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Anyone who’s met me knows that I’m the humblest guy around. I’m very proud of my humility; it’s one of the many qualities that have made me one of America’s most beloved public figures. (It ain’t bragging if it’s true, y’all.)
So, naturally, I was upset to learn that many young Americans don’t value the humility for which I am rightfully celebrated. In fact, some of our young people are — unlike me, of course — complete narcissists.
The American Freshman Survey has concluded that college students are more likely than ever to call themselves “gifted” and “driven to succeed,” even though their test scores and study time are dropping faster than our national credit rating. The researcher also found that students’ narcissism has shot up 30 percent in the last three decades.
As I longingly gazed into my bathroom mirror, I asked the smartest man I know, “how could this be?” Sadly, I received no easy answer despite my stunningly supple mind.
Psychiatrist Keith Ablow points the finger at media and technology that is turning our youth into “faux celebrities” and “lead actors in their own fictionalized life stories.”
On Facebook, young people can fool themselves into thinking they have hundreds or thousands of “friends.” They can delete unflattering comments. They can block anyone who disagrees with them or pokes holes in their inflated self-esteem. They can choose to show the world only flattering, sexy or funny photographs of themselves (dozens of albums full, by the way), “speak” in pithy short posts and publicly connect to movie stars and professional athletes and musicians they “like.”
…Using computer games, our sons and daughters can pretend they are Olympians, Formula 1 drivers, rock stars or sharpshooters. And while they can turn off their Wii and Xbox machines and remember they are really in dens and playrooms on side streets and in triple deckers around America, that is after their hearts have raced and heads have swelled with false pride for “being” something they are not.
…On MTV and other networks, young people can see lives just like theirs portrayed on reality TV shows fueled by such incredible self-involvement and self-love that any of the “real-life” characters should really be in psychotherapy to have any chance at anything like a normal life.
If the youth of today seek fame, adoring crowds are preprogrammed into Guitar Hero and Madden NFL — beats working for years to learn a rare skill. Add in public school grade inflation and everyone-gets-a-trophy youth sports, and we’ve created a dangerous self-esteem surplus. When these people enter the real world, many are in for a very rude awakening.
These days our culture encourages us to be self-centered, and it’s not just social media, video games and reality shows. In the 2012 election, President Obama essentially reversed John F. Kennedy’s famous challenge. The American public was encouraged to ask not what they can do for their country, but to ask what their country can do for them.
And the president himself has rightly been called the Narcissist in Chief. He glowingly speaks of himself in numerous autobiographies, tours through foreign capitals, even eulogies of real-life war heroes. In his first inaugural address, the president said, “I face this challenge with profound humility.” Did you hear that? Even his humility is profound!
Sorry, Mr. President, but if anyone has profound humility it’s me. Let’s hope that the youth of today can abandon their self-defeating narcissism and follow the shining example of me, the Humblest Man in the World.
Follow me on Twitter at @ExJon.