Narcissist Decoy

A reflection on the practices we use to portray our digital self

Sociologist Durkheim speaks of how the Self, invented in the XX century, is objectified more every day. It paradoxically becomes more self-focused while at the same time it is evermore publicly shared. The archetypical figure of Narcissus, in our era, is no longer satisfied with the lonesome activity of admiring its appearance on the lake`s surface. The contemporary Narcissus is one step ahead: he records his own image from different angles on his phone, chooses the one most favorable, and proceeds to edit and share it in the Baudrillard-like hyper-reality that has become the lake, or social platform, of today. Online actions in general form part of a show in which every actor on stage is trying to maintain a coherent narrative from beginning to end.

Social media both allows people to edit their physical appearance in accordance to the fashion of the day, and in doing so, become an object to be contemplated by others. Thanks to technology, there is now a species of public/private hybrid that blurs out the clear distinction that used to exist between both arenas. For example, if a man writes a message on his friend’s Facebook profile page, he is not only talking to his friend, but either conscious or unconsciously he is also creating content to be experienced by a stadium of witnesses, a type of Goffmanesque theater. As a consequence, online public actions demand more thought, editing and production than offline or private ones require. What’s more, this current means of self-display gives way to new phenomena like the Narcissist Decoy.

Narcissist Decoy refers to the way that people adopt a narcissistic logic to present themselves on social media, but with a twist. Whereas typical Narcissism is bluntly self-oriented, in Narcissist Decoy a phrase or text that has no relation with the selfie is included as a prop or excuse that gives the author social permission to share his self-portrait.

Narcissist Decoy

The added message or quote thus makes the Selfie more attractive and socially acceptable; attention is diverted and the image obtains a more profound meaning, transforming its previous purely narcissistic format.

The author of Narcissistic Decoy content is not to be blamed: narcissistic logic forms part of the social and cybernetic structure that encourages self-exposure using different types of bait. In a world dependent on Likes and interactions, the creation, exposure and cult of a self-image finds different ways of expression. Hyperreality, simulation and spectacle have become the norm. Hence, brands like Coca-Cola and Starbucks have incorporated the Narcissist Decoy into their own online content, linking the selfie equivalent of a product image with inspirational quotes. Sometimes they may seem credible, while others they utterly fail; the same result experienced by individual users.

It would be a mistake to interpret this phenomenon from the standpoint of individual actions, or from moral and stigmatizing ideas. Narcissist Decoy rarely has to do with concrete examples or clinical narcissism or even human stupidity: it exemplifies an entire complex structure driven by constant interaction and mutual encouragement of certain social practices.

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