Everyone is Narcissistic Except Me
I can say without exaggeration that I am the most most humble person in the world, so when I hear that a psychologist is making a claim that this current generation is more narcissistic than the last, I take issue. A psychologist by the name Nathan DeWall was listening to a song by Weezer called “Greatest Man Who Ever Lived” (I just heard for the first time writing this, it is worth a listen) and decided to do a study on top music hits over the past three decades. He found that more and more songs had the words “I” and “me” in aggressive contexts over that time period. That information is interesting and I could get into a discussion on what that means for society, but DeWall and by extension our friends at the New York Times concluded is “Late adolescents and college students love themselves more today than ever before.”
Wait, What About Depression, Isn’t That Rising or Something?
I call bullshit! I am not sure if these gents have been at a high school or college lately, but self love is not the norm. If college students love themselves so much, why are counseling centers constantly overbooked? A friend of mine recently had to wait months for an appointment at her college’s counseling center. This is not restricted to her campus; it has also recently become an issue at Boston University as well as other schools.
And yet further studies DeWall has done says that students have scored higher over time on the Narcissism Personality Inventory. This would support his theory, except for that he fails to take into account how reluctant people are to reveal their insecurities. It is called the Social Desirability Bias.
What Lyrics Really Say About Us
Yes, the lyrics in current music tend to focus on the importance of the singer, though I doubt his study has accounted for the times that this is done with irony. I wouldn’t think the song “Tribute” is a fair image of how Jack Black thinks of himself or his musical abilities. Nor has his study taken into account that it is a common tactic among musicians to play up their own self worth to attract more people to buy their product. The fact that this tactic works seems to speak more to the desire for these images than the abundance of Narcissism.
Yes, students want to project an image of superiority because that is the image of success burned into our psyche. We are attracted to songs about confident and self-loving individuals. If anything, we want this because we don’t have it.
People are insecure, this is not new. The greatest challenge any artist faces is “am I good enough to have my works heard.” Weezer took a three year hiatus after their second album, Pinkerton, because it was voted “worst album of 1996” and they had to pull themselves together before they could try again. Personally, I think “Greatest Man Who Ever Lived” is a response to that.
The plethoras of Beyonces and Timberlakes promoting themselves and Weezers and Tenacious Ds poking fun at themselves is the natural process of our culture digesting our current low self-esteem. This seems pretty normal to me, and maybe it is better we try and raise our perceived self and individuality instead of becoming too collective and relive McCarthyism, oh wait.
How much do you love yourself? Are we really that awesome? Is DeWall smarter than I am on this? Psh, I don’t think so.