The Social Media Complex: Confusing self-love with narcissism

Julia Hanson, A&E Editor

TikTok for-you pages and Instagram mental health influencers preach self-love culture. This looks like prioritizing yourself, not focusing on your faults, and never, ever, changing for others. What these influencers are missing is how to alter and improve yourself on the quest of happiness. Without a willingness to grow, your actions may look like narcissistic tendencies, like lack of empathy, need for admiration, and troubled relationships. I like to call this common confusion the ‘social media complex.’

This ‘social media complex’ is misleading to young people who are prone to making mistakes in relationships and friendships. As high schoolers, it’s all about us. Looking bad in a picture someone posted is practically the end of the world, as if anyone cares. With an already tainted grip on reality, we need to open our minds to criticism, even if that’s hard. 

“Never invalidate others’ feelings,”— so instead, maybe rethink your own. If you’re the one upset, think of where this misfortune falls on the ladder of importance and your own privilege. I am lucky to have a job to complain about and a brother who annoys me. It’s not about being overly optimistic, just maintaining a neutral reality—pick your battles and stop sweating the small stuff. The idea that it is never okay to invalidate personal feelings is not unexceptional. Sometimes, small problems don’t actually matter, and that fortune is something to celebrate. 

What this really means is understanding that everything is situational. Good judgment makes good people, so stop being unappreciative and egocentric in the name of self-love. However, note that mental health disorders are not as preventable, and cannot be solved by checking your privilege. The reality is, Instagram is not a place to find love for yourself, and scrolling through TikTok does not provide a release of self-love chemicals— just superficial dopamine. We cannot rely on social media for our self-esteem, but we can pick up a good self-help book.