In my past articles I’ve always referred to enablers of narcissistic abuse as people, and rightfully so. To enable narcissism, you need to provide validation, admiration, attention, superficial interactions, and a touch of ignorance. When you take a step back and look at it, it looks a lot like social media, right? The purpose of social media is to not only connect the world but offer a platform where people can get attention and validation for the things they claim to be doing. It sounds like a pitch for a narcissistic theme park, so, do narcissists like social media? 

By no means is this article going to be a boycott on social media. The innocence of social media is authentic and has played a major role in the success of numerous social justice movements over the past few years. The focus of this article is going to be about why narcissists like social media, and how to use the information provided to protect yourself. 

Why Do Narcissists Like Social media? 

Narcissists like social media so much because it’s a platform where they can get narcissistic supply by simply clicking a button. They don’t have to deal with intimacy avoidance, or the exhaustion that accompanies maintaining a superficial image 24/7. In a world that often rewards their behavioral patterns, all they have to do is click a button and watch the narcissistic supply accumulate before their eyes.

I mentioned in the previous article Why Do Narcissists Avoid Intimacy, that narcissists hate having to work for narcissistic supply. Subsequently, they quickly figure out how much abuse their victim can endure while still being a sustainable source of narcissistic supply, before they have to show the slightest amount of empathy.

image of a narcissist using the breadcrumbing tactic

As ironic as it is, having to maintain and coddle their sources of supply is exhausting for them, but they need their narcissistic supply, which is the validation and admiration they receive from others.

It’s quite strange that someone a narcissist maliciously abuses constantly, can be a source of narcissistic supply, but the manipulation tactics they use, like gaslighting, tricks their victims into believing that the narcissist is “perfect”, making them the unstable person that the narcissist graciously puts up with.

How Does Social Media Support Narcissistic Behavior If Users Can Choose Who They Follow?

I remember when I was 15, all I wanted was a Gucci belt. I was working a horrible minimum wage job, but I was ready to give up two weeks of pay, just to buy a Gucci belt. 

I never ended up buying it, but while writing this article I kept thinking back to when I was 15 and wondering if someone were to ask me why I wanted it, what would I say? 

Every honest answer I can think of begins with, “well I saw this person on Facebook… I saw so and so wearing one on Instagram…” 

The point is, we live in an era where our worth is created by unrealistic expectations on various social media platforms. Fortunately, I was able to realize that the Gucci belt was a want not a need, but not everyone is able to make this decision. 

image of Facebook depression

So, what happens is, we begin to have entire generations building their self-esteem off unrealistic expectations they see on social media. The irony of this phenomenon is that 90% of the things we see on social media, turns out to be fake.

This unhealthy process of devaluing ourselves based on the superficial realities we see on social media, is the same dynamic narcissistic relationships have. Victims of narcissistic abuse devalue themselves because of the falsified reality that narcissistic behavior creates. 

So, when used incorrectly, social media becomes an utopia for narcissistic behavior. 

How Does Social Media Expose Our Youth to Narcissistic Behavior Patterns?

While the dynamics of social media has the potential to create narcissistic people if used incorrectly, there’s another aspect of it that we have to unpack. 

Just to be clear, narcissists aren’t to blame for the way we devalue ourselves based on social media expectations. As adults, that falls entirely on us. There isn’t a specific group of people that we can blame for the dynamics of our society today.

As I mentioned above, it’s our responsibility as individuals to maintain our self-esteem. But that really only applies to adults. The impact social media has had on children and adolescents is undeniable. There are many different ways social media can negatively impact children and adolescents, but the one we are going to focus on significantly coincides with narcissistic behavior. 

Facebook Depression 

In Clinical Report—The Impact of social media on Children, Adolescents, and Families, the following was reported:

“Researchers have proposed a new phenomenon called Facebook depression, defined as depression that develops when preteens and teens spend a great deal of time on social media sites, such as Facebook, and then begin to exhibit classic symptoms of depression. Acceptance by and contact with peers is an important element of adolescent life. The intensity of the online world is thought to be a factor that may trigger depression in some adolescents.”

