Monday, April 14, 2008

The most narcissistic things online, according to ME

While checking myself in the mirror I was not thinking about narcissism. As I started a blog posting and updated my facebook status I was not thinking about narcissism. When I looked at the number of hits this site gets, I was not thinking about narcissism. When looking at hair color to cover the mound of gray on my head and face, I was not thinking about narcissism. But, when I saw too many twitter updates on someone blogs, I became obsessed with narcissism. In fact, I see no area of our culture untainted by it (especially my Emerging Church world).

Some people have done some interesting studies lately on the subject of why we have become so darn focused upon ourselves. In fact, Dr. Drew, the TV doctor has done a Narcissistic Personality Inventory and theorizes the rise of narcissism in the past 50 or so years.

Here is what he said in Rolling Stone on January 24, 2008.
“I believe something has shifted,” Pinsky says. “Frankly, something substantial happened when we developed antibiotics and hormonal contraceptives. Before 1950, almost half of American families could expect a child to die. Way more women could expect to die during childbirth. Living past fifty was sort of extraordinary. Now death and dying don’t really exist to us. We don’t need to deal with it. And then with birth control, sexuality became unhinged from a biological reality. Throughout human history, sex carried with it heavy consequences. It could kill you. Suddenly we were unhinged from that, and I think our culture has been rattling ever since. In 500 years, people will say the biological circumstances of human life changed profoundly, and it took them 150 years to figure it out. They’ll say everyone became narcissistic, obsessed with instant pleasure, they stopped taking care of their children, and all hell broke loose.” A meditative pause. “Listen, in the days of Freud, narcissism was a footnote in psychological journals. Now it’s the standard personality of our culture. Nothing but grandiose narcissistic thinking everywhere!”
To be simplistic as the media/blog/ news world demands, it seems we have a convergence of human selfishness and self-centeredness with the advancement of medicine along with the ability to share all of our thoughts through the technological advancement of the Internet and web 2.0 (of course we can add Reality TV to the mix).

As we know Time named all of us as the Person of the Year in 2006 and good (and not so good) articles and books have been written on the subject and many have decried web 2.0 for a few years.. So, I know there has been lots of talk about it, but I have apparently hit my wall (2 days ago).

A friend had asked me to sign up for twitter a while back. I did and promptly forgot about it. Then a bunch of other friends signed up and my wife read to me some of their twitter postings. It hit me. This has to be the most narcissistic thing I have seen on the internet as of yet.

I understand how this technology can be useful- for families and businesses. However, I do not need to know what someone is doing every moment of the day.

So, I need your help. What are the most narcissistic technological advancements of the previous few years? Here is a list (in order) that I have compiled so far. However, I am a Luddite and may be missing a lot.

1. Twitter
2. Facebook status updates*
3. Myspace
4. Facebook applications*
5. Personal Blogs*
6. gmail status updates*
7. Self Promotion on YouTube
8. personal podcasts
9. googling myself (or something like that)
10. self personality inventories online*

I am not judging these, but thinking about how bad this is going to be by time my kids are older. I am also thinking about the church's and parent's role in teaching our families how to navigate this new narcissism.

*I have been implicated in these


mike said...

I would love to comment but I have to go change my Facebook status and see how many friend requests I have, let the world know what I am doing through twitter, check my stat counter to see how many new fans of the crap I write, check Technorati to see how lovable I am based on links, go to my Flickr site to see if anyone recognizes my talent as a photographer, take some online quizes to learn how great I am in bed/smart I am/how my knowledge of KU basketball measures up to others.

but I will for sure check the little box below to get responses to my amazing comment.

mike said...

what? no comment? i know my comment was genius.

kidpositive said...

how about motorcycles? since they can only carry around one person, maybe two. and while we're at it bicycles and unicycles. horse&carriage and cars are much more non-narcissistic. unless you're driving by yourself.

Rick said...

yes, but buses are the least narcissistic.

I loved your comment Mike and my wife laughed. However, I am an the eastern seaboard and was watching tv so I could not respond in a timely manner. At least it was not the Biggest Loser or another reality tv show.

mike said...

lol, i was just messin around any way. i thought it would be narcissistic to leave a follow up.

narcissism is good right?

jen said...

