I’m From the Internet: Part 1 – Online Narcissism
I’ve had an online presence for nearly 17 years now. It’s kind of strange to think that more than half my life has come with a built in Internet connection; a direct line to virtually the entire planet. When I finish writing this blog post and it gets published, it will instantly become available to anybody who wants to view it, on any device, anywhere in the world. Although only a few hundred people visit my site every day, there’s a huge potential audience out there, and billions of devices my words could be displayed on. Effortless.
There are two kinds of people on the Internet: content creators, and consumers of that content. Most of us are both at one time or another. Content could be anything from a status update on your Facebook page with an audience limited to your friends list, or a full-blown video production that anybody in the world can see on YouTube. There aren’t many people who use the Internet who don’t also contribute to it in some way.
Some people share more, some share less. I’ve known people who use the Internet solely for the purpose of consuming content; they shy away from putting any information about themselves anywhere online, they don’t create profiles or upload photos, and any accounts they do sign up for are anonymous. Others are very comfortable sharing stories and experiences, photos and video, art of all types and advice.
So, what makes some people so willing to share with the world? I’ve heard it referred to as online narcissism or attention-seeking behavior, and to some extent, I’d have to agree. Yes, I primarily write this blog for myself and everything is written because I love it, but I wouldn’t make it public if I didn’t want people to see it or read it. Really, in a way we’re all just online narcissists hoping people will pay attention to us. Every video upload, blog post, status update, forum post, photo, website, or profile is the online face of someone yelling “Look at me! Look what I made/said/did/recorded/want/think!”.
I often think of the Internet as being the digital version of real, tangible life. In that sense, I guess posting things online is about as attention-seeking as putting effort into your appearance and then going to a party or a bar. Never posting anything online is the Internet equivalent of never leaving your house; a sort of online agoraphobia. The size of the audience is different, but the concept is the same.
A very diverse spectrum exists; the type of content and how much of it you create determines where you lie. I’ve been creating websites since I was 15, started my first proper blog when I was 18 or 19, and have consistently had at least one blog on the go since then. At over a decade of blogging, I’ve created a lot of content, and maybe that does make me narcissistic, especially when I post like this, which is essentially brain vomit that I hope someone will read. I find my audience somewhat divided. Some think it’s weird that I share so much of my life, while others love it and always want to know more.
I blog because I’ve led an interesting life. I blog because sometimes my posts help people. I blog because I want to be heard and I blog to stay sane. I love getting feedback; those little messages that say “thank you for sharing so I don’t feel so alone”, “Your post helped me with X”, or “Your advice really put things into perspective for me”. It’s nice to reach people through words and it’s great to receive positive attention for something you’re passionate about. It may be self-indulgent and narcissistic to write the way I do… some kind of writer’s masturbation, but as long as I still have things to say, I’ll continue to pour my heart out on this blog to be consumed by anybody who is interested in it.