The feud between James Charles and Tati Westbrook is a reminder of how YouTube is the perfect breeding ground for narcissists

According to psychologist Gregory Kushnick, social media platforms like YouTube foster narcissistic behavior.

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According to psychologist Gregory Kushnick, social media platforms like YouTube foster narcissistic behavior.
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Stefanie Keenan / Getty

  • Beauty YouTubers and former friends James Charles and Tati Westbrook are feuding after Charles posted an advertisement for a vitamin supplement company that is a direct competitor of Westbrook’s vitamin brand.
  • Their fans have been quick to take sides and other YouTubers have called the two manipulative throughout the debacle.
  • According to psychologist Gregory Kushnick, social media platforms like YouTube foster narcissistic behavior.
  • Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more.

Over the past week, YouTube viewers and influencers alike have become embroiled in a feud between former friends and beauty vloggers James Charles and Tati Westbrook.

The fight began after Charles posted an advertisement for vitamin supplement brand Sugar Bear Hair, which is a direct competitor to Westbrook’s own supplement brand, Halo Beauty. Westbrook shared a video following the incident, where she cried and said she felt betrayed.

Charles issued a written apology on social media, but Westbrook followed her first missive with a 45-minute video detailing all of the ways Charles made her feel uncomfortable and sabotaged their relationship in the past, essentially ending their friendship over YouTube.

Amidst the social media back-and-forth, fans and fellow YouTubers began to chime in. YouTuber PewDiePie called Westbrook manipulative for calling out Charles, while former fans of Charles have destroyed his popular eyeshadow palettes to get back at him for being manipulative himself.

It’s impossible to know who is telling the truth, since YouTubers drive their brand from start to finish, often conceiving of video ideas, scripting them, filming them, and producing them all on their own. At the end of the day, YouTube is a way to make a living for many of the people who took part in the Charles-Westbrook feud, and their reactions reflect personal and professional interests.

YouTube and other social media platforms that put complete control in the hands of creators are the perfect breeding grounds for narcissists, or people who have an excessive need for admiration yet lack empathy for others, according to psychologist Gregory Kushnick.

“It’s a slow change, but when you’re doing things for other people and you’re acting with the goal of winning over others, if repeated over and over, it outsources your sense of worth and creates an exaggerated sense of importance manifested in likes, comments, and views,” psychologist Gregory Kushnick told INSIDER.

Social media-focused careers lend themselves to narcissistic behavior

YouTubers just starting out may not possess narcissistic tendencies.But as they continue to post regular videos in an attempt to gain a loyal following , they could slowly become more narcissistic, and in extreme cases, potentially develop narcissistic personality disorder. (You can have narcissistic tendencies without having full-blown narcissistic personality disorder.)

Young YouTubers are especially susceptible to falling into narcissistic behavior.

According to Kushnick, people who are in long term relationships, married, or have a career outside of social media influencing tend to have other outlets for validation. On the other hand, a person who is a social media influencer and has few connections outside of that community may believe all of their value depends on the success of their internet appearance. As a result, their actions become a way to maintain that appearance, and their sense of self becomes warped.

“You then lose touch with reality in some way because you value different things [than you did before],” Kushnick said.

Suddenly, subscriber counts, likes, and comments become ways for someone to determine whether they’re a good person, and as in the case of Charles and Westbrook, all of those metrics are rooted in the appearance they share with the world. This can also lead to the sense that anyone who has similar expertise is competition, according to Kushnick.

“Someone who has excessive need for admiration and lacks empathy will absolutely see peers or people seeking same validation as a threat,” he said. “They don’t have perspective so they think there isn’t enough love to go around.”

If a narcissist senses a threat, it could manifest in deflating others to boost their own ego, or constantly pushing back because they always need to be right.

You might think a narcissistic person like this would be friendless, but oftentimes these people have surface-level friends for appearance purposes, Kushnick said. At a closer glance, narcissists tend not to have close bonds with others, especially in romantic relationships. According to Kushnick, it takes a person who is completely self-sacrificing to be in a relationship with a narcissist.

It’s possible to undo narcissistic tendencies, but only if you remove yourself from the cause

Since it takes a number of factors for a person to develop narcissistic personality disorder, it’s also possible to undo the disorder, but it takes a conscious effort to remove yourself from the cause of the problem.

A narcissistic person would have to stop posting videos or photos to social media for value and look for self-worth in other forms, like a rewarding relationship with a friend or a desk job that relies on a non-appearance-based skill.

But for many influencers, social media is their livelihood and taking a step back would be difficult.

“People are caught in the moment and that’s what social media does. You lose ability to step back and see how it’s affecting you and your connection to people,” Kushnick said.

It’s impossible to tell if your favorite influencers are narcissists at their core

The nature of the internet makes it impossible for a viewer to discern whether their favorite influencer is actually a narcissist, since their jobs require them to put on personas that may not be entirely true to life.

But the constant pull to check our phones for texts, likes, and comments has allowed society as a whole to develop more narcissistic tendencies, according to Kushnick.

“[It’s] quite dangerous. You’re not experiencing life and [social media] makes you worship the wrong things,” Kushnick said. “The bane of the 21st century is this collective exaggerated sense of importance and absolute hunger for validation that makes people very self-focused.”