Sunday, February 17, 2013

Your Kid Is Probably a Narcissist and Other Great News

In "We Are Raising a Generation of Deluded Narcissists," Dr. Keith Ablow argues that today’s young adults are more narcissistic than ever, and before too long, there will be hell to pay.

Ablow references a study by Jean M. Twenge, PhD, author of Generation Me and The Narcissism Epidemic, which found that “college students are more likely than ever to call themselves gifted and driven to succeed, even though their test scores and time spent studying are decreasing.”

Twenge, herself a member of Gen Y, and I go way back. I read Generation Me several years ago, after running to the bookstore to learn more about the young person I’d hired who’d lied on his resume and spent more time online chatting with his numerous friends about the next keg party than actually doing his job.

Now, I’ve worked with many young people, including my son Adam, a college student, who were clearly talented and had great work ethics. But I’ve also worked with a few who had egos out to here (insert arm span) and seemed to think they were the star in their own little reality series. So, when Ablow says, “Using Twitter, young people can pretend they are worth ‘following’ as though they have real-life fans, when all that is really happening is the mutual fanning of false love and false fame” I think he may have a point.

I like Twitter, but if you read some of the tweets, you definitely get the sense that some people are a little confused about reality versus fantasy. For example, I follow Jill Scott, and every day (in fact multiple times a day) one of her fans tweets about “lovely Jill Scott,” “beautiful Jill Scott,” “foxy Jill Scott, I love you,” etc. Does Ms. Scott ever tweet back? Hell no. (Not that I’m blaming her exactly.) But my point is, this is weird. I’m all for self-promotion or dissemination of information on Twitter, but constantly talking to people who aren’t talking back? Because um … you’re not in an actual relationship? That’s a little strange. (And no, it’s not the same thing as having a blog, dammit!)

Of course, narcissism is not limited to young people. Twenge writes in Generation Me that the modern concept of  “self-esteem,” which is really about self-love, “pops up in everything from women’s magazines to song lyrics to celebrity interviews,” and she claims that we’ve all begun to drink the Kool-Aid. For example, if the notion that we must love ourselves before loving others sounds like wisdom to you, I'll bet your tongue is bright red. As Twenge points out, marriages don’t dissolve because people love themselves too little. They dissolve because people love themselves too much and others not enough.

Says Ablow, “The bubble of narcissism is always at risk of bursting. That’s why young people are higher on drugs than ever, drunker than ever, smoking more, tattooed more, pierced more and having more and more and more sex, earlier and earlier and earlier, raising babies before they can do it well, because it makes them feel special, for a while. They’re doing anything to distract themselves from the fact that they feel empty inside and unworthy.”

I hope Ablow is exaggerating a little, because the picture he paints is downright depressing, and he wasn’t even finished. He goes on to say, “Distractions, however, are temporary, and the truth is eternal. Watch for an epidemic of depression and suicidality, not to mention homicidality, as the real self-loathing and hatred of others that lies beneath all this narcissism rises to the surface.  I see it happening and, no doubt, many of you do, too.”

Ablow warns that we better come up with a plan to turn the tide before it’s too late, and I wonder what he has in mind. As for me and mine, I’m opting for some straight talk and a whole lot of prayer.

What do you think? Are our young people too self-focused? And if so, what do you see as the cure?


  1. Yes, they are narcissistic, yes they are evil, they don't appear to have any conscience. Before somebody would fight you, now they will run and get a gun or a knife if you look at them funny. I have an example, because i do walk a lot, and I remember this one time, there was snow on the ground. So I walked in the street, and these four teenagers started screaming at me "Oh you are so scared of us, she thinks we are going to do something to her". It wasn't that, I just didn't want to walk in the snow, but of course then I WAS scared of them, so I immediately kind of ran to go back to my car. Its just, because I experience a lot of stuff because I walk a lot. A guy asks for my number, I say I don't think so, he says why not? He was doing his lawn or something. For one, I don't like anyone to talk to me when I'm walking, even if I know them. And a lot of places, sometimes when we hear our rock music, are young people, and sometimes the young females get smart with me, or push me, and they are so disgustingly whores. And its so desperate, I remember when i started going out in my early 30's after my first marriage, I wasn't like that. There's no morals. So I am afraid of young people, I'm afraid of everybody really. I read some of your other blogs, they were very interesting but i didn't know exactly what to say, because I'm more political. I have another example of encountering some kids. This was awhile back, I was walking over in Lynnewood Gardens and these boys were jumping on top of this boy, they looked about 11 or 12. They just kept on. I said stop jumping on that boy like that- you are going to hurt him. So they said to mind my f'ing business, and the boy who was being jumped on said mind your f'in business old lady! This is an example too of pure evil. Now I don't say anything to anybody, I just don't see anything, I don't hear anything. Also, did you hear the story of the woman who was killed by the teenagers because she wouldn't give them a cigarette? She was walking past these teenagers, and they asked her for a cigarette, she said you are too young to be smoking, and told them to get a job. And then they killed her. I of course, if somebody asks me something I just ignore them, because people ask me stuff all the time.

  2. Hi Londa:

    Well, you've got quite a lot of stories to tell. I agree with you that sometimes our young people can be quite scary, although I'm happy to report that I've encountered many a teen who was with a group and acting loud and disruptive but then would say, "Excuse me Ma'am" in the politest tone if he bumped into me, for example.

    I think the hardest thing to swallow is that we (Gen Y and the Boomers) have created this problem, and we don’t have a clue what to do about it.