Narcissism on the Rise


A 2007 study from five psychologists reported that today’s college students are increasingly narcissistic and self-centered. For those who aren’t familiar with the term, narcissism is defined as having excessive love for ones self. Terms often used in conjunction with narcissism include, conceit, egotism, and selfishness. In psychology, excessive narcissism is revered to as Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

The heart of the study rests upon the results of 16,475 college students nationwide who completed an evaluation called the Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI), between 1982 and 2006. The 2006 NPI results provided evidence of a 30% increase in above-average scores since 1982.

In the Associated Press article that reported on the findings, study co-author W. Keith Campbell of the University of Georgia spoke of the dangerous impact narcissism has on both individuals and society.

“Narcissism can have very negative consequences for society, including the breakdown of close relationships with others.”

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.”

In his essay “The Kinderarchy”, writer and retired Northwestern University professor Joseph Epstein provides an example of narcissism in college.

“So often in my literature classes students told me what they ‘felt’ about a novel, or a particular character in a novel. I tried, ever so gently, to tell them that no one cared what they felt; the trick was to discover not one’s feelings but what the author had put into the book, its moral weight and its resultant power. In essay courses, many of these same students turned in papers upon which I wished to–but did not–write: ‘D-, Too much love in the home.’ I knew where they came by their sense of their own deep significance and that this sense was utterly false to any conceivable reality. Despite what their parents had been telling them from the very outset of their lives, they were not significant. Significance has to be earned, and it is earned only through achievement.”

Popular blogger and college student Ben Casnocha also shares a personal encounter with a narcissistic college student.

“The other week I had lunch with a college student. I raised the topic of education. I said that I’m not sure formal schooling is for everybody. She responded, ‘Well, see, I love school, and I’m thinking about graduate schools in these areas…’ Off she went. Again. It was totally self-involved.”

Casnocha suggests how technology contributes to today’s increase in narcissism.

“Some argue technology is a culprit in the sense that new technology can help a person enact an echo chamber around them that magnifies their own views. Or that technology facilitates, for example, twice or thrice daily phone calls between teens and parents, a frequency which — when aided by the over-parenting instincts of today’s boomers — nurtures self-obsession on the part of the teen. Or that blogs, such as the one I’m writing on right now (a noted irony!), enable a level of public disclosure that’s unhealthy because it can create a micro-celebrity effect. And when was the last time you met a celebrity (micro or macro) who wasn’t an egomaniac?”

The study’s lead author, Professor Jean Twenge of San Diego State University also ties technology to narcissism.

“Current technology fuels the increase in narcissism. By its very name, MySpace encourages attention-seeking, as does YouTube.”

Many Facebook users seem to seek validation of their life’s significance by posting endless pictures of every social activity and to create a shrine of themselves for others to see and hopefully worship, or at least acknowledge.

Finally, writer Charles Krauthammer wrote an article highlighting one of today’s most prominent and popular narcissists, Barack Obama.

“Americans are beginning to notice Obama’s elevated opinion of himself. There’s nothing new about narcissism in politics. Every senator looks in the mirror and sees a president. Nonetheless, has there ever been a presidential nominee with a wider gap between his estimation of himself and the sum total of his lifetime achievements?

Obama is a three-year senator without a single important legislative achievement to his name, a former Illinois state senator who voted “present” nearly 130 times. As president of the Harvard Law Review, as law professor and as legislator, has he ever produced a single notable piece of scholarship? Written a single memorable article? His most memorable work is a biography of his favorite subject: himself.”

Narcissism is a disease that can be hard to diagnose and even harder to treat. The answer boggles even myself. Focusing on others through selfless service seems, to me, to be one of narcissism’s greatest combatants. Also, learning to embrace and accept constructive criticism and humbling experiences instead of instinctively fighting or refusing to heed such correction. Other ideas and suggestion on how to fight narcissism?

