With the advent of Facebook, it is abundantly clear a lot of people are inveterate attention-seekers.

Humans are by nature social creatures. They thrive on interaction, feedback and validation of their worth. That’s normal. Who doesn’t like an occasional pat on the back or hearing ‘You did a good job’? 

However, most people don’t require unremitting attention and don’t actively seek it every day yet ... some do. 

Why? 

Emotional Immaturity and Attention Seeking

Studies reveal emotionally immature people feel insecure due to lack of self-confidence and self- value. Because of these insecurities, the person spends a lifetime fashioning situations where he is the center of attention.  

The need for attention is inversely proportionate to emotional maturity. In other words, the more attention-seeking a person is the more emotionally undeveloped he is. The emotionally mature adult does not chase validation because he doesn’t need to. He already gets it from his relationships and work. Facebook is the ideal place for the emotionally immature person to reign supreme. 

Emotional Intelligence

Emotional maturity or emotional intelligence (EI) is considered by many a better gauge of a person’s character than their IQ or intelligence quotient. You can have a skyrocket IQ but still be emotionally immature. 

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The ‘center of attention’ requirement of the emotionally immature is a stop gap measure because the basic issues of low self-approval and self-confidence have not been addressed by the person who has zilch emotional intelligence. 

Being the center of attention only temporarily assuages feelings of insufficiency and insecurity. He or she will come back for more flattery in the near future because they thrive on attention. 

Why Some People Need Excessive Attention

Bullies and Attention Seeking

Bullies are often emotionally immature. Bullies bully because it brings them attention, which they wouldn’t get otherwise. 

Grown-up bullies, and you’ve surely encountered one or more alone the line, possess the emotional maturity of a young child. Adult bullies will do anything to avoid revealing their true nature. They are skillful at dodging culpability and are brilliant maneuvers

Narcissism and Attention Seeking or as Apple refers to narcissists: "Our core customers". 

“Narcissus has spawned many offspring in our current generation and narcissism is alive and well and living in America. One study found that 30 percent of young people were classified as narcissistic according to a widely used psychological test. That number has doubled in the last 30 years.”   ~ Dr. Jim Taylor Adjunct faculty, University of San Francisco

Those suffering from narcissism are overly egotistical. Their conversations, in person or online, amount to SEE ME! I AM IMPORTANT! Because they have an extreme need to be noticed and considered superior, they self-aggrandize and pump up their own ego via the things they say and do. 

This egotistical behavior is actually a guise. What they are showing and telling people is a facade, camouflaging their intrinsic lack of self-value and esteem. 

The Need for an Audience

Narcissists require an audience to confirm their superiority.  Facebook is a great place to find listeners and receive immediate feed-back. The attention-seeking person loves this type of platform because the Facebook audience is a mirroring soundboard for him. 

According to Dr. Sam Vaknin the narcissist’s sense of self-worth is unstable so he depends on input from others to regulate his self-confidence and self-esteem. The narcissist must have a ‘collective stream of adulation.’

The narcissist acquires an audience (a source) and engulfs his audience in disingenuous deep emotions and focused attentiveness.  Eventually, his true colors emerge. In short order, he begins treating his audience abusively, exploits and discards them.

To the narcissist, other people, particularly co-workers or employees, are objects, whose purpose is to provide adulation. When the source no longer respects or idolizes the narcissist, the narcissist shoves him out the door because the person no longer serves his intended purpose. 

Pathologically envious of others, the narcissist will make life miserable for or even destroy anything or anyone they perceive as a threat, including those who are more successful. 

In Case You Haven’t Noticed ...

Conversations with a narcissist almost always include the narcissist deflecting attention back to himself. The narcissist is unsurpassed when it comes to hi-jacking a thread or conversation. Let’s talk about me! It’s all about me!

However, behind this veil of mega-confidence lies a fragile, vulnerable person, highly sensitive to the smallest amount of criticism.

Creating a Narcissist

The exact cause of narcissism is unknown but it is believed risk factors for this disorder stem from what the person experienced as a child. If a child is neglected, abused or raised by undependable, unpredictable or manipulative parents, this ups the chance he will development narcissistic disorder.

If a child is subjected to parental contempt when he expressed needs or uncertainties or was never given any praise or affection or, on the other hand, received unwarranted praise and was overindulged this puts a child in peril of developing this condition.

Coping

As an adult, the narcissist disguises his emotional needs with grandiose, self-centered behavior making him appear emotionally bulletproof because he has learned at his parents’ knees that vulnerable behavior is unacceptable. 

Is Facebook Turning Us Into Attention-seeking Narcissists?

“I don't think Facebook can take the blame. I am sure if a person is that way it is because they seem to thrive on the fact they are into themselves...they live for the attention of others...just my own opinion.”      ~Carol Newland Strickler

Maybe or maybe we were narcissists already and this is simply a new place to strut our stuff. The way people utilize social media is a relatively accurate reflection of how a person is in real life. If narcissistic in person, expect to find the same behavior online and vice versa.

One thing Facebook and other social mediums supply in spades is an audience for the narcissist, who can become deeply depressed if he loses his narcissistic supply (e.g., his audience.) When this happens, he is motivated to find a new supplier (new friends) to replenish the depleted source (e.g., people stopped responding or talking to him.) This is the narcissistic cycle.

How to Avoid Narcissists

Dr. Sam Vaknin, author of the book Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited says it is nearly impossible to spot a narcissist at first sight because they are remarkable actors, charming, persuasive, and adept at manipulating and influencing people so they will do their bidding for them. If you have been duped by a person like this, don’t feel foolish. It happens to the best of us. 

Just remember, you do not have to respond to or engage with an attention-seeker online. Ignore them if they are driving you crazy. However, if you are living with one or working for or with one, good luck to you. We feel your pain.

 

Cindi Pearce is a graduate of Ohio University, where she received a bachelor’s degree in journalism back in the dark ages (aka before computers, the Internet and cell phones. Heck, before electric typewriters!) A former newspaper writer/columnist and photographer, her fiction and non-fiction work has been published in national magazines. A full-time freelance writer, as well as an avid gardener, an artist and yoga aficionado, Cindi is a Baby Boomer and proud of it. She has survived the gnarly challenges of the sandwich generation and lived to tell the tale. Cindi has somehow managed to stay married to her first and only husband for nearly 35 years. They are the parents of three grown children and the grandparents of one. She has five large, raucous dogs, five acres to mow on her beloved zero turn mower, and gets the biggest kick out of making people laugh on Facebook. (P.S. She refuses to cut her hair short.)