The Narcissistic Photos of Instagram

When do Instagram photos cross the line from natural to narcissistic? Modern Manners Guy discusses the pitfalls of filtering, Photoshopping, and putting on false faces.

Richie Frieman
3-minute read

As Modern Manners Guy, I task myself with making sure mannerly missteps don’t go unnoticed. The noisy eater, the bad breaker-upper, the monster-in-law – all are classics. However, something even worse than these characters needs to be addressed: the rampant narcissistic behavior on social media sites, especially Instagram.

Forget the tweets about being tougher or cooler than everyone else. On Instagram, we see people constantly needing to photograph themselves like models, with filters and effects galore.

I came across an article in The Atlantic that credited social media sites for creating platforms where narcissistic people can focus only on themselves and receive flattering comments as a result. And of all the social media tools that involve narcissistic behavior, Instagram by far wins the gold.

Don't get me wrong, we are all a little self-absorbed on social media. That’s a part of the game, right? You need to build an audience to get your message out, which involves a lot of “Look at me, look at me!” However, there are ways to go about this without taking the “Real Housewife of Orange County” approach.

I’m making a call to action: Be honest with your photos. So many people post overly-Photoshopped (or filtered) images and pass them off as “Oh, this is me.” It’s not. I don’t understand the “look into my eyes” photos where people take incredibly polished selfies and post a comment like, “It’s time for breakfast.” Sure, it may be time for breakfast, and you may be lying in bed in that picture, but don't claim that photo of you is how you woke up. Riiiiight, sure, because we all wake up looking like someone out of a J.Crew catalog - hair done to perfection, immaculate skin, an arm draped behind our heads at just the right angle to make our biceps look more toned.

Admit it – you got up earlier, got all cleaned up, got back in bed and then took the photo. I mean, let’s be honest, when most people wake up, their hair looks like it was in a wind tunnel, their eyes are crusty, and there's probably some dried up drool in the corner of their mouths.

This act is very common with models, actors, and other celebrities, whose smile has made them millions. So to the professional fakes, it should be no surprise. But for us common folk, who have no flock of followers, let’s be realistic and honest. 

This isn’t to say that all refined photos on Instagram need to go away. Not at all - refinement is where the art is. However, the realness of a photo that lacks ego, a photo that celebrates life as it really is, looks much more stunning.

The problem is that when you project a false self, thinking you’re fooling people, you're really only fooling yourself. It’s clearly an act of gaining attention for the wrong reasons, simply to be liked (no pun intended). Bottom line, own who you are. If not, check out the classic story ofThe Emperor's New Clothes

As always, if you have a manners question, I look forward to hearing from you at manners@quickanddirtytips.com. Follow me on Twitter @MannersQDT, and of course, check back next week for more Modern Manners Guy tips for a more polite life.

Do you have any recent graduates in your circle, or perhaps someone who is looking to start a new career, check out my new book, Reply All…And Other Ways to Tank Your Career for great tips and advice on job success. It's available now!

Woman image courtesy of Shutterstock.