The World Is Tired of All The Sick Sociopath Narcissists ‘Influencers’
Narcissists had their moment in the sun. But in 2022, some of them got their comeuppance and some of them got worse: our disinterest. “Influencers” need to be recognized as mentally, ill, arrogant assholes that do not deserve any media time!
The grownup sibling of the Phoneaholic Teenager, the influencer is often the prime example of why Social Media Is Bad and/or New Media Are Evil. Expect them to be image-obsessed, deceitful, manipulative of their audience and those around them, to be shilling bad (if not actually illegal) products, to live under Social Media Before Reason, and to be prejudiced, self-absorbed, and bitchy. Expect them to get a lot of coverage on the Shallow News Site Satire.
At best, they’ll be portrayed as shallow, dim, and spoiled, although it’s possible for the much milder examples to come closer to being a Lovable Alpha Bitch or a Jerk with a Heart of Gold who is simply not living up to the values that they preach online. At worst, they’ll be a pure Villain with Good Publicity who uses their reputation to commit crimes, up to and including rape and murder. However bad they are, they’ll definitely be a Shameless Self-Promoter, an Attention Whore, and a Stepford Smiler. They will usually wield Instant Humiliation: Just Add YouTube! with prejudice, but it’s also common for this to be how they get exposed for what they are.
This is primarily a trope that emerged in The New ’10s and The New ’20s, at which point the online influencer became so mainstream that they — and legions of wannabes — were impossible to ignore. Specific details of individual behavior depend on whichever platform is the most popular and monetised at the time. Whether on a Character Blog, Friending Network, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, or some form of Fictional Social Network that was definitely not created as part of Writing Around Trademarks, these basic features will apply, even if the specific details differ. Regardless of medium, it’s not unusual to see a YouTuber Apology Parody when the influencer feels they’ve been caught out.
Not to be confused with Anti-Role Model. See also Nice Character, Mean Actor, for an older version of this trope. Although theoretically a different occupation, these tropes have a lot of overlap. Rich Bitch will also frequently go along with this trope if they’re particularly successful, or for that matter Mock Millionaire since they might be just posing with all those luxury items. If they court controversy or make a nuisance of themselves to attract views/clicks/likes, compare the Shock Jock.
A Tech Bro is someone connected with the technology and business industry; cultivating an image of intelligence mixed with money, counterculture attitude and social savvy. Whether they are actually hip, business literate, anti-authority or even intelligent in any form depends on the individual. Their goal is to charm investors into funding their project, so some degree of false presentation is necessary. Typically they are young men in their twenties and early thirties, insisting on casual wear, shaggy hair, Perma-Stubble and are easily distracted during business meetings. Some of them are keen on partying and getting up to wacky hijinx, and may use the phrase “work hard, play hard” as well as Technobabbles. Rather than being social rejects, tech bros are often in a position of prestige and may see themselves as leaders, or even as visionaries, and they want you to know it. Some are social rejects deep down, but work twice as hard to maintain a charismatic facade.
They’re less likely to be shy but instead lean hard into stereotypically masculine traits compared to the social slot nerd characters have traditionally been placed — instead of usually being awkward and socially isolated, they’ve turned into fratbros (if they aren’t just fratbros and hedge fund kids who fell into funding tech startups), media/tech-savvy corporate executives who look like relatable nerds while crunching the Christ out of their employees, and suave influencers. While the social awkwardness of a classic nerd may linger, they HAVE to show some degree of charisma that proves them Proud to Be a Geek. When there is money on the line, they have to be. Mad Scientists worked in tech sectors will end up being this trope, with their sheer cunning manipulation (and possibly literal madness) carrying over. Because of this, the Tech Bro is also often a far darker figure than the traditional nerd: a glib malignant narcissist whose people skills lie in manipulation rather than genuine empathy. They aren’t just interested in tech — they’re interested in monetizing it. They want to found the next big tech company and are at home in the corporate world. They’ll talk about stock options and capturing market share as much as they do about research and coding. They might be a Rich Gadgeteer Genius — or they might just be a manager of geniuses. Their marketing department will tell you how they’re improving the world by disrupting everything, and they tend to think that “outdated” rules shouldn’t be allowed to constrain their new business model. Politically, there is a duality here; some are progressive idealists who believe that their technology will save the world, while others just want to be unaccountable potentates dictating the course of the world from ivory towers.
