Narcissism Epidemic

From Merriam-Webster:

extremely self-centered with an exaggerated sense of self-importance

Does this sound familiar? It should do.

I have come to the conclusion that here, in western civilisation at least, we are seeing an increasingly narcissistic society where people are lost in their ballooning sense of self-importance. Entitlement is everywhere and a worrying number of people simply cannot deal with being denied something, or being informed that they are wrong.

Here’s the blunt truth: you are not important.

I am not important.

In fact, nobody is more important than anybody else.

Now, you may argue that the woman making crucial political decisions is more important than the man sitting on his arse at home, drinking beer in the middle of the day and sponging off the state but even this isn’t so. One role in society is more important than the other but the actual people in those roles? Nope. If you are talking about human life then neither person in that scenario is more important. After all, you can have all the money in the world and one of the highest positions in society, but you still take a shit in the same way. You can still contract a terminal illness such as cancer. And, in the end, we all die the same way.

Away from the crude and morbid analogies, my point is this: strip away the status and we are all just people. Yes, we are all individuals with different personalities, ideas and views on matters but nobody has the right to be considered more important than anybody else.

narcissus-1
[Image Source]
Narcissism doesn’t care about that though. Narcissism is most commonly linked with physical vanity and originates from the ancient Greek myth, where the young Narcissus looked into a pool and fell in love with his own reflection. That pool that Narcissus gazed into is still here today, only in the form of mirrors and self-facing smartphone camera lenses, rather than old-school water. But I would argue that selfies and the millions of photos plastered across social media of girls in their bedrooms showing off their make-up, outfits and even their bodies is only surface level narcissism. How many of those girls are showing off in front of the camera because they are genuinely in love with their physical self, do you think? I would wager that it is only a small percentage. This kind of behaviour is born of a need to compete and look pretty to live up to a set of standards that society and the media have cooked up in order to keep selling us products.

If you ask me, this isn’t narcissism because it stems from insecurity.

Narcissism operates on a sub-level. It’s the act of showing off to the world and subconsciously shouting for attention that is narcissistic, not the photographs themselves. We crave those Likes and positive comments on our pictures. We want our oh-so-dramatic status updates to pique the curiosity of others and get them asking questions or sending us their best wishes (if said status alludes to a bad experience). We want every piece of trivial, meaningless shit that we upload to social media profiles – amusing gifs, memes, reactions – to contribute towards wrenching the spotlight away from somebody else.

It makes us feel important.

Selfie-1
[Image Source]
It would be unfair to say that social media is the sole reason that we, as a society, have allowed our sense of self-importance to grow and swell until it dominates our decisions and thought processes, but it has a hell of a lot to answer for. The thing is, the likes of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have given anybody with access a platform to speak to the world and blurt out their opinions and rash reactions to events, seconds after they have occured. In ye olden days, if something really fucking offended your principles or seemed worth pushing back against, you’d have to get off your arse and organise a physical rally or protest march. It took effort and organisation. However, social media allows anybody to scream and bawl about anything at all that they perceive to be a wrong, an insult or a problem. Anybody can whinge about anything and when like-minded users begin to agree, an echo-chamber effect amplifies the loudest of voices and, suddenly, the original issue appears to be a huge thing. Massive, even.

Back in REAL life, you are unlikely to meet that many people – if anybody at all – who are talking about the latest cataclysmic outrage that is tearing the internet apart. Why? Because it isn’t actually a big deal at all. If you had to physically organise a meet-up or go out and do something about a perceived problem, how many people do you think would actually bother? How many of these “issues” do you think would even be worth discussing in public?

People’s self-inflated sense of importance gives them the idea that their opinions are important; that THEY are important. And neither is true. Many people can’t deal with somebody challenging their opinion either. The default response is to shout and scream back at the other person, insisting that they are right and that the other person is absolutely, categorically wrong. It’s the equivalent of putting your hands over your ears and shouting, “LA, LA, LA…I CAN’T HEAR YOU!”

You’ve no doubt seen it before, first-hand. Look at the comments sections in Youtube or any sort of debate/discussion on social media or in the comments sections of news articles and there is a distinct pattern. Raging, never-ending back-and-forths where nobody is capable of listening to other viewpoints or taking onboard rational, critical counter-arguments. Sure, some people concede or admit that their viewpoint may be flawed, but this is the rare exception to a rotten rule. Usually, it’s all about repeating your opinion relentlessly, and any sensible discussion is more or less guaranteed to devolve into hurling insults.