The process that they laid out of a child or adolescent going on social media, being negatively influenced by what others are claiming to have and/or be doing, and then as a result become depressed is a very commonly seen pattern in narcissistic abuse

Having our youth grow up in an environment where an influential figure, social media, in their life dictate their perception of themselves, isn’t proven to cause individuals to be susceptible to narcissism in adulthood. But it certainly doesn’t protect them.

If Social Media Creates Narcissistic Enablers, How Do You Make Sure You Don’t Become One?

When I speak about enablers, I’m talking about someone with a significant lack of knowledge about narcissism, and because of this, they unknowingly enable narcissistic behavior. 

The first step readers can take to ensure they don’t enable narcissistic behavior on social media is to be aware of the type of posts they make. 

Grandiose Post Designed to Accumulate Narcissistic Supply

Grandiose posts really embody the ideology behind Facebook depression because they tend to have a disproportionate level of bragging, envy inducing, and validation seeking elements compared to those who use social media in a healthy way. 

It’s important to remember that there is a fine line between healthy posting habits and narcissistic posting. So, this article shouldn’t be the precursor of a narcissistic post witch hunt… 

With that being said, grandiose posts do tend to appear as normal posts, but what separates a narcissistic post from a healthy post is the wording and frequency. 

Grandiose posts tend to manifest in the form of vacation pictures, pictures with materialistic things, shirtless or other provocative pictures, perfect family photos and so on. 

image of a narcissist's grandiose post
“I guess hard work pays off”

Passive-Aggressive Posts Designed to Accumulate Guilt Shame and Pity 

A huge part of narcissistic relationships is guilt and shame, which is the reason behind many victims of narcissistic abuse remaining in the relationship even after they’ve learned more about the complexity of narcissism. 

“I didn’t know that my ex-husband had been lying until a few months ago but, when we first met, my husband told me that his father left the family when he was 15 and he never saw him again. There’s a lot more to that story but he said all of this because I had just opened up about my father dying when I was 14. As the relationship got more and more abusive, I would try to leave but he would make himself cry and say I was leaving him just like his father did. On top of that he would do really passive aggressive stuff to manipulate me into feeling guilty. The one I hated the most was when he broke my nose and to guilt me into not leaving, he set up a shrine by our front door for his father and slept next to it… how do you leave someone like that…”  

As far as social media goes, the usage of manipulative posts to create a significant level of guilt and shame within others is very common. The interesting part about passive-aggressive posts is that not only will they create guilt and shame within others, but they’ll also receive validation from their followers, who feel bad for them as well.

Image backstory: Sarah, who’s a narcissist, is having another one of her fake breakdowns to get attention so she asks all of her friends to come over. Amy, who’s a single mother dealing with a child who has lice can’t make it, so she leaves a nice message in Sarah’s phone. 

image of a narcissist's passive aggressive posts
“Real friends show up”

Victimized Posts Designed to Evoke Guilt & Accumulate Narcissistic Supply

Victimization is a core aspect of narcissism because it intertwines with so many of their insecure necessities. For example, narcissists will often portray themselves as a victim of anything and everything they can think of as an excuse for their abusive behavior. Oftentimes their stories, which may be true in some cases, create a significant amount of guilt and shame within the victim. This guilt and shame the victim feels from their abusers’ sob-stories is to blame for the continuation of many narcissistic relationships. 

“I thought about leaving so many times, but I never could because I felt so guilty. He had told me a story about how his father used to whip him as a child, all lies, but at the time I thought it was true. I actually used it to justify how abusive he was because in my head, just slapping me or pushing me was a considerable amount of restraint since his father used to whip him…. Every time he would put his hands on me, he would cry afterwards and tell me that he couldn’t live if I left him…” Iries, suffered 23 years of narcissistic abuse

Victimized posts on social media usually create a narrative where the narcissist is just constantly fighting against the odds. 

image of a narcissist's victimized post
“Maybe if I was the coaches daughter’s friend, I would’ve made the swimming team too… I thought the saying goes hard work pays off.. guess that doesn’t apply to me though..”

These types of posts do take on the attributes of passive aggressive posts, but what sets them apart are the motives behind the posts. Passive aggressive posts tend to target individuals while victimized posts are created to target a broader audience. 