First, your Facebook status is "I refuse to Twitter" that's like a narcissist in denial.
Second, technology is by definition narcissitic because it enables us to effect an environment we did not create, and now we use technology to create our own environments in which to waste all the time we're saving by using technology.
Third, I find it REALLY hard to believe you watch NO reality TV. I can see you as a "Rock the Cradle" addict.
Church's role in battling narcissism: telling everyone to turn off cell phones prior to entering any place of worship.
Now pardon me, as your friend Mike said quite eloquently, I must go update my blog, sync my iPhone with my Mac, and concurrently sync my PDA with ePocrates on my PC while I waste energy downloading TV shows I don't have time to watch, and playing cable radio as I study until 2 AM rather than spend time with family and friends.

mycotn said...

Here are some technology items to add to your list. The first is a combination of Twitter and Google Maps which broadcasts your pinpointed location to the world (and also enables you to see where your friends are). One example is called "Slam." Another item is hyper-personalized marketing that will attempt to seduce your inner-narcissist in order to sell you stuff. Wilkes University in Pennsylvania recently started creating ads featuring high school seniors in order to lure them to enroll.

Rick said...


I think narcissism is an interesting cultural and psychological phenomena. I mean we have all looked out to our self interests as long as humanity has existed. I think that is what the story of Adam and Eve and the Apple is about. I think Paul had something to say about it in Philippians 2:1-11 and Jesus understood it when told us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.

Capitalism, success, inventions, politics, human advancement are all based on some level of narcissism. So, to your point, I cannot say that narcissism is completely bad. I cannot say it is good either. I think narcissism is the state of human condition and allows for incredible advancement and potential disaster for individuals, families and societies.

I think we are reaching a point where we are declaring our self love in such a loud public manner that it can get a bit obnoxious and self involved. I think that is what I am trying to think about.

mycotn- thanks for the list. I know there are some things out there that I have only heard of or not even heard of that are pushing the limits every day.

Jen- I never claimed to be a non-narcissist. I was hoping my blog posting would be a bit ironic that I am a narcissist. I am hoping to join Narcissists Anonymous and take the 12 steps of recovery for my unhealthy narcissism.

I know you love technology and I am a bit of a Luddite. I am not against it and I believe the market should introduce things people ant. However, I like to proceed with caution and think through the decisions we make, what we buy, what we use, etc. I am not smart enough to assume I have an understanding here. In fact, my point is that I have a wall I did not know existed- which was twitter updates.

Reality TV- I actually don't partake, unless you consider sports reality tv. Part of my issue with RTV is that I don't like to watch real people in conflict, even if it is manufactured. It stresses me out. That is why I could never watch Judge shows early on. Also, I find myself evaluating everything and tearing people and their decisions apart. I don't like doing that. When it is fiction, it is easy for me to separate the conflict or the evaluation.

Weird, huh?

Regarding families and church struggling with narcissism and technology- I would disagree that our only role is telling people to turn off cell phones. I did not say we need to tell people to stop using technology, but we need to help people (our kids especially) have the skills to cope, navigate and use it in a healthy manner- to not assume the world revolves around them/ us, to not use technology to hurt others behind a fabric of anonymity, to put little trust in what others say online about us, etc.

I would never assume there are easy answers, but we must help people as the world changes around them- not acting like many churches which want a Middle Ages world, but figuring out how to walk hopefully in a place with new challenges.

I may not be making sense, but it would not be the 1st time- huh?

mike said...

isn't there a Lyle Lovett song that goes something like: "I love everyone, especially myself."

Kyle said...

Agreed...I call it "MySpace happiness."
It seems that now, much of our happiness is based upon convincing those around us that we're having a good time.
The more proof we have (in the form of group photos and copious comments), the more worthwhile we feel.
I've given up status updates, but I still haven't gotten rid of that little box that tells the world the results of my IQ test...

mike said...

how about Librarything?

oh, sorry, have we moved on?

oh ok. uh, yes i think it is a sign of our cultures drift into blah blah.

rick i think you nailed it. except, i kind of think we humans have always be narcissists, we just have the technology and the feeling of freedom/permission to express it. you sight the Dr Drew stuff, but what if those things he thinks have made us narcissists are really just modern day expressions of the innate narcissism of humanity?
what if narcissism is a useful adaptation. a kind of self confidence/hubris that helps us compete with others for resources and so on? just like apathy or our hormonal reaction to the opposite sex?

Rick said...

I agree we have always been selfish people and fairly narcissistic. I do think technology has exacerbated the phenomena. However, like Dr. Drew (and others) I think we are able to be more narcissistic because we have the time to be.

it was probably harder when we were working in the fields to be as consumed, especially when concerned with living or dying and eating or being eaten for centuries of existence.