|An illustration picture shows a woman looking at the Facebook website on a computer in Munich in this February 2, 2012 file photo. (REUTERS/Michael Dalder/Files)
Facebook, Facebook on the wall, who’s the vainest one of them all?
Most of us have those Facebook friends who post photos of themselves almost daily doing their best Blue Steel – in case you’d forgotten overnight what they look like.
It would be different if these were solo snaps of them at the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro. Instead they’re duck-faced, often scantily clad cellphone pictures taken in the reflection of their bathroom mirror, while perched in sexy poses on their bed or behind the wheel of their car.
There’s nothing more annoying on newsfeeds, except for maybe friends requesting hay for their virtual horses on Farmville.
Michelle, a former colleague, grew tired of this hyper self-promotion from an estimated 10 out of her 300 Facebook friends and came up with a snarky idea.
“I wondered why they felt the need to offer the world self-portraits de jour, when it would be just as interesting to upload a daily photo of their houseplant instead,” Michelle told me on Facebook.
So, that’s just what she did.
She snapped a photo of her humble cactus and posted it on her wall last week, along with a rant calling out the self-obsessed photo junkies.
“Please remember you’re not Kim Kardashian or Paulina Gretzky,” she said.
This posting roused anecdotes from others, including one woman who said one of her Facebook pals has shared 450 photos of just herself in dozens of mundane settings in a folder titled ‘Me.’
What would be the non-digital equivalent of this egomaniac behaviour? Sending glamour shots of yourself repeatedly to hundreds of your acquaintances?
“Do the wealthy flaunt their bank statements this way? Do the geniuses pin their IQ scores to their lapels?” Michelle quipped.
I could understand the shameless self-promotion if you’re vying to become Miss November in the SUNshine Girl calendar.
Amy Muise, a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Toronto and a specialist in social media and relationships, said the drive to overshare stems from the instant gratification that Facebook provides.
“If you get a lot of value from your appearance and want feedback of your appearance you might be more inclined to post more pictures of just you,” Muise said.
Researchers at the University of Georgia suggested in a recent study that Facebook makes people feel good about themselves.
“Social networking sites are a product and a cause of a society that is self-absorbed,” said professor Keith Campbell who co-authored the study, published online in June in the journal Computers in Human Behaviour.
Campbell said self-esteem and narcissism has been on the rise since the 1980s but since Facebook was invented less than a decade ago, the website isn’t the main cause. It “may be just another enforcer” of the behaviour, said Campbell, co-author of the book the Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement.
Another study he co-authored in 2010 looked at how people who have narcissistic traits in real life tend to be self-absorbed on their Facebook profile as well.
“The concern is that these websites offer a gateway for self-promotion via self-descriptions, vanity via photos, and large numbers of shallow relationships, each of which is potentially linked to trait narcissism,” the study said.
Michelle put it simply for the attention-seekers: “If other people found you as interesting and attractive as you clearly find yourself, the portraits would not have to be self-taken.”
Where’s the like button?