Victimized posts are a twisted form of validation seeking behavior because if you take a step back and look at common personality traits we observe in narcissistic people, entitlement, grandiosity, and arrogance are very common to see. So, these posts are really just a narcissist insecure grasp for narcissistic supply. 

Another tricky aspect of victimized posts are the posts designed to attract empathetic people; specifically, rescue posts. Rescue posts often trigger a significant amount of worry within a narcissist’s followers. 

These posts have a very suicidal or potential of self-harm element in them, which makes it extremely difficult for those who may genuinely be concerned for the safety of the narcissist. 

Personally, I believe that we should always respond to these types of posts because failing to do so could have dire consequences. I’d rather enable a narcissist than accidentally ignore a cry for help because I misread the situation. 

“Whenever we would get into an argument, she would run to social media with the most suicidal posts you could imagine. She was never going to hurt herself, but it scared the hell out of everyone who cared about her, and she knew it. One time she took a picture of her with a noose around her neck on top of a bridge in our town. She posted it and within an hour there were police cars, friends, and family all there to support her. And like nothing ever happened, she took the noose from around her neck, hopped down off the bridge, gave me a hug, and whispered in my ear… I knew you’d come…”

Post Designed to Bait People Into an Argument

If there is one thing that we can guarantee about a narcissist, it’s that they love confrontation. Because of how emotionally unstable they are they feed off their ability to provoke someone so severely that they lose their emotional stability as well. 

When a victim of narcissistic abuse loses their cool with a narcissist it enables the narcissist to paint the victim as crazy, unstable, and irrational.

Social media posts designed to bait people into an argument manifest in posts along the lines of very insensitive political posts, controversial jokes at the expense of others, propaganda, or antagonistic posts geared towards a specific group of people. 

The sole purpose of these posts is to get a reaction out of others, create a confrontation where they can come out on top, and to regulate their emotions so they don’t emotionally implode. 

What Should’ve You Learned About Narcissism and Social Media?

First and foremost, social media isn’t to blame for the creation of narcissistic people however, social media provides a revolutionary platform for them to accumulate narcissistic supply. 

On the bright side social media gives us all a unique opportunity to practice not enabling narcissistic behavior. With those who are currently suffering narcissistic abuse, the best approach to escape the relationship would be utilizing the gray rock method, no contact method, or setting boundaries. 

If you’d like more information on those techniques, be sure to check out:

But there’s a way for those who aren’t in narcissistic relationships to utilize these techniques as well when addressing narcissism on social media. 

Setting Boundaries on Social Media

To set a boundary in narcissistic relationships, a victim may decide that they won’t engage in certain conversations with a narcissist. Or they may decide to leave their home when their abuser is baiting them into an argument. 

People who aren’t in narcissistic relationships can set boundaries with them on social media by deciding to unfollow their account if they post something offensive, or block their account if they use passive aggressive posts directed at them. 

Gray Rocking 

The gray rock method is when a victim of narcissistic abuse will not participate in any significant conversations with the narcissist. 

narcissist trying to bait someone into an argument

When Someone Is Using the Gray Rock Technique THEY WILL NOT:

  • Defend themselves
  • Explain themselves
  • Engage in significant conversations
  • Argue with the narcissist

We can use the gray rock method on social media by not glorifying their latest post, by not sending them a DM them telling them how extraordinary they are, and by not re-sharing their posts.

No Contact

The no contact method is self-explanatory and by far the most effective method for victims in narcissistic relationships if they want to leave the relationship for good. It’s simply when they cut off all forms of communication with the narcissist. 

We can use the no contact method on social media by completely blocking the narcissist on all platforms. 


All of the content that Unfilteredd creates is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for clinical care — please visit here for qualified organizations and here for qualified professionals that you can reach out to for help. This article has been reviewed by our editorial board and has been approved for publication in accordance with our editorial policies.

References:

The Impact of social media on Children, Adolescents, and Families

Gwenn Schurgin O’Keeffe, Kathleen Clarke-Pearson, Council on Communications and Media

Pediatrics Apr 2011, 127 (4) 800-804; DOI: 10.1542/peds.2011-0054

Suggested Readings:

What Happens When You Hurt a Narcissist’s Ego?

Baiting: A Complete Guide to a Narcissist’s Frantic Grasp for Control (2021)