Social media and narcissism

Monday, June 22, 2015

It seems there is more armchair diagnosing of narcissism and calling people “narcissists” than ever before and social media is often the trigger of it and takes the blame. Narcissistic Personality Disorder is defined by the symptoms of behaviours of grandiosity and lack of self-awareness, an abnormal need for admiration, and often a lack of empathy toward others. While even a cursory look at one’s social media feed will show posts which seem to promote (and perhaps exaggerate) achievements and certainly the visual aspects of social media are preoccupied with appearance, beauty, status and success. While celebrity news and popular culture has for some time been permeated with these characteristics, this last decade has offered celebrity in the suburbs where everyone on YouTube can “broadcast yourself”, personal websites and blogs are de jure, and to exist without social media is seemingly to not exist at all.

Almost two and a half millennia ago Socrates wrote that “to do is to be” while now it seems that “to tweet is to be”. Such is the popularity of such communication platforms, if social media sites were countries, Facebook would be the world’s largest country with more active accounts than there are people in China. Twitter would rank 4th with twice the “population” of the USA and Instagram would round out the Top 10. While the speed of adoption of these communication platforms has been unprecedented- all of this occurring in less than a decade, the reasons for the take-up are varied. Certainly much social media activity is push-communication, with users wanting to publicise their latest activities and status, for many social media use is a genuine attempt to connect, to engage and to listen. However our latest research shows this latter group comprises just 1 in 5 social media users: the contributors who participate via social media as in any community- to share and participate, speak and listen, connect and contribute. Such are these times that the larger proportion of social media users- almost 4 in 5 are consumers, who largely use social media as an update channel to see what others are up to, and when posting something themselves, it is more broadcast and generic than personal and connective.

Most behavioural experts agree that narcissism is a condition not of biology but society- it is the social context not the genetic factors that are causal. In a world of always-connected, app-ready, mobile device saturated living, where every phone is a camera and we are ever just a few clicks away from posting our next contribution it is clear that social media has created an environment conducive to the growth of narcissism. However the apparent rise of narcissism may be more a factor of social media highlighting its existence and narcissistic-type behaviours rather than of itself creating more narcissism. Indeed some of the negative press social media receives is unwarranted. Selfies are given as the ultimate sign of narcissistic times, and combined with today’s must-have item- the selfie stick, an indicator of self-obsession. However most selfies are more “groupies” – not photos of oneself by oneself, but of a group and sent to other friends. Many (though not all) selfies are more about sharing a life journey rather than an unashamed exercise in self-promotion. So too the “status update”, the Instagram account and the personal blog: while such musing and sharing in our grandparents era was kept to a personal journal or limited to a family photo album, the current approach is definitely more public but most of it is a long way from fitting the pure definition of narcissistic grandiosity and an overwhelming need for admiration. In fact the Australian characteristics of keeping things “fair dinkum” and “not blowing your own trumpet” are still part of the local approach. The tall poppy syndrome remains a powerful social norm to ensure that no one gets “too big for his boots” or is “putting on airs”. The Australian values of community mindedness and looking out for each other ensure that empathy remains strong and narcissism is kept at bay- even this great screen age.

Staying grounded in a world of busy

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Is being busy really such a bad thing?

Being busy can be great if we are staying motivated, reaching our goals, making a difference, and fulfilling varied roles – whether as a parent, in our vocation or in other areas of life.

Busyness not equal to productivity:

However in our 21st century we have somehow created a virtue of busyness – that by being busy it must mean we are successful. Yet busyness is an ineffective measure of our productivity, impact or success. Busyness is completely decoupled from sustainable achievement and effectiveness. In our digital era where we are always connected and “on”, we can get so caught up in being busy that we miss the important things in life – such as giving attention and focus to the relationships around us or progressing towards important goals.

We have not only filled the big blocks in our life with technology but also the smaller spaces – those times in our day which used to be built into our lives for reflection and pondering are now crammed out with checking emails, watching YouTube videos or playing apps like Candy Crush. This leads to a feeling of being constantly connected and constantly switched on.

Technology enabling efficiencies:

What technology enables us to do is extraordinary. What used to take hours can take just moments and it can certainly provide far more connections, increase accessibility and enable great efficiencies. Technology is facilitating an ease of lifestyle – from GPS navigation to checking into flights from your mobile and from being able to access your calendar and avoid double bookings to being able to access documents stored in the cloud from any location, the shortcuts provided to us are ever-growing.

Technology creating complexities:

But whilst providing many solutions to simplify our lives, it has also created greater complexities. Technology creates far more volumes of work to respond to and new platforms are always evolving – from emails to texts, instant messaging and social media platforms, it can seem impossible to keep up with them all at times. Technology by its nature is interruptive. It has created a mindset of immediacy and instant response, cutting through what used to be a structured day.