They have their own style, too. A classic nerd is generally considered uncool, unfashionable and even unhygienic, but if a Tech Bro has any trace of a classic nerd’s unkemptness, it’s only a carefully cultivated fashion statement. They pay a lot of attention to their clothing and personal grooming, though they usually shirk the sharp suits of their Yuppie precursors for a more youthful, business-casual look. They’re more likely to live in stylish, airy, bright houses rather than in dark basements full of old fast food containers, and their office is either the same stark, monochrome minimalist style of interior design or a Wacky Startup Workplace (bonus points for being located in real-life tech hubs like Silicon Valley). Also, while classic nerds are usually either overweight or scrawny weaklings, a Tech Bro is often in good physical shape, perhaps aided by fancy health-tracking gadgets, personal trainers, and faddish diet regimes. If there is a Mad Science Fair, expect Tech Bros to show up often.
The Tech Bro archetype mainly came to public prominence with the rise of tech-focused businesses like Google, Facebook, and suchlike — the founders of such companies are often models for tech bro characters in media, to the point where you can sometimes tell which specific person (or indeed, persons) a character is inspired by.
A specific sub-variant of this character primarily emerging from The New ’20s is the “Crypto Bro”, who (at least allegedly) made his fortune from speculating on Bitcoin, its fellow cryptocurrencies, and/or NFTs. Very similar to a Tech Bro, with a tendency to enjoy flashy spending and be even more egotistical than usual. Has a better-than-average chance of turning out to be a Con Man whose “digital assets” business is a massive pyramid scheme.
Of note, “techbro” is often applied to plain-ol’ socially-awkward nerds working in tech, especially rich engineers and coders; however, this trope focuses more on aforementioned masculine and charismatic qualities given to engineers, tech moguls, and coders with actual social skills (or at least the appearance of such). The former variant though do exist as a heroic, sympathetic variant, in which a tech-focused Science Hero and Playful Hacker will end up be.
Compare with Yuppie (an older portrayal of young and ambitious white-collar workers), Playful Hacker and The Cracker (for another portrayal of glamorized computer geeks) as well as Misfit Lab Rat (another scientific-oriented subculture with similar clothing styles, albeit more unkempt and more rebellious). A tech bro who works in social media may be used for a Social Media Is Bad aesop. Pairs of these have a tendency to form a Technician/Performer Team-Up in both fiction and reality, often with one being a skilled-but-awkward programmer and another a charismatic-but-untechnical “face”.
POLITICO illustration/Photos by Getty Images
By Joanna Weiss
Joanna Weiss is a POLITICO Magazine contributing editor and the editor of Experience magazine, published by Northeastern University.
It’s been a good run for the narcissists.
Over the past decade or so, a mix of shameless self-aggrandizement and self-confident charm has served certain people extraordinarilywell, turning them into venture-capital darlings, licensed-merchandise magnates, Forbes cover models, social media superstars, Oprah confessors, business-conference keynoters, new-money plutocrats and, in one case, president. ElonMusk, Sam Bankman-Fried, Ye (né Kanye West), Elizabeth Holmes, Meghan Markle, Donald Trump: All of them used attention as currencyand ego as fuel, and were rewarded, for a time, with what they craved. We’re drawn to people who love themselves.
But somewhere between the fifth and sixth hour of “Harry and Meghan,” the new Netflix documentary series produced by the formerDuke and Duchess of Sussex and filmed at their California mansion — which suggests that there is no one more in love, no one more socially conscious, no one more aggrieved — my natural sympathy for the couple started turning to irritation, and itoccurred to me that ego has its limits. And it struck me that the overreach that led to the Sussexes’ critically panned mega-seriesis the same impulse that turned Elon Musk into a terror on Twitter, that prompted Ye to up the ante of outrageous behavior until hecrossed the line into blatant antisemitism, that sent Bankman-Fried from the top of the world to a Bahamian jail.
