Monday, August 6, 2012

Narcissistic culture?

Most of us are familiar with the story of Peter denying Jesus when questioned after Jesus’ arrest: “I do not know the man,” he replied not just once or twice, but three times, trying to distance himself from the seriousness of the situation.
Would Peter’s reaction be different in today’s instant-fame-fueled culture?
“Weren’t you with that man Jesus?”
”Yup! I sure was! Had dinner with him just last night in fact. Check it out: I posted pics on facebook and tweeted about it, too. It’s trending so hard right now. I’ve got a bazillion retweets since the arrest.
Hey, if you know of any news organizations looking for a good story, I’ve got the inside scoop! For a price, of course!”
My July 31 post mentioned the seeming trend of people falsely attaching themselves to tragic events, getting their name in print or being interviewed on TV or even possibly selling their story to the highest bidder.

The quest for fame seems to be on the increase, possibly fueled by our celebrity-focused culture. (Why do we have awards show after awards show for entertainers but not for those who serve: teachers, military, police, fire and emergency personnel, etc.? What is it that we truly value?) Studies show decided increases in young people who aspire to be famous, often without any hard work or talent involved in the quest. They see people getting their own TV shows for no good reason (teen moms, reality TV, big brother, bachelors with multiple women to find “true love”) and think “Why not me? They’re famous and have no talent or skill; I can do the same thing.”

There are seven traits classically associated with narcissism: authority, entitlement, exhibitionism, exploitativeness, self-sufficiency, superiority, and vanity. One study found that the percentage of young people classified as narcissistic (30%) has doubled in the last 30 years. (What happened to humility and Andy Griffith types?) Another study reported a 40% decline in empathy in young people. Our youth are bombarded with messages about self-involvement, entitlement, vanity and fame and the rich rewards of being famous: TV shows, money, houses, cars, vacations, fabulous parties and their pictures in every tabloid.

So what do we truly value? My granddaughter’s summer reading list includes Fahrenheit 451. The assignment summary describes it as about a society where the trivial is valued above the truth, where out-of-context factoids are more widely dispensed over information and knowledge. I sometimes feel we could be headed in that direction, where bread and circuses are fed as entertainment to the masses, numbing them into complacency and acceptance of these disturbing trends.

I’m thankful there are many hard-working, intelligent young people in society who are not lured by this siren’s song of fame and narcissism; young people who are studying and volunteering with humility and caring, who don’t seek to attach themselves to events that might get them on the evening news. These are the people, though, who should be celebrated, whose stories should be told. Humility should be a trait we value above narcissistic self-involvement.

Further reading:

Have Media Created a Generation of Narcissists? -

Narcissism: On the Rise in America? -

The Mirror Effect: How Celebrity Narcissism is Seducing America -


Mike / Steve Chavez said...

That is a definitely a sign of the Apocalypse - you posting a picture of Snooki! Seriously, excellent post. I'm often asked by those who watch Jeopardy with me why I don't audition for the show. When I say I have no desire to be on television, I usually get incredulous looks.

rebecca said...

Today's rise in narcissism is part cultural: we are led to believe that putting ourselves before others as in, "you come first," is the right way. Yet, other countries do not believe nor follow that tenet; part idiocy: with so many reality shows bombarding the airwaves giving non talented individuals their rise to fame, today's generation look up to these people, whether they care to admit it or not. The "it's my guilty pleasure," excuse doesn't convince me, they enjoy watching them because at some level they admire them; and, part educational: we seriously have an intellect problem in this country. With the sense of entitlement and proliferation of vapid and empty entertainment, we have dumbed down this generation to the extent that they do not know any different. The solution? For me I stand my ground that it begins and ends in the home. There is only so much influence that is happening out of parents reach, but once in the home, they've entered a different country, a different culture and they have to abide by the laws of the land. We raised a single child that has no sense of entitlement, is intelligent and has achieved post graduate degrees, is in an honorable profession and teaches reading to non-English speaking students, works in one of the poorest districts in our town, and volunteers for JDRF and holds many fundraising events to help the poor in the district for which she works. The girl lives on her own and would probably lead a nicer lifestyle if she did not spend much of her salary and time in helping those in need and being a big sister. So yes, Rose, I agree, persons like my daughter should be the ones that are applauded and not the self-serving, drunk, out of touch characters that are laughing their way to the bank. Thankfully, there are many like her who create a balance that is very much needed.

Darla said...

Interesting post with a clever lead-in, Rose.

Erin {House of Turquoise} said...

Hi Rose!
I just wanted to let you know you were the winner of the turquoise Foo Dogs giveaway on my blog!! If you could email me your mailing address, I'll send the info to Abbe and she'll get them to you right away! erin(at)

Debra She Who Seeks said...

I wish the media would focus on what's important and celebrate what is beneficial to society. Instead it seems we get Snooki and others of her ilk 24/7.