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9 Responses to Narcissism on the Rise

  1. Natasha says:

    Whoo! Look at your comments. Just noticed that.I’m really tired so I have to admit that I didn’t read the entire post. I missed the part about Facebook photos. I know you’re not passing sweeping judgments. Still, I thought I’d bring up the point that some people post a ton of photos on Facebook (maybe MySpace too, I don’t know) because it’s an easy way to share with family and friends. ALL my family and a lot of friends live far away. Some people roll their eyes at my postings, I’m sure. They’re obviously not the ones I’m posting for.Having a blog can be viewed as self-absorbed. But we’re ALL self-absorbed to an extent. We are all we know. I make sense of the world through my own experiences because they’re all I really know. I figure out other people and their behaviours based on my own. People are similar enough that I can often figure out how someone is feeling or why they are acting the way they are based on how I’ve felt and acted in a similar situation.Maybe that’s a part of what’s happening in classrooms. Maybe we’re just becoming a culture that communicates differently and that’s all it means. Maybe we speak in the first person because our politically correct society has created hesitation when it comes to speaking for others, even if it’s a character in a story. We feel comfortable speaking from a personal perspective because it can’t be attacked. No one can say, “You never experienced that.” or “You don’t believe that.” or “That’s not how you feel.” Maybe the problem is that we shy away from debates. We don’t want to be unliked. And so we cop out by talking from a personal perspective. I’m thinking of your classroom scenario.Just musing “aloud” here. Hadn’t thought about it til now. Interesting topic. But I’m very tired….

  2. Natasha says:

    Yes. Have children.(Interesting to read that quote about Obama. I didn’t know. I plead Canadian.)

  3. garrettmyler says:

    If you have a differing opinion, share it. But instead of criticizing my ideas or my analysis of those ideas, you make personal attacks. A true friend would address personal concerns on a personal level, instead of publicly attacking me in anonymity. You really think I would believe a friend would use the internet at a medium to make personal attacks?! If you are a friend, you are not one of my smarter ones.Instead of acting like a true friend, you are a coward behind a computer screen, posing as a friend…and one thing I can’t stand are phonies.

  4. Anonymous says:

    i feel no need to hide who i am. i feel a need to protect a good friendship and i would like to let you know how you come off to many people without hurting our friendship. you need to relax and lighten up a little. hold to your beliefs and be strong but have an open mind to everyone. as of right now the only person i know who thinks you have an open and accepting mind is you.

  5. garrettmyler says:

    Do you not find it ironic that you (cowardly hiding behind anonymity) tear me down for blogging while obviously reading it yourself and using it to tear me down.People like your are intimidated and/or offended by people who can clearly articulate opinions different than your own. So instead of voicing your differing opinions, which I whole heatedly welcome, you try to personally attack or tear down the source of whatever irks you. Pretty silly right?No one is forcing you to read my blog…if all your left to do is embarrass yourself by desperately making personal attacks on me (all while hiding your identity…funny how brave people get when they hide behind their computer screen)…make this your official invitation to scram and stick to the millions of other websites that fit more comfortably to your own views.

  6. Anonymous says:

    so in reading this post i thought of the the best 2 ways to fight narcissism: 1) Do not look for it in other people. Let people say and do what they will. If a story is shared based on someone’s personal experience just let it go. 2) Try not to be narcissistic ourselves… Ya know… Keep away from doing things that my promote our own views and opinions as being better or more correct than others opinions (facebook and myspace pictures, maybe having your own blog to tell people how off society appears… Like maybe if all people thought like you society would be fixed and better). Having your own blog to promote your own ideas is a little egotistical… When I read your posts its like you are trying to give me advice on how to be a better person and not just state your opinion. i disagree with many of your views and i get the idea from what i’ve read that you think you are better than most people. thank you for enlightening us all

  7. Jeff says:

    i get what you mean. i am definitely not offended… i got rid of my face book and myspace lol. i dont need people in my personal life haha. i agree with you tho

  8. garrettmyler says:

    Jeff: Thanks for your thoughts. I don’t mean to come off offensive in regards to my feelings toward online postings (Facebook, MySpace, etc.). It’s just my own little pet peeve and my personal opinion as how it comes across to me.

  9. Jeff says:

    i can see exactly what youre saying. a lot of people are too involved in thinking about their own lives. it happens far too often. ive said it before tho… i dont think anybody who posts a ton of pictures on facebook is doing that cuz they are self centered. that doesnt make someone narcissistic… i show off my mission pictures all the time. i got a ton of pics lol. i dont find that self centered. but everything else i agree with 100%.

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