As a very passionate psych major, I take a wide variety of psych classes. This semester, I decided to take Personality psychology at the 300 level, and I am so glad I did. Recently, we had a ‘hot topics’ class, which was interesting to say the least. One of the hot topics we discussed was narcissism, which is a characteristic that older generations like to attribute to my generation.
Every generation has a nickname, and they’ve given us “Generation Me”. This title, along with the reasons for it, are often espoused with a general sense of distaste, even hostility. As a member of this generation, maybe it’s only natural that I feel persecuted by this display of negativity towards my peers–but after having an objective discussion in class about the cultural and scientific factors behind the so-called narcissism of my generation, I see that my opinions are not unfounded.
It’s true, the average level of narcissism is rising as the years go by; this generation has a higher level than the generation before us, and that generation had a higher level of narcissism than the generation before them. Narcissism is on the rise. It has been for long enough that it’s acceptable to postulate that every generation is more narcissistic than the generation that preceded them. The main reason that this has become a controversial issue for my generation is that we have a way to make it public: the rise of technology has given us selfies, blogs, and other forms of public expression that were not available to generations before us.
This is also the age of acceptance if you ask me. My generation’s level of self-esteem is more positively correlated than any generation before us, although conversely the levels of anxiety and depression are also the most pronounced in recent history. This is because while we champion body positivity, productivity is at it’s highest and compensation at it’s lowest.
But I digress; this post is about the levels of ‘narcissism’ that supposedly exist in my generation.
The most ironic thing is that this name was given to us by a generation of people who also decided to call themselves, ‘The Greatest Generation’. In my own personal opinion, I think the way we view ourselves is realistic, and positivity doesn’t take away from that. We see our world how it is: less jobs than people, low wages for high productivity, and high rent and tuition. In the face of that, it benefits us to be positive in any way that we can, including embracing our attractiveness–selfies, blogs, social media–and other ways we can express the beauty of the humanity we possess that is effectively our only tool in a constant war against the negativity of the world.
And besides, who is it hurting if I take a picture of my face or write my thoughts on the internet? This trend of so-called narcissism is only harming us because of the negative stereotypes that the older generations perpetuate against us with regards to it.
Other than that, it is only making the world a more positive, accepting, and amazingly interconnected place. Narcissism may be on the rise, but considering it’s not at a disordered level, why is that bad? Why shouldn’t we feel good about ourselves in the face of adversity?
Note: The images used within this post were in a powerpoint created by my professor that we discussed in class. I therefore don’t have any specific image sources for them, and if anyone knows where they are from I would appreciate that information.