Daily Archives: September 13, 2010

Are People Really More Narcissistic Today?

A couple of days ago, Andrew McAfee asked on Twitter if narcissism is on the rise.

McAfee Tweet

I answered that I wasn’t sure if it was rising.  But his question piqued my interest; and I’ve decided that maybe not narcissism, but selfishness and cluelessness are on the rise.

First a few definitions:

Narcissism: Dictionary.com defines narcissism as

  1. An inordinate fascination with oneself; excessive self-love; vanity; or
  2. Psychoanalysis . erotic gratification derived from admiration of one’s own physical or mental attributes, being a normal condition at the infantile level of personality development.

Selfishness: Again, Dictionary.com:

  1. Devoted to or caring only for oneself; concerned primarily with one’s own interests, benefits, welfare, etc., regardless of others; or
  2. Characterized by or manifesting concern or care only for oneself: selfish motives.

Cluelessness: Just to maintain source integrity, I consulted Dictionary.com. As might be suspected, this isn’t a “proper” word; indeed, it’s in the Slang Dictionary portion of Dictionary.com.

  1. Total stupidity. (See also totally clueless.) : I just shake my head in wonder at the cluelessness of my fellow humans.

Have you seen any of these people? And are they examples of narcissism, selfishness, or just plain old cluelessness?

  • Theperson who parks their car at a yellow fire lane in front of a store. They are “just going to be a minute.”
  • The person who, ear buds in head, cuts in front of you in bus queue. Were they willfully cutting in line or did they just not see notice you?
  • The person who monopolizes conversations, meetings, or other interactions. Do they likie to hear themselves talk and think that others do too?
  • The person with the sense of entitlement that every benefit should be theirs and that they deserve it. (I think that last qualifier indicates that this is not cluelessness on the person’s part.

The spectrum of Narcissism, Selfishness, and Cluelessness runs from the somewhat pathological (Narcissism) to the evidently baffling (cluelessness) by way of the sometimes malevolent (Selfishness).

And, you may recall from the definitions above, narcissism is the only one of the three that has a psychological definition.  (It’s also the only one associated with Greek Mythology. See here and here for more on our friend Narcissus.)

So, I guess I would answer Andy’s question a little differently than I did.  I don’t think we’re getting more narcissistic. I think we’re getting more selfish (and perhaps more clueless).   But I stand by the second part of my response:  narcissism is ALWAYS bad, [because] the focus is self, not others.