We are in the midst of a narcissism epidemic. This is not meant to be taken lightly. Psychologists are weighing in with evidence that this is a serious social and psychological problem.
The meaning of narcissism is an inflated view of the self, coupled with relative indifference to others. Those who suffer from this, fail to help others, unless there is immediate gain and recognition to themselves for doing so. They often violate the law and feel that they are above it. They are highly competitive and believe that every competition is winner-takes-all. They believe that the top is their rightful place. They are self-obsessed and entitled, but increasingly unprepared for the realities in life.
You'd think that narcissists would be happy, since they're so full of themselves, but often they are not. Instead, they are angry at the world for not recognising their superiority. It is difficult for them to form deep, everlasting and meaningful relationships. They have a severe lack of empathy.
Empathy is really the issue here.
Empathy is the capacity to experience life from the point of view of others - which is to share in their joys and sorrows and to care about their well-being. It is the foundation of human compassion and morality.
One would think that social networking would increase empathy, but the jury is out. Instead, it's often used to self-promote, which makes it increasingly impersonal and anti-social. Social media may not be to blame, but it certainly is an enabler.
Facebook's timeline is the ultimate curator of the "cult of me". Apparently, the average Facebooker creates 90 pieces of content per week. That's quite an explosion of creativity, or is it? When was the last time you saw something truly profound on Facebook? Facebook is more of a slideshow than it is a conversation. It works, however, because it caters to the self-obsessed "brand me" generation. Oversharing is big business now.
This has resulted in some very perverse behaviour, as people compete to outdo each other in terms of what a wonderful day/meal/holiday/experience they are having. An extreme example of this is that emergency crews now have to carry tarps and other materials to shield accident victims from Instagrammers and phone snappers. According to the president of the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians, this is now standard equipment to deal with an everyday phenomenon. Whenever there's an accident where people are badly injured, bystanders take out their phones and begin taking pictures, which they post onto their social networking accounts. "It's like everyone is a reality-show producer," he says. Not only does this outrage grieving family members, but it's a gross indecency to the victims. It is a severe lack of empathy.
And then, there's the Selfie. In a positive light, Selfies could be seen as a way of controlling how other people perceive you - empowering you to project the image and identity that you want. Unfortunately, it has a very dark side, too. It's not uncommon when people come across the scene of disaster - or, as in recently, a suicide-selfie incident of a jumper on a bridge - they pull out their camera phones and take selfies of themselves with the disaster in the background. Is this a case of "technology turning us all into artists", or technology turning us all into narcissists?
Products and services are only going to become ever more customised to individual customers, cultivating more of a "cult of me". It began with the one-to-one marketing movement a few decades ago, but now we have personalised medicine on the horizon. No doubt, this will lead to better care and services, but it only helps to feed our ego at the expense of others.
In terms of the "Makers Movement", we are all creatives, now. Etsy makes a fortune from people selling their arts and crafts. This is probably a more positive side of the "cult of me" in that we can all see ourselves as innovators who want to be part of new communities and cultures.
Parents are far more protective of children these days than they used to be. In fact, children nowadays spend far less time alone, or without the presence of a parent than was true in the past. Many are over-stimulated, spoon-fed, shuttled to activities, told that they are wonder kind and encouraged to compete against everyone in everything. No wonder these people turn into narcissists. They are born into the Age of Entitlement.
Speaking of entitlement, this may explain some of the momentum behind materialism coupled with credit card debt. People are encouraged to want and have more than those around them, even if they cannot afford it.
In the UK, there is a concern that, as younger males read less and less, that they will fail to develop fundamental empathy skills. The reason being that novels are a great way to foster and encourage empathy, because you literally inhabit the mind of someone else, which forces you to care about their hopes and fears, as well as seeing the world from a different point of view.
Moving from a "cult of me" to a "cult of we" is going to take a lot of empathy.
Is self-esteem really the key to success, or is it from something else? For example, what about gumption?
Maybe, a healthy dose of failure is a good thing - especially, if it builds moral fibre.
What do you think...?
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Dan P. McAdams does an psychological profile on Donal Trump, which gives offers insights into the mind of a narcissist. In fact, Trump makes an ideal case study, since so much of his behaviour has been public during the presidential nominee process of 2016.
Comparing and contrasting him to Hilary Clinton is interesting since both candidates are ambitious political animals. The major difference comes down to personality. Clinton listens to people and changes her position, presumably based on pragmatism and political expediency. Trump on the other hand listens to no one and changes his position on a whim, in order to project his vision of himself as a strong leader for whom apologies are a sign of weakness.
Here is the original article (storyteller subscribers only): The Mind of Donald Trump
Here's a link to the article on The Atlantic.--David G. Wilson
It's hard to tell if narcissism is actually on the rise, or if it's increasingly on display because it's become more permissible.
There have been concerns of increasing narcissism since the 1970's. Social media has not invented it, but may be amplifying it.