It’s the final line of defence that sees our supposedly intelligent race regress to the level of apes and start flinging its own shit around.

Ignorance-1

This happens because an exaggerated sense of self-importance also extends to one’s opinions. Narcissistic people simply cannot have their viewpoint threatened or challenged by another person. They don’t know how to deal with this and thus revert to a childish state where they ultimately throw a tantrum because they aren’t being allowed to have their own way.

In a previous post entitled, ‘You know nothing (and that’s okay)‘, I went into how it’s healthy to be open to the fact that you could be wrong. It’s an attitude that keeps your mind open and allows you to learn. It doesn’t mean that the criticism and opposing views of others are right, but you should be prepared to shut your mouth, listen and analyse what you’re hearing. There might be flaws in your view(s) that you have overlooked or you might actually be wrong. You also need to be able to question yourself at all times and, ultimately, you have to be big enough to accept that you were incorrect and that somebody else’s input was actually useful.

This mindset appears to be being driven to extinction however. It isn’t (as I said earlier) all the fault of the social media though. The other major catalyst responsible for this narcissism epidemic is rampant entitlement. So many people feel that they are owed something by society and life in general. They feel that they deserve all the good things in life without actually doing anything to earn them. And when they don’t get them, narcissism strikes again and they can’t cope with not receiving what they believe they are owed.

I’m sure that there are a multitude of reasons for this ugly and utterly flawed way of approaching life but I will try to keep it brief here because, after all, I’m no expert in psychology or social history. First of all, entitlement seems to have crept into western society over a period of decades. The most obvious reason is that multiple generations of people have grown up in peacetime with no wars to threaten their existence. As a result, millions of people haven’t had to learn the hard way that they are lucky to be alive and leading the rich lives that they are living. Growing up and living a long time with access to healthcare that can fix most problems is taken for granted, as is state assistance.

In short, people grow into adults surrounded by safety nets and help. They don’t learn the value of hard work like their grandparents and great grandparents did. Instead, they benefit from their immediate ancestors’ relative wealth. Those previous generations lived through a time where wages were more competitive and they were able to completely pay off mortagages and amass savings. As such, their children were able to benefit from the security and stability.

A lot of people grew up with everything they wanted and increasingly-lax parents that failed to instil any form of discipline or meaningful teachings into their children. Suffering (an incredibly valuable tool for positive growth) was kept to a minimum and a lot of children developed into adults with a resulting sense of self-importance.

lifeonsilverplate-1

To share a personal example, I remember being at school in the early-mid 2000’s and being surrounded by 11-15 year-olds decked out in designer-branded clothes and £100+ trainers. They had the latest mobile phones as soon as they came to market; all the latest videogame consoles and games, no matter the amount it must have set their parents back. I didn’t have anything of the sort and made do with old, outdated handed-down mobile phones and cheap, affordable off-brand clothes/trainers. When everybody else was raving about the latest Playstation 2 games, I was still using an original, handed-down Playstation and replaying games I’d finished countless times before! But to the other kids, having all of this stuff was viewed as normal – expected, even. I was the odd one out – unable to join in with discussing the latest videogames or mobile phones – and I can’t deny that I felt jealous back then. But now, as an adult, I appreciate the way my parents raised me (a post for another time), and I can see that many others in my school year were already riddled with entitlement.

So people became entitled and now, when life doesn’t treat them the same as their parents and hand them everything on a silver plate, they can’t handle it. Suddenly, their “suffering” (it really isn’t) is the fault of everybody else: society, the government, wealthy people…anybody else’s fault but their own. You’ve no doubt heard people saying, “why is this happening to me?”, acting like a victim. They can’t understand why every little thing isn’t going their way and they falsely believe that they are suffering terribly.

And now, this monstrous sense of self-importance is coming to the fore in mainstream media. Anybody with an agenda is shouting loudly and protesting – be it LGBT rights, #metoo, Extinction Rebellion, etc. – because they absolutely must be heard. Their opinion and cause is incredibly important and everybody must stand up and take notice. And don’t you dare disagree with what they want. Their right to take offence at opposing viewpoints is more important than anything else, including your opinion. They are important people, after all.

I’m not saying that everybody has fallen into this narcissism trap but it seems to be a problem that grows worse with each successive generation and I can’t see it going away anytime soon with social media’s influence now an integral part of our lives. The people who may as well be screaming, “look at meeeeee!” on Facebook are having children of their own and, to those children, this sort of behaviour will be imprinted upon them and become second nature.

