On Narcisissm or Why being famous is the new black

Recent study shows that kiddy and grownup television shows, as well as Facebook, Youtube and Twitter,  are now teaching us it is more important to be famous and rich than to be kind and selfless.

On a years long study of kids 9-11 years of age, fame jumped from number 15 in both 1987 and 1997 to Numero Uno in 2007.

Benevolence, which was #2 in 1997 dropped to 13th place.  Community feeling went from #1 to 11th.

Why is this? Because instead of watching Andy Griffith, the Waltons, or any of Michael Landon’s series, they now watch American Idol, Survivor, and Hannah Montana.

Narcissism is now the new Benevolence.  Sadly, parents are often involved in this too, as they push their kids into intense sports or music programs at school, in hopes the kid will be at the center of attention.

Recently, a small child told me that the only hot dogs he’ll eat are Hebrew National.  Now, I grant I also like the brand. But he absolutely refused to eat the decent hot dogs I offered to him.  Has television and the events of the 21st century caused our kids to go so far off the deep end that they not only want the best, but believe it should be delivered to them on a silver  gold platter?

“The top five values in 2007 were fame, achievement, popularity, image and financial success. In 1997, the top five were community feeling, benevolence (being kind and helping others), image, tradition and self-acceptance….

“Their growth parallels the rise in narcissism and the drop in empathy among college students in the United States, as other research has shown. We don’t think this is a coincidence. Changes we have seen in narcissism and empathy are being reflected on television. In the past, children had their home, community and school; now they have thousands of ‘friends’ who look at their photos and their posts and comment on them. The growth of social media gives children access to an audience beyond the school grounds.”

“Even when parents are an active presence in their children’s lives, peers and media go hand in hand, and peers can be more influential than parents,” said Uhls (the researcher), who has an 11-year-old daughter. “Teens and tweens have the ability to talk with their friends 24/7. The ability for an average person to access an audience is new. Technology has given kids pathways to reach an audience as never before, and they are able to use the technology at a young age.

Perhaps the only thing we can do to fight this trend is turn off the television, take away the cell phone and the IPad, turn off today’s society, and force feed our kids on serving others at the soup kitchen…






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About rameumptom

Gerald (Rameumptom) Smith is a student of the gospel. Joining the Church of Jesus Christ when he was 16, he served a mission in Santa Cruz Bolivia (1978=1980). He is married to Ramona, has 3 stepchildren and 7 grandchildren. Retired Air Force (Aim High!). He has been on the Internet since 1986 when only colleges and military were online. Gerald has defended the gospel since the 1980s, and was on the first Latter-Day Saint email lists, including the late Bill Hamblin's Morm-Ant. Gerald has worked with FairMormon, More Good Foundation, LDS.Net and other pro-LDS online groups. He has blogged on the scriptures for over a decade at his site: Joel's Monastery (joelsmonastery.blogspot.com). He has the following degrees: AAS Computer Management, BS Resource Mgmt, MA Teaching/History. Gerald was the leader for the Tuskegee Alabama group, prior to it becoming a branch. He opened the door for missionary work to African Americans in Montgomery Alabama in the 1980s. He's served in two bishoprics, stake clerk, high council, HP group leader and several other callings over the years. While on his mission, he served as a counselor in a branch Relief Society presidency.

10 thoughts on “On Narcisissm or Why being famous is the new black

  1. Geoff –


    ” “_____ is the new black” is a snowclone used to indicate the sudden popularity or versatility of an idea at the expense of the popularity of a second idea. It is the originator of the phrasal template “X is the new Y”. The phrase seemed to have started in the 1950s or 1960s and became very popular in the 1980s. Since then it has often been used for ironic or humorous purposes.”

  2. I would lay only so much of this on television programming and more of it on our evolving economy. The television is likely just following along the economic trends. An ordinary, middle-class life no longer seems viable, so for those without the intelligence and persistence to make it in some upper-middle class position, hitting the lottery of fame (or the lottery itself) appears the only way to not take a place in a vast underclass. This is how many people want it; it makes it cheaper to get the homes in their gated communities cleaned and mowed and filled with stuff shipped across the Pacific on a container ship.

  3. I lay the blame squarely on parents who teach kids that they are the center of the universe financially while neglecting them emotionally. They revel in indulgence and teach gratification over responsibility and community. There are reasons the media you mention are so popular. I think they are a marker, not a cause of selfishness.

  4. They are a marker and a cause Silverain. Life is too complex to have everything flowing in a simple causation from A to B.

    It’s true the celebrity culture didn’t invent selfishness, it’s true the celebrity media (you can be one too!) arose out of our selfishness, but equally true that it reinforces, normalizes, and strengthens that selfish tendency. It’s also true we can refuse to partake but seek further light and knowledge from the Lord 🙂

  5. I agree with you, except the hot dog example. We only eat kosher hot dogs at our house too. Hot dogs can be kinda gross with whatever they put in them; with an Orthodox Rabbi standing by to make sure the hot dogs meet strict Kosher standards, I feel better about what we are eating. Even if it is psychosomatic, Hebrew National or Nathan’s is the only hot dog I can eat.

    Otherwise, I am amazed at the stage mothers I encounter at dance lessons and other activities my children are involved in. I feel sorry for the kids, they are under tremendous pressure to always be the best.

  6. And it has invaded the schools, as well.

    When I was in high school in the late 1970s, sports were the one thing that required intensive and extensive training and effort. For those in choirs, ensembles, plays, or clubs, the requirements and expectations were usually much lower.

    Today, however, it is a very different thing. Our high school singing ensemble brought in a choreographer from New York City at quite a bit of expense, to prepare themselves for national competition. They ended up in 5th place nationwide. Our drumline spends hours daily, 6 days a week, and only have 2 weeks off during the summer.

    Everything is now geared towards placing kids in a highly competitive and self-focused environment. Yes, these will do well in business, where their egos can constantly be stroked by such hard work. But they will fail as parents, because good parenting requires no competition from other parents, and receives little specific applause from the world for the individual.

    The focus in the world has moved away from selflessness and service, to “what is in it for me?” We’ve seen this coming for quite some time even in the feminist movement, where the role of mother was/is often dismissed as unfulfilling or worse.

  7. There was a bit in the local paper this week about the decline of the multi-sport high school athlete. Coaches were lamenting that the players now tend to concentrate on one sport year round in hopes of standing out.

  8. Rammeumpton- I saw the same thing with band at our local high school. They usually take state every year, but the human cost is incredible. They would be at a late game until midnight and expect the the kids to be ready to go at the school by 6am. We did it one year and quit.

    John- everybody’s a specialist now days. 🙂

  9. Wasn’t narcissism Satan’s downfall? Moses 1 tells us that he said he would save all mankind, but he then would get all the glory.

    Do we see American values as now thinking each of us must make a huge mark in our own way so that the world will think us saviors in our own right and deserving of accolades and acclaim?

    I wonder how King Benjamin or Jacob would respond to the pride and self-importance we have established in our country.

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