Social Narcissism

By on Aug 3, 2011 in Social Media, social media behavior | 0 comments

I came across a recent article on why Klout is dangerous and it reminded me of the posts I wrote in 2009 about Klout’s danger as a form of social narcissism. In that post, I explained that Klout allows people to post their social influence score on twitter, basically allowing them to brag about how much social influence they have. It struck me then and now as a form of social narcissism, or bragging, mainly useful for trying to impress your social media followers.

It doesn’t surprise me that others have taken issue with Klout and similar such services, though it does surprise that it’s taken two years for other people to notice the problems that a service such as Klout creates. The main problem is that such scores don’t accurately measure social influence or successful social behavior all that well. The focus on quantity over quality is never an ideal indicator of social influence, and what also needs to be considered is why there are lots of responses to someone. Is it because the person is famous, or is it because the person has made a remark on a social cause that has caught people’s attention.

In some cases, it will be because of fame, but such fame is misleading. Just because Justin Beiber has a lot of followers, doesn’t necessarily mean he has lots of social influence. In other cases it will be because of social causes…but that influence is really based on the actual cause and not the person.

To truly “get” social media we need to have some respect for analytics, because they can provide some insight into what people are interested in, but we should focus even more on what is really catching people’s interest and causing them to get involved in a dialogue. We can only do that by studying the actual content and responses to it, as they occur on social media sites. A social analytic tool will never be able to fully measure the value of a relationship or what prompts people to follow someone or comment on something. To understand that we need to study the social medium of social media.

Services such as klout, which encourage people to post their social influence score to social media sites are ultimately more focused on trying to get people to use their tools. The narcissism is found in the action of posting the score to show off the social influence that Klout ranks a person with. But the very fact that people do post such ratings to their social media account speaks more to their own need to be acknowledged and consequently reveals they are less interested in being social and developing relationships and more interested in just talking about themselves. Unfortunately, such an approach doesn’t work in the long term, because people want relationships more than they want to read about someone obsessed with what Klout has to tell them about their social influence score.