Has Your Phone Made You a Narcissist?

Do you remember 15 years ago when if we had a disagreement with someone, or had any issues or doubts about situations we were involved in, we had to confront it face-to-face? If my friend had done something that upset me, I couldn’t “appear offline” when she walked past me in school. And if you yearned to be anywhere but wherever you were, you had to make the best of a bad situation and just be polite. Those were the days.

As long as there has been communication through language, we have learned the laws of etiquette and manners in which are best practice. But whilst those actions still stand today, technological advancements are ever in play and language vicissitudes have gone parallel to that. With this new form of interaction comes a new way to exercise bad behaviour, and the laws of etiquette have a new set of challenges upon them.

The questions are, do we even know what we are doing is wrong if there are no explicit rules, and does it count as real if it’s not in person?

I’m here to explore some of the new attitudes that are being exploited through the means of social media and mobile technology, and to debate how we can exhibit them with such a desensitised conscience.

If you find someone who owns a phone that doesn’t have access to Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, you’d think they’d just emerged from the Stone Age, wouldn’t you? The majority of the nation now have phones that are capable of this, and some of us spend well over £50 a month just to have entry to this infinite world of cyber exchange. But whilst some people merely use these apps to make arrangements with their friends, see what they’re getting up to and catch up with those they can’t see often, others use it for far more alarming means…


The term “narcissist” goes beyond that of the old Greek myth where it is seen that Narcissus falls so madly in love with his own reflection that he loses the will to live. Its origin is that of fixation on one’s physical appearance and/ public perception of themselves. It is now a recognised behavioural disorder and its definition has been further explored as “the egotistic and ruthless pursuit of one’s gratification, dominance and ambition.” This personality trait has very much been applied through the use of social media as it gives the source of this behaviour a means of concealment. By hiding behind a cyber wall it works as an invisibility cloak to their identity. It works to control the significance of its reality and gives the deliverer undeserved confidence to be callous without question. It works so well because social networking via online mediums is still seen as less important than public interaction. How can you judge it with such severity when things done online are “no big deal”?

Allow me to outline some of these newest forms of bad behaviours.

  • PHUBBING: This is a quaint neologism of the words “phone” and “snubbing”. By definition, it is the practice of “ignoring those within your immediate company by scrolling through your phone; as a preference to communicating with those around you.” This is a bit like when you agree to meet your friends at the pub for an evening catch up and although everyone is having a good natter, there’s that one person who refuses to partake in conversation and would rather be glued to his phone. Or, when your partner makes it obvious that they’re so bored within your company that they’d rather scroll through their news feed than speak to you. This technique works to offend on many levels. Nobody likes to feel ignored, it is offensive to exclude yourself mentally from those around you when they are making a conscious effort to talk to you and you are implicitly insulting their company as uninteresting. If you find you’re guilty of this then you might want to start turning your phone off every so often. Your virtual reality is not as important as your physical one.


  • BREADCRUMBING: The development of this word comes through its definition which Urban Dictionary explains as “the act of sending out flirtatious, but non-committal text messages to members of the opposite sex in order to lure a sexual partner without expending much effort.” e.g. “liking” something on someone’s page to present false hope of a connection and then disappearing off the face of the earth, aka giving breadcrumbs. This kind of behaviour works well because the receiver never really knows where they stand, but because the seldom attention they do receive from the source is positive, they accept it as meaningful. Sadly, it’s not and that person is most likely doing that to many others and will soon dash your hopes by doing one of the next two actions…


  • GHOSTING: If you are unlucky enough to have been breadcrumbed and the deliverer of the breadcrumbing has now undertaken a change of heart to their situation with you, you may be at risk of being ghosted. This is defined as “the practice of ending a personal relationship with someone by suddenly and without explanation withdrawing from all communication.” Now, this is also applied to more intense relationships too, such as when you have actually had a physical romantic involvement, e.g. dating or intercourse. But what can you do when this person is now unable to be reached and you’re left wondering what you did wrong? Did you do something wrong? Or, did they change their mind and find someone else? You’ll never know.


  • GASLIGHTING: This is probably the most sinister of all types of narcissism. It’s an action that can be done in the physical, but with such a cloak to use via the cyber world, why risk exposure? To put it simply, gaslighting is “an undertaking of manipulation which aims to leave the targeted individual doubting their own memories, perceptions and sanity.” So imagine you have been breadcrumbed into believing there was something special between you and this person. They gave you snippets of hope and promised you a reality that you believed was real. Then when they moved the goal posts and you questioned them on it, they turned the tables. They convinced you they’d never said what they had to you (even though you have the evidence in black and white) they tell you what you’re saying is inaccurate (even though you know it’s not) and that you are crazy (because none of this was ever real, obviously…) If you have fallen victim to someone who employs this behaviour, whether online or in person, then speak to others around you who care and understand the situation for what it truly is. These types of narcissists will do anything to justify their own bad behaviour, even if it means casuistry of a circumstance in which they can be blatantly caught out on. They will do whatever it takes to suggest what they’ve done didn’t happen or count for anything, and make you question your integrity to them as a mechanism of distraction.


In this new modern age, we are surrounded by technological developments that serve to ameliorate or create pejoration in the new language and behaviours it opens doors to. Whether that is because of deindividuation and identity concealment, desensitisation to others’ emotions, or purely because we do not perceive online behaviour as a reality and therefore has no bearing on whom we “really” are, I cannot tell you the answer. My personal belief is that those who perform such behaviours are narcissistic in their reality too, but choose to exercise it online because it works as a get-out clause for them. Maybe they’re in denial with their identity, but they still need an excuse to do these things and not have themselves consider it significant? Because if it’s not real, it’s not important and if that’s the case, then it doesn’t count.

Whatever the case may be, as phones are now such a big part of the contemporary world, it might be about time to associate them as much a part of reality as our physical one. Your life is made up of many different avenues, whether that’s who you are when you are at work, with your friends, with your lover, family or on your own, they’re all you and they’re all real.

So, if you find yourself relating to any of the above behaviours, then take some responsibility for your actions. They are important, they are real and they change the realities of those you target.

It’s time to stop making excuses and think before you act.

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