There are actually some very worrying theories online from psychology experts and historians who believe that this is all building up to war, the collapse of society and rapidly degrading IQ levels across western society. There’s historical evidence and patterns that back up the theories too.

Worrying times.

 

Suppressing our emotions = bad

So: this whole Liam Neeson thing that caused a major media shitstorm. It got me thinking about us and our society here in the West; about how our culture has developed to encourage the suppression of our true thoughts and feelings. After all, if you admit to an irrational thought-train that pulled into the station in response to a painful personal scenario (like Neeson did) then you are immediately torn into by social media and the militant SJW factions that have been waiting for the next major celebrity to slip up. It is my opinion that we should be able to discuss our darker thoughts openly providing that we haven’t actually acted upon them of course.

Now, I don’t want to go on about this Liam Neeson thing too much because the story is really only a springboard for this topic but I will quickly re-cap it for the three people that missed it the other week as some context is usually helpful. The short of it is that somebody close to Neeson was raped by a black man “years ago” (no actual specific date/year given) and the movie star admitted to walking the streets for a week, hoping that a black man would randomly start some trouble with him so that he could kill them.

“God forbid you’ve ever had a member of your family hurt under criminal conditions. I’ll tell you a story. This is true.”

“She handled the situation of the rape in the most extraordinary way but my immediate reaction was… I asked, did she know who it was? No. What colour were they? She said it was a black person.”

“I went up and down areas with a cosh, hoping I’d be approached by somebody – I’m ashamed to say that – and I did it for maybe a week, hoping some [uses air quotes with fingers] ‘black bastard’ would come out of a pub and have a go at me about something, you know? So that I could kill him.”

“It was horrible, horrible, when I think back, that I did that. And I’ve never admitted that, and I’m saying it to a journalist. God forbid.”

“It’s awful. But I did learn a lesson from it.”

I’m not going to dissect this too much though because the interview has already been analaysed to death. Also, I’m not here to look at the racial side of Neeson’s comments. What I WILL say is that he was crazy to expect he could admit this stuff and not invite a turbo-charged media storm. It’s – sadly – the age we live in and one seemingly innocent admission could sink a career.

ln-1
[image: CNN.com]
And this is the point of this post. There are many with a neutral stance on this story who are saying that Liam Neeson should have just not said anything. As I mentioned just above, I can see why this line of thinking comes about but all it encourages is a suppression of our thoughts, feelings and emotions. What Neeson admits to is some pretty heavy shit and while I could never support what he did, I can still understand to an extent. Clearly the crime affected him deeply and sometimes, these things give birth to wholly irrational thoughts and mental states that seem insane when looking back on them with the benefit of time’s passage. At the time however, the irrational nature of these emotions is very difficult to see if it’s you in the eye of the storm.

Unfortunately, our society has grown highly competent at playing Judge/Jury/Executioner and so if you are considering letting some shit out that has been weighing your mind down then it will take some huge balls to do so. After all, rather than take a balanced approach and attempt to disagree but also understand, it’s much more fashionable to loudly condemn a person for their perceived sins. It’s even easier to do this if the confessor in question wants to open up about anything relating to race or sex. Finally, if you are a celebrity or somebody of high profile, then expect the brain-dead social media sheep to jump on the bandwagon and bleet their rage. Not necessarily because they give a shit but because it makes them look fashionable to be commenting on a high profile news story and be seen to be appalled by something, anything. It’s easy to condemn from that safe spot behind your screen isn’t it? I guarantee that at least 90% of people wouldn’t even bother getting involved if social media was non-existent and doing something about something meant getting off their arses to join physical protest marches.

Hypocrisy rears its diseased head at this point because we are constantly being told that it’s “good to talk” and to be open but it seems that this only stands if the nature of your problems or innermost thoughts is acceptable by the standards of the mindless Twitter mobs, the easily offended and “Won’t somebody think of the children?!?” brigade. Anything remotely controversial or worrying means that you ARE a racist or that you ARE a sexual predator/rapist. As I touched on at the very start of this post, there is a clear divide between having bad thoughts and actually doing something about them. I am in no way excusing those who have followed through on them because it means that somebody else has been hurt or had their life destroyed as a result and the offender needs taking out of society and either punishing or rehabilitating.

But how many of these crimes could have been prevented if society was more open about discussing our more unpleasant thoughts? I ask because it’s basic knowledge that suppressing emotions or hiding certain things only makes them grow stronger over time, perhaps to the point where they warp minds and the owners lose control. We’ve all heard the one about the shy, innocent girl actually being the filthiest of the lot due to suppressed sexuality or having to “watch out for the quiet ones”.

