Virtuous cycle

Bartlomiej Owczarek weblog

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Web 2.0 and narcissism

I’ve read many comments to the latest “person of the year” chosen by the Time magazine – “YOU” – meaning the crowd, now empowered with web 2.0 means of self-expression, including blogs, myspace profiles, social networking, etc.

The Last Psychiatrist article, linked by Furious Seasons, uses the event to make a point about narcissism becoming the driving force of the society, and all the web 2.0 gadgets – tools for narcissistic validation:

Being on YouTube, having a blog, having an iPod, being on MySpace– all of these things are self-validating, they allow that illusion that is so important to narcissists: that we are the main characters in a movie. Not that we’re the best, or the good guys, but the main characters. That everyone around us is supporting cast; the funny friend, the crazy ex, the neurotic mother, the egotistical date, etc. That makes reminders of our insignificance even more infuriating.

And fragment below reminds me of trying to write “about me” page: what is really defining us as a person?

I’m not saying each of us as individuals is insignificant. We should, could, matter. But to protect ourselves from an existential implosion, we decide to define ourselves through images and signs, rather than behaviors; lacking an identity founded in anything real makes us vulnerable to anger, resentment. And no guilt, ever. The nearcissist never feels guilt. He feels shame.

As for Time’s choice. I don’t know if YOU is a positive character. But to be a person of the year, it doesn’t need to be positive, it needs to be significant. I feel it is significant. Actually the author seems to agree:

I’m not sure anyone in psychiatry sees this– they are too busy documenting Pharma excesses and Lamictal outcomes– but it is the problem of our times. The only ones who seem to notice are advertisers, marketers– they see it. They don’t judge it, they simply profit from it.

The choice was right, then, even if premises were wrong.