As a Gen-X person I've often scratched my head with the mememe meme attitude that most Gen-Yers seem to have been marinated in. I guess that its become (what would seem to be) a natural progression from the first Generation to be targed by Advertising, the Baby Boomer generation. Then stimulated by instant communications and micro-publishing (through FaceBook where you naturally only focus on the "me" and what others say in responce to "me").
I've thought about this from the perspective of Narcissistic Personality Disorder for some time, but I am thinking that this is not quite the right angle. I think that there is more to the issue and viewing it from that perspective can change what we see.
While NPD was once considered a disorder it has now become so common in our society that it really is becoming the new normal. Quite sad if you ask me.
Changing perspective (to use another metaphor: turning something over in your mind) can reveal that something we saw as being a rectangle and others saw as a circle can reveal that what we are looking at is actually a cylinder.
Equally I think that NPD is simply one aspect of the ME focus. Perhaps it is limited in view because the problem is more complex than anything earlier humans had to solve.
I spent some years living in Japan and South Korea, where the social values are quite different. There (and perhaps more commonly throughout Asia) people are more raised to be thoughtful of society rather than of themselves. Of course this is changing with the 'young generation' (who all seem to be living at home with their parents and spending heaps of time on social media too). See my post on the Rat Race ... its a different tangent. None the less Asian cultures have a different psychology to Western cultures, where the individual has always been more important.
Western Society is both constantly changing and constantly expanding its influence, perhaps even in a 'borg' like manner absorbing anything from other cultures that it finds interesting. This gives it the appearance of being more than it really is: but does wearing new clothes change who you are?
This whole "ME" thing is something I've been observing for some decades now, and to be honest I think its accelerating in growth. Perhaps like some cancers it can recruit and change people as it encounters them. So it does not just need people to be born into that 'generation'. Something like how Zombies recruit others to become Zombies by infecting them.
Finding the pathogenI was quietly mulling this when the other day two things happened:
- I got an email from my health insurance company
- I read an article on New Scientist called "Worried Sick"
In "Worried Sick" they discuss anxiety disorders. It seems that currently in the USA number of people diagnosed with anxiety is something like 20%. Personally I'd call that an epidemic. What is more interesting (and fitting the word epidemic) is the dramatic increase of the amounts of people with anxiety from about 2% in the 1980 to 20% now. If it continues to develop at this rate it will be like the spread of Zombies in World War Z
... and soon perhaps all but a few will not be effected.
Anecdotally I can say that my observation of this trend is pretty consistent with the above numbers.
First, something about my background.
As you can find on my blog I've had a type of heart problem which is called "Aortic Stenosis" (AS), more specifically mine is from being born with a Bicuspid Aortic Valve (BAV). When I was quite young a heart 'murmur' was picked up (like back in the early 70s). Some few years before this such a diagnosis was more or less a certain death sentence. However as I was born into a 'lucky time' there was hope for me. For I was born just 4 years after the first Aortic Valve replacement and so as I got older technology developed and when it became critical for me to have surgery such medical equipment was actually around.
Now from that perspective it is interesting to observe that when I was younger (and all this technology was both new and unknown) people were calm in discussion. I never saw open weeping or wailing, patients were quite matter of fact about it and family projected calm when being at hospital.
I don't know what everyone felt, but I know what I felt, I know what fellow patients felt and I had quite a few conversations with their families.
In contrast to that today I see people as howling wrecks with outbursts of tears an wailing.
People today say its all understandable. ... well from someone who went through that with others I say "BULLSHIT, no its not, its more like watching petulant children"
The purpose is to wish me happy birthday (yeah, it was my birthday, so whats it to them?) The email reminds me that its all about me ... not my family, not society, not the world. Nope, its all about me.
How fascinating I am
How unique I am
How fantastic my life is
How Amazing my journey has been.
My first thought was "what the fuck is this shit all about". Next I thought well they wouldn't fucking know.
Its pretty clear that this is just designed to suck up to me. Like some disgusting sycophant would.
NB: sycophant: a person who praises people in order to get their approvalSuch communication just wouldn't come from a company when I was a kid, and perhaps would be laughed at too. However now it seems to be what everyone wants.
Like many things institutional, I reckon if you wish to try to understand things, follow the money trail.
Why would someone who I don't know suck up (in that above email example) to me like a hover? What benefit is it to them? Well basically they want my money. Since (in Australia) there is little to differentiate the insurance providers its all about 'perception' (not about reality). If they make customers feel good then they'll get more customers. Hell if it wasn't illegal I'd guess that any company offering free hand-jobs to clients who were waiting to make a claim would have a huge market share. Of course there would be the moral issue of who would do it?
It seems to me that the culprit for this epidemic in anxiety and the 'me' focus today is instituted by companies who seek your dollar. They have no morals (as they are not humans) and so by pandering to people's needs and desires (and then telling them its OK to need more and desire more) increase their market share.
After all its easier to give a perception than a product. Especially when perhaps I'm actually the raw materials from which they reap.
Facebook is exemplary in this, as it not only acts as an accelerant for the naturally NPD, but also assists with infecting you with some anxiety and leaverages off that.
Like the cartoon suggests, you may actually be the product not the customer.
Of course the vain and self absorbed will scoff at this because getting their daily dose of (as Andy Warhol so accurately identified) 15 minutes of fame is reall all that matters. I feel that its an extension of "if you see yourself on TV you've become famous", now you see yourself on your iPhone (and how much did you pay for that again?)
This behavior seems as addictive as many other chemicals are. Recall that its well established that just as some addictive chemicals are found in foods (like Fructose or Nicotine) and others come from internally (such as endorphins) and their productions can be stimulated from behaviors such as exercise (such as addiction to marathon running and over training)
I started my education life in biology (microbiology and biochemistry) and the study of life that is not visible to the eye (fungi, bacteria, viruses...). The study of these things has brought great benefit to our society. I have written a few things about "The Machine" and how it is an invisible cognizant entity which has grown from our scale of society.
Vitiant artus ægræ contagia mentis - when the mind is ill at ease, the body is in a certain degree affected
Getting back to the New Scientist, in that article one sufferer of anxiety reported:
despite trying 20 different therapies and 28 different anti-anxiety drugs, none of which gave lasting relief. ... Stossel first describes what severe anxiety is like: in his case, it is an obsessive fear of vomiting, coupled with uncertain bowel control, crippling social anxiety and panic attacksIt seems pretty clear to me that someone is profiting from this epidemic of Anxiety.
So I believe we have a new pathogen that spreads various diseases of the mind, this one infects individuals to break up social patterns and shift the benefits to itself. This isn't a new concept really, many people have tried to present this idea in various manners over time, including by fiction.
So are we nudged into becoming more 'anxiety suffering narcissists' simply to make us fit into the needs of The Machine better? Recall that humans irritate oysters deliberately to get pearls... It has been suggested (and in some case demonstrated) that plants exploit animals to get what they want, if the construct of "The Machine" does in fact 'live' then perhaps it is only a natural evolution to entrap its cells more tightly.
I view what ultimately its in your mind so therefore its within your minds power to control it. This is not a 'diss' as you should not underestimate your own power. Even if you don't believe in "the power of the mind" there is good medical evidence to suggest that the mind and your attitude towards things can have a massive impact.
Placebo effect is a good demonstration of this.
Archie Cochrane suggested in 1972 "It is important to distinguish the very respectable, conscious use of placebos. The effect of