I often hear people saying things like “social media has made people obsessed with themselves” or “selfies make people narcissistic” and it makes me wonder: is there any truth behind these claims?
What data shows this? Where’s the research behind it?
Well, the research is here and it revealed some very interesting results, indeed.
In the 1980’s people were absolutely sure that self-esteem was the solution for success in life. It all started with a politician called John Vasconcellos. He pushed forward the notion that having high self-esteem could change people’s lives.
It was dubbed the ‘Self-Esteem Craze’.
This turned out to be completely false.
The first rule of statistics is: correlation doesn’t NOT mean causation.
Mr. Vasconcellos had come across some research and realized that there was a potential correlation between positive self-esteem and positive outcomes and made the incorrect assumption that there was a causational relationship between the two. This was absolutely wrong.
Now, don’t get me wrong, having a good source of motivation is great for our lives. But knowing with a fair degree of accuracy where that source comes from is essential.
The self-esteem craze came into action everywhere. Children were told they were unique and adults were told they were special. Everyone was special. This also gave birth to the idea of giving out ‘participation’ medals.
The idea behind it was that if someone tried hard enough they could become anyone they wanted to be. I can’t help but think of the similarities between this ideology and the concept of the American Dream; that anyone can make it if they just tried hard enough.
As you could imagine, children who are told they were special growing up will become adults who believe they really are special and unique.
In comes YouTubers and bloggers who make a living by staring at themselves on a screen and talking about their lives. It’s a little funny how what started in the 80’s by one man turned into an entire movement in 2020 of people making millions of dollars by talking to themselves all day long and having people follow their every move.
Now, knowing me I was fascinated by the psychology behind how the self-esteem movement resulted in these YouTubers and bloggers and decided to take a stab in the dark to try to explain it a little.
The first theory I have today is called the attribution theory. This theory discusses how people explain the causes of behaviour. Diving a little deep, I will specifically be talking about locus of control theory.
Locus of control is the extent to which people perceive outcomes as being controlled internally by their own behaviour or externally by the outside environment.
There are two types of locie of control: external and internal. When someone has an internal locus of control, they believe that their own efforts, motivations, values, attitudes and trials resulted in the outcomes in their life. One the other hand, having an external locus of control makes one believe outcomes are all due to luck and chance and that they can do nothing to control that.
In this case, someone like a blogger who grew up being told they were unique and special is bound to develop an external locus of control. This is because their uniqueness doesn’t come from something they did. They didn’t work hard to develop that uniqueness so they grow up believing that they’re just unique. Just like that. It comes from somewhere and they have no control over it.
This is interesting for self-absorbed people since usually a lot of them tend to be very insecure and they’re afraid of feeling powerless or flawed.
I think this also ties into some self-obsessed people expecting things to be handed to them rather than having to prove themselves. They expect to receive whatever they want when they want or they throw a fit. This can prove problematic and is linked to having an external locus of control.
False Uniqueness Effect:
The next theory I have is called the false uniqueness effect. This effect is quiet spot on for this piece since it explains exactly what I need it to explain.
The false uniqueness effect is the tendency to underestimate the commonality of one’s abilities and one’s desirable or successful behaviours.
This happens alot to self-obsessed people. They think their abilities are unique when in reality they’re not all that rare.
In a way this can be connected to especially beauty gurus on instagram and google who are frankly all one of the same. It’s the same brown eyeshadow blended and they use the same kylie lip kit to make their lips the same size and shape. Their skills are not all that unique.
I’m of course not trying to hate or insult anyone’s skills, just giving examples. I think all those ladies look absolutely stunning and should do what they feel comfortable doing.
Motivation is a very important force within our lives and it’s essential to know what exactly it is that drives that force. Instead of misattributing it to self-esteem researchers decided to look further into the topic and found the cause of positive life outcomes: self-control.
If you want success in your life, then self-control is the one force that will make it happen and this is backed by science.
People who have self-control are reported to have less financial issues, higher academic achievements, less likely to commit crimes, more likely to be better with money, even better health! Overall life satisfaction
If you want a good life, learn to have a high level of self control.
Self-control Experiment: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QX_oy9614HQ