I’m not saying that there is complete, consistent truth in those random examples but one thing I DO know is that nobody is black or white. We are all both. Yin and Yang. Light and Dark. Good and Bad. To try and completely suppress the unsavoury and socially unacceptable segments of our psyche and become modern day saints in the process is a foolish and impossible task. That’s why I believe it is important to talk if it will help ‘release’ some of the bad thoughts but we must be comfortable in opening up without being sent to the figurative gallows. We must also learn to understand and accept that we all have a darkness within and that acknowledging its existence and being comfortable with it could well be one of the best ways of controlling it.

I often like to return to this fantastic quote by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe:

“Where the light is brightest, the shadows are deepest”

At the end of the day, I can’t take the self-righteous whiter-than-white do-gooders seriously when they scream about people being wrong or the devil incarnate for simply having human thoughts. Irrational and unpleasant, yes but human all the same. We evolve over thousands and millions of years so to expect society to shed its primal, territorial instincts so quickly (in relative terms) with no margin for slip-ups is ludicrous. The fact that we are as civilised and morally conscious as we are NOW is a small miracle in itself and shouldn’t be taken for granted.

WK-1
Even this White Knight chess piece casts a shadow…[image: Tiptopprops.com]

The self-righteous and uber-SJWs amongst us try to be as white and morally superior as possible but the stronger their light becomes, the longer the shadows grow. It’s why those crusading for “good” causes have been known to employ suspect tactics in order to get what they want. On a more basic level, these people are no different or better than the average man or woman and will be harbouring the same dark thoughts or desires behind closed doors, even if only in small, harmless quantities. You can’t have Good without Bad due to the nature of a small thing called Balance. The best we can strive for is to be as Good as possible and keep the dark in check while acknowledging that it is there.

So next time somebody “does a Neeson” and comes out with something outrageous, stop and take a moment before reacting. I’m not telling you to agree with their admission or to let it slide without challenge or scrutiny but at least try to understand and ask yourself if you have been in their situation yourself. Can you actually relate? Are you qualified to judge their state of mind without the relevant experience? Most importantly, did the person in question actually act on their irrational thoughts?

What I’m saying is, don’t preach tolerance and freedom of speech if you aren’t prepared to tolerate other people’s thoughts or allow them to be honest.

Youtube Comments: An Embarassment to Humanity

Many things frequently convince me to part with my faith in mankind and the future of our race. The fact that we use centuries of accumulated intelligence and technology not for our benefit but to continue killing one another for the benefit of spiritual mystical beings for example. The periodic threats of nuclear war that threaten millions all because bullish world leaders insist on winning the latest edition of “How large is your penis?”. Or even the idea that maintaining the right to purchase military-grade firearms is of greater importance than innocent children being filled with bullets and thus denied a future, all because they did something as outrageous as show up for school.

All of these things (and countless others also qualifying as entire discussion points in their own right) rarely fail to make me think “we’re so fucked as a race, aren’t we?”. They all pale in comparison to the comments sections on Youtube videos however.

Seriously, I have come to the conclusion that if you wish to see the most hate-filled, racist, cold, emotionless, easily-triggered, tasteless keyboard warriors that the internet has to offer then this is the place to go. You can probably point me in the direction of some less mainstream, off-grid web hangouts where entities (let’s not grace them with the term ‘People’) of an even fouler nature lurk but there are two reasons that make Youtube’s warzone comments so notable as I see it:

  1. This is one of the most mainstream, easily visible and accessible internet destinations out there. The hate and bile is right there for all to see and while videos may be flagged as 18+, the comments certainly aren’t.
  2. Facebook, Twitter and other high-profile social networking services come under repeated media fire for breeding peer pressure, hate speech, extreme bullying and depression yet Youtube seems to escape the spotlight despite being just as influential and integral to its users’ lives.

It seems that any video in any genre simply cannot exist without a simple disagreement of opinion becoming an issue of the commenters’ racial identity or right to life. I have seen people told to “fuck off and die” for having a different taste of music for example and I’d consider that mild by the standards of Youtube’s trolls. Don’t forget that these entities have standards so low that you’d have to drill down deeper than the deepest layer of the sewage network to even stand a chance of finding them. When you did find these so-called standards, you’d likely feel cleaner by returning to the sewers and taking a swim in that glorious cocktail of piss, shit and used tampons.

