Our generation is the most self-centered generation yet
It is not uncommon to hear members of our generation speak of
themselves as if they were reciting their resumes. We often brag about the things we believe we do well and speak highly of ourselves. This boastful attitude, according to the American Freshman Survey, derives from an increasing belief among college students that they are gifted and successful, a narcissism that extends even to those whose test scores and grades are declining.
Psychiatrist Dr. Keith Ablow, an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Tufts Medical School, noted that social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, along with electronic gaming are to blame for this increasing narcissism.
He wrote that through Facebook, “young people can fool themselves into thinking they have hundreds or thousands of ‘friends.’ They can delete unflattering comments. They can block anyone who disagrees with them or pokes holes in their inflated self-esteem.” Like Ablow says, Facebook makes us believe we are celebrities and many seem to think that the surveillance of their Facebook pages by others is the equivalent of some kind of paparazzi.
This “paparazzi” delusion is made even worse by Twitter. Some people refuse to join Twitter because they do not seriously believe that anyone would want to know their every move, but there are many who think their Tweets are some sort of revelation to others. The fact that Twitter friends are called “followers” only emphasizes the narcissistic delusion, making it seem as if hundreds of people are “following” your every move, as if you have actual fans.
Instagram and Snap Chat are also prompters of this increasing narcissism in our generation, because we find ourselves believing that people want to see a picture of the pasta we had for dinner or think that they actually care about a picture of us making a duck face with the caption “YOLO!” It is through this constant exposure that we convince ourselves we are important. People, however, often only “like” an Instagram picture because they plan on the like being reciprocated on one of their pictures, or sometimes they are just liking it because the pasta looks delicious; but very rarely are they liking it because they genuinely believe the picture has some intrinsic value.
In addition to these social networking sites, video games are another way members of our demographic convinces themselves they are important and talented. Video games act as outlets where we can be whomever we want, whether it is a skilled athlete or a trained soldier. You can be extremely successful in a video game, which creates a false pride and misconception that your talents in the game also exist in reality. I have played Wii tennis and won every match, only to be beaten 0-6 against the same opponent in actual tennis.
These deluded self-conceptions are a serious problem, according to Ablow, because “the bubble of narcissism is always at risk of bursting.” The bubble is already beginning to burst through in the form of college rejection letters and unemployment for graduates, although even such documents try to help keep our self-esteem high. Rejection letters often begin with, “Despite your outstanding qualifications, we simply had a record number of…” which again prompts our narcissism because we believe we truly were qualified and should have been accepted, and that our rejection is not our fault. Similarly, unemployment is rarely seen as the fault of the unemployed person but is frequently blamed on “society” or the “economy.” We cannot shield ourselves forever, however, and once we come to terms with the truth of our mediocrity, there may be negative outcomes. Depression will set it. Ablow even went so far to say that there will be an increase in drug usage, suicides and homicides “as the real self-loathing and hatred of others that lies beneath all this narcissism rises to the surface.”
Eventually, members of our generation will have to acknowledge that they are not superstar athletes from video games or fascinating celebrities from social networking sites. So why not start now? With such high unemployment rates, narcissism — especially unwarranted narcissism — will not get us very far in the job market, and it is better to accept our faults now instead of continuing to deny them. Although narcissism can be acceptable and warranted, like how I am narcissistic enough to write opinion columns and think that people care about what I have to say, too much narcissism is what can be harmful. Bloated self-importance can lead to negative consequences like depression when we do not achieve the success we think we deserve. We must come to terms with the truth now, because without changes in our attitudes our futures may not be as bright as the stars that we believe ourselves to be.
_Meredith Berger’s column appears Mondays in The Cavalier Daily.
She can be reached at email@example.com._