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.
… Indicated by five or more of the following:
- 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.
- Requires excessive reassurance that there are ‘real’ people behind the avatars of others.
- Has a tendency to spend large amounts of time in online ‘research’ seeking diagnoses for romantic partners, family members and sometimes complete strangers.
- Is preoccupied with fantasies of ‘irl’ relationships and opposes them to meaningful virtual forms of relating.
- 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.
- Has a grandiose sense of empathy (eg., exaggerates understanding of other people’s motives and feelings beyond quantified empathy brain scan scores.
- Lacks empathy: unusually quick to judge others based on superficial interactions; a tendency to sprint away in the middle of conversations with others.
- Inconsistent cultivation of personal happiness resources at the expense of freelance productivity
- 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.
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.