communal narcissist

Communal Narcissism: When Seeking Recognition Shapes Toxic Behavior

The digital age has brought about a seismic shift in the way we communicate, connect, and express ourselves. With the advent of social media platforms, we have unprecedented opportunities to share our lives, thoughts, and ideals with a global audience. Social media has become a virtual reflection of our society, mirroring not only our aspirations and triumphs but also our flaws and complexities.

In light of this, an intriguing psychological phenomenon has emerged – communal narcissism. While narcissism is often associated with self-centeredness and an excessive need for admiration, communal narcissism takes a different twist. It’s about seeking recognition and validation not just for oneself but for the perceived communal good.

Social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok, have become integral parts of our daily lives. They serve as forums for connecting with friends, sharing opinions, staying updated on news, and championing causes close to our hearts. But, these platforms aren’t just tools for communication; they shape our behavior, values, and perceptions in profound ways.

There’s a complicated relationship between communal narcissism and social media. Individuals who exhibit communal narcissistic traits will often leverage these platforms to gain recognition and influence. So, what is communal narcissism, and how does it differ from other forms of narcissism?

TLDR: Communal narcissism is a unique twist on traditional narcissism where individuals seek recognition for their perceived contributions, rather than personal achievements. While they may appear altruistic, their actions can sometimes disrupt genuine community efforts, erode trust, and create conflicts. Social media platforms amplify these behaviors, making them more visible and impactful. Addressing communal narcissism requires a balance of accountability and empathy, with strategies like open dialogues, promoting authentic engagement, and fostering self-awareness. For communities to thrive, it’s essential to recognize and proactively address communal narcissism, ensuring interactions stem from genuine care rather than a mere quest for recognition.

Understanding Communal Narcissism

Narcissism, in its traditional sense, often conjures images of individuals enamored with their own reflections, those who place themselves on pedestals and seek constant admiration from their surroundings. It’s a self-centered dance, with the individual always in the spotlight, always the protagonist of their own story.

Communal narcissism, however, introduces a twist to this concept. At its core, it’s still about seeking recognition, but the script is flipped. Instead of “Look at how great I am,” it’s “Look at how great I am for everyone else.” It’s a quest for acknowledgment based on perceived contributions to the community or the greater good.

Looking into the key characteristics of communal narcissists, we find:

  • Altruistic Grandiosity: This isn’t just about thinking highly of oneself. Communal narcissists believe they’re making monumental contributions to communal causes, often inflating the importance of their actions. They see themselves as saviors, heroes in the narrative of community welfare.
  • Validation-Seeking: While all narcissists seek validation, communal narcissists are particularly hungry for external acknowledgment of their altruistic deeds. They thrive on applause for their community-focused actions, tying their self-worth to the recognition they receive for such deeds.
  • Perceived Virtue: Communal narcissists view themselves through rose-tinted glasses of moral superiority. They believe they’re not just doing good but are the epitome of goodness. This often blinds them to any potential negative consequences of their actions, as they’re convinced of their virtuous intent.

In essence, while traditional narcissists and communal narcissists both seek recognition, the lens through which they view themselves and the world differs significantly. The communal variant wraps itself in the cloak of altruism, but beneath it, the core desire for acknowledgment and validation remains strong.

Common behaviors and traits

To fully grasp how communal narcissism shapes toxic behavior, it’s important to familiarize ourselves with the behaviors and traits commonly exhibited by individuals with communal narcissistic tendencies. These behaviors include:

  1. Performative Allyship: Communal narcissists often engage in performative acts of support for social causes or communities, not necessarily out of genuine empathy but to gain recognition.
  2. Virtue Signaling: They publicly display their moral values and virtuous actions on social media, seeking approval and admiration from their online audience.
  3. Antagonism and Shaming: In their quest for recognition, communal narcissists may resort to antagonizing or shaming others who they perceive as not meeting their standards of “communal virtue.”

Communal narcissism is woven with threads of performative allyship, virtue signaling, and, at times, antagonism. Recognizing these patterns is the first step in understanding the broader implications of this behavior. While on the surface, these actions might seem aligned with community welfare, the underlying motivations often reveal a different story. It’s a quest for recognition, sometimes at the expense of genuine community building. And as we transition into the realm of social media, these behaviors take on new dimensions. The digital platforms not only amplify these traits but also provide communal narcissists with a vast stage to perform, seek validation, and influence. Understanding this distinction is vital in recognizing the specific behaviors and motivations that drive communal narcissists, especially in the context of social media.

The Impact on Society & Social Justice

Undermining Authentic Connections: Communal narcissistic behaviors, such as performative allyship and virtue signaling, can erode the authenticity and safety of communities. When individuals prioritize recognition over genuine engagement, it becomes challenging to establish trust and build meaningful connections.

