Is it fun to interact with narcissists

Comment: The era of narcissists

It was at the end of November when a tweet from the US President caused more sensation than usual. It shows a photomontage on which Donald Trump's head is artfully mounted on a bare, muscular torso. It was of course not the real body of Trump (which is known to be prone to obesity), but that of the film boxer Rocky Balboa.

The more transatlantic-minded newspaper "Die Welt" wrote that this tweet "is final proof of the thesis: There is a guy in the White House with the emotional household of a 15-year-old." But criticism like that doesn't challenge someone like Trump.

Why are they getting away with it?

The US president is of course not the only one who publicly expresses his fantasies of omnipotence. When it comes to exuding uninhibited masculinity, Vladimir Putin is unbeatable - he can topless at least without Photoshop. Ex-elite student Boris Johnson likes to portray himself as a jovial buddy, Recep Tayyip Erdogan is the sultan, Kim Jong Un portrays himself as an oracle when he is portrayed on a white horse. And does anyone remember Silvio "Bunga-Bunga" Berlusconi?

DW editor Martin Muno

It's not like these more or less old men play this game just for the fun of it. They are doing it mainly because they are successful with it - even in democracies: Boris Johnson was able to lie the blues of the sky about Brexit - it did not detract from his election success in mid-December. And Trump's adolescent behavior also finds his loyal supporters, his re-election is more likely than ever.

Why is that? Why is these people's behavior not perceived for what it is - namely, embarrassing? Why do they get away with things that were unthinkable just a few years ago? (Okay: Berlusconi was obviously ahead of his time.)

The answer is simple: these people's narcissism is resonating because there is a little narcissus within each and every one of us. A narcissus that comes to the fore when we present ourselves on social networks.

Ego booster social media

Take, for example, TikTok, a video platform that is used by more than a billion people worldwide every month and is therefore more successful than Instagram, Snapchat or Youtube. People post short videos on TikTok - usually of themselves, often lip-synching and singing along to popular pop songs. It's sometimes funny, often embarrassing, and rarely really good. TikTok is the ultimate proof of the truthfulness of the Andy Warhol quote that everyone will be world famous for 15 minutes in the future.

Or Instagram: under the hashtag "#Selfie" you can find almost half a billion photos or videos. Many users only post photos of themselves. It is no different in the more text-based networks. On Facebook, users deal with themselves in 80 percent of their posts. Psychologists assume that in normal life we ​​only spend about 30 to 40 percent of our time talking about ourselves. As a result, social media acts as an enormous ego booster. That makes them anything but social.

It is a mistake to think that self-expression is constitutive for us. Because our selves only ever develop in togetherness, in social interaction. If we only perceive the world through selfie glasses, if we only see ourselves and no longer see our fellow human beings and if we confuse social networks with social coexistence, we shouldn't be surprised when people like Trump or Johnson take power take.