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by Florian Roetzer
Saturday, Mar. 31, 2007 at 3:52 AM
"Young persons born after 1982 are the most narcissistic generation of recent history and far removed from a social orientation.. Narcissism is a business or income in the attention economy.
WEB 2.0 PROMOTES NARCISSISM
Students in 2006 were the most narcissist generation in 25 years according to a study of US psychologists
By Florian Roetzer
[This article published in the German-English cyber journal Telepolis, 2/28/2007 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web, http://www.heise.de/tp/r4/artikel/24/24740/1.html]
Young persons are supposedly becoming increasingly narcissistic, according to a study of psychologists (1). An analysis of 16,000 college students who answered the questions of the psychological test Narcissistic Personality Inventory between 1982 and 2006 showed that students were never as narcissistic as today. In the test, students were asked to evaluate statements (“If I could rule the world, it would be a better place” or “I am the center of attention”). The narcissism values of two-thirds of the 2006 students were higher than those of the 1982 students. Jean Twenge, psychology professor at San Diego State University and director of the study, previously wrote a book about Generation I (2) and sees his conclusions confirmed: “Young persons – born after 1982 are the most narcissistic generation of recent history and far removed from a social orientation.”
Thus the Me generation comes gradually to the stage of society, according to the findings of the psychologists (3). The Me generation is a product of the media society to which the attention economy is subject. Whoever cannot appear attractive or striking, whoever cannot gain any prominence, is a loser and at most can be a fan if he does not run amok or become a suicide assassin who takes his life by staging an ultimate spectacle. If success does not appear, narcissists can become deadly furious. The pressure is great because the attention of individuals and the media is short. Prominence is short even if it seems to multiply. What is not the rule, the mass, the normal, the ordinary and the general is prominent. Consequently prominence is rare and striking and only flickers like fireworks or bursts like a bomb. What is cruel in the attention society is that success is always possible and yet is rare, a lottery that makes the overwhelming majority into losers.
Something has gone wrong somehow. The children were praised too much. Everything they did was celebrated as good. The generation that didn’t only want to find fault is now put on trial including the prophets of “think positive.” Whoever only believes in himself imagines that everything will be fine if one only succumbs to a delusion. Gradually realizing this was bitterly necessary. However psychologists to a generation problem and ultimately a result of the 68-generation degrade this as though those who wanted to breakthrough were responsible for everything that went wrong. The motto is only the one who bravely remains in the system does everything right since dislocation comes from dissidents. Generation Y that now grows up and studies with an inflated ego, must see that personal and social problems await them. The expectations are great; the emotional interest in others is trifling. Frustration cannot be endured. When expectations are not satisfied, sick narcissists are knocked out. The psychologists do not want to face terrorism.
That the unpublished findings of the study already circulate in the media is cute. The reason for the impatience may be owed to Twenge whose paperback book attracted some attention. Narcissism is a business and income in the attention economy and by no means only a vain activity. However these strategies of gaining attention do not interest psychologists as a theme. Teaching units of elementary schools mirror the songs sung by children 20 years ago: “I am special. I am special. Look at me.” The results are websites like MySpace and YouTube that “allow a self-presentation going far beyond what was possible in the traditional media. Perhaps this self-presentation that was only possible for a few for a long time is democratized. Through the ideology of Web 2.0, self-presentation is transfigured into a social network. In any case, Twenge says – probably rightly – that Web 2.0 possibilities intensify narcissism and the search for attention.
Present technology promotes the increase of narcissism. As its name suggests, MySpace reinforces the search for attention like YouTube.
The critic enlightening people about narcissism need not be sad. The scholarly treatment of narcissism also has a place in the attention economy. MySpace and Co. are not the only platforms of self-representation.
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