Friday, February 24, 2012

Narcissism Epidemic

How's my mental health today?

I've been deep in thought. (Usually a good sign)

One of the books I'm reading at the moment is "The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement" by Jean M. Twenge, PH.D. & Keith Campbell, PH.D. (2009).

In their Foreword the writers say,

We imagine narcissism in society resting on a four-legged stool. One leg is developmental, including permissive parenting and self-esteem focused education. The second leg is the media culture of shallow celebrity. The third is the Internet: Despite its many benefits, the Web also serves as a conduit for individual narcissism. Finally, easy credit makes narcissistic dreams into reality. The narcissistic inflation of the self was the cultural twin of the inflation of credit. They are both bubbles, but the credit bubble popped first.

Each of these legs supports living in a narcissistic fantasy instead of in reality. Few boundaries are set by families, and teachers tell children they are "stars" and "winners" even as performance stays stagnant. Celebrity culture and the media tempt people with the idea of fame - often fame rewarded for the amount of attention one draws to oneself rather than actual accomplishment (Paris Hilton?, Kim Kardashian?)*. The Internet allows people to present an inflated and self-focused view of themselves to the world, and encourages them to spend hours each day contemplating their images... Easy credit serves as a personal Fairy Godmother who makes wishes come true, but only until the bills come due.  [* my insertion]

We can take the road of narcissism... Along this road we see the signs of greed, self-centeredness, shallow relationships, vanity, social isolation, phony economics, bailouts, and blame. Or we can walk a different path, one whose way is marked by responsibility for ourselves, our families, and our communities. This road values the things that bring us joy without harming others, such as close relationships, strong communities, hard work, and passions or hobbies. These things celebrate personal freedom but also responsibility. This path is harder because it is based on reality rather than fantasy - and it is a path rather than a destination because perfection doesn't exist - but in the long run it is the right road to travel.

Very thought provoking - at least I find it so.

The authors frequently point to the surge of social media media usage and blogging as a factor and indicator in the rise of narcissistic attitudes and behaviours in our culture.

It's very easy to pigeonhole other people, deciding where they fit on the 'narcissistic road' (judgement comes so easily, doesn't it). The more difficult and painful challenge is to examine myself and look at which road I'm walking. I'm using Facebook and blogging. Am I too self-focused?

This book has me examining my motives and actions. Furthermore, where does my Christian faith fit?

The authors of the book aren't writing from a Christian perspective, but I noticed Chapter 15 is titled, "God Didn't Create You to Be Average". I'm just beginning the book; that chapter and how it fits into the authors' presentation/argument has piqued my curiousity.

As individuals and as a nation, we now suffer from social narcissism. The beloved Echo of our ancestors, the virgin America, has been abandoned. We have fallen in love with our own image, with images of our making, which turn out to be images of ourselves.
~~ Daniel J. Boorstin



No comments:

Post a Comment