Thoughts on Narcissism, Loneliness, and Family

Have you ever stopped to think how weird most social media is? We’ve probably all seen TikTok videos of crazy people screaming at the camera in the wake of something they don’t like happening. While it’s easy for us to pass this off as a few whackos getting access to technology, I think it’s actually indicative of a deeper problem. If we stop and consider it for a few minutes, we’ll realize that almost all of social media is staged, to some degree or other. The person posting the video/image has to take out their phone, open the app, then pick the right background, angle, lighting, etc. then pick the right filters, and do who knows what else before they actually post the video. That’s not a spur-of-the-moment type of thing, to set up your phone on something to record you. That’s performative. I’m not the first person to observe this phenomenon, or its connection to narcissism. The people who put all of this effort into fake reactions and building a fake life on social media aren’t just big name influencers trying to make money off of advertisements, they’re regular (calling them normal seems like a stretch) people.

There’s a lot to say about the damage that social media does to people’s minds, especially women, but there doesn’t seem to be nearly as much discussion of why people are so drawn to social media in the first place. Why do people put in so much time and effort, just to get likes from random people on the internet? What drives this unprecedented level of narcissism? I think it is a symptom of the epidemic of loneliness that afflicts our culture, especially the younger generations, Millennials and later.

According to Pew Research, almost half of Millennials (45%) are not part of a family, meaning living with a spouse, child, or spouse and children. We need to unpack Pew’s definition of family to really get how significant this is. In the context of this study, single parents count as being in a family, even though they are missing a crucial part of the family unit. The number in a family that follows the Biblical pattern, living with a spouse or spouse and child, comes to 43%, after subtracting the 12% of Millennials who are single parents. Living with a child is not the same as being married to another adult, and it’s not God’s design.God designed the family around one man and one woman, married to each other, then raising children. So in reality, 57% of Millennials are not living as God designed humans to live.

The cultural narrative for some time has been that singleness is just as good as marriage, if not better, and this view has infiltrated Evangelicalism as well.

Mainstream Evangelical leaders seem unperturbed by the unusually high number of singles in the Church, and the fact that Millenials who do get married are doing so later in life. Some even say it’s a good thing, and that single people ‘have more time to serve God’ as if loving one’s spouse and bringing up children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord are somehow less Godly. The assumption in mainstream evangelicalism is that singleness is preferable to marriage. Let us assume, in the name of good faith, that chastity is included in singleness here, so nobody’s excusing sex outside of marriage, using pornography, or any other form of sexual sin. Even granting that, singleness is most emphatically not preferable to marriage. This is apparent in Genesis 2:18-24:

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.” And out of the ground the Lord God formed every animal of the field and every bird of the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all the livestock, and to the birds of the sky, and to every animal of the field, but for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him. So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place. And the Lord God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man. Then the man said,

“At last this is bone of my bones,

And flesh of my flesh;

She shall be called ‘woman,’

Because she was taken out of man.”

For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.

Keep in mind, Adam had not fallen; he was completely sinless at this point. Adam didn’t struggle with lust, he wasn’t discontent, he had none of the problems Paul refers to in 1 Corinthians 7:2 as a reason why people ought to get married. From what we can see in the text, Adam was perfectly happy the way he was, all on his own. He had a mission in tending the garden, he had great food, and he even had unimpeded communion with God. If anyone would be fine being single, it was Adam. Despite all of that, God says, for the first time in literally forever, that something is not good. Not only that, but He goes out of His way to make sure we know He said it. Why do I say that?

Because, starting in Genesis 2:4, God zooms in to focus on the creation of mankind. If all He cared about was describing the origin of humanity, He did that in Genesis 1:26-31. The fact that of all the marvelous things He created, He chose to cover the creation of mankind in more detail shows that it is important. 

What is so important for us to see, that God would bring His narrative of creation to a screeching halt to point our attention to it? That people are not meant to be alone. Not only that, but we are meant to be married. Notice that, before God creates Eve, He has Adam name all of the animals. This has two purposes. First, by naming the animals, Adam is exercising his God-given authority over them. Second, it shows that none of them, not even dogs, were the suitable helper that God intended for Adam. God did not create us to be ‘dog parents’, He created us to be married, and be actual parents.

It is the failure to do this, thanks in large part to feminism and the sexual revolution, that drives so many people to social media, and fuels the narcissism that we see there. People on social media, as a rule, are lonely and starved for the attention that they would have if they were married and raising children.

If you are married, and active in the lives of your spouse and kids, not just dropping the kids off at school to be parented by the government while both parents go to work, then you will not just give them the attention that they need, but you will receive the same attention from them. This cry for attention stems from our need for importance, not in the sense of being famous, but our need to matter to somebody. This is a need that God built into us from the very beginning, and created marriage and family to fulfill. Under the banners of feminism and sexual ‘liberation’, our culture revolted against God’s design and raised up the autonomous individual as the ideal for human existence.

In modern culture, the individual is all; the individual’s wants and needs come first. From the earliest age, we are taught to think of ourselves as atomized individuals, living for our own success, our own happiness, and our own fulfillment. Happiness, we are taught, is climbing the corporate ladder, living free of responsibilities, and ‘treating yourself’. Life, according to modern culture, is all about you, and family will only hold you down. As a result, the only way to feel like you matter is gaining likes and followers on social media.

This need for love, attention, and being important to someone is at the root of most, if not all, of the insanity we can see on social media. This is why being ‘canceled’ is such a big threat: the cancelee is cut off from the community, and their main source of approval if they don’t toe the line and do what the cancel mob demands. It also keeps the mob together, since members in the mob get tacit approval by participating, and anyone who deviates gets canceled. This is also why so many young women post provocative/degrading photos on social media; it’s a surefire way to get attention. If you doubt how important this is to them, consider the total panic that ensued when Instagram temporarily disabled filters for pictures on the platform. Why did these women freak out? Because these filters change their appearance to have more mass appeal, so that they will be more popular and get more attention on the app. Why go through all this trouble instead of just getting a husband who will love them without the filters? Because ‘empowered women’ don’t get married, they live life on their own terms. Again we see the individual put first, to the detriment of herself, and society.

Social media fills a need, albeit one that our materialist culture has trouble recognizing. The toll it takes on humanity, in the form of increasingly narcissistic behavior, will only get worse the longer we use it to cope with our real need: family. God did not design us to live as atomistic individuals.

How do we fix it? I’m not really sure, on a large scale. Millennials aren’t forming families, in large part due to feminism’s highly toxic effects on relations between the sexes, and families are what we need to break our dependency on social media. All we can do is not participate in the madness ourselves. Don’t become a slave to social media, instead spend time with your family (if you have one). Or at the very least, touch some grass. At least it won’t make you insane.

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