There is growing immediacy in the expectation that others have in getting a response to their emails within minutes and hours rather than days. Communication has become reactionary and we are living in an era of expectation inflation where we are expected to respond to everything, even though there are no limits on the number of emails or instant messages we receive. This can put pressure on us to try to get back to others all the time – and never feel like we are on top of it – leading to feelings of being overwhelmed.

Technology as a tool:

We need to remember to treat technology as a tool that can serve us, rather than a tool that we serve. When our connection to technology begins to have a negative effect on our mental health through stress, on our physical health through fatigue and lack of sleep, and on our relational health where we become short and snappy with colleagues or family and friends, we need to take a step back from it and recalibrate to prioritise what we really value in life.

By its nature, technology will interrupt. It will try to grab our attention through texts, push notifications, and the addiction we can have to constantly being wired. We need to realise that constantly being connected and busy doesn't equate with being effective or successful. For creativity to flow we need time and space so that we can lead and manage from a strategic perspective. Having self-discipline to disconnect from technology at different points in our day and in our week can help us keep a sustainable pace.

There will always be more emails, more tweets and more texts. The challenge is learning to be present in the moment – giving our attention to friends and family over a meal rather than to our smartphones – and reminding ourselves that technology is a tool rather than a direction setter and something that we can learn to place parameters around.

Read the latest article, "Being busy is good, but being less busy can be better" featuring Claire Madden in the SMH by clicking the image below:

Find out more

Winter Waggers: Peak season to call in sick [in the media]

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Every work day 300,000 Aussie workers will take a ‘sickie,’ with 1 in 20 full-time employees in Australia off sick. While chucking a sickie has become a solid tradition for many, whether to extend a long weekend or simply because employees don’t feel up to a day at work, these absences are costing Australian businesses 100 million dollars per day.

Gone are the days when workers proudly boasted of never having taken a sick day in their working life, with ‘doona days’ now seen to be a right claimed by most Australians.

Social researcher Mark McCrindle explores worker absenteeism on Channel 7’s Morning Show and discusses whether work sick day policies are in need of an overhaul or if indeed staying home when feeling slightly unwell may actually be better for everyone. Although sick days lead to 28 billion dollars of lost productivity, coming to work sick may cause far more harm to colleagues and an exponential loss to team productivity.

Mark McCrindle states, “Worse than chucking a sickie when it’s not legitimate is turning up to work when a sick day would be warranted. Particularly in this era of the open plan office with hot-desking, people are moving and sharing a lot more and there’s more interaction than we used to have. You’ve also got the air conditioning which can spread illness amongst the whole team more quickly than in the past”.

Gen Ys are leading the ‘sickie’ charge. “You do find that with the younger generation, they are taking more sick leave then you would expect young people to have,” Mark explains. The perception of a stoic older generation rings true in regards to sick days. “If you look at the general population, older people have the highest sickness incidents and younger people are healthier, but in the workplace it’s the opposite actually. And younger people are taking more sick days than you would expect. Partly that’s because they’re “chucking a sickie.”

Watch the latest segment and let us know what you think – should Aussies just ‘suck it up’ and go to work or be on the cautious side of things and take that ‘sickie’?

Aussies Demonstrate the Power of Good

Friday, July 25, 2014

On the nightly news we often hear stories of random, opportunistic crime perpetrated against strangers, but rarely do we hear stories of generosity and altruism from strangers. 

In an age which seems to be marked by “acts of senseless violence”, fed to us by the media on a daily basis, an act of random kindness from a stranger or someone not well known to us is heart warming – and perhaps astonishing. There are, however, numerous examples of acts of kindness that are happening around us every day, but which never come to light.

A fair go, mateship, giving a hand are values that define our national character. When disaster strikes, Aussies are among the first to lend a helping hand.

Mark McCrindle discusses how Australians show the power of good on The Morning Show – that when adversity strikes, whether in the form of bushfires, floods, typhoons, tsunamis, other natural disasters or international conflict, Aussies are front footed in helping out and making a difference.


The Power of Good by Mark McCrindle



Mark McCrindle's book The Power of Good: True stories of great kindness from total strangers highlights just some of the many stories of the power of random acts of kindness, with stories shared from both prominent and ordinary Australians.

To buy the book, download a free chapter or find out more, click here.



Working hours, population boost, good manners, social trends in marriage and divorce [MEDIA]

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Here are some of our latest media activities. For a more comprehensive look at McCrindle Research in the media, click here to go to our Media page.



 Extra hours don't lead to promotion

Social commentator Mark McCrindle said the shrinking importance of time in the office is a sign of the flexibility and teleworking opportunities that exist today.

"From Skyping and phone conferences, to emailing on smartphones and working across multiple locations, changing work hours to cut down on travel time, or just general work/life balance expectations - we've seen a big shift in what leaders expect," he said.
Click here for the story.


Australian population jumps by 1028 a day

Social commentator Mark McCrindle said the population was growing by 1028 people a day, so the 23-million mark would be reached about Anzac Day (April 25).
"When looking at who the 23 millionth person might be, it is more likely it could be a migrant than even a baby," he said.
Click here for the story.