Some of these turns of fate are more dramatic and complete than others. But once we tally up the losses, it could be that 2022 marksthe year our love affair with narcissists started to falter. Many of them met this year with declines in fortunes, falls from grace ornewfound public skepticism. Many seemed to overstay their welcome in the public glare. And if this is the moment when we started to craveboring public figures for a change — well, to a large degree, the egotists did it to themselves. Maybe they couldn’t help it.
“I think right now people are getting sick of it,” said John P. Harden, a political science professor at Ripon College, whenI tested my theory of narcissism’s limits to him over the phone. I’d reached out because Harden studies narcissism in politics: Fora 2021 paper in International Studies Quarterly, he reviewed detailed surveys of presidential historians, correlated them withpsychology research, and created a kind of narcissism index for U.S. presidents up to the early 2000s. Toward the bottom were JimmyCarter, George H.W. Bush and Calvin Coolidge. At the top were Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon and Theodore Roosevelt. Harden’s theory isthat ego can drive history: In international conflicts, a narcissistic president is likely to fret about being disrespected,threaten opponents and act unilaterally, ignoring advisers or allies.
Narcissism can be a clinical diagnosis, Harden told me, but socialscientists define it as a personality trait. It shows up on a spectrum: All of us have some degree of self-love, which probablyexplains our behavior on Facebook and Instagram. But the people Harden calls “grandiose narcissists” — or, at one point in ourconversation, “charismatic attention hogs” — stand apart. They believe they’re the absolute best at what they do. They go to greatlengths to protect and defend their egos. They strive to be unique and promote themselves energetically.
The Guardian compared Meghan and Harry to “a pair of ancient mariners with a TV contract, condemned to tell their tale to everyonethey meet.” | Courtesy of Prince Harry and Meghan, The Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
That’s the story, in a nutshell, of Harry and Meghan, who at first seemed uncommonly savvy for the way they’ve managed theirpublic lives: breaking free of British royal misery, then cashing in spectacularly on the drama. In 2020, they inked a reported $100million development deal with Netflix. In 2021 came their blockbuster Oprah interview and a reported $20 million advance for Harry’s tell-all memoir, Spare.
Their current Netflix series premiered to high ratings and an explosion of media thinkpieces (made you look!). Part of it ischilling: an up-close look at the British tabloid press, complete with heart-wrenching footage of Harry’s mother, Diana, hounded bypaparazzi. But the legitimate complaints are wedged between glamour shots, from footage of Meghan getting fitted for ballgowns to a vastcollection of flattering photos and videos they took during their royal exit, apparently preparing for a photogenic tell-all. Evensympathetic critics have groused that there’s little new here, beyond the vanity. In The Guardian, Marina Hyde compared the couple to “a pair of ancient mariners with a TV contract, condemned to tell their tale to everyonethey meet.”
Ye, who has a perennial need for attention, recently lost a lucrative Adidas contract for his Yeezy shoes after embracingantisemitism. | Seth Wenig/AP Photo
If the Sussexes’ addiction to the public eye is benign — they seem tiresome, but genuinely well-intentioned — a narcissist’sconstant quest for eyeballs and acclaim can get a lot more dangerous. For the worst of it, see Ye, whose perennial need for attention has evolved from outbursts at awards shows to wearing “White Lives Matter” T-shirts and making antisemiticcomments on podcasts, social media platforms and TV shows — losing, in the process, a lucrative Adidas contract and what was left of thepublic’s goodwill.
For other cautionary tales, see Elizabeth Holmes and Sam Bankman-Fried, who won over investors by creating myths aroundthemselves: Young geniuses in signature clothing (she, the black turtleneck; he, the cargo shorts), smarter than the skeptics and theexperts. Holmes, through her blood-testing company Theranos, was going to change medicine; Bankman-Fried, with his cryptocurrencyexchange, was going to upend finance and philanthropy.
The more adulation they got, the more dramatic the fall. Bankman-Fried appears to havebeen running a garden-variety Ponzi scheme; this month, he was indicted for fraud and money laundering. Holmes hid the fact that hertechnology didn’t work from investors and consumers; this year, she was convicted of fraud and sentenced to 11 years in prison. At hersentencing hearing, U.S. District Judge Edward Davila pondered why she’d done it: “Was there a loss of moral compass here? Was it hubris?Was it intoxication with the fame?”
