Narciphobia

I am a Narciphobe. For me, this is an odd statement to make. In a twist of irony, this blog writing, excessively talkative, politically charged Facebook patron has a fear of narcissists. Go figure.

In her book “The Selfishness of Others” Kristin Dombek dissects the modern condition, Narciphobia: the fear of Narcissists. The problematic kernel that lies at the heart of any society which expresses itself online is a distrust of others. Here in Australia, we have our own particular flavour of distrust: Tall Poppy Syndrome, which cuts straight to the heart of this article.

Naturally, when we interact online, we deprive ourselves of a lot of the stimuli that comes with normal human interaction. We forgo body language for connectivity, we sacrifice politeness for brevity and we trade the ability to physically do something for a type of personal branding: we must tell all what it is we do, rather than be witnessed doing it.

To appropriate Hamlet, thus Facebook makes narcissists of us all. Dombek provides a concise diagnosis of Narciphobia, it naturally incorporates all of the hallmarks of modern human interaction, and contemporary psychology. I tick too many boxes.

Narciphobia

… Indicated by five or more of the following:

  1. Is preoccupied with the idea that he or she is surrounded by people that are trying to manipulate him or her for self-serving purposes.
  2. Requires excessive reassurance that there are ‘real’ people behind the avatars of others.
  3. Has a tendency to spend large amounts of time in online ‘research’ seeking diagnoses for romantic partners, family members and sometimes complete strangers.
  4. Is preoccupied with fantasies of ‘irl’ relationships and opposes them to meaningful virtual forms of relating.
  5. Believes that he or she is ‘special’ and uniquely unselfish and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other people with low selfishness scores.
  6. Has a grandiose sense of empathy (eg., exaggerates understanding of other people’s motives and feelings beyond quantified empathy brain scan scores.
  7. Lacks empathy: unusually quick to judge others based on superficial interactions; a tendency to sprint away in the middle of conversations with others.
  8. Inconsistent cultivation of personal happiness resources at the expense of freelance productivity
  9. Inability to take responsibility for the floods; preoccupied with fantasies that the world is ending because of the selfishness of others.

-Proposed entry for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Sixth Edition (2026)

The flipside to narcissism is hinted at in article 2, the presence of avatars as opposed to corporeal subjects. When one is not physically present, it is easy to hide, and anonymity hangs like a spectre over social media.

The problem is compounded when this new form of communication (social media, do we yet feel this is a natural way to interact?) is used against us; which it consistently is. Recently the Guardian published a report outlining the Russian Government’s mass use of paid online propagandists (‘Troll’ is too tame a label for this), on the other side, members of the right wing community extol themselves for resisting our paid propagandists: the fake news, the false flags.

The problem arises here in the fact that no one can be trusted: the line between who is real and who is fabricated in order to push ideologies becomes increasingly blurred. If I am to be the sample for the population then it is clear that our vision is less than 20/20 in this regard.

I find myself betraying my values, when did I become a narc? In the last few months, I’ve reported exactly 11 profiles to Facebook’s admin team as fake accounts, I’ve suspected multitudes more that I have come across to be fake yet Facebook has confirmed none of these. Is it really my job to be policing my fellow humans? Or am I right in believing they’re fabricated?. A paranoia has taken me online, and it becomes more claustrophobic every day.

Undoubtedly I’m not the only one here, Narciphobes from all over the political spectrum voice their concerns. There is now a cloud that impairs the judgement of all online citizens, and one must be highly critical of all they encounter.

 

real
John Griifit you can’t be a real person.

Psychologically this is affecting many adults, we rise, we work, we go home, cook dinner, watch tv, sleep and repeat. Facebook is a small distraction that allows us to escape for a moment from the monotony of it all. Factor in the fact that too many of us work too often and sleep too little then you have a tired, apathetic and docile population that is constantly encountering fraudsters hocking opinions from fake profiles.