Are good manners dead?

Researcher Mark McCrindle said it wasn’t a case of traditional manners simply disappearing, but rather them being replaced by new social rules.
"Manners are not set in concrete, we don't operate like they did in 19th century England,'' he said.
Click here for the story.


Louise Simpson celebrates divorce

Social researcher Mark McCrindle said the trend towards celebrating divorce reflected a wider change in attitude. "People are thinking, 'rather than be the victim of a situation, I'll embrace it'. And where there's a function, there will be products to match it...
Click here for the story.

Losing It: Aussie Etiquette on the Wane

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Hand shake | Etiquette | McCrindle BlogWhen talking to Australia’s Builder Generation – those born before WWII, whether it be our parents or grandparents – we are often reminded of social practices and traditions all too common in the 1920s, 30s, and 40s but virtually unheard of today. Similarly, social practices vigorously followed by the Boomers and Gen X are slowly on the wane. National research recently conducted by McCrindle Research shows that there are a significant number of social practices and traditions regarding etiquette, work, life, and family that are diminishing and slowly disappearing from the Aussie way of life.

Top 10 diminishing etiquettes + soicial traditions


Etiquette on the Decline


Pressures in the workplace, relationships and family life have inevitably left us time-poor and frazzled, with etiquette ranking very low on the list of priorities. 9 in 10 Australians (89%) believe that motioning a stranger to pass by using the phrase, “After you,” is a practice that has diminished in Australia. Men walking on the footpath next to the gutter as a gesture to protect women from traffic has also diminished, according to 85% of Australians. Similarly, 8 out of 10 Australians (78%) believe that pushing one’s chair in after getting up from the desk – as a sign to those who might pass – has decreased.

Mannerisms around mealtimes are on the wane. 88% of Australians report that it has become more commonplace to eat meals while standing or walking, rather than sitting. Australians report a decline in table manners such as waiting to eat when the host or hostess gestures and clearing the table after everyone has finished eating. It is also becoming more commonplace to eat while watching television, picking up a smartphone, or browsing the internet.

Qualitative findings indicate the following etiquettes are diminishing in Australian society:

  • Holding a door or lift open and opening doors for women
  • Saying please and thank you
  • Saying hello or acknowledging people
  • Giving our full attention to others while they are talking
  • Giving up seats for the elderly and those in greater need
  • Being respectful to elderly persons
  • Not swearing in public
  • Men showing respect to women
  • Cleaning up after oneself
  • Driving courteously and giving way to other drivers

Work Pressures and Diminishing Social Practices


Time pressures around work seem to be increasing in Australia, with social practices surrounding break times and working hours shifting. 75% of Australians believe that the practice of designating at least 30 minutes towards a lunch break is diminishing. Similarly, the practice of assigning several hours on a Friday afternoon to attend an executive lunch is thought to be declining by 68% of Australians.


A number of Australians spoke loudly about the shift taking place in Australian workplaces:

“I'm noticing that there's less friendship overall in the workplace – everyone is too frantically busy.” “[There is an] expectation of employers that you will skip lunch and work late without acknowledgement or compensation.” “It would be great to allow people to have morning and afternoon tea breaks, having an hour lunch break.” “[I would like a return to] working the hours that you are paid for. There is now a lot of unpaid work for companies that cannot afford to pay their staff.”

Life and Technology


Technology is a primary agent of change when it comes to etiquette. Sitting amongst friends or colleagues without interruptions from our mobile phones is becoming unheard of. The compelling need to text, call others, or browse the web for the latest titbit of news is becoming the norm.

As smartphones become the primary means of communication, we are seeing a decrease in the number of hand-written cards and a replacement of this form of communication by email, SMS, social media, or e-cards. 93% of Australians would agree that receiving or sending a hand-written card is diminishing, and 92% say that the practice of sending a written RSVP to communicate attendance to an event has diminished.

Australians state that sending thank-you cards for gifts has diminished, as well as making direct contact to meet up. One only needs to look at a Facebook event invite to see that RSVPing amongst younger generations seems to be a social norm that is on decline or left until the last minute.


Family and Community Life


Traditions around family and community life are on decline in Australia. 9 in 10 (91%) Australians say that the practice of eating breakfast around the dinner table with family has diminished. Following closely, Australians feel that the practice of eating dinner together with family most nights of the week and sharing in the business of the day with one another is decreasing (87%).

As a nation, we are seeing a decrease in the sanctity of Sunday as a family day, with weekends filling up with sporting commitments and shopping. It is no longer as common for families to participate in events together on weekends – instead, family members seem go their own way. There is also a decrease in time spent with extended family. The practice of travelling with others to outings is decreasing, as more Australians are opting to meet the gathering’s location instead of travelling there together. 91% of Australians report that playing sport in the street with family, friends, and neighbours has diminished, with 51% of Australians saying this has diminished significantly.

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