Is this social network feeding narcissism or rather promoting beauty?
In this interview, Joan Maria Bovet, Director of the Family and Health Psychological Center, analyzes Instagram’s impact on favoring an egocentric view of society, in which the “self” takes first place. Despite this risk, Bovet believes that the intention of Instagram users is a determining factor, and that people are called to constant progress to improve their spiritual life.
Instagram: Does it celebrate egocentrism, or is it a showcase of beautiful things?
Whether Instagram is a celebration of egocentrism or a simple showcase of beautiful things depends on the intentions of each user. A person who is spiritually mature, coherent, and honest will surely not use social networks in a way motivated by negative emotions of their ego, such as pride, vanity, the need to seek praise, the glamour of superficiality, or the desire to impose their own opinions on others. All of these things are nothing but arbitrary and vain manifestations of the human ego.
Certainly, since 78 percent of humanity lives at the level of consciousness of the ego, the celebration of egocentrism on Instagram and other social networks is practically guaranteed.
Beyond the good intention or lack thereof of Instagram users, each post there carries with it its own degree of consciousness, such that messages born of egoism will reflect their origin, whereas messages born from the Truth will favor the fruits of the spirit: compassion, goodness, forgiveness, peace, happiness, and the greater good.
The good and beautiful things posted on Instagram, as such, contribute to what is good. Goodness, kindness, beauty, and love have their own power, since they do not depend on our ego.
Self-esteem is necessary, but in excess it becomes narcissism. How can we find equilibrium in the age of social networks?
Self-esteem is absolutely necessary for us to function in this life and to grow spiritually.
The problem is that, in our psycho-affective evolution, we have acquired some beliefs that distort our perception of self-esteem. For example: a certain kind of religious education might have passed on to us the idea that “too much self-esteem” is egoism and leads to narcissism. Based on that belief, how can I know if I have too much self-esteem? When can I say that my self-esteem is balanced, healthy, free from egoism? How can I know that it’s not narcissistic?
Generally, when talking about Jesus’ command, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” a lot of emphasis has been placed on the fear of egocentrism; as a consequence, there has been much insistence on renouncing “self-love,” described in pejorative terms. “Self-love” has been identified as something negative, which must be rejected.
Certainly, if the love we try to live towards ourselves and others is managed by our ego—and consequently, if it arises from our ego’s needs, expectations, beliefs, and perspectives—it will always be narcissistic.
The issue, as I understand it, isn’t so much whether my self-esteem is excessive or not, but rather, whether I grow spiritually or not. Our society has a very biased, limited, and conditioned idea of love. We easily define as “love” attitudes that are full of egocentrism and which are totally narcissistic. Even in the case of religious people who think of themselves as being spiritual, if their subtle ego penetrates into their spiritual life, it will become a destructive “spiritual ego.” In our society, we speak of love, we sing about love, we call any feeling love, but in reality, only 22 percent of humanity has evolved towards real love, the essence of which is clearly defined by Saint Paul in the “Magna Charta” of Charity [1 Corinthians 13].
How can we balance our self-esteem in this age of social networks?
We can only do it by undertaking the task of growing spiritually, which requires the spiritual will to recognize the strength of our ego’s interests inside us, and the decision to give them up and submit them to God. There is no other way.
What happens is that we have very good ideas and sublime concepts of love, but little experience in practicing unconditional love. It’s a challenge that few are willing to face, and a process that few are ready to undergo.
Do you think we are dealing with a society that is strongly centered on the self?
Totally centered on the self. Our society is extremely narcissistic. It promotes narcissism, vanity, and egoism.
Gestures of solidarity in the face of catastrophes bring out the best, but also the worst, in human nature. Which do you think are the authentic indicators of who we are?
It’s hard to judge if they are authentic or not. Any opinion is, by its very nature, a form of vanity of our ego, which grants itself the right to opine and judge based on its own way of seeing things. Every opinion is arbitrary, since it is the fruit of a perception. The ego perceives: that’s how it relates to reality.
Since every perception is a mechanism of our ego, it is structured on the paradigm of duality, since the ego lives in permanent duality. This means that it forms its opinions based on what it considers “good” or “bad,” “right” or “wrong,” “mine” or “yours,” and consequently, it considers “good” what favors it, and “bad” what it doesn’t like; a “friend” is someone who plays along with it, and an “enemy” is someone who doesn’t.
Both the best and the worst in human nature arise precisely from each person’s level of evolved consciousness. So, from the interior of a person who is more evolved in love, nothing but love can arise; while from the interior of a person who has remained struggling on the lower levels of consciousness of the ego, there will most probably arise pride, fear, guilt, anger, vanity, avarice, deception, falsehood, hate, suffering, separation, solitude, and depression.
Since you are here…
…we’d like to have one more word with you. We are excited to report that Aleteia’s readership is growing at a rapid rate, world-wide! Our team proves its mission every day by providing high-quality content that informs and inspires a Christian life. But quality journalism has a cost and it’s more than ads can cover. We want our articles to be accessible to everyone, free of charge, but we need your help. To continue our efforts to nourish and inspire our Catholic family, your support is invaluable. Become an Aleteia Patron today for as little as $3 a month. May we count on you?