How Narcissism and Selfies Lead to Addiction and Suicide

Criticism about Facebook’s presence and business practices may have taken a toll on its user base. As of earlier this year, the site carries more than 2.1 billion users worldwide. Although the company took a hit, both on stock value and public perception, there remains a loyal following. Because people have grown to love the concept of having just that – a following. But there are feel-goods and dangers that go with this territory. And on social media, followers equate to territory. But they equate to much more and it’s based on the meaning we place on followers and their responses to our world (content). Do selfies lead to addiction?

Loving Social Media to Death

A common phenomenon in our territory is in consistent placement of selfies. Not everyone does it, especially at the rate of the obsessive users who can’t get enough of promoting themselves to anyone willing to take a moment of their time to look and hopefully ‘like’. While this may not seem like a big deal, statistics dictate otherwise. Just ask a parent of a child who had no following. Or worse, the young adults who had followers of a different kind, bullies that tormented them to death. Literally.

Facebook isn’t for the faint of heart, though Founder Mark Zuckerberg would have you think otherwise. Victims of social media gone bad don’t just exist in North America, they’re across the globe. Some of the most horrific cases involve younger people who don’t understand the importance of privacy, affecting both the abuser and the abused.

Choosing Suicide Over Cyberbullying

After years of berating on Facebook by a group of teens from his middle school in the UK, Felix Alexander decided ‘no more’. Plagued by verbal stabs from students, some suggesting the he ‘hang himself’, Felix switched schools and seemed to fare better. For a time. The cyberattacks began after his peers discovered that he didn’t own a specific video game in the Call of Duty series. It escalated from there to a point that was unbearable. One morning he never showed up at school. He decided to walk in front of an oncoming train instead.

You might be asking yourself, “Why didn’t he just get off social media? Why didn’t he just stop looking at the posts?” The crux of this story.

Many people just can’t get off Facebook, because they’re addicted to it.

Selfies Lead to Addiction and Indicate Narcissism

selfies lead to suicide

Sounds dramatic? Maybe. But research conducted in Germany indicates that serious mental health issues can arise from Facebook use. In addition, findings show a correlation between selfie obsession and narcissism.

Julia Brailovskaia of Ruhr University Bochum authored the study which is part of a larger mental health program in Germany. Researchers monitored the Facebook use of 179 students for a one-year period in hopes of uncovering more details in how Facebook Addiction Disorder “FAD” impacts people over time. It turns out that people with FAD exhibit some similar personality and mental health characteristics.

To measure participants, the Bergen Facebook Addiction Scale was used to capture levels of compulsivity. Overall wellbeing was configured through the assessment of media usage, personal happiness, narcissistic behavior, incidences of anxiety or depression and social support.

FAD Is Likened to Other Addictions

The results of the study show that rates of FAD don’t necessarily increase with Facebook use over time. However, what was of interest is how participants reacted when they could not indulge in their use.

There are withdrawal symptoms attached to FAD. When students were kept from Facebook, they exhibited signs of stress, such as anxiousness, depression and inability to focus.

What Drives the Need to Selfie?

Instant gratification. The need for acceptance. The want for love. The desire for popularity. But there’s a bigger picture behind that quick click on your cellphone and it rests in how human opinion is fueled by others.

Psychologists in France were interested in understanding how people formulate opinions and, when published on social media platforms, change or strengthen them based on other people’s response, support or criticism. Participants would state their thoughts on a specific topic or matter of concern. The more engagements by others received, the responses grew stronger and increased the polarity of opinions. A prime example of this is in how social media not only generated but heightened the division amongst people in the United States over the course of the 2016 Presidential election, continuing to fuel the discord between political party constituents.

The power of a post not only can positively affect one’s day but will adversely shape a person psychologically and emotionally. And for those with FAD, simply turning it off isn’t easy.

Measure Your Own Selfie Risk

Now that you know some of the pitfalls behind selfies and too much time behind a social media screen, here’s a quick checklist to use to find out if you’re at risk for Facebook Addiction Disorder:

Facebook Addiction Disorder Checklist:

  1. Exorbitant amount of time spent on the site taking precedence over other activities.
  2. Exhibits anxiety, depression and engages in discussion about Facebook when deprived of it.
  3. Will minimize or cease communication with others, except through Facebook use.
  4. Dating through the Facebook site or messenger app instead of a real face-to-face in person.
  5. 80% of your Facebook friends are people you’ve never met.
  6. When new in-person introductions are met with a follow-up Facebook friend request.
  7. Possessing multiple Facebook accounts, pages and those on behalf of pets, for example.
  8. Feelings of euphoria from Facebook posts, engagement and responses, even if they are negative.

Addiction to Facebook May Be Warning Sign to Substance Abuse or Predisposition [H3]

Like using any recreational-based product or service, moderation is fine. But, like alcohol or cigarettes, the product manufacturer doesn’t benefit from incidental use. They benefit from personal addiction to it. And Facebook grows stronger through the concept of group behavior, often displaying cult-like traits.

If you feel that your Facebook use is out of control, are there other habits that follow the same pattern in your life? Binge drinking? Marijuana? Adderall? If so, the habit is harmful. But what’s behind the addiction is what needs to be addressed. We can help.

Melanie SternAuthored by Melanie Stern, Content Director for Scottsdale Recovery Center, Arizona Addiction Recovery Centers and Cohn Media, LLC. Writer and broadcaster covering the following industries: addiction rehab, health care, entertainment, technology and advocate of clear communication, positivity and humanity at its best.