Social Media: Is Narcissism Noteworthy?

June 14, 2009

Social Networking

Spymaster_StatsOver the past three weeks, I’ve been playing the Spymaster game.  I am sure that everyone has heard of it.  Tweets about this game (and 160Mafia) clutter many people’s twitter streams – including mine.

If you want a review of the game, there are plenty of other places to go.  As for me, I feel compelled to talk about the more personal aspects of the game.  At its most harmless, it is an inexorable time sink.  At its worst, it is an ego-fulfilling waste of time.

So after three weeks, I’ve determined a few things.  First, I really seem to get absorbed (and borderline obsessed) with being ahead of other people.  On Twitter and Friendfeed, this is manifested by my desire to have more followers.  Why do I need more followers?  I want to fool myself into thinking that more followers ensures a richer collaborative experience.  And I might be convinced into believing that I have something “important” to share with others.  But that is poppycock; I want to have “more” than you have.  Period.  This is an admitted character flaw on my part.

Second, it is so incredibly easy to set aside personal ethics in the name of gameplay.  No, I’m not doing anything wrong – in the “real” world.  But I am pretending to do many things that would otherwise violate many of the Ten Commandments.  I am coercing mobsters, stealing weapons and secrets, and even “murdering” ambassadors and heads of state.  And once I reached level 30 (the final level), I started to “assassinate” other game players.  [Note: This is all done in a virtual world.  I hope my mere mention of these virtual acts hasn’t tripped some FBI filter within my ISP and its network.]  These are not things I would ever do in real life.  But I have had no qualms about doing them in the name of gameplay.

Third, I have allowed gameplay to affect my online personae.  In order to excel in the Spymaster game, you need to convert your Twitter followers into spies.  At first, I really resisted this temptation.  But I did send out a few targeted invitations.  Then I heard about some of the spy rings that were emerging on the net.  By joining one of these rings, I got a 50% increase in followers.  I truly appreciate the new followers.  But I am sure that they are not in it for the erudite and insightful commentaries that I provide.  Rather, we follow one another to boost stats in the game.  Bottom line: I have indirectly used my Twitter followers to augment my status in a game.

Truly, this is no different than the situation that many other people find themselves in.  I’ve even seen Louis Gray (or someone with his name) out on Spymaster.  But in my case, I have a new Twitter follower base to care for and to feed.  Before Spymaster, I had a discrete set of unique follower groups.  These were based upon mutually interesting topics.  Specifically, I had a group for each of the following:

  • Conservative politics
  • Christian faith and living
  • Cycling
  • Social media and technology
  • Music
  • Parenting

And now I have to add in the category of “Spymaster enthusiasts.”  Do I mind the new group?  Not at all.  Indeed, I like to have connections with new friends.  And I love to hear the interests of other people.  Of course, this does take time away from other things.  And for the past three weeks, it has taken time away from personal freedom!

But after looking in the mirror, the reality is clear.  I have played the game in order to fulfill my need to have followers and to be more important.  But beneath this charade is the real need: I want to be loved and needed.  The quest for followers is a veiled quest to be valuable and “wanted” by others.  At its root, is a misplaced desire to augment myself and my stature.  In true clarity of thought, it is a violation of God’s command in Exodus 20:3 – you will have no other gods besides the one true God.  And I have been placing myself in the center of my own “godhood.”   No, Spymaster isn’t a god.  But I have willingly placed myself and my ego fulfillment into the center of my own solar system.

Yeah, this sounds like a stretch.  But it is not.  Have I been spending my time for my glory or for God’s glory?  Have I been seeking God’s direction, or the admiration of others?  Or have I tried to reassure myself that I am bright and competent – i.e., “better” than others?

To truly understand my absorption into this game, I must conclude that I have misplaced my focus.  God will forgive my indulgence in this vanity.  And I’m sure that I am learning more about myself than I had intended – even before I started to write this posting.

Now the question is simple: will I forgo further gameplay and personal ego augmentation?




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