Media and the Inner World

Social Networking and Digital Narcissism

Starts: October 13 @ 6:00pm

Ends: October 13 @ 8:00pm

Address: 'New Tube', PhD UK
The Telephone Exchange
5 North Crescent
Chenies Street
London WC1E 7PH.

For many, social networking has become a key part of every day life. Some argue that the development of Web2.0 in the form of information sharing and communicating through blogs, facebook, twitter, etc, provides positive new opportunities for playful self expression, creativity, and even self-realisation. Alongside the imaginary potentials of social media for the self and the inner world, Charles Leadbeater in We Think (2009) argues that digital media and social networking allows for the democratisation of communication in a number of personal and political contexts, thereby challenging the old hierarchies of an elitist media.

Yet others have been less keen on the growth of social networking, and see it in less utopian terms. Here it is said that social networking promotes unhealthy narcissism and self-obsession on the part of users who have lost the capacity to cope with the challenges of ‘real’ embodied relationships. Instead, friends are gathered like trophies, thereby avoiding the risks and disappointments of meeting and communicating with people face to face, or perhaps through the more considered medium of the pen. In his book The Cult of the Amateur (2007), Andrew Keen explores the notion of ‘digital narcissism’ in relation to the rise of social networking and links it to the rise of vacuous celebrity culture where anybody can be a star – an ‘ego caster’ – where the banalities of one’s everyday life are broadcast to the world.

The kind of issues which interest us at the Media and Inner World network relate to the links between social networking and the self and the implications of -say – writing a blog or communicating on facebook for meaningful object relations. Drawing on D. W Winnicott ‘s psychoanalytic theory of ‘Transitional Phenomena’ from his book Playing and Reality (1971), one can begin to think about the web and social networking as a facilitating space for play, creativity and psychological growth. Yet, in a more pessimistic vein, one can – following Christopher Lasch’s thesis in his book the Culture of Narcissism (1979) – argue that social networking promotes a narcissistic culture where consumer-friendly notions of therapy and empowerment are promoted at the expense of more meaningful if challenging forms of object relating. The work of psychoanalytic work of Freud and Melanie Klein might also be useful to explore the anxieties, defences and desires that are utilised when communicating on the internet and the projections that are utilised when online.

Discussion Points:

1. Does social networking promote narcissism and what are the psychosocial implications of this?
2. What is the relationship between social networking and ‘therapy culture’?
3. What are the therapeutic implications of social networking?

Speakers included:

Dr. Jay Watts, psychotherapist and tweeter (@Shrink_at_Large)
Dr. Galit Ferguson, Writer and psycho-cultural researcher
Greg Stekelman, blogger (themanwhofellasleep.wordpress.com), tweeter (@themanwhofell) & novelist
Roger Jones, Head of Social at Digitalis Media will be in the Chair.

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