Tilting at Windmills

Land o’ Likes

By Charles Peters

As you may recall, I am not a fan of Facebook, fearing it has become a major encourager of self-involvement. Confirmation of my concern comes from a study reported by Damien Pearse in the Guardian which finds “a direct relationship between Facebook friends and the most ‘toxic’ elements of narcissistic personality disorder,” including “self-absorption, vanity, superiority, and exhibitionistic tendencies.”

Further evidence that Facebook encourages relationships that are more superficial than real comes from a story in the New York Times about a therapist who committed suicide not long ago. One of his associates observed, “I looked at his Facebook page recently … he had over a thousand friends. But there are acquaintances and there are friends, and I think he probably had a lot of acquaintances and not a lot of real friends.”

Charles Peters is the founding editor of the Washington Monthly and the author of a new book on Lyndon B. Johnson published by Times Books.


  • brian t. raven on June 09, 2012 9:05 PM:

    …Otto Kernberg’s description of the pathological narcissistic individual centers around a set of paradoxes: self-inflation existing alongside a limitless need for praise, a charming and engaging surface covering a ruthless interior, and a persona of self-sufficiency defending against underlying feelings of intense envy…
    …Narcissistic individuals experience their relationships with others as exploitative and parasitic. They divide the world between those who contain something that they can extract and those who do not. They distinguish between extraordinary people on the one hand - in association with whom narcissistic individuals experience a sense of greatness themselves - and mediocre or worthless people on the other. Narcissistic individuals idealize the former and are contemptuous of the latter…

    I can’t recommend the website because I have only read a few paragraphs – but these two are pretty good. Damian Pearse isn't quite correct.

    For someone like you, who has lived and breathed politicians for a lifetime, the standard textbooks on narcissism, by Kohut and Kernberg, would be a revelation (well, they were standard back when I read them). It’s a fascinating story, and one that has not been well told to the reading public.
    As for the good doctor, he was almost certainly not a narcissist. Suicide is the ultimate “narcissistic insult” – so narcissists would be among the least likely to commit such an act. Doctors, lawyers, priests, stockbrokers, etc. tend to have many shallow relationships – well in excess of the norm. It’s the nature of their work. There’s another reason for the doctor’s suicide.

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