Top left: Theranos founder and CEO Elizabeth Holmes and FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried won over investors by creating myths aroundthemselves: Young geniuses in signature clothing, while Elon Musk has gone from iconoclastic role model to popular punching bag. | NicCoury/AP Photo; Yuki Iwamura/AP Photo; Evan Agostini/Invision/AP/File)
Investors are probably asking similar questions of Musk, who was recently dethroned as the richest man in the world. Musk has always been a volatile public figure, but his stewardship of SpaceX and Tesla gavehim an aura of hyper-competence. Then he took control of Twitter, firing staff and picking fights, as his brand and businessessuffered. Twitter is bleeding users. Tesla stock was down nearly 30 percent in December. Musk has gone from iconoclastic rolemodel to popular punching bag. “It’s amazing,” the British broadcaster Shaun Keaveny tweeted at him after a recent eruption, “how you manage to be, on the onehand, one of the most powerful people in the world, and on the other, a massively needy attention-seeking tool.”
But Harden says the need to constantly up the ante, seeking more attention even if it’s self-destructive, is part of a narcissist’snature. “These people have this hyperactivity, this constant need to do something … filtered through this inflated self-view,” hesays. They draw the spotlight, attention wanes, and they try to do it again.
Maybe that explains the Trump NFTs, which put an outlandish cap on a not-so-great year for the 45th president. It’s been arough stretch, between the January 6 committee hearings, New York Attorney General’s investigation into his company and the JusticeDepartment’s raid of Mar-a-Lago. But nothing was worse for Trump than the midterm elections, when his chosen candidates almost allfailed, and he lost his claim to be an enduring political kingmaker.
If Trump is no longer invincible, his allies of convenience finally have reason to ignore him. And for Trump, there’s nothingworse than being ignored. The Washington Post recently reported that he’s so miserable in Florida, without a press corps to summonat will, that an aide asks his friends to call him with affirmations. On Truth Social in December, he promoted a “MAJOR ANNOUNCEMENT”that turned out to be a line of Trump-branded NFTs. They look like an artist’s rendering of his ego: Trump riding a blue elephant, surrounded by flying gold bars, wearing asuperhero getup with lasers coming out of his eyes.
Even his allies mocked him. On the other hand, 45,000 of the tokens sold out in less than a day — whether out of devotion or curiosity or the sense that they’d be bizarre collector’s items someday.It’s hard to count any narcissist out; it’s not in their nature to give up the stage, even in exile, sometimes from jail. When theywant attention, they get creative.
The Washington Post recently reported that Donald Trump is so miserable in Florida, without a press corps to summon at will, thatan aide asks his friends to call him with affirmations. | Drew Angerer/Getty Images
It’s the public that has to decide whether to bite. In the political realm, Harden has seen cycles: After the public tires of aparticularly narcissistic president, voters choose new leaders with more modesty and restraint. Nixon’s resignation gave way to GeraldFord, then pathologically humble Jimmy Carter. The midterm elections seemed to match the pattern. Trump-endorsed candidates and electiondenialists — some of them Trump-like media hogs — were largely passed over in favor of less flashy moderates and split-ticketvoting.
Whether people will also refrain from buying the next Sussex book or worshiping the next business wunderkind is a story for 2023. Butthere are signs, at least, that our patience is fading. Last week, before Christmas, Musk asked Twitter users whether he should stepdown as CEO, and 57.5 percent voted “yes.” Somebody wants quiet time, at least until the next appealing narcissist comes along.
‘Feel GLAD you ate that pie’: Insane ‘fitness guru’ who lost 50LBS and transformed her body reveals four-step method for reducing belly bloat after overeating on Thanksgiving
Steph Heintz, 36, from New York, has more than 579,000 followers on TikTok, where she shares weight loss tips and raises awareness for orofacial clefts after being born with a cleft palate and lip. The digital creator, who uses the handle @stepheintz, recently detailed her four-step approach for debloating and returning to healthy habits after an indulgent meal. ‘You wake up, you feel bloated, you feel disgusting, don’t worry. I got you,’ she began her nearly minute-long video.