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Narcissism in America – Why?

Posted on Friday, February 16, 2024
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by AMAC, Robert B. Charles
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43 Comments
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Concept of narcissism and selfishness man

Why is there so much self-promotion in our society, self-inflating behavior at the expense of others? Data suggests “narcissism,” the outsized need for admiration, blind conceit, and lack of empathy is rising. Why? With what effect on society?

These questions – why and with what effect on society– are important for understanding the world in which we live and assessing the drift of society.

Unpacking the complicated drift of society toward unrepentant, unapologetic, often unaware self-aggrandizement is tough, but several facts pop off the page.

First, social media – self-tailored, instant, one-to-many communications – have grabbed society faster than any innovation in recent memory. They are reinforced by reliance on computer networking, hand-held communications, and a shift away from basic, tactile, physical, and non-digital interaction.

Thus, a look at social media trends from 2004 to 2018 is stunning. Use of Twitter, first on the scene, went from zero to 250 million daily. Next was YouTube, appearing in 2005 which rockets to just under two billion users. Facebook, which appeared in 2008, has over 2.5 billion users.

In the meantime, What’s App, We Chat, and Instagram have a billion users, while Tumblr, Tik-Tok, Reddit, Pinterest, Snapchat, and Myspace continue to grow, hovering from tens of millions to 600 million. 

Unknown to many, others like Rumble, Parlor, Truth Social, Telegram, Gab, Gettr, and BitChute are not far behind and are gaining social recognition. 

So, in short order, America has gone from landlines and flimsy flip phones to instant, uncorroborated news and the boldest, most unhumble, objectively narcissistic self-promotion in human history.

Can that possibly be good? Social media, in a word, has “democratized” the newsroom, living room, and bedroom, but at the expense of traditional limits, privacy, respect, self-respect, and self-awareness.

In effect, the Tower of Babel, reaching vainly for the sky, is here. Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed for such things, and Babylon was threatened with a similar fate. Are we the modern Babylon, all for nothing?

Nutshell: Social media has accelerated these trends – self-absorption, putting others second, ourselves always first, before others; this divides souls from each other and divides them from within if you think about it.

Second, we have a news media – public and private – that prioritizes glitz, personal attention, and entertainment over truth, accuracy, and modesty.

What does this do? Not surprisingly, the personality-centric media – where we go for news – reinforces our worse instincts, gets us edgy, and keeps us uneasy with flash, bang, and startle rather than basic facts.

That, in turn, leads us to think social media and startle-me-news are normal. We are encouraged to think the latest personal tragedy, scandals, photos, cultural deception, destruction, or trauma, all matter, is normal. 

Is all the chaotic self-promotion and one-up-man-ship, senseless sizzle, cake-and-monkeys – narcissistic behavior – good for any of us or society? Of course not.  

Third, recent studies show this reflexive, almost pathological self-aggrandizement – over time – produces a narcissistic society, reinforcing personal insecurities, driving us farther apart, not together. 

Without getting too deep, textbook narcissists compare themselves to others, never feel secure enough to stop, and always aim to edge others out – unsuccessfully. The shadow chasing them is not others’ but their own. This fuels more personal doubt.

What we are living through then is a social thermal, a kind of circling, chaotic current of public sentiment that reinforces what is least helpful, dividing us, creating envy, distraction, and friction – causing us to deemphasize what matters most, namely caring for each other and putting ourselves in the shoes of others.

The trend toward self-orientation reduces what holds a republic – or any group – together, respect and mutual support, encouragement by action, not words, recognition of individual strengths, willingness to take risks for others, working to understand others even when not understand ourselves, helping to fulfill dreams.

Bottom line: The modern trend is a dead end. No amount of self-focus, preoccupation with self-adulation, admiration, or glorification – in a word, narcissism – can offer the lasting fulfillment and contentment coming from other-regarding thoughts and behaviors, putting others first.

Sometimes, the most complicated things can be reduced to one line. Here is one. Alexander de Tocqueville, in 1835, wrote: “America is great because America is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.” The same is true … of individuals.

Robert Charles is a former Assistant Secretary of State under Colin Powell, former Reagan and Bush 41 White House staffer, attorney, and naval intelligence officer (USNR). He wrote “Narcotics and Terrorism” (2003), “Eagles and Evergreens” (2018), and is National Spokesman for AMAC.

