A recent study finds that today’s (American) college students are more narcissistic and self-centered than their predecessors. Excerpt:
[quote] Narcissism can have benefits, said study coauthor W. Keith Campbell of the University of Georgia, suggesting it could be useful in meeting new people “or auditioning on ’American Idol.’ ” “Unfortunately, narcissism can also have very negative consequences for society, including the breakdown of close relationships with others,” he said. The study asserts that narcissists “are more likely to have romantic relationships that are short-lived, at risk for infidelity, lack emotional warmth, and to exhibit game-playing, dishonesty, and over-controlling and violent behaviors.”
Twenge, the author of “Generation Me: Why Today’s Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled — and More Miserable Than Ever Before,” said narcissists tend to lack empathy, react aggressively to criticism and favor self-promotion over helping others. The researchers traced the phenomenon back to what they called the “self-esteem movement” that emerged in the 1980s, asserting that the effort to build self-confidence had gone too far. As an example, Twenge cited a song commonly sung to the tune of “Frere Jacques” in preschool: “I am special, I am special. Look at me.”[/quote]
A more involved article called “Say Everything” from New York Magazine looks at much the same thing as part and parcel of an internet-fueled generation gap. One noteworthy change is that the younger generation thinks of itself as having an audience (from the looks of it, they do).
Seems to me that both articles raise some interesting points, but both are written from the perspective of those who are outside looking in. “Narcissism” may already have lost much of its meaning.
Case in point, as sociologist Peter Kollock pointed out, self-interest is behind the three main reasons people contribute to online communities: reciprocity, or giving valuable information with the expectation that help and information will be returned, reputation, or the desire to gain prestige and recognition markers (even trivial markers are powerfully motivating, including post counts, views and replies, and other rating systems), and sense of efficacy, or the desire to influence the audience or environment (say by starting a thread, taking something off topic, attempting to persuade others to one’s own views, or hoping to get a laugh). There are also two altruistic motivations: need, where one’s contributions are actually needed by others, and attachment, or contributing for the good of the group rather than oneself. I’m not sure where making friends and grappling with cultural issues are supposed to fit in, though, and of course economies of cooperation become pretty complicated (including the online parallel of social pressures for conformity, the fact that online communities sometimes discourage cooperation and devolve into cliquishness, etc.), but it’s food for thought. Maybe.
So, do you love yourself?
Why do you contribute?
And what’s in it for me?