Obsessed with ourselves

Ashley Twist is the mobile innovation strategist at Engauge, an Atlanta digital marketing agency.

Numerous studies over the years have shown that the alienating nature of the Internet — Facebook and social media in particular — is making us lonely and depressed. Our sense of happiness and social connectedness is directly related to how often we use the Internet.

Yet despite how terrible we feel about ourselves after scrolling through everyone’s weekend pictures, we still post updates, pictures and videos of ourselves. We see what others are doing — sharing, posting, tweeting — and we feel compelled to put our best life forward, too. Our social media culture has become less about sharing content to create connected experiences and more about vanity. We’re becoming digital narcissists, obsessed with ourselves and what others think of us.

Count the number of “selfies” (a picture someone takes of themselves with a cell phone camera) on your newsfeed right now, and you’re likely to agree that social media has become the primary outlet for narcissistic behavior. We’re all playing a bizarre game to see who can get the most attention on the Internet.

During a recent conversation with friends, we went around the circle comparing whose Instagram pictures received the most “likes.” It became a contest for attention, and the rest of the night, we posted pictures with the key objective to rack up likes and comments.

Perhaps this egocentricity all started with the trend of the quantified self, the movement to incorporate technology into data acquisition on aspects of a person’s daily life in terms of measurement and performance. Thanks to apps that count calories and products like Nike Fuelband, a person has the ability to track seemingly everything in one’s life, which can make it easy to become self-centered. More self-knowledge becomes more self-absorption, which then becomes more self-serving social behavior.

There has been a clear behavioral shift from sharing experiences to sharing egocentric content, but how does this affect the future of social media and how we relate to each other?

As I see more acquaintances in my network share attention-seeking posts of no real value, I can’t help but wonder if this behavior is the initial step in the downfall of communication. There’s no filter on what people put out there for anyone and everyone to see; what happened to privacy, humility and dignity?

My respective social feeds have become filled with countless posts of bragging, irrelevant statements (“I just sneezed!”) and over-filtered pictures of the latest event attended. I can only hope that we’re still in the (long) honeymoon stage with social media, and that as it continues to become more ingrained in our society, we will share only content of real value, in an effort to connect with people.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I can handle one more selfie.