I have screen-grabbed an example of such bizarre behaviour to dissect and this (like my “fuck off and die” recollection) is still extremely tame. This is taken from a video of Rocky II‘s training montage. I’ve edited out the names and profile pictures of those involved even though I’m unsure that some of them deserve their anonymity but what can I say; I have a bit of class I suppose.

ytc-1

As you can see, it starts off fairly nondescript with somebody being a smartarse and disputing the original comment because they decided to take it as literally as possible and combine the worlds of real-life sports trainers and their fictional movie counterparts. Then the opinion is put forward that Duke (Apollo’s trainer) was in fact superior to Mickey – a fair enough opinion (even if it is presented as a fact). Then, enter the Pedant archtype who isn’t happy that people casually discussing a movie have committed the cardinal sin of confusing managers with trainers.

So far, so good, right? But then…

ytc-3

I’d ask if this was really that necessary or how we made it from the manager/trainer discussion to suicide but I can’t seem to find a suitable collection of words so I’ll let this classic meme do the talking while I gather myself.

ytc-4
[image: imgflip.com]
And so it continued…

ytc-2

I would attempt to commentate on this conclusion to the discussion but I don’t think I need to. For the purposes of re-capping however: a Rocky II clip inspired a conflict of opinions on trainers and managers. Said conflict then evolved into a not-so-subtle suggestion that one of the involved parties should go and hang themselves (as you do for confusing trainers with managers, real life trainers with Rocky trainers or for being a Duke fan). Finally, a good ol’ race-fuelled argument.

As I said, this is a very tame example. So tame in fact that it barely registers. Many other furious debates succeed in racking up hundreds of replies and utterly vile on-screen words that sometimes defy belief. Some may argue that I should “grow up” or just accept that this is life in 2019 but I refuse to accept that. The fact is, you don’t hear people speak this way in the real world. They are keyboard warrior trolls on a power-trip, safe behind their monitors or smartphone displays. Let’s see them stand face-to-face with a grown man in the street and tell them to go hang themselves for holding the opinion that Megadeth is better than Iron Maiden. Most of us swear and rib our mates about their opinions but it’s done with humour and an understanding of the boundaries. We know who we can share black humour or crude jokes with for example.

In Youtube Land however, there is very real malice from a sizeable number of users who appear to think nothing of making a simple disagreement personal and bringing somebody else’s ethnicity into it for no reason at all. They see no problem with telling another commenter that they used their sister as a “cum dumpster” the night before last when in reality, they are probably a basement-dwelling professional troll with no real life interior knowledge of a woman’s underpants.

ytc-5

It’s over-compensation and feeling powerful by putting others down magnified ten-fold (at a minimum). Trolls and keyboard warriors on Youtube (and most other social networks for that matter) come in two varieties: the first species is neaderthal in nature and not yet in possession of an imagination. Hard-hitting, punchy insults and childlike tantrums punctuated by words such as “fuck” and “cunt” are their only form of response to anybody who dares challenge their hard-man act. Ironically, it’s these types – who seem the most ghastly and repulsive at first – who probably have the most hope of transitioning to a regular human being. A slim hope mind, slimmer than the gap that the Millenium Falcon squeezes out of after attacking the Death Star II’s core in Return of the Jedi. It’s the second species of troll that you have to be more wary of.

Passive-aggressive prose and carefully constructed replies designed to poke and prod at another is their style. Rather than going in fists-swinging with their digital mouth vomiting out swears, these social rejects get their thrills by laying the bait and toying with the fish they manage to hook. Accomplished grammar, a calm persona and the ability to respond to anything are other hallmarks to look out for. These are the sorts of trolls who refuse to let their opponent claim the last say and achieve a trouser tent by retrieving facts and figures to discredit another viewpoint or working out how to push another’s buttons. You can imagine them sitting back with a wide, toad-like grin as they watch somebody else unravel and if all else fails, they have no qualms about signing off with an ice-cold, passionless put-down.

Read too much of this crap and you begin to wonder if these people have a life outside of the internet or how awful their own existence must be if they need to throw their self-respect beneath a dumpster and communicate with others in a such a revolting manner. More to the point of this topic’s title, it’s embarassing that this is a representation of us, the human race. What happened to agreeing to disagree and accepting that not everybody holds the same opinions as us? Somewhere along the line, it became essential to always be right (a mathematical impossibility in itself) and fling insults around like uncivilised apes slinging turds. Somebody disagree with your outlook? No problem; just tell them to jump off a bridge (while promising that you will be banging their mother as they plummet to their doom).

But then again, I’ve just written a big blog post about morons and wasted some of my life analysing their motives so what the fuck do I know.