The real concern, I feel, is that the stigma attached to narcissism has been eroded by highly successful narcissists whose achievements we applaud (e.g. Steve Jobs). No doubt, there are people who are highly successful in a commercial marketplace but terrible in their interpersonal relationships. As more of ourselves become outward facing - in the public arena - we come to put a higher value on achievement in the public arena (to the detriment of the private).
Levels of NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder) and BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder) - which share common symptoms - are on the rise, especially within younger populations.
According to the U.S. National Instates of Health, 5.9 % of Americans have BPD and 6.2% have NPD. When you look at the breakdown by age, you see some startling figures:
- 65 yrs + 4% fit either diagnosis
- 45 to 64 8%
- 30-44 10%
- 20 to 29 15%
Of those meeting the criteria for BPD: 53% female, 47% male.
Of those meeting the criteria for NPD: 62% male, 38% female.
However, the gender gap for NPD is decreasing amongst younger people.
Many people can have traits from either BPD/NPD without the full-blown disorder, so the percentages of these people in the population could be much higher.--David G. Wilson
In this article on the Selfie Stick - which has also been referred to as the "Wand of Narcissus" - we have the perfect implement to complement our narcissistic tendencies while wandering through landscapes.--David G. Wilson
In this article about the millennials there is an important insight into how narcissism is fostered and what some of the long-term consequences can be. Essentially, kids have been taught to achieve high marks to get ahead and to reflect well on their families. Unfortunately, this isn't really a goal in and of itself, since they have no idea what they really want to do with their lives. Robbed of the opportunity to develop a real curiosity and passion for the love of learning for its own sake, they take short-cuts to achieve rank and status, which results in an existential void. Consequently, anxiety, depression, sleep disorders and the like are at an all-time high in the general US population and even worse in the children of elite families.
One way of looking at this is the difference between transactional and transformational rewards and behaviour. A transactional behaviour is one in which only the end result matters for which there is an extrinsic reward (i.e. grades or parental approval). By contrast, a transformational approach is one in which the process is in itself intrinsically rewarding because it engages real curiosity and a sense of pride and accomplishment from personal development.
Our educational system has become extremely competitive and parenting has compensated in general by becoming extremely transactional. The emotional well-being of children takes second place to what they can accomplish in their test scores and on their resume in order to get into a good school that will secure future professional and financial success for themselves and their family without giving them the tools to find their own passions and something worth striving for beyond that.
In the article, a Dean laments that students are no longer classmates, but competitors.--David G. Wilson
In a WSJ book review of "More Awesome Than Money" by Jim Dwyer, Christine Rosen makes some interesting observations about the idealism of Diaspora and its failure to unseat Facebook as the world's most pervasive social network. The founders of Diaspora, inspired by a lecture by Eben Moglen (who called Facebook "a structure for degenerating the integrity of the human personality"), planned to create a rival social network that would give users back their own privacy.
The startup failed to achieve its objective, but, as the reviewer points out, the real tragedy was the irony surrounding the suicide of one of the founding members, Ilya Zhitomirskiy. Battling with depression and substance abuse, Zhitomirskiy devoted his life to coding an online social network, when his own inter-personal network was failing. His move to Silicon Valley may have precipitated a worsening of his mental health.
Apparently, Zhitomirskiy was inspired by an observation of an NYU professor who once asked her class, "What happens when people are being watched?" Her answer: "They perform."
The last words of the suicide note Zhitomirskiy left behind were, "Please post this."--David G. Wilson
In this RSA presentation, at time code 34:34, Douglas Coupland makes an interesting observation about the Internet, which he (earlier) says has led to neuro-homogenisation (that we are all thinking and perceiving the same things, because of our constant use of the Internet).
The Internet's all about "me" and it's about "you". Every 2.5 minutes - which is the length of our attention span - we think to ourselves that this isn't saying enough about me, so we check our email, our social media, to get another chunk of self-indulgence.
The great question of the future (according to Coupland):
Does the Internet favour individuals or the Group? Has anyone ever said, "Come over to my place and let's surf the Internet together?" It's an incredibly solitary activity that does allow interesting virtual groupings.--David G. Wilson
In a recent Harvard University study of what was important to middled school and high school students out of "achieving a at a high level, happiness, or caring for others," nearly 80% ranked achievement or happiness above caring for others. Furthermore, it appears that even though parents would like their children to put caring on a pedestal, the students felt that their parents and teachers put achievement above all else.
According to child psychologist, Michele Borba, in an email to The Atlantic, "Studies show that kids’ ability to feel for others affects their health,wealth and authentic happiness as well as their emotional, social, cognitive development andperformance. Empathy activates conscience and moral reasoning, improves happiness, curbs bullying and aggression, enhances kindness and peer inclusiveness, reduces prejudice and racism, promotes heroism and moral courage and boosts relationship satisfaction. Empathy is a key ingredient of resilience, the foundation to trust, the benchmark of humanity, and core to everything that makes a society civilised."
Sadly, this message is being lost in the shuffle to get to the top. Simply talking about compassion isn't the same as enforcing it.--David G. Wilson