How much do narcissists benefit from recent technological advances?

by on June 1, 2013 at 7:41 am in Economics, Uncategorized, Web/Tech, Weblogs | Permalink

Michael Makowsky writes me an email about a conference he was invited to:

Predictably, the lineup of speakers are people who no one cares about, but tickets remain $45. This is analogous to something in stand-up comedy and music called a “bringer show” i.e. you can perform if you sell X tickets, thus “bringing” a crowd. At least, this is my suspicion.

But it got me thinking about your various “benefit to infovores” theories of recent advances in technology. I think you have underplayed the other side of that coin – that recent advances are also especially valuable to *narcissists*. You can foster a sense that a people are watching/care about you much easier than 30 years ago. The market for enabling narcissism is…substantial. I actually expect TedX and similar bricks and mortar portings to lose money. But that is besides the point. Vanity presses and the such have existed on the periphery forever. The internet is a vanity press upped several orders of magnitude. My point is that this is, I think, a near perfect inversion of the “infovore” concept, but with the identical result. It’s an advance that yields tons of consumer surplus, but little additional opportunity to increase anyone’s marginal product, i.e. help the labor market.

There is something almost recursive about an academic building a theory around the demand for enabling narcissism.

1 Norman Pfyster June 1, 2013 at 8:06 am

“It’s not necessarily narcissistic to offer up your thoughts to other,” he wrote in the comment section of a blog.

2 Fundman June 1, 2013 at 8:15 am

Very interesting – but Tyler, don’t each of you who have “real” platforms benefit from all the links and such sent to you by those of us narcissists thinking we are making a difference? Like those of us posting on your comments 🙂

3 Joe Smith June 1, 2013 at 11:58 am

Doubtful. The opportunity to post comments is probably just a way to bait in narcissists and bring traffic to the blog. You people are all so shallow and easily manipulated. 😉

4 TuringTest June 1, 2013 at 8:20 am

We are all narcissists now ….

5 Claudia June 1, 2013 at 8:30 am

People with a strong self-concept, even self-centeredness … call them narcissists … are not that problematic for infovores. Narcissists send a strong signal that is easy to filter … on the other hand, people who are not (over-)confident enough to say what they want to say are much tougher to interpret, especially when they use ‘humor’ as a mask. That said, I much prefer to read narcissists online than to have them occupying my office. I still think there is a missing piece … infovores are collectors of bits and narcissists are sharing their ‘wisdom’ but is anybody really talking to each other? It’s the application of new info that gives rise to social marginal product.

6 Brian Donohue June 1, 2013 at 10:42 am

This feels pointed- at whom, I narcissisticly wonder?

As usual, I’m finding you tough to interpret. Which clearly marks you out as un-narcissistic. Clever.

7 Claudia June 1, 2013 at 11:18 am

I am not sure why you still bother to read my comments … sorry for being unclear, again. I was just trying to say ‘narcissists’ or anyone with a strong, coherent message is easier to interpret…and that signal extraction is more pleasant online than offline. I was also knocking infovores down a notch (not sure how useful we are). I was not talking to anyone in particular just a reaction to the post.

8 Brian Donohue June 1, 2013 at 11:56 am

I got that part of your comment. I just figgered when you wrote: “That said, I much prefer to read narcissists online than to have them occupying my office.” this wasn’t purely an abstract thought.

I can’t decide how much of a narcssist v. inforvore I am, and you seem pretty sure of your radar here, so I was curious what you thought.

It’s Andrew’, isn’t it?

And my comment was, I thought, mildly clever. No intention to tease. OK, a tiny bit.

I will continue to read your interesting, different, polite, thoughtful comments.

9 Becky Hargrove June 1, 2013 at 8:34 am

…But are we really narcissists, or do we just need to find our way back to a more social and meaningful life that actually supports us? Arghh! I allowed myself to get a bit overwrought about that in a couple of posts before I finally put a more positive spin on one yesterday.

10 Clay June 1, 2013 at 9:45 am

I might believe this if my assembled Internet experience didn’t seem determined to undermine my narcissism, particularly by exposing what I thought were my novel ideas as belonging to one pattern or other of conventional thinking.

11 prior_approval June 1, 2013 at 9:53 am

1. The internet is a vanity press upped several orders of magnitude.
2. ????
3. Profit

Essentially, the Internet is the inverse of a vanity press – it costs nothing to put up a cat story/video/picture, and no one pays to see it. Even the middleman in the transaction isn’t making money worth talking about – Youtube is not exactly a simple profit center for google (though google’s concept of ‘profit’ may be a bit different than a vanity press’s – owning a significant percentage of all Internet video views may provide opportunities for an ad delivery platform greater than simple profit in the video serving business unit).

12 Tom (Not that one) June 1, 2013 at 11:16 am


13 YetAnotherTom June 1, 2013 at 1:42 pm

Once, a stalkerish girl wrote a poem on Facebook called
“My narcissist”. It had just enough personal details
In it to know it was probably about me without explicitly stating it. She was thoroughly insane but I admit it was clever.
On point, I’d say infovores are probably narcissistic in their own way, with their ideas being a point of vanity.

14 Dangerman June 1, 2013 at 6:26 pm

Every single upvote on Reddit…

15 David June 1, 2013 at 8:45 pm

Technology has driven down the entry costs, search costs and costs to access to very nearly zero. In the past you could have spent a good deal of money to produce a vanity publication or to buy a listing in a who’s-who, but the cost to your potential audience to search and access those outlets prevented them from having much impact. Technology has removed those barriers. No matter how trivial or inane, there is an audience that will judge the marginal benefit of looking at you above the marginal cost (epsilon). Further, you can now join networks or mutual support groups of other narcissists. For example, see the acolytes of Robert Stacy McCain and his “How to Get a Million Hits on Your Blog in Less Than a Year” and their “reach around” posts.

A more interesting problem than trying to estimate the gains of narcissists would be to estimate the cost of the externalities, like the US House of Representatives.

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