“The Narcissism Epidemic”…

24 05 2011

People always ask me why I do not ever put my face as my profile picture on facebook. My unsaid reply: I find it weird that most people do not feel weird self-advertising themselves on this social network. Of course, there is a point that excessive apparent humility in actuality is not humility but arrogance in disguise. But in this culture, where “me, myself, and I” have become the main topic of interest, I do not think it hurts to add to such a culture a bit of fake humility. At the least, it prevents from practicing or habituating narcissism.

John Tierney in the NY Times writes, “A Generation’s Vanity, Heard Through Lyrics“, describing the increasing nature of narcissism and violence in the lyrics of modern music. The “we and us” has increasingly been replaced by “I and me” in the lyrics, though it is not the most scientific of data nor do we know whether lyrics cause personality or personality cause lyrics, there is something to notice. Even in the nature of our social communication of facebook, myspace, twitter, youtube are all very “about me.”  But not only that it lessens our ability for face-to-face interaction, and, in effect, can also increase loneliness. Tierney makes an interesting point:

During this period, there have also been reports of higher levels of loneliness and depression — which may be no coincidence, according to the authors of the song-lyrics study. These researchers, who include Richard S. Pond of the University of Kentucky, note that narcissism has been linked to heightened anger and problems maintaining relationships. Their song-lyrics analysis shows a decline in words related to social connections and positive emotions (like “love” or “sweet”) and an increase in words related to anger and antisocial behavior (like “hate” or “kill”).

I must admit, I am deterred or even disgusted when I see blatant narcissism. Hogging of attention, talkers who do not know how to listen, people who post pictures of themselves and nothing else, these all disgust me. But to take a more understanding point of view or counseling point of view, so to speak, I remind myself that this overly narcissistic generation is mainly reflective of the gaping hole inside themselves that they try to fill in with attention and talk of themselves. It is the magnified over-desire of our desire to matter. And it seems our new generation has erroneously discovered the remedy to be telling themselves how awesome they themselves are. Well, as anyone who has already tried will notice, telling oneself in the mirror how awesome, how handsome, how beautiful one is can only make you happy for a couple of seconds, at most. But to ignore this need to matter entirely is to be forget that humans were created to be social, even the queen in Sleeping Beauty needed the mirror (an outside entity, not a reflection of herself) to tell her she was beautiful, that narcissism is just a need for affirmation turned inward. But unless we can find something that will make us feel that we matter, we will continue to sing along to the narcissistic lyrics that emerge and when we have drained or been drained from such wind blowing, we will move on to another “mirror” one that will tell us in a different, yet limited way that our lives are not “meaningless, a chasing after the wind.”



4 responses

24 05 2011

i disagree

1 – facebook has allowed me to keep in touch w/ people better and reconnect w those i lost touch with
2- i dont think it’s bad to post a profile pic b/c there must be >20 “Paul Park”s out there, so how does one know they have friended the correct one
3 – i post pics bc it helps me savor the good times i have. i post mainly of myself out of consideration of others – not everybody likes their pic posted on the internet.
4 – i like looking at other people’s pics of vacations and stuff. it gives me an idea of places to go and is a good escape from the daily grind. almost like going on a mini virtual vacation.

24 05 2011
Paul Park

I think you’re right. Facebook is definitely useful and can be beneficial, I use it myself. My focus was not the pros and cons of facebook, it was more of an anecdote to illustrate the point of narcissism. The linked NY Times article is more of the focus of this post as illustrated with the last paragraph.

24 05 2011

It’s interesting how Twenge’s comments stand in such stark contrast to the psychiatry community. If anything, modern-day practice of psychiatry has exasperated narcissism. “Here, take this pill and all your problems will go away.” Or, “Talk about how people from your past messed up your life, but don’t really bother with the realities of how you interact with other people.”

Props to Twenge.

25 05 2011
Paul Park

Hmmm, I cannot say I know enough about current psychiatry to comment intelligibly, but it does seem pill-poppin’ has become an easy way out for sure.

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