“Narcissism” is quite the buzzword these days, pushed to the forefront of discussion because of social media’s rampant popularity.
Where taking photos of yourself, by yourself, would typically have been considered weird before the advent of social media…It has now become normal behavior.
Being a culture valuing self-expression and individuality, the United States is often viewed by people inside and outside the country as one of the most narcissistic countries in the world. We aren’t talking self-absorbed from a nationalist perspective, but individually self-absorbed.
So who is narcissistic? We all are. What you are about to read will be uncomfortable. Because unless you live under a rock, many of us participate in or have exhibited some inherent narcissistic traits which could be contributing to cultural decline.
Being self-obsessed in everyday life may gain a few eye rolls, but the impacts of narcissism on a culture are vast and harmful.
1) Increase in Road Rage
How dare there be traffic impeding us to and from work?
How dare other people be on the road when I need to be on it?
Yellow light? Not for me! I’m in a hurry and don’t have time to stop for this nonsense! “My turn signal is on not because I’m ASKING to get over, I’m telling you I’M GETTING OVER! We can crash if you want!” (Yes, this meme actually exists).
Road rage incidents are increasing. AAA reports 80% of all drivers admit to exhibiting some form of road rage. When behind the wheel, we tend to de-personalize and forget other drivers are people too. You are safe in a mobile shelter, protected by steel, fiberglass, aluminum, etc. That bodybuilder twice your size who just cut you off can’t touch you. The middle fingers fly, the horns honk and it’s every bit just like an argument on social media.
More than ever before, the road is becoming a dangerous place because we can’t accept we have to share the road with everyone else.
2) Identity Politics
Identity politics, by definition, are “Politics in which groups of people having a particular racial, religious, ethnic, social, or cultural identity tend to promote their own specific interests or concerns without regard to the interests or concerns of any larger political group” [Merriam Webster]
Our various social justice causes have separated America into tribes, incorporating narcissistic principles because identity groups no longer promote the good of the whole; Identity groups only promote the good of individuals within the particular identity group.
While intentions may be good and attractive because of the human instincts towards tribalism, forming tribes within tribes within a nation only leads to a sense of disconnect with rational objectives of the nation. We end up caring more about our subgroup’s specific needs than worrying about the bigger issues of the nation as a whole.
Neither political party is immune to identity factions forming within their own parties. Most popular are identity groups focused on social justice issues, as they are easy to understand and promote.
The politics of personal identity have formed new religions where the center of worship is our political party. We defend our ideologies because they are true to us without care to the harm they are doing in turning countrymen against countrymen. What is more narcissistic than this viewpoint?
3) Ending of Marriages
Approximately 40 to 50% of marriages end in divorce. Observance shows the reason for many divorces often happens when one party in the marriage thinks they can do better than their partner. You won’t find many admitting it, but it’s a known phenomenon; A divorce becomes nasty and suddenly the couple who were so in love before are now telling the world their ex-spouse is evil.
Shows like ‘The Bachelor’ glamorize dating. Disney movies glamorize one perfect man who will show up and whisk a woman away to a life of excess. In particular, women file for divorce more than men, showing the appeal of staying married may be less for women.
The reasons behind this phenomenon are staggering. Women are the biggest consumers in the country. They are targeted more by advertisers, buy more products, read more books, watch more TV and movies than men. This means women are absorbing more fictionalized, possibly unrealistic expectations of marriage than men on a daily basis.
They are also more prone to consuming self-help literature which largely focuses on ‘eliminating the negative’ – A great concept, but one which causes a dilemma forcing couples to walk away from each other rather than to work out marital problems.Not to mention women who leave bad marriages are portrayed by the media as glamorous, “finding themselves”, strong, confident, powerful, etc.
Some marriages truly are too bad to be saved. But so many times, one party or both just have highly inflated senses of self. They can do better. They deserve better. Their partner’s habits are annoying. But they are faultless. Ask anyone who got away from one of these narcissists and they will usually say they are much better off.
4) Shallow Friendships
In the age of social media, how many social media friendships do you have? How many of your social media friends would show up to care for you or run errands for you if you were sick? Who could you count on to give you some of their time if you were in dire need? Who would you call and talk to if you had a problem and needed an ear?
