Saturday, October 10, 2015

Because I'm Special!- Examining the narcissism factor of today's young adults

Recently there was a viral story going around about a nasty note that was passed to a parent about their baby's excited shrieks at a restaurant from another table. I'm not going to link it, because I don't want to turn this into a blog solely about that situation. By the time this is published that story will probably be old news, and everyone will have moved on to finding a new situation to be fired up about, anyway.

But, what is it about these viral stories that get people going, anyway? Is it the commonality of the situation? Maybe we can remember a time we dealt with such a thing, or can empathize with the persons in the story, and imagine being in such common situations that we all feel qualified to weigh in on things.

There was another recently where a restaurant owner screamed at a crying toddler to shut up, and get out. That one also received worldwide attention. People loved, and hated her for her actions. The majority, or at least the most vocal sent their accolades.

These types of situations have me wondering how social media is changing the social structure of society. How are things different now, than they were 20 years ago before there was such a things as "going viral"? How are people born in the 90's, or even 80's different, and how is that so many people my age seem to have evolved into this phenomenon?

I don't have all the answers, or probably any of them in a definitive sense. I do have some theories. One of them being the narcissism factor seems to have increased exponentially in the last 20 years, maybe even 30 years when our pop psychology culture moved toward the "You're Special" movement. I am not sure exactly where it all began, or by whom. If I recall it began as a sort of self-help tool for people who were suffering from low self-esteem. What we did was figure going the opposite direction would be solve that. We ran with the theory that one could never have too much self-esteem, so we began raising our children in ways that enveloped that ideal. I do think there were also a lot of other factors that played into this, such as the majority of women working full time jobs as our culture shifted from women being expected to stay home, and raise children. Many didn't/don't see this as an option, but more of a necessity. As this transition occurred support has not risen to match. Women are still paid less than men, and childcare is expensive, and hard to find when quality is concerned. Women find themselves unfairly saddled with work, and domestic chores unevenly compared to their male counterparts. Childcare is considered a women's issue rather than a people's issue. But, I digress. My point is simply that children born in the 80's, and 90's who are now adults didn't necessarily get the same level of guidance, and care that used to be provided in the past. When we combine the lessons of feeling special just for being yourself, and less guidance from adult role models we often get what would be considered narcissistic behavior. I think there are a lot of other factors that play into this attitude shift, but these two are the ones I feel that are at the top.

I have heard a lot of people defend the all the women in the scenarios from the screaming owner to the passive aggressive note passers that people should not bring children into public places when they're , being a nuisance. Screaming children, and babies making happy squeals belong at home- they say. They claim that it is their right to enjoy their meal in peace without other people's kids ruining it by being... well, kids.  I can't help but wonder when we became a society that expected every environment to cater to us? When was it that we as people decided that it was our right to a quiet meal at a jam packed steakhouse? Of course, people will counter me with "Well, when did people that it was their right to subject their children's noise onto everyone else?" I don't recall that being an issue 35 years ago. Not because we raise our children differently, and "don't parent" (as many say), but because we had a basic understanding that 10 month old babies make noise, and that's the way it is. Our rights don't override anyone else's. In other words, we used to deal. We had empathy, and respect for others, and did not feel like every person needed to hear our two cents. We might have thought a lot of things, but used some basic manners in discerning what to actually share with the world. We didn't feel special, or entitled to anything for just being alive.

It wasn't the baby that ruined those lady's meals. It was their attitude about the baby that ruined their meal, and other's as well since they figured they needed to share their misery.