For most 21st-century born teens and millennials, posting about mundane subjects as food, school, or going to work is just another daily task on their iPhones. Acting as a virtual microscope into the fish bowl of everyday life, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram certainly serve their niche in the context of product and professional promotion. A mention, hash tag or a tweet can give a more personal glimpse into the lives of companies, organizations, celebrities and individuals looking to break in and stay in the limelight.
But like any other habit, often times many young people will utilize social media to make a snap decision in seconds, often in the form of a “selfie” to show off their sense of self-importance. One recent – and tragic – example is the Instagram photo shown of a young teenager smiling in front of a wrecked Volvo in Sarasota, Florida. That Volvo, driven by this young man’s older sibling, was involved in a crash by a tanker truck that took the life of the tanker – yet the teen driver fled the scene before police arrived, for which he was later arrested.
The Instagram photo is an outrage that adds salt to the wound, and shows the insensitivity and lack of empathy on the sibling’s part, as if to brag online about the outcome and show off the “prize” in the form of a fully damaged vehicle. In addition, the smiley-faced emojis and “RIP Volvo” meme appear to mock the entire situation. It is as though this is a source of some insane sense of pride and poorly reflects upon the tragedy of the entire situation. This has outraged the widow of the deceased tanker driver, who told the Sarasota ABC affiliate she is infuriated and disgusted by the social media photo and comments.
“Technology appears to incentivize narcissism, offering constant reinforcement of validation-seeking and a steady diet of admiration,” writes author Ramani Durvasula in her new book, Should I Stay Or Should I Go: Surviving a Relationship with a Narcissist (Post Hill Press, 2015). Ramani, a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice and professor at California State University Los Angeles, further writes, “Devices, social media, and our chronic drive to share our lives allow people to outsource their egos and remain reliant on the outside world to do what they should be able to do on their own, which is to regular their sense of self.
“The cultural pressure and norms around posting selfies and chronic validation seeking makes many of the behaviors associated with narcissism simply normal in younger adults,” writes Durvasula.
Certainly, the insensitive actions of one young man do not reflect all of those in his generation. Let’s hope that this serves as a useful lesson to all to think before one posts.