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The Narcissism Epidemic

The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement - Jean M. Twenge, W. Keith Campbell

This is a great and thought-provoking book looking at the symptoms, causes and consequences of narcissism in the US. While it talks a little bit about narcissistic personality disorder, it mostly deals with narcissism as a cultural phenomenon.  It analyzes the influences of modern culture, recent popular parenting methods, TV, and Internet, and religion (specifically prosperity gospel) and claims they promote narcissism.  The author dissects the belief that high self-esteem and self-love is healthy and important and claims that it leads to narcissism.

 

In terms of shining a light on this issue, I thought the book was excellent. I had heard a lot of narcissism in connection with Facebook but didn't realize or think of it as a societal problem. However, the authors do a great job presenting the issue, using data and comparisons with previous generations. I think many people would agree narcissism and selfishness are spreading and increasing among younger generations where that's really the only world they know.

 

I think this is an important book for parents to read. First, it has discussions on parenting, what to do and not do as parents. It also shows convincingly the detrimental effects of narcissism to children, adults, and society at large.  It discusses how recent previous popular parenting advice is now leading to disastrous effects. And last but not least I think this book will help parent better understand the culture their children and teens are in and help them counteract this influence.

 

Not that this book is perfect. I did have some big issues with it. It does take a strong green political tone at times, even saying that concern about the environnment is the only thing that can mitigate the spread of narcissism.  Also, it often feels like this book doesn't delve deep enough into causes or solutions. There is quite of bit of this in the beginning along with some history and a lot of food for thought, but as the book goes on it keeps just listing pop culture references, celebrities, and other trivia.  It seems to read way too much into slogans of baby and children's clothes and how awful it is that they say "Princess" "supermodel" etc. Also it denigrates all kinds of comments on the Internet, listing and quoting comments from youth from YouTube videos. I have read many smart and informative comments on articles, though, so I think comments and freedom of expression are good. Maybe they're not all brilliant but still...Another thing that irked me a lot is towards the end it literally compares narcissism to AIDS and SARS, calls it a disease, and people who have it "hosts." I thought that was way too much as a culture is quite different from a biological disease and epidemic.

 

Overall I think this is a great book highlighting the spread and dangers of narcissism.  It does have some issues but is still very interesting, informative, and well written.