Rise of the Dark Triad: How Social Media Hurts Us

Oh my… we have an enemy. It’s a dangerous one that threatens to undo so much of what we’ve done and what we stand for.

If you’ve been around awhile, you know we started this little passion project based on a simple idea.

With the help of some researchers in New York, we concluded that men need just three things to live a rich, fulfilled life. They are Liberty, Know-How and Connections.

We call them our Triad.

Everything we do focuses on them. You’ll see them in our e-letter, on our site… everywhere.

But where there’s good, there’s evil.

Where there’s life… there’s death. And where there’s dawn… there’s dusk.

We’ve found our antithesis… our enemy.

It’s called – no surprise – the “Dark Triad.”


That’s the name psychologists across the world have given to a series of personality traits that are becoming more and more prevalent in today’s culture – narcissism, Machiavellianism and psychopathy.

Heavy stuff.

But it’s very real.


We blame another of our foes… those damned cellphones in our pockets.

You see, thanks to the tiny cameras embedded in our phones, we’re turning into a “look at me” culture. The folks who study our brains and our behavior say it’s bad news.

They say it feeds the Dark Triad.

In other words, folks who are frequently posting pics of their lives to social media sites like Facebook and Instagram are selfish… are manipulative… and don’t care about the feelings of others.

social media dark triad
Humankind, approx.

Indeed, our beloved Triad has an enemy. Everything we stand for – everything that leads to a good man and a good life – is busted by this sinister trio of dark traits.

The news comes to us in a recent peer-reviewed study featured in Personality and Individual Differences. It showed the more “selfies” and edited pictures folks posted to the web, the higher their chances were of being diagnosed with one of the traits in the Dark Triad.

We’ve long believed that social media is a toxic addiction. Science is now proving it.

The idea threatens the third piece of our Triad – our Connections.

Thanks to the web and its false forms of socialization, our culture is losing what it means to be connected.

Having healthy relationships with others doesn’t mean clicking an icon and “liking” a staged and edited picture. And the measure of our friendships isn’t built on the number of followers we’ve gained.

No, our Connections must be real.

To lead to true fulfillment, they must involve talking, sharing ideas, coaching and nurturing one another.


The study showed that many Facebook frequenters will quickly delete a message if it doesn’t get enough “likes.” They’d rather erase a picture than live with a post that gets little social recognition.

That scares us.

It reminds us of the great writing of a man we honor, Henry David Thoreau.

Musing about appearing in public with a simple patch on one’s pants, he wrote, “Most [men] behave as if they would be ruined if they should do it. It would be easier for them to hobble to town with a broken leg than with broken pantaloons.”

We look around and see lots of men with broken legs… but, alas, few patches.

Our muse continues…

“No man ever stood the lower in my estimation for having a patch on his clothes, yet I am sure that there is greater anxiety, commonly, to have fashionable, or at least clean and unpatched clothes, than to have a sound conscience.”

Again, we see beautiful clothes everywhere we look… but a strong mind or a worthy soul? We might as well be blind.

Rereading Thoreau’s writing does bring a wisp of fresh air. It reminds us our problems are not new. It reminds us the Dark Triad loomed in 1854 as it does today.

But we fear the threat today is greater. And the speed at which this disease will spread is far faster than ever before.

With the potential energy of the web eager to be released with the swipe of our phone’s screen, the Dark Triad lurks quietly in our pocket, waiting to strangle its next victim.

It’s one more reason social media should come with a warning.

Just like cigarettes, booze and porn… the elixir created by edited photos, instant gratification and narcissistic competition is dangerous.

Our kids shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near it.

Most adults, in fact, would be wise to stay away.

Our time would be better honored by sewing a few humble patches onto the knees of our pants.


P.S. A lot of folks have asked if we’re going to expand Manward. They want more. The answer is yes… a very big yes. But we can’t share the good news quite yet. There are still a few details that need to be worked out. Within two weeks, we hope to share some good news.