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PaulE
PaulE
3 months ago

RBC,

With the left constantly preaching victimhood non-stop and the need for “someone else” to support the growing ranks of the ill-educated or downright ignorant and lazy, want do you expect? We’re rapidly becoming a nation of people that seem either unwilling or unable to take personal responsibility or accountability for anything happening in the world around us.

Most of MSM and social media is crammed full of “It’s such and such’s fault why you, the viewer, either can’t solve very solvable problems or need a new government program or handout to make it through the day.”. We’ve gone from a nation of people doing great things to a people nearly incapable of doing anything but complain 24×7 about things we’re unwilling to stand up and fix. Narcissism is just a natural side effect of a much larger and more important issue.

Max
Max
3 months ago

RBC, interesting article and thoughts. I personally, stay away from social media as family and friends keep me informed. I guess the AMAC forum here is a type of social media that I do engage with. Your last two paragraphs stand out to me as to how true they are.

Chris
Chris
3 months ago

This was happening long before social media, it merely reinforced, fed on, and accelerated the trend. There was a meme running around in the 1980’s about the trend in the names of magazines, it went something like Time -> US World Report -> People -> Us -> Self, the proposed next magazine would be entitled “ME” and the centerfold would be a mirror.
How people behave on social media is more the symptom than the cause. The cause lies in our affluence (it’s a risk in all affluent cultures) combined with a drop in religious/character education. A good religious/character education is humbling and is the best counter to narcissism. Remove humility as a virtue and of course you’ll get narcissists.
Another sign that this has been long in the making is look at who is famous. Go back over a century and you’ll see the famous are people who *did* things, Edison, Einstein, etc. With the introduction of radio and Hollywood, it shifted. Fame started accruing to people based on who they were (looked/sounded like) vs. what they had accomplished. While some in the entertainment industry manage to stay humble, it tends to glorify, and set up as example, those who as self-promoting, i.e. the industry glorifies narcissism.
As a society, we reversed the order, it used to be work hard on accomplishing something and it could bring success and fame, but is has become, work hard on fame and it could bring about success and accomplishments. We changed what opened doors from hard work to fame. So even if someone isn’t a narcissist, they opt to act like one to achieve their goals.

SusanW
SusanW
3 months ago

Narcissism. What a relevant and important topic to reflect on today. Well done, Robert! Yes, I agree that social media is at the core of promoting narcissistic and self-absorbed people/leaders. But, social media is strongly fueled by people who are self-obsessed, crave authority, need continual admiration, and put the needs and interests of others at risk. They are masters at destroying productivity, group morale, and a democratic environment.Their followers are rarely, if ever, the creative, curious thinkers of our world, but the ones who just want to believe everything said and question nothing. As the author John Steinbeck once said regarding narcissistic people, “For the most part people are not curious except about themselves.” Robert as you so thoughtfully said in your article, “What we are living through then is a social thermal…..causing us to deemphasize what matters most, namely caring for each other and putting ourselves in the shoes of others.” Namely – being compassionate and empathetic. It is time to come together, question and verify the truth about what is being said, and take the time to think and be more curious.

cdk
cdk
3 months ago

2 Timothy 3:1-2

Weck
Weck
3 months ago

It seems like the tech companies that provide social media have realized they can make themselves very rich by promoting this narcissism which is in a way an expression of their own narcissism. We are being played!

Lieutenant Beale
Lieutenant Beale
3 months ago

RBC, Alexander de Tocqueville was spot on and so are you sir!
Well said. You are batting 1000 señor.

Henry D
Henry D
3 months ago

I have a wonderful revelation: EVERY Democrat and those three RINO Republicans have ALL voted for an insurrection with their votes to keep Mayorcus in power; therefore, they ALL MUST have their names removed from all future elections

johnh
johnh
3 months ago

Is it true that Biden started campaign ads on Tiktok last weekend? And does his PAC pay for this or is it free? From what I recall, Trump wanted to ban this is USA when he was in office.

anna hubert
anna hubert
3 months ago

You must have been thinking of Obama

Morbious
Morbious
3 months ago

Social ‘science’ in the 70s paved the way for this. The key was teaching ‘nonjudgmentalism’ which gave way to ‘tolerance’ in the 90s. Rationalism gave way to fuzzy emotionalism wherein everyone had their own truths; equally valid. Along with the above, the concept was pushed that all human evils could be eliminated via psychotherapy. We are nothing but blank slates awaiting better circumstances, which a nanny state could provide.