Eroding Trust: The pursuit of external validation can lead to skepticism within communities. Members may question the authenticity of others’ actions, which, in turn, can foster a climate of distrust and suspicion.

Diminished Collaboration: Communities, whether they’re small local ones or large global ones, thrive on collaboration and shared goals. Communal narcissism can hinder collective efforts by diverting the focus away from these goals and towards individual recognition.

The potential for division and conflict within social justice movements

Internal Conflict: Within social justice movements, communal narcissistic behaviors can give rise to internal conflicts. When individuals prioritize their own recognition and virtue signaling over the broader cause, it can lead to infighting, division, and a dilution of the movement’s impact.

Loss of Focus: The true objectives of social justice movements, such as advocating for equity and justice, can become obscured when communal narcissists divert attention to their personal endeavors. This loss of focus can hinder progress.

Ineffectiveness: The divisive nature of communal narcissism can render social justice movements less effective in achieving their goals. A united front is often more powerful than a fragmented one.

Impact on mental health, both for communal narcissists and their followers

Communal Narcissists: For communal narcissists, the relentless pursuit of external validation can lead to a precarious sense of self-esteem. When their self-worth hinges on the approval of others, it leaves them vulnerable to anxiety, depression, and emotional instability.

Followers: Those who follow communal narcissists may also experience negative consequences. They may feel disillusioned when they perceive the insincerity of these individuals or become disheartened by the emphasis on recognition over genuine causes. This disillusionment can impact their mental well-being and faith in the online community.

Online Culture: On a broader scale, the prevalence of communal narcissism contributes to a culture where authenticity and empathy take a backseat to validation-seeking behaviors. This can create an environment that negatively impacts the mental health of all participants, fostering an atmosphere of competition and superficiality.

In summary, communal narcissism has significant repercussions. It undermines the authenticity of communities, hinders the effectiveness of social justice movements, and can have adverse effects on the mental health of communal narcissists and those around them. Recognizing these consequences is a vital step in addressing the challenges posed by this phenomenon and working towards more compassionate and genuine connection

The Social Media Connection

Exploring the relationship between communal narcissism and social media

Social media platforms have revolutionized the way we communicate, connect, and present ourselves to the world. They’ve become fertile grounds for a diverse range of personalities, including communal narcissists. Understanding the intricate relationship between communal narcissism and social media is essential to appreciating how these platforms amplify certain behaviors and psychological traits.

Communal narcissists and social media: Communal narcissists are drawn to social media for a simple reason – it offers an unprecedented opportunity for recognition on a grand scale. These platforms provide them with an audience that can potentially validate their communal deeds, and in turn, bolster their self-esteem. As a result, social media becomes the perfect stage for their pursuit of recognition.

Selective portrayal of communal identity: On social media, individuals can carefully curate their online personas, focusing on aspects of themselves that align with their communal identity. Communal narcissists are skilled at emphasizing their perceived virtuous acts while downplaying or omitting less flattering aspects of their behavior. This selective portrayal can lead to a distorted image of their true motivations and character.

How social media platforms facilitate attention-seeking behavior

The architecture and dynamics of social media platforms inherently encourage attention-seeking behavior, making them conducive environments for communal narcissists to thrive.

Likes, Comments, and Shares: Social media platforms employ mechanisms such as likes, comments, and shares to quantify and display the level of engagement with a post. Communal narcissists actively seek these forms of engagement as they provide tangible evidence of their influence and recognition within their online community.

Virtual Validation: Communal narcissists view virtual validation in the form of likes and positive comments as markers of their communal worth. Each notification becomes a dopamine-inducing reward that reinforces their behavior.

Visibility and Reach: Social media offers the possibility of reaching vast audiences. Communal narcissists relish the thought of their altruistic acts being witnessed by many, further fueling their need for recognition.

Examples of communal narcissistic behaviors on social media

To illustrate the interplay between communal narcissism and social media, it’s important to understand that the behaviors are the same as they are out in the real world – the grandiose declarations of selflessness, performative allyship and virtue signaling are just amplified. The opportunity to publicly showcase their moral superiority by criticizing fellow allies or activists who they believe are falling short, is irresistible. This behavior can fuel online conflicts and create divisions within communities. Here are some examples of what that might look like:

How communal narcissists engage in these behaviors on social media

Communal narcissists are adept at employing performative allyship and virtue signaling on social media platforms, leveraging these behaviors to enhance their public image and receive validation.

Publicizing Their “Altruism”: Communal narcissists frequently share their support for social causes on their social media profiles, often with an emphasis on the visibility of their actions. They may post images, videos, or lengthy narratives showcasing their involvement in these causes, all designed to garner attention.

Selective Engagement: Communal narcissists may strategically engage with trending hashtags or join popular movements, not necessarily because they deeply care about the issue but because it offers an opportunity for recognition. Their engagement can be fleeting and superficial.