 

You can laugh at the image of me anxiously biting my nails as I panic over unknown digital marauders prodding us from every vulnerable angle but think for a second about the generation who now enter their teen years in a world where addictive social media is ubiquitous and anyone can spring from the woodwork with paid propaganda.

Indeed, addictive is the right word to use. Neuroscience confirms the dopamine rush that is hypothesised to hook us to our phones. We wait patiently for notifications, news, anything; and when they arrive we produce a chemical shot of joy that gets us every time. The same principle lies behind Australia’s grotesque addiction to Poker Machines: in the Sydney city council of Fairfield, $8.27 billion was slotted in 2015 alone.

Our children are growing up, without restrictions to social media. They will be the first generation of humans to ever grow up witnessing humanities full potential to be cruel, disgusting and egotistical.

They will be raised in an online environment where apathy and cynicism gain one popularity as we all rail against the narcissists we cannot know are real. We will hand rear each child to see them become dissociative and cold in an age of narciphobia. And they, an entire generation will develop a keen distrust of everyone from the very first years of their life.

Rather grim, no?

I sit here, staring at the profile of Monty B Moriarty, he doesn’t believe in Climate Change and wants all to know about it. He can’t be real, can he? My nails are down to the quick now, and I don’t even want to know anymore. I need to go camping or something. Fuck.

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The Benefits of Inclusion: Please Explain

The papers read bloodshed for Pauline Hanson when she stated in the Senate debates over education reform that autistic children should be removed from mainstream classes. Her argument was utilitarian, and regardless how people felt about the issue, it seemed to stem from a desire for positive change. She gave a crude but simple argument: boost the potential of the many by removing the disruptors. It’s important for us as a society to discuss the argument and its many failures, as our support or dismissal of Autism as a social issue has a direct impact on people’s lives.

What we know now as the Autism Spectrum is the product of centuries of misunderstanding of symptoms, as is most of psychiatry. What was once known as a debilitating condition, is now beginning to be understood in more nuanced terms by the average person. The spectrum includes many more than those who appear autistic, including many of us who display mild autistic behaviourisms. Indeed you fall somewhere on the spectrum, even if you are practically neurotypical (showing regular brain activity patterns, without the delay or interference created by Autism).

The three most important characteristics of the Autism Spectrum are a difficulty in social interaction, social communication and social imagination (a fleshed out chart of these symptoms can be accessed here ). Undoubtedly you’ve experienced some of these difficulties at times, and they manifest themselves in a myriad of ways, making autism very difficult to categorise and track, the spectrum serves its purpose here.

In the 1930’s and 40’s, an Austrian Paediatrician named Hans Asperger studied atypical, rule-obsessed, intelligent children. Many years later in 1981, Lorna Wing, a pioneer in Autism research revisited these studies and coined the term “Asperger’s syndrome”. This was an instance in which the topic of autism was released to the public in a digestible, categorised manner. It neatly explained the symptoms and opened up a discussion about autism.

In 1994 the American Psychiatric Association officially classified Asperger’s Syndrome as a diagnosable disorder, yet in 2013 was cut from Psychiatric practice. Asperger’s Syndrome is no longer an official disorder. The difference between what was formerly known as Asperger’s and what is socially perceived as Autism lies only in the severity of the symptoms a person displays. We know this now, but if it weren’t for the temporary misunderstanding of mild autism as Aspergers Syndrome, we wouldn’t have had the stepping stone it provided to reach our current understanding of the disorder.

The history, indeed, the continuing narrative of Autism research is simply the narrative of a revealing of the natural functions and mutations that occur in our environment. In the same way, one understands physics as an unfinished puzzle, one should consider psychology in a similar manner. We did not (and may very well still not) fully understand Autism just as we may be currently misinterpreting a multitude of mental afflictions.

