Rushville Republican

April 18, 2013

Mauzy: Narcissistic behavior during mediated communication

Jean Mauzy
Rushville Republican

RUSHVILLE — Advanced technology allows us to stay connected with others and communicate with ease. Differing in years past, we no longer must wait for the mail carrier to pick up a letter or wait for an appropriate hour to make a land-line phone call that ensures our communication partner is awake or is otherwise not busy. In many cases, the need to leave the house in order to communicate with others is practically a non-issue. With great speed and sometimes little thought, we can send our innermost ramblings during any hour of any given day or night.

Via the computer linked to an Internet service provider, we can send personal emails, message with our contacts through social media sights, or even chat with strangers around the world. Likewise, if a thought pops into our mind or an emotion into our being, we can use our cell phones to text the message no matter where we are such as the beach, the movie theater, or even while in church. We live in an age where there is no reason to shut-it-down. We can go live with our thoughts at a moment’s notice.

Speed and convenience of mediated communication has its obvious benefits. However, there can be an overwhelming downside as well. The possibility for rude behavior or poor judgment increases significantly when we communicate in this way. Additionally, we may become overly brave and bold, or self-involved to the point we share too much. Many psychological issues come into play when we use our devices (the computer or cell phone) as an extension of our own body or mind. In addition, when we lack the nonverbal vocal or physical cues from our communicating partner or audience, we are somewhat encouraged to fill those blanks in for ourselves, the way we imagine the communication event might unfold is how we present it.

Another downside is that typing messages while sitting alone at a computer keyboard or with a cell phone is that feelings of true anonymity may take over. In this case, people may and often do say things that they would never say in a public space. Feeling safe from repercussion due to being physically removed from a conversation may trick the mind into temporarily feeling that we are powerful, because no one can get to us. This idea applies whether we are writing to people we know or when writing anonymously to an online forum. Manners and good sense often disappear and sometimes for good reason.

The way we communicate digitally/electronically may seem easy but in fact, is very complicated. Just as we do not have the privilege seeing or hearing the nonverbals of the people we are communicating with, the other party does not have the privilege of seeing ours and so a double-edged sword exists. We may post messages where we think we are being funny, smart, or sarcastic but the other person reading may not get that and so he or she must try to make meaning of what we wrote.

Even the acronym lol (laugh-out-loud) can be misconstrued if we do not know the other person very well. Whether we write the “lol” to be a funny agreement, nice teasing, or rude mocking will be up to the reader to decide. Words do not always come off as intended.

In the same scope, we do not have the knowledge of the other person’s mental status and so we may unknowingly do great harm with our written words. Here is where the problem of electronic bullying may occur. The sense of power we feel while sitting alone at our keyboards may draw us deeper into self-involvement and higher feelings us self-worth/importance. When we get to thinking that we are so important or that everyone cares what we have to say, we may go too far and say too much.

The convenience, ease, and anonymity associated with mediated-communication may prompt narcissistic behavior where our perceived importance and power overshadow our ability to empathize with others or our sense to be appropriate in our communication efforts.

When speaking of the dark side of narcissistic behavior brought on by mediated-communication, there are many good rules that a person could apply as a preventative measure. Of those rules, three likely stand out above the rest.

First, if you would not say certain things to a person’s face then it is probably a good idea to refrain from writing it while physically removed from the encounter.

Second, if you would not say the same thing in front of your mother or father then it is probably not a good idea to say it during electronic communication.

Third, let emotions cool before writing in order to prevent overwhelming others. This applies to emotions good or bad, happy, angry or sad.

The words we send through email and text or things we post on our Facebook wall are a reflection of who we are. People reading our thoughts are forming their own opinions and we can be sure that their thinking is likely not identical to ours. A person with narcissistic behavior disorder does not care how his or her actions and words come across to others and the only things that matters is the power he or she feels for the satisfaction that he or she desires. Remain aware that eerily similar symptoms of the disorder can strike when communicating electronically.