Lance Oros
Lance Oros
1 month ago

I’m going to try to say this very slow, I’m 24 and currently have removed social media from myself. I found this search by mere accident. I agree with everything that has been spoken here. I’m learning to see the world in a new light and trying to remove all distractions that hinder my growth as an individual, but I’m not here to talk about myself. America needs a change not a bad one but a good one; something with old principals that can mean a damn. I hate to see how the years roll by, and things are just becoming a mood point. Even right now, I feel like I’m just leaving a stupid comment. This is the Home of the Free, and the land of brave people WE and I emphasize “WE” need a change; somehow/someway.
– unknown American citizen

R G Fritz
R G Fritz
3 months ago

Right on point. Internet saturation has become a substitute for independent research and discovery of truth. Social media and the cliques it engenders are echo chambers for minds moving in circles, patterns that entrap our energy and imagination, and black holes for individuality because the purpose is agreement versus dialogue and debate. My career was marketing communications do the seduction of psychology in external traps is a phenomenon I have studied. The new techno social mores feed narcissism while faking vindication by a genuine majority because most chat and blog replies are bots that are mechanisms for seeding fake media and political leftist ideas. My social connections are either in person, via letter or land line You don’t know how joyful it is to find a note card from a friend to savor over many months. Thank you AMAC and Robert, great piece


David Campbell
David Campbell
3 months ago

Although the explosion of social media is definitely an enabler, I believe the fundamental problem is much more down to earth; the self esteem movement (might as well just call it the self love, or make me a narcissist, movement). While low self esteem is a problem, as usual the “solution” was to go all in in the opposite direction and create a strong sense of self esteem when it wasn’t earned. The real solution is to give children the opportunity to earn self esteem (simultaneously helping them find their “place” in the world), not just give it to them.

Myrna
Myrna
3 months ago

The persecution of good people has awakened other good people to wake up and try to defend them.

Sydney
Sydney
3 months ago

This is greatly affecting family relationships. Especially, if there is a generational gap as in people marrying into the family who are of a much younger generation ( as in millennial) who have no respect for elders and their life experience and who think only the younger generation do things best and ‘ think right’. Having huge and destructive effects. And, yes, they are into social media, screens all the time, etc. Narcissism all day long.

Bill
Bill
3 months ago

Mr. rrr please get off your soapbox.

Melinda
Melinda
3 months ago

You have analyzed this trend much as I have, but much more thoroughly. Young people, especially, seem to post pictures of themselves constantly. I think those of us who have reached a certain age, and have accomplished much, are more secure in our worth and don’t need adulation. I can pat myself on the back for a job well done without “likes” on Facebook. Also avoid celebrity news and often ask “who is that?”.i do wonder if the current crop of 20-30 somethings will ever grow up. I also believe that hard times and struggles encourage growth.

uncleferd
uncleferd
3 months ago

Narcissism has ruined many places of employment and client job sites where I have worked throughout my career. It’s also been a force in bad marriages that I have observed.
I personally feel that narcissism cannot take hold without deliberate sponsorship in most cases. Once the inner child reveals itself, it won’t go away unless uprooted and thrown away.

Robert Zuccaro
Robert Zuccaro
3 months ago

Its so sad people think everything is all about them when it’s really all about ME. If people worried more about how I’m doing and do things with me in mind, things would be great! If I can afford to fill my tank, buy groceries, and pay my mortgage, then it all trickles down to everyone else and we all do great. Like me. Therefore I proclaim this the “Year of Me”. Everything you do, DO IT FOR ME! My happiness is your happiness.

Glenn Lego
Glenn Lego
3 months ago

What is the difference between narcissism and “self esteem? “

Guinness Book of World Records
Guinness Book of World Records
3 months ago

The Guinness Book of World Records awarded Donald J Trump the record for biggest narcissist. Records are made to be broken but this particular record will be very hard to break and may stand for many millennia.

johnh
johnh
3 months ago

If you do not agree Trump is a narcissist, then you are part of the group that will believe in conspiracy theories & …………

johnh
johnh
3 months ago

I have real problems with Trump comments on NATO last week with “if members do not pay their dues , then Russia can do whatever the hell it wants”. I take this to mean that if I have a middle or lower class income in the USA, then the hell with us also & I take it that he thinks that the top 1% richest people are the people that really matter to him.

johnh
johnh
3 months ago

It appears that Trump is a leader in narcissism when he was POTUS & it appears that millions of American voters are fine with this in his MAGA camp. And who said,” the only way I will not win is if election is rigged” and started this long before the 2020 election just in case.

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