Performative Gestures: They may engage in performative gestures, such as making grandiose declarations about their commitment to a cause or making highly emotional posts to evoke sympathy and admiration.

Public Critique of Others: In an attempt to demonstrate their moral superiority, communal narcissists may publicly criticize others within their community or social justice movements, implying that they are the true standard-bearers of virtue. This criticism can create division and conflict.

In this way, communal narcissists strategically leverage social media to serve their need for validation and recognition, often at the expense of authentic engagement and meaningful contributions to the causes they claim to champion. Understanding these behaviors is key to addressing the impact of communal narcissism on social media and society.

The Psychological Forces Behind the Curtain

Discussing the underlying needs and insecurities of communal narcissists

To comprehend the behaviors of communal narcissists, we must delve into the deep-seated psychological needs and insecurities that drive their actions.

  1. Belonging and Acceptance: Deep down, communal narcissists often feel a sense of inadequacy and isolation. They yearn to belong to a community or social group that values them. Encouraging them to seek authentic connections based on shared interests and values, rather than superficial recognition, can help address this need.
  2. Self-Esteem and Self-Compassion: Communal narcissists frequently lack a stable sense of self-esteem and self-compassion. Their self-worth hinges on external feedback, which can lead to emotional instability. Promoting self-compassion and self-acceptance can be a constructive path toward building a healthier self-concept.
  3. Authenticity and Meaning: While communal narcissists may engage in performative acts of altruism, they often miss the genuine fulfillment that comes from authentic, meaningful connections and actions. Encouraging them to reflect on their motivations and shift their focus towards making a positive impact for its own sake can lead to more authentic and fulfilling experiences.
  4. Emotional Healing: Many communal narcissists carry unresolved emotional wounds from their past that fuel their need for validation. Encouraging them to seek therapy or counseling can be a beneficial step in addressing these underlying issues and fostering emotional healing.

Exploring the role of external validation in shaping their behavior

External validation plays a central role in the behavior of communal narcissists. It acts as a potent motivator, influencing their actions and decisions on social media.

Validation as a Lifeline: For communal narcissists, validation from others serves as a lifeline for their self-esteem. The more likes, comments, and praise they receive for their communal acts, the more their self-worth is bolstered.

Validation-Seeking Loop: The cycle of seeking external validation can become addictive. Each positive interaction on social media reinforces their behavior, leading to a never-ending quest for more validation.

Redefining Success: To communal narcissists, success is measured not by intrinsic personal growth or fulfillment but by the quantity and quality of external validation they amass. This skewed perspective can lead to a perpetual cycle of seeking approval.

How communal narcissists use social media as a tool for boosting their self-esteem

Social media platforms provide communal narcissists with the perfect tool for elevating their self-esteem by fulfilling their need for external validation.

Virtual Elevation: On social media, communal narcissists can elevate their self-esteem through the number of followers, likes, and shares they accumulate. Each interaction serves as proof of their perceived importance and virtuousness.

Curating an Ideal Self: These individuals often curate an idealized online persona, carefully selecting and showcasing their communal acts and virtues while omitting their vulnerabilities or less admirable qualities. This curated self feeds into their self-esteem, further emphasizing their communal identity.

Comparison and Competition: Social media fosters an environment of comparison and competition, where communal narcissists constantly measure their recognition against that of others. This comparison can drive them to intensify their validation-seeking behaviors.

Understanding the role of external validation and the perceived power of social media in bolstering their self-esteem is pivotal in unraveling the motivations behind communal narcissistic behavior on these platforms. As we continue to explore how to navigate relationships with communal narcissists, these psychological underpinnings will provide valuable insights into the complexities of this phenomenon.

Cultivating Compassion and Empathy

In the quest to address this issue, it’s essential to strike a delicate balance between holding individuals accountable and approaching them with understanding. After all, beneath the layers of validation-seeking and performative actions often lie deep-seated needs and vulnerabilities.

  • Empathy Workshops and Open Conversations: One of the most effective ways to cultivate empathy is through structured workshops and open dialogues. These sessions can provide communal narcissists with the tools to better understand the emotions and perspectives of others, fostering a more genuine connection with the community.
  • Sharing Personal Stories to Humanize the Impact: Personal narratives have a unique power to resonate and create empathy. By sharing stories of how communal narcissistic behaviors have affected individuals, we can humanize the impact, making it more tangible and relatable. This can serve as a powerful catalyst for change, prompting communal narcissists to reflect on the real-world consequences of their actions.
  • Mindfulness Practices for Self-Awareness: Mindfulness and meditation can be transformative in fostering self-awareness. By encouraging communal narcissists to engage in these practices, they can become more attuned to their motivations and behaviors, recognizing when they’re acting out of a genuine desire to help versus a need for validation.
  • Professional Guidance and Therapy: Sometimes, the roots of communal narcissism run deep, intertwined with past traumas or unresolved emotional issues. In such cases, professional therapy or counseling can be invaluable. Therapists can provide insights, coping mechanisms, and strategies to help communal narcissists navigate their need for recognition and develop a healthier sense of self-worth.

In essence, while compassion and empathy are both crucial, it’s equally important to hold communal narcissists accountable. By doing so, we not only address the immediate behaviors but also pave the way for lasting change and personal growth.

Accountability & Safety

Navigating community dynamics requires a keen sense of balance, and at the heart of this equilibrium lies accountability. It’s the glue that binds a community, ensuring its integrity and cohesiveness. When faced with the challenges posed by communal narcissism, this sense of accountability becomes even more paramount.

However, holding communal narcissists accountable isn’t always straightforward. One of the more troubling behaviors they might exhibit is an inability to accept responsibility. Instead of acknowledging their actions, they may resort to gaslighting—manipulating others into doubting their own perceptions—or launching personal attacks. This deflection can further erode trust within the community and create an atmosphere of tension and suspicion.

To constructively address and redirect the behaviors of communal narcissists, several strategies can be employed:

  • Open Dialogues and Feedback: Cultivating an environment where open and honest conversations are encouraged can be a game-changer. By providing communal narcissists with constructive feedback, they can gain insight into the repercussions of their actions, even if they initially resist such perspectives.
  • Promoting Authentic Engagement: Steering communal narcissists towards genuine community involvement, devoid of the spotlight, can help shift their focus. By valuing true contributions over mere performative gestures, there’s hope for a more authentic community dynamic.
  • Encouraging Self-Reflection: Self-awareness is a potent antidote to narcissistic tendencies. Encouraging communal narcissists to introspect, perhaps through workshops or therapeutic avenues, can help them recognize and address their need for external validation.
  • Setting Boundaries: Given the potential for gaslighting and personal attacks, it’s essential to establish clear boundaries. By setting expectations for respectful interactions and consequences for crossing those boundaries, communities can safeguard their members and maintain a positive atmosphere.

Promoting Collective Responsibility

Communities themselves play a crucial role in addressing communal narcissism. By collectively valuing authenticity, accountability, and the greater good, communities can shape a culture that discourages validation-seeking behavior.

Shared Values: Define and promote shared values within the community that prioritize the well-being of all members. Emphasize the importance of unity and common goals over individual recognition.

Moderation and Guidelines: Implement community guidelines and moderation policies that discourage performative behaviors and encourage respectful engagement. These guidelines can help maintain a healthy online environment.

In conclusion, holding space for accountability is a vital step in addressing communal narcissism on social media. By encouraging self-reflection, fostering empathy, and promoting collective responsibility, online communities can create an environment where genuine connections and contributions are valued over superficial recognition. This shift in focus has the potential to reshape online interactions and foster a more compassionate and responsible digital landscape.

When addressing communal narcissists, it is crucial to strike a balance between compassion and accountability. While it is important to approach these individuals with empathy, it is equally important to hold them accountable for their actions. This can be achieved by setting clear boundaries and expectations.

For example, if a communal narcissist consistently seeks validation and recognition for their supposed contributions, it is crucial to communicate boundaries regarding their behavior. This may involve expressing the need for genuine acts of kindness that are not motivated solely by the desire for praise. By clearly articulating expectations and holding communal narcissists accountable, individuals can stop enabling their behavior .

Recognizing the facade of kindness and compassion used by communal narcissists is also crucial. These individuals are skilled at presenting themselves as caring and selfless, but their underlying motives may be driven by self-interest. By being aware of the tactics employed by communal narcissists, individuals can avoid being manipulated and can respond more effectively to their behavior.

Practicing self-care and fostering self-awareness are important strategies for individuals dealing with communal narcissists. It is essential to prioritize one’s well-being and protect oneself from the potential harm caused by these individuals. Additionally, seeking professional help may be necessary in dealing with the challenges posed by communal narcissists, as therapists or counselors can provide guidance and support in navigating these complex dynamics.


Communal narcissism, with its intricate blend of altruistic facades and underlying validation-seeking behaviors, presents a unique challenge for communities. Recognizing its presence and understanding its nuances is not just an academic exercise; it’s a crucial step towards creating healthier, more cohesive communities. When left unchecked, communal narcissism can erode the very foundations of trust, authenticity, and genuine collaboration that communities thrive on.

But recognition is just the starting point. The onus is on communities—both online and offline—to be vigilant. To not just passively observe but to actively address and redirect behaviors that lean towards communal narcissism. This proactive stance, coupled with a balanced approach of accountability and empathy, can pave the way for more genuine interactions and collaborations.

In essence, the call to action is clear: For communities to flourish, there’s a need to be both watchful and compassionate, ensuring that every member’s contributions stem from a place of genuine care and not just a quest for recognition.