One of the most hot topics today is narcissism, a fairly complex constellation of personality traits that all involve being self-centered.
Anyone the press doesn’t like is called a narcissist. The president is called a narcissist, incels are called narcissists. There’s this whole cottage industry on Youtube devoted to shaming, identifying, analyzing, explaining, and diagnosing narcissism. A Vice documentary was even made exploring this societal trend. Not just the societal trend of narcissism, but the trend of obsessing over it as well.
The result of all this seems to be a sort of witch hunt where anyone that ‘narcissism’ hunters don’t like is labeled as particularly narcissistic, and the reasons are made up after the fact. Youtube comments sections on any video even tangential to the topic of narcissism have hundreds of people calling for the heads or balls of various people the therapy-obsessed crowd deems a ‘narcissist’. This crowd of narcissism obsessives watch Youtube videos about psychological topics, looking out for microagressions or clues as to how this interviewer, that narrator, or that video editor is like a narcissistic abuser in their life. On one video, there were hundreds of Youtube comments from narcissism-obessesives about how one interviewers overzealous hand movements in the video were directly correlated to their childhood trauma of being around a narcissistic parent. One commenter reasonably replied, “what is going on here in the comments, his hand flailing could just be because he is nervous”.
But why a witch hunt instead of the traditional sort of ‘well lets put people in therapy to see if they have it and if they’ll have a treatment plan’. Well, the narcissist “experts” on Youtube and elsewhere simply assert narcissism is incurable. No science, no studies, just assertions. That does well for the Youtubers, as that means there will always be a ‘narcissism epidemic’ for them to focus on. That narrative also helps those ‘narcissism experts’ who say that their own narcissism makes them an expert, because that means they don’t have to change and they don’t need help.
I’ve noticed some narcissistic traits about myself. For example, I have fantasized before about my opinions holding a lot of weight in the public sphere. A lot. So I guess that is grandiosity. I also have something of an entitlement complex. However, I don’t score very high on vanity, and I don’t have any issues empathizing with others or giving things to people for no selfish reasons. But given I’ve recognized some narcissistic aspects of myself, I’ve gone looking for ‘help’. I’ve gone on Youtube and typed in ‘how to cure my narcissism’ multiple times. The thing that always rubs me the wrong way is these narcissism Youtube channels that offer advice on how to not be a narcissist insist that if you actually are a narcissist you can’t be coming for actual advise and just want to learn to further manipulate people. Ok, well thank guys, that’s not accurate about myself, but thanks.
I think that there can be some positives to certain aspects of narcissism. Having an entitlement complex is useful in arguing for some political positions for example. On the other hand the exploitative aspect is almost never helpful to people. I think that as long as you are an altruistic person or give back to society in a way that is helpful to society, then it doesn’t really matter if you are self-indulgent or not. There’s a few narcissists I really like, because they are so full of themselves, they aren’t afraid of saying whatever the hell comes to their head. Then there’s other that I hate because their self-centeredness gets in the way of them doing anything meaningful or they don’t actually have anything helpful to say. It’s a mixed bag.
I also think that people need to think about narcissism as a reaction to something other than irreversible trauma, because if we can identify those things, than we can reverse the ‘societal narcissism epidemic’, to the extent it actually is a problem.