Shadow-Work: Using Your Narcissism To Drive Success On Social

Yesterday I watched a Gary Vaynerchuck tell his audience about the importance of quantity when creating content for the web.

That made a lot of sense. After all, the more you post, the more likely you will be discovered by anyone. That’s how you penetrate through the noise.

Yet, this focus on quantity strikes me as one of the less-glamorous aspects of the internet. In a world flooded with information, the winners are those who dump the most into the public pool.

No wonder much of the popular content on the web sucks. 

Why Quantity Sucks (And Works)

Yesterday evening I did something interesting. A friend send me a TikTok video (the first I’ve ever watched), so I decided to do some research. I didn’t want to download the app itself, but I did save a Youtube video compilation of “the best of TikTok 2020.” I was both bored, shocked, and embarrassed. 

Who finds this entertaining? Where are these people? Why don’t I know them?

Would I have found this entertaining when I was fourteen years old?

I’m grateful that my teenage years were mostly free of social media. I don’t think feeding kids with TikTok-content does them any good.

Gary V does have a good argument when he raves about social media. These platforms work. They generate money and they make people happy–or at least make them believe that they are.

Social media is here to stay. The earlier kids learn how it works, the better they will be at using it to further their career. 

Social Media Is Taking Over

Now we all have to rely on social media to share ideas.

So any second that we spend complaining should go into the opportunities that these platforms provide.

(I need to remind myself that I get to turn off my phone for the rest of my life once I retire.)

But maybe by then it’s too late. I’m currently out of 4G on my phone and don’t have Wifi at home. Yet, I have a compulsive need to check in whenever I pass a public hotspot. 

It feels weird to go to bed without having checked my inboxes for a couple of hours. Yes, it has come this far. 

What I deemed unlikely only several years ago has now also become my reality: I need my social media fix.

On It Without Being Involved

Browsing people’s social media content bores me most of the time. It doesn’t give me give me the same satisfaction as does listening to a podcast or reading a book.

Unless I have some spontaneous desire to watch UFC videos, my Instagram activity is merely for putting out content. Rarely I comment on my friends stories, and almost never do I even see their posts.

Call me unsocial, but I’ve simply conditioned myself to want to go in-depth with anything I consume. Also, I’m trying to protect my sensitive mind from overwhelm.

I can, however, see myself becoming part of the social media game for the business of it.

These platforms are like games, and games are fun when hey allow us to manipulate different variables to produce an outcome. 

Social media requires us to study consumer behavior, to dive deep into the psyche of our audience. That I can definitely grow to like.

Using Social Media For Mating

When I lived in Hamburg, I had a period where I was all over my Instagram. I didn’t really know what I was doing at the time, but I knew why I was doing it: I was marketing to potential mates. 

This time of my life was all about dating. I would meet several new girls per week. Instagram allowed me a way to market to them. (Undoubtably, I must have also alienated those who were smart enough to understand what I was doing.)

I loved thinking like a marketer, trying to get into my followers’ heads. 

Most of my posts displayed me with other girls, preferably doing something fun (an old trick from the book). I would produce ‘content’ during one date and share it to appear more attractive to the next one. (Don’t worry about it: I’m already cringing for myself.)

Any cool event I attended became a potential display of my adventurous life. I documented everything I did obsessively.  

My creativity was blooming. Mundane situations turned into potential stories. I searched my days for anything that could be entertaining, funny, or demonstrate what a sought-after-guy I was.

The whole thing was absolutely ridiculous, and maybe didn’t do all that much to get me more dates. But it was the life of a modern content-creator

Success Through Narcissism

My phone became a tool to grow my brand (as an attractive mate), which fed right into my narcissistic tendencies. Most of my successes are somehow build on that same trait.

I can get high on social validation. It’s not my best self, but it helps me to make things happens. (It also tends to burn me out after a while, but that’s another story.)

Some of the greatest periods of my life: living in Hamburg, backpacking the world, and teaching dance around the country were all characterized by a narcissistic high. The resulting feedback-loop made me think higher of myself, which motivated me to do more work. More work means even more acknowledgement. 

The psychoanalyst Kohut wrote about how narcissistic tendencies can become a tool for success when they’re channelled correctly. That thought stuck with me, and I’ve tried to channel mine ever since. 

We all have a desire to be seen. Instead of posting photos of ourselves on social, hoping that other’s will tell us that we’re hot, we might as well use the impulse to fuel our creative work.

Let Your Shadow Work For You

That’s when we turn our shadow into a force that can improve our lives.

Our dark side will most likely be with us for as long as we live. Social media allows us to let the shadow work in our favor.

I’m spending a lot of time thinking about becoming a content creator. I would gladly live without the internet, but it appears to me that I won’t get away from it. I’m motivated by practical thinking.

You could say I’m in it for the sake of business. (It sounds almost like I’m value-signaling to myself, doesn’t it?)

“Connecting With People And Sharing Ideas”

To me, social media isn’t all that it’s made out to be.

They say it’s a tool to connect with like-minded people. They say it’s the place to share ideas.

You know what’s also a tool to connect with people?

Going for a long walk and talking about what’s currently going on in your mind. Calling your buddy for an hour a week to check how life is going. 

You know what’s also a good place to share ideas?

The library has enough ideas to supply you for the rest of your life. I have twenty unread books sitting in my apartment. Even though I often read several hours per day, the number of books never becomes smaller. (I can’t help myself but make make a loan whenever I find something interesting.)

In perspective of the world, social media is for primarily for those who run idea-businesses, and for consumers who are willing to pay a premium for second-hand insight. 

Consider that if an idea doesn’t make it into a book, it might not be worth your time. 

Social media gurus (like Gary Vaynerchuck) are simply get on the train without checking if they’re on the right platform (pun not intended). 

Consider that the smartest people the world aren’t native to social media. Their home is long-form content.

Social media is sheltering marketers.

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