So now the question is raised regarding Autistic children and their involvement in class. Senator Hanson’s argument subordinates the rights of the disabled, to the rights of the fully able in order to gain a greater outcome for a majority. It would be a tragedy for this to be enacted, for the rights of both parties are not mutually exclusive, and if we go into the details, we find that respectfully including children on the spectrum into mainstream classrooms offers society more than Hanson’s first glance suggests.

Firstly, an enquiry on minimising harm to children with autism. Much of the research suggests that children with autism are highly malleable in their infantile and pre-adolescent stages of development. Each stimulus they receive affects them as they grow; which is the same for neurotypical children, but the effects here, in conjunction with the disorders mental strain upon the child result in compounding effects.

Aspect (A research and advisory branch of Autism Spectrum Australia) shows that health issues in autistic children, physiological or neurological remain for a very long time. The oldest studies, when revisited with updated health records, show that these conditions, such as Anxiety, Depression, Sleeping Disorders and Obsessive Compulsive Disorders can still recur up to 25 years later (and maybe for longer, we have no way of knowing until we can revisit the tests later on).

Furthermore, in more severe cases, there is a disconnect with the child and the outside world, a bridge that needs to be attempted to gap. Autistic children often rely on their parents as visual and auditory translators, and this need for translation continues in the developmental stage. Humans need communication to be understood, being deprived of that is an agonising experience. The abilities of the child cannot be assumed though, and must constantly be pushed and tested. Some research in the field shows that parents, well within their rights, withhold the discussion of topics and exposure to ideas like sexuality, privacy, and relationships; cornerstones of the human experience. Parents should be empowered to feel it appropriate to discuss this with their children, and within reason, challenge their children with these complex topics to at best prepare them for the world that awaits them, and at the very least attempt to break ground in understanding more complex ideas and forming social understandings.

The spectrum yields mysteries still. We have no idea how autistic children process experiences like pain or joy. Often, severely impaired children are unable to communicate their sensations, and provide details like the degree of pain which they are experiencing, and if they’ve ever felt this way before. Some studies show that certain children are extremely sensitive to pain, and display unusual responses to pain; Aspect reported that some children “may be experiencing a physiological pain similar to neuropathic pain associated with immune or inflammatory responses”.

The positive news is that therapy and personal development yield excellent, durable results for children with autism. As the disorder amplifies the developmental changes children experience, it has been shown that early intervention can have long term benefits. Studies situated in preschools have shown that autistic children that attended weekly therapy in their mainstream preschools over the course of the year developed significantly positive results that were still seen six years later.

The current discourse in Australia regarding the schooling of autistic children follows these studies and recommends to parents the appropriate solutions. Because the spectrum defies classification, each case is treated individually, the severity of the case, the symptoms and their level of disruptiveness are weighed, and the appropriate provisions for the child are discussed.

The Australian Advisory Boards on Autism Spectrum Disorders follows eight core principles (They can be viewed here ) these principles are based on the right for every parent to decide what they believe their children need. Should they be denied that right?

At iitscore, the inclusion of children into mainstream schooling is an act of sacrifice so that we may mutually flourish. Exposing neurotypical children to peers with impairment teaches patience and tolerance, cooperation, custodianship and mutual aid. These are the wonderful traits we love to teach children, and we mourn their loss when we see how cruel the process of growing up can make us become.

Autism is more than a disorder; it is a democratic issue as well. The lives people with autism lead is contingent on what the public know about it and how it is perceived. Which makes Senator Hanson’s claims, and their fallibility, very important.

Perhaps Senator Hanson’s comments were simply an ill informed mistake, albeit one amongst many in such a case. But for the public to support her rhetoric is a shame upon Australia, we are at an opportune moment where the forum is open for all to learn about the Autism Spectrum and its effects on our society. Ultimately we are the ones who empower the government to allocate resources to enrich our children’s future. In the case of Autism, we can document centuries of what is now considered cruelty and malpractice due to past misunderstandings. We owe it to our future generations that we learn from this and begin to take a more nuanced approach in interacting with our fellow humans and our children.