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OPINION: Annemarie Lewis Thomas – Narcissism: the Musical anyone?

Annemarie LewisWe’re now a month into our fund raising appeal to help us with our relocation, or as I seem to see it…a month of me just posting the same old tweets and statuses out there in various guises in a bid to get one more person to notice it every day. As previously discussed this is not something that I feel comfortable doing, however the need outweighs the embarrassment if the appeal is going to have any success at all. I’m amazed that in the first month we’ve managed to raise 10% of our target, so my embarrassment is definitely worth it.

During this month though I’ve started to really observe this social networking marlakey a bit more than usual. Like most people I’ll have a quick look at my FB timeline to see what my friends are doing, or scan through 5 minutes worth of tweets to find out what’s going on in the world, but have you ever really looked at what your mates/acquaintances are posting?

In truth I think that I use social networking predominantly for work(and boy do I use it for work!). Like most people I’ll have the occasional rant on there, but I have attempted to stop using it as a way of being a real friend, going so far in some instances to delete friends, to ensure that I make a conscious effort to connect with them as opposed to simply ‘liking’ a status by way to letting them know that I’m still around. I hold to the theory of not really believing all the ‘my life is fabulous’ statuses that I read, and instead believe that some people live in a parallel FB world. It’s their public personna if you like. Who knows whether some people are creating a fantasy life for themselves or for others to envy? I started noticing it when an acquaintance who I knew to be suffering from quite a severe depression at the time kept posting the most joyful of statuses. It made no sense to me. Their FB life was nothing short of extraordinarily happy, but I knew for a fact that their real life was in absolute turmoil. Yet every day a ‘happy status’ or picture would be posted, with a smily face, telling the FB world of how wonderful their life was…yet nothing could have been further from the truth.

Then I started to notice a trend from some friends to deliberately not post major life events – pregnancies, engagements, deaths…you name it, they were chosing to keep their personal life just that. It began to feel really special when someone chose to text/message me with news as opposed to me stumbling across an announcement on my timeline.

As you know The MTA prides itself on our approach to Mental Health Awareness, and one condition that has always fascinated me is a narcissistic personality disorder. It’s easy to think of Mental Health issues in simplistic depression/bipolar terms(not that there’s anything simplistic about either illness…but you know what I mean), but of course there’s a whole range of illnesses/disorders besides the ones that get all the publicity. Personality disorders are fascinating…and for me this one is the most interesting to watch play out.

For those of you unfamiliar with it this is the definition on the NHS website:

A person with narcissistic personality disorder swings between seeing themselves as special and fearing they are worthless. They may act as if they have an inflated sense of their own importance and show an intense need for other people to look up to them.

Other symptoms include:

  • exaggerating their own achievements and abilities
  • thinking they are entitled to be treated better than other people
  • exploiting other people for their own personal gain
  • lacking empathy for other people’s weaknesses
  • looking down on people they feel are “beneath” them, while feeling deeply envious of people they see as being “above” them

 

Now read the ‘symptoms’ and look through your timeline…I bet that you all have a few sufferers among your ‘friends’. This isn’t your mate that’s posting the occasional selfie, or someone that’s done something really great and wants to share it with you – but what about the ones that are literally posting their entire lives for you to see? Assuming that you need to know every single detail about their day/lives? I’ve read a few tweets/statuses in the last month of people telling ‘the world’ about how wonderful they are, you know the sort of thing, someone has sent them a private card and they’ve photographed the entire thing (including the personal message) and posted it for all to see? Or thanking someone publicly for telling them how wonderful they are. It’s such a fascinating disorder. Here I am cringing everytime I post another fund raising tweet, and yet there’s a whole group of people that are convinced that we all need to know how amazing everybody else finds them.

Now I’m no doctor, but probably the most fascinating person to follow that arguably meets the diagnostic criteria for this condition is the ‘woman that said no to Alan Sugar’. I categorically refuse to print her name as I suspect that her Google alerts must go into overdrive as she scours the internet for any reference of herself at all. This is a person who we know just wants to be famous. There’s footage of her being a guinea pig in the very first trial run of Big Brother X amount of years ago (way before The Apprentice). So she’s always been yearning for fame, as let’s face it, she wasn’t going into that trial Big Brother house to enhance her CV (which of course is the premise of The Apprentice). Her oxygen is publicity (an inflated sense of their own importance), she allegedly won over thousands recently when it was discovered that she couldn’t take a compliment (fearing they are worthless), but her entire celebrity is based on controversy. How many people can she insult while educating us with her truth? Last week she tweeted that depression wasn’t real, threw around a load of statistics that google had provided her with and then sat back and relished the enslaught. Damn it – even I got sucked in at one point feeling the need to ‘report her’ to some mental health charities. The tweets worked – she got herself another ‘big exclusive interview’ in one of the red tops, and once again a whole group of followers touted her as the Messiah that speaks the unspeakable. I particularly loved observing other people suffering from the same disorder as her slugging it out in their own bid for the throne.

Twitter has provided people with this disorder a guage to work out how successful they’re being – how many people have favourited or retweeted you? I saw one person send a few tweets…then one by one delete them until they’d hit on the winning combination of 140 characters which saw them catapulted into the double figure retweet.

It surprises me that we don’t have more people in our industry suffering from this particular disorder, after all you would think that every performer is all about their own inflated sense of self. The truth of course is very different, a large majority of performers use the stage to escape from a deflated ego, and let the audience applause slowly reinflate it for the duration of a contract. Again though…follow the tweets and you can tell the people that are retweeting compliments almost under duress and those that are just really enjoying telling you how brilliant they were/are.

I often apologise on twitter for retweeting nice things that people have said about the students/college – but I feel that I have an obligation to retweet them for my staff and students to see, but if the tweet specifically mentions me I seldom click the RT sign…it’s just so cringeworthy. We are all ‘businesses’ though and nothing sells a business like good word of mouth, so this is a difficult line to get right.

Social networking is still relatively new, and goodness knows what direction it’s going to go in next – but I’ve had a rather lovely month people watching on there, I need to find a vehicle now to put all these observations into good use. I fear that Narcissism the Musical might not be that far away…and I know just the people to star in it ;-) Joking aside here’s hoping that certain ‘celebrities’ get some help before spewing their own disorders out over society at the expense of somebody else’s.

If this has got you wondering I found an online quiz to let you know whether you’re a sufferer: http://psychcentral.com/quizzes/narcissistic.htm In case you’re wondering….I scored 9

 

 

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