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Social Media, Mental Health and Pole Part 2

By on July 7, 2017

Woman taking selfie while boyfriend is kissing her. From Google

Our current culture tosses around the term narcissist flippantly, pointing out self-absorbed or selfish behaviors and then quickly labeling them as narcissistic. With the rise of social media we are frequently barraged by a deplorable amount of Instagram selfies, Facebook statuses and pole videos. There needs to be further exploration into what is healthy behavior on social media and what is not. This is particularly important for pole, which has both grown and thrived as a community in part thanks to social media.

We all have those  Facebook friends who are constantly posting selfies and videos or informing the world what they are doing by checking in … all the time. This brings up the question of what is healthy posting for pole. And it also forces us to look at whether or not pole has a problem with attracting and hiding narcissistic users on social media.  To continue our previous discussion on mental health, pole and social media, it’s more than past time to begin examining narcissistic posting behaviors on social media.

What is NPD?

Image from Google

The word narcissism comes from the Greek mythological figure Narcissus, who upon seeing his own reflection in a pond, fell obsessively in love with himself and his own image. Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is a real diagnosis used by mental health clinicians. It’s officially in the gold standard of psychiatric medicine: the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM), now in its fifth edition.  NPD involves a person who has the following characteristics: a grandiose sense of self-importance, preoccupation with fantasies of wealth, success, beauty and/or fame, belief that they are “special” and should associate with high-status people, a demand for excessive attention, a sense of entitlement, a willingness to exploit other people, a lack empathy toward others, easy jealous or envy of others, often accompanied with haughty or arrogant attitudes. There are many qualifying factors and several different personality types that emerge from this disorder. Obviously, a qualified clinician has to diagnosis this disorder in a person. However, like other personality disorders treatment is difficult because most people with this disorder are unaware that they have it.

The issue with people who suffer from NPD is that they will often mercilessly use and abuse other people with absolutely no care of the costs as long as they get what they want. The abuse survivors are generally left devastated and destroyed.

Social media allows for a bit of narcissism in all of us. We post photos and videos of ourselves – which is self-promotion. We video a move we finally got, cool choreo we learned and for most polers this is pole life and culture. This doesn’t mean that because you post videos from your pole class that you have NPD.

So what could NPD look like on social media?

Image from Google

Social media offers people with NPD the opportunity to engage in attention-seeking, self-endorsing and exhibitionist behavior. Several studies have concluded that NPD social media users have a few things in common.

1.Often they have more followers then average, the average being around 300 and they post more frequently (this does not implicate people who have business pages).

2. The posts are frequently selfies, or photos and videos that show the NPD user alone more than in photos with people. The meta-analysis of 57 studies on narcissism and social media concluded that the NPD user spends more time on social media than the average person.

3. There is a specific set of behaviors that they exhibit: the posts are often exhibitionist, grandiose and frequently in revealing clothing.

Yes, that definition pretty much sums up every pole video ever.  In pole, most posts are of a poler alone practicing a move in revealing shorts and sports bra, and the average poler spends a lot of time on social media watching pole videos. Before you become alarmed, there is a difference between NPD and most polers. But the three characteristics listed above can make it easy for someone with NPD to hide amongst the tribe. Studies have proven that most of us already know intuitively who has NPD on social media. What this all comes down to is healthy posting versus unhealthy posting.

Pay Attention to Behaviors

My encounters with NPD users on social media as both a clinician and poler often leave me with the impression that the poster has a certain sense of desperation for admiration and likes. Don’t get me wrong, social media is designed to activate the pleasure centers of the brain ( it’s called “brain hacking”, it’s why you can’t stop checking your phone) and create a desire for more likes and interactions, but NPD on social is beyond that. NPD users are seeking approval and willing to get it from unhealthy displays of behavior. The behavior is an attempt to show off talent (often stolen talent from someone else), success, ideal love or fame and to elicit admiration.

Another standard is that NPD users frequently engage with strangers and seek out shallow connections but with lots of people. He/she will actually obsessively cultivate an online image usually demonstrating success or the charade of talent. This is not the same as a poler promoting a venture and trying to build a large fan base for business purposes. Although, running a business can be a great reason for a narcissist to exploit unhealthy posting behavior.

Most NPD users have an unhealthy obsession with beauty and talent. This can appear as overtly sexual choreo with no artistic purpose or fun behind it, and no goodwill of sharing involved. The video is clearly a display of the NPD user’s sex appeal, which can elicit more likes, but lacks depth.  The video isn’t about sharing a sexy dance sequence, teaching other polers fluid movement or having fun with friends in class, but it is all clearly about the narcissist.

The other tell-tale sign of NPD manifestation is braggadocio statements hidden in comments and posts. There are usually a plethora of comments about how hard the person works, or the talent he/she uses as art.  NPD users often know how to paint a picture of themselves that reflects exactly how they think others will want to see them. Narcissists hide in other industries too. There are many #blessed yogis whose only desire is to show off their headstands and their flexibility.

What can you do about it

Do you need to do anything about it?  From a bettering humankind standpoint, it could be argued that stopping a narcissist means stopping that person from using and abusing other people. This is a noble cause and if you know someone with NPD it’s a human thing to try to discuss the posts with the person. However, your efforts will likely fall on deaf ears. Most narcissists have no clue that they have NPD, and as with the other personality disorders, NPD is difficult to treat, because the person doesn’t have insight into their behavior.  Often he/she will have to ruin significant parts of their lives before seeking out treatment.

If you do approach the person suffering NPD they will probably find your query a threat and he/she may respond in anger or fear. It’s likely the individual will have an explanation for you about why you aren’t understanding his/her videos or photos. It’s highly likely you will walk out of the conversation feeling like you were way off base in your thinking and somehow should feel ashamed for bringing the conversation up. This is a type of emotional manipulation called gas lighting. People with NPD are some of the most manipulative people on the planet, most have a highly developed set of skills for getting what they want from others but don’t actually care about other people. Their core desire is to use other people to get the things they want, like more followers or more attention. Like many mental health issues, the sufferer is trying to fill a void.

How you can post healthy

As discussed, social media encourages some narcissism from everyone and the best way to combat this is to be aware of your posting behaviors. It’s healthy to consider the intentions of each post and examine why you are posting a video. Examine the healthy reasons for the contribution: such as sharing with pole friends, marketing a business, following a move that is trending or just having fun. It’s ok to post for fun and share with others. Unhealthy reasons are often harder to face. Examples could be wanting attention, wanting more followers, wanting comments about how attractive or how accomplished you are, showing off a hard move to simply show off, eliciting the attention of opposite sex non-polers, believing your posts are elite and will make others envious and the list goes on, but instrospection can go a long way in combating narcissism. After all, posting quality videos on social media makes poling and the community a better place.


Rebecca Stokes
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Rebecca Stokes

Rebecca is a certified personal trainer, aerial studio owner and has developed training certifications in the aerial arts industry.She is a journalist and is working on her Masters in clinical mental health therapy.
Rebecca Stokes
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