraid of creating strong bonds. The unique “Friend list” of Facebook creates “weak ties” since the friendship of the two individuals in Facebook is imaginary. It means that some of a narcissist’s friends may be friends in real life, but other, most likely most of the FB friends, relationship or bond is only on the online entity, or simply imaginary.
In the same research by Buffardi and Campbell, they found out that narcissist have more Facebook friends than nonnracissistic individuals. Narcissists seek attention and approval, they do this to gain or maintain their self-esteem. In this world where SNSs dominate the lives of most people, especially the youth, it is not surprising to observe that narcissist fulfill their needs through SNSs, particularly Facebook.
Social Networking Sites, like Facebook, help people in many ways especially in communicating, but it also have consequences like promoting narcissism. Facebook promotes narcissism because its unique feature and characteristic stated in the body of this paper (e.g. SNSs’ giving the users almost full control over information disclosure, and Facebook’s unique “Friend list” that create “weak ties” which a narcissist seeks) aid their needs for exhibition/self-presentation and formulating connection of weak ties to boost their self-esteem. This unique characteristic and feature of Facebook promotes narcissism of the Filipino youth.
This paper only focuses on the Filipino youth. The findings in this research paper may not be plausible to other sectors. This may affect by the culture, etnicity, age, gender, and other external and internal factors.
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