If your answers are, “Not many”, you aren’t alone. Lots of people are surrounded by acquaintances but very few true friends. In this age of narcissism, some people feel the need to appear popular on social media. You will know them by their party photos, surrounded by “friends”, the constant posts on social media trying to portray the image of a perfect life, and the subsequently disappointed memes about friendship and how nobody is ever there for them when they really need them. If you only have more Facebook time with friends than face time, it’s easier to develop very shallow ideas on what friendship really is.
Interpersonal relationships are giving way to a shallow 2D image of our life on social media where we pretend to live a certain way and friends ‘follow’ and are asked to believe it’s the truth.
5) Declining Work Ethic
“I can’t find anyone worth a damn!” is the lament of many a business owner. They’re not being facetious. Work ethic has also changed in modern times. Our forefathers worked hard to build nations that would last and legacies to be proud of. Now, legacies exist on their own merit, but younger generations don’t have the excitement that came with building brick and mortar businesses from the ground up.
They are stepping into career fields already built by their grandparents’ parents. Their struggle is to maintain and so they lose the principles of foundation and giving their everything to achieve a dream. In an online age, buying locally is losing steam as the Internet has driven the market to all corners of the world where people can buy easily at the click of a button.
Narcissism is found in the entitlement exhibited frequently in the modern workplace. Young college graduates may often walk in the door and expect to be paid just as much as their peers who have seniority in the company. Some get spoiled on over-education, remaining in school for multiple secondary degrees to contribute to making them look good and lose out on real world experience. The companies who succeed are those who find a way to get their employees out of themselves and to feel like they are part of a team, all working towards a bigger picture and an exciting future together, rather than isolated wage slaves waiting for 5:00 to roll around.
A company culture focused on the success of the whole is a successful company.
6) Rise In Drug & Alcohol Abuse
Drug & alcohol abuse is ultimately selfish, even though the multiple causes can sometimes be understandable. We can make some excuse for drug users because life is hard. We have overcomplicated society to the point where a lot of people have difficulties functioning in this new world we have created. Look at all the hoops you have to jump through just to own a car and be able to drive.
We have complicated relationships. We have complicated family life. We have complicated the process of getting a job. Everything in this world has become overly convoluted and complex. With the rise of stress, anxiety and frustration, many turn to substances to cope. Sometimes these turn into addictions. Sometimes because they partake in these substances so much, the ‘high’ wears off. It’s no longer doing the trick and they escalate to stronger substances, illegal substances…Before they know it, they are full-blown addicts who begin to struggle with life.
The problem is – We ALL have these struggles. However many people won’t turn to drugs & alcohol because they are aware of the bigger impacts on themselves, on society and on their loved ones. They put others first and refuse to fall prey to addiction.
Inevitably, when drug use escalates, the individual starts losing the capacity to hold down a normal job. As the addiction spirals out of control and they lose their income, even people who were once wonderful people may turn to criminal acts to collect enough to keep their fix going. Not only are they harming their loved ones, but they begin to harm society and innocent people. Some get behind the wheel where their narcissistic impulse contributes to tragedy.
7) The End of Role Models
Ask someone in their 80’s who they looked up to as a child. They typically have quite a few answers. Ask a child today and they have a hard time coming up with a single answer. Some will name musicians…or maybe a famous ‘YouTuber’, but not many kids have role models based on morals and principles. How many are left?
Witch hunts have become the norm again where stories, true or false, can be circulated, working people up into a frenzy of emotion over the latest topic du jour. Everyone is so quick to accept a story of wrongdoing without even the slightest questioning of whether or not it is true.
The people we should be able to admire, we aren’t allowed to – Because they have a dirty side and it must be drug out for all to see. We want everyone depraved. We want them all to fall. We want them to come down to a level lower than us so we feel better about ourselves. We have a narcissistic need to see the beautiful and wealthy hurt. We make people famous only to destroy them. We don’t want role models. We want drama and chaos in this new world.
The “role models” don’t have it all figured out. Who do they think they are telling us how to live? We are just as smart and worthy as these people. We are our own role models. The self esteem movement says we should love ourselves above all. So we stop looking outside ourselves to others in a gesture of respect and humility. We honor our own greatness instead.
