Narcissism

_Narcissism_Epidemic_bookThis week we are reading The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement, by Jean M. Twenge. Following our discussion earlier this week about communicating with different generations, we felt the book would be a good tie-in. The book, from the cover:

“Chronicles the obsession that many Americans have with, well, themselves…thinking themselves entitled to things they haven’t earned: It puts them at a terrible disadvantage in a global marketplace that is, all the time, getting more competitive.”

It’s no secret that our world is changing, that teens and children are more exposed online than ever. But Twenge makes the claim that we are also more narcissistic (narcissism: a very positive and inflated view of the self) than ever, too. She states that narcissism is prevalent, that it touches everything and everyone. It’s why public figures say they stray from their wives. Parents teach it by dressing children in T-shirts that say “Princess.” Teenagers and young adults hone it on Facebook, and celebrity newsmakers have elevated it to an art form. Everyone wants their 5 minutes of fame and will do whatever they can to get it. All of this, Twenge claims, is making people depressed, lonely, and buried under piles of debt.

Drawing on their own extensive research as well as decades of other experts’ studies, Drs. Twenge and Campbell show us how to identify narcissism, minimize the forces that sustain and transmit it, and treat it or manage it where we find it. They support their claims with insight (mainly statistics) about the slowly changing culture and society we live in. An assessment tool, the Narcissistic Personality Inventory, indicates that, on college campuses, “narcissism has risen as much as obesity” (p. 31). You only have to look around you to see narcissism invading our lives ever so subtly, and regularly through channels like YouTube and Facebook. The authors also spend a lot of time looking at reality shows and the celebrity culture, like My Super Sweet 16, and show how those glorify narcissistic behavior (she discusses one story about a 16-year-old who wanted to have public roads closed so that a band could play). Twenge suggests that the “cure” for narcissism is gratitude and humility.

This subject is controversial and Twenge is getting a bit of push-back from parents who say that it’s okay to tell your child that they are special. Or give everyone who participates a trophy. Twenge disagrees. Others question if this is in fact narcissism or if we are just more visually present than ever. Is narcissism something new, or is it simply easier to see? What is the difference between self-esteem and narcissism? Is there a thin line between the two? How do we build our children, teens, and you employees esteem without going too far? As you can see, this book raised as many questions as it did answers!

Look At Me! Self-Esteem or Narcissism? from Calvin College on Vimeo. If you want to hear more about the book, CSPAN BookTV has a video up here.

So what do you think? Are we are more narcissistic society or are we just more aware of it than ever before? Is this behavior effecting society? We would love to hear more thoughts on this subject.

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