Gemma Styles: Are You A Psychopath Or A Click-Bait Victim?
Gemma has her say on the link between exes and 'dark' personalities...
Earlier this week, you may have seen coverage of a new study from Oakland University, which suggests that actively staying friends with ex-boyfriends or girlfriends means you’re also more likely to display ‘dark’ personality traits. The paper found that people who display such traits and want to stay friends with their exes may do so more for strategic reasons rather than just to keep the friendship alive.
Before I launch into my own take on this, I should point out that I have no training as a psychologist - whatsoever. I’m sure the studies and experience quoted by the experts are valid and I’m not trying to say that they’re wrong and I’m right. However, I do know people who are friends with their exes who I’m fairly confident aren’t psychopaths and can easily think of situations that could explain it.
What if they have a lot of mutual friends? What if they have a child together? What if they had an amicable break up because they weren’t quite right for each other but nobody actually did anything wrong?
One sad/brilliant (depending on how you look at it) feature of the internet is that clicks are currency; websites generally don’t have an endless supply of cash rolling in to keep them going and they have to both support themselves and prove their worth by parading statistics in front of the people in charge. In order to do so a lot of revenue generated comes from advertising – and a lot of advertisers pay based on how many views your site gets a.k.a. how many pairs of eyes are going to see their advert.
In order to get people to the page, you’re going to want to draw them to your links and articles, giving rise to the phenomenon of ‘click-bait’ posts, whose content and very titles are designed to tickle a browser’s curiosity and make them want to read.
This makes total sense, it’s how the internet works and, if you ask me, it’s actually a pretty skilful art. It’s not as simple as “OMG click here!!” and some sites are very good at it, making you want to read on without the promise of miracle genital enhancing pills or celebrity boobs (honestly, who clicks on these things?). From this ‘click me’ culture we get a lot of inflammatory article titles… such as ‘If you’re friends with an ex then you’re probably a psychopath.’ Bringing me in a big ol’ circle back to my original point. Ta daaaa.
So – there is undoubtedly actual research here suggesting that, yes, staying friends with your exes could sometimes be linked to personality traits that could sometimes be linked to indications of being a psychopath. Nobody is saying these things aren’t true. But in condensing the study and the story for easy bite-sized internet consumption, are we starting to lose the plot here?
Speaking to Broadly, narcissism expert Dr. Tony Ferretti explains: “Narcissists hate to fail or lose, so will do what they can to maintain some connection if they didn't make the choice to end it. They can experience narcissistic injury when rejected by a partner and have difficulties letting it go or healing from it.” Sounds right to me.
But hang on a second, we’re talking to a narcissism expert, not an expert on psychopaths. While very well qualified, Dr. Ferretti is being asked about elements of someone else’s paper and agreeing with certain points. We’re not actually talking about psychopaths right now, but it’s all under the same article title and a very clever person is saying “Yes, I agree” so of course friendly exes = psychopaths.
My point here, essentially, is that being online these days requires us to hone our skills as shrewd investigators and cut through the sequins and ribbons to get to the original point being made.
If you read the above story and started to fret about whether you’re a psychopath because you can still hang out with your ex without wanting to punch them in the nose, I wouldn’t let it worry you too much – you’re probably just a nice, rational person.
Remember folks – it’s all smoke and mirrors in the game of click-bait.