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Why Narcissism Defines Our Time

Articles and Information about narcissists, psychopaths, and abuse in relationships in various settings: the family, the workplace, the community, politics, and the professions.

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Why Narcissism Defines Our Time

Postby samvaknin » Mon Dec 13, 2010 11:33 am

Abolish Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) in DSM V? - Click HERE to Watch the Video:


http://blogs.wsj.com/speakeasy/2010/12/ ... -our-time/

ECEMBER 8, 2010, 9:00 AM ETWhy Narcissism Defines Our Time

By Elizabeth Currid-Halkett

The Pratts promote their new book, “How To Be Famous.”Last week it was announced that the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders removed 50% of the personality disorders currently on its list. However none of the excluded disorders have gotten as much attention as the removal of “narcissistic personality disorder,” or NPD.

The uproar is unsurprising. Narcissism is one of the most obvious examples of a personality disorder. We see it everywhere in our culture. Narcissism can explain part of the motivation for participating in reality TV show antics, and Hollywood has always seemed a refuge for beautiful people who need to be the center of attention. We know that not much will change in Hollywood with this announcement. But will it change any other parts of our culture?

Most troubling about not including NPD as a personality disorder is that there is evidence of narcissism in all of our social lives. It’s alarming that in an age when narcissism is so evident, and with new ways for narcissists to get attention so apparent, that it would not be considered a personality disorder. The new world of democratic celebrities—on Facebook, reality TV and Twitter—where there are fewer traditional constraints on runaway narcissism, demonstrates the need to take this personality disorder seriously.

It’s almost tautological to say that celebrity favors narcissistic personalities. Michael Jackson is a tragic example: consumed with a desire to be loved, to stay young and to remain the “King of Pop,” he built a fantasy childhood kingdom at his house and subjected himself to disfiguring plastic surgery. He was particularly vulnerable and unsupported, but his quest for attention isn’t a million miles from Britney shaving her hair off or 80s-era Madonna and her endless and often sacrilegious desire to shock.

However, reality TV and the rise of the 24/7 news cycle (begetting the 24/7 gossip cycle) has enabled a very visual and real-time way to observe the dangers of narcissism. Like Jackson, Heidi Montag, former reality star from The Hills, is so pathologically obsessed with her physical appearance that she underwent plastic surgery multiple times while still in her early 20s. She and her husband, Spencer Pratt, appear to devote many of their waking hours to drumming up publicity for themselves. This past summer, Montag filed for divorce only to reconcile this November, admitting it was a stunt to make money. Pratt remarked in an interview with a tabloid, “Divorcing was the only way to keep Heidi’s career going.”

Not all stars on the big screen, small screen or online are egomaniacs. But celebrity has become so associated with wealth, media exposure and obsession that large contingents of the population want to attain it simply on its own, divorced from any achievement. For many sociologists and psychologists, this is a very problematic trend. The human development scholar Orville Brim notes that four million American adults list fame as their number-one life goal and 2% of individuals are “consumed” by their desire to be a star. In a 2007 survey, the Pew Research Center found that 51% of 18-to-25-year-olds said their first or second goal in life was to become famous.

Contemporary society can be defined by its “look at me” culture, which is visible on Facebook as much as Hollywood. Recent studies have found that increasing numbers of adolescents in the general population are rating high on the Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI). The studies’ results noted a marked upswing in high NPI scores in 2002, which uncannily correlates with the rise of social media sites. What are the ramifications of a culture of people addicted to sharing so much—too much, perhaps—about themselves? Would these individuals be narcissists if not for the rise of social media that enables that part of their personality to develop?

The cause and effect of narcissist behavior can continue to be debated amongst the media and medical fields alike, but undoubtedly its presence in modern society has become ubiquitous and prolific, transcending social spheres. Narcissism is not simply the blight of Hollywood but a commonplace aspect of everyday society. Let’s not let its seeming banality trick us into thinking it’s not destructive. A quick look at the tabloids and our Facebook News Feeds should give us good evidence to keep this disorder in the books.

Elizabeth Currid-Halkett is an assistant professor at University of Southern California’s School of Policy and the author of “The Warhol Economy” and “Starstruck: The Business of Celebrity.”

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