8) More Education & More Arrogance
Getting a degree used to be a special thing. Now, everyone has one. “College for all” has become a rallying cry. But does ‘college for all’ really contribute anything to the whole? Does an overly educated society really make us any greater? Does our heightened sense of self importance really make us destined for something bigger?
A long time ago, having a PhD meant something. Now it usually just means you have a larger loan to pay off. Still, colleges push graduates to keep coming back for more. Along with handing out diplomas, it can sometimes seem they are handing out ego, as well, putting college graduates in a real moment of despair when they get out into the so-called real world searching for a job.
As a whole, our society has begun to denigrate some jobs and professions as being for “losers”. Trades became laughed at as positions of lower stature. Yet, some trade jobs can make vastly more than the PhDs who frequent the businesses of tradesmen.
We now have entire generations who think they are “too good” to do certain lines of work vital to functioning as a society. Not all of these collegiate scholars are particularly bright and their IQs aren’t any greater than someone without a college degree, but they have ‘classed’ themselves out of necessary societal occupations. They all want to be known and paid for being thinkers, but won’t raise a finger to be a “do’er”.
As a result of an overeducated society, we have become a society of snobs who look down on people for not having an education while well-paying trade jobs suffer shortages.
9) Obsession with Appearances
Social media is one of the single biggest advertising streams on the planet. Not just for products you can buy. It also allows people to advertise their life in exchange for admiration, respect, the envy of others and the appearance of “having it all”.
Every day, we scroll our news feeds and hear about our friends’ new jobs, latest vacations, the fun night out they just had, their newly done hair, their new motorcycle, the new RV they bought, their new house, their children’s achievements, their own successes… Cumulatively, all these successes in your face at once can make you feel like a real failure.
Subconsciously, social media has awakened the narcissist in each of us. Each person’s Facebook page is their own little reality TV show. If they are the type of person who desires being envied, they’ll fill it with the highlight reel of their days. Anyone who dares be open about a problem in their life risks the title of “negative”. Everyone on social media is conflicted. Many of them don’t want you to be more successful than they are, but at the same time, they don’t want to hear you “whine”.
People will go into debt buying things just to impress others. While this is nothing new, social media has now given them a platform to show off what they bought.
This obsession with appearance and showing off on social media has meant less time with our friends. In days of the past, friends would call you to say, “Hey! I got a new boat! Let’s go out in it this weekend!” Now they just post photos of it on Facebook and photos of themselves enjoying it.
10) Overall Dissatisfaction With Life
Studies are beginning to show that happiness levels in the United States have fallen to dismal levels. This last example of how narcissism is destroying our culture is, perhaps, the summary of this entire article.
Our country’s basis in narcissistic pursuits of wealth, fame, beauty, etc. are only making us more unhappy. We want recognition, fame, glory, rewards, envy and as a result, we become angry.
Because we are angry, we are more aggressive and engage in political fighting and road rage. Politics and other people are easy to blame for our emptiness and overall dissatisfaction with life. The constant anger drives our inability to cope to drugs and alcohol. Drugs, alcohol, sex abuses, etc. have led to the destruction of many a role model. So we drift in a sea of faces without anyone to admire. Our jealousy prevents from admiring anyone anyway. We turn to ourselves. Our friendships become shallow because we are taught virtue is in being competitive instead of supportive.
Because we don’t know everything, we go to college so we can become “scholarly” and claim that we do know everything. We make ourselves our own heroes. We refuse to settle for mediocre jobs or a mediocre life. We refuse to settle for mediocre spouses, as well.
This is the United States, today.
Living in a happier culture, such as that of Japan, you would notice a large difference. They don’t necessarily have more than we do. But they have humility. The attitude is very much “Me last”. When you have a culture like this, you have a country where everyone cares for each other and honor exists.
As we know from American platitudes, our cultural platitudes revolve more around “Be yourself” and “Me first” with heavy influence on baseless self love. As a result, everyone is looking out for number one, leading to a culture of greed and corruption.
Maybe our culture can start making a change by living for the good of the whole rather than the good of the individual. It could make all the difference. There is a lot to be said about the beauty of humility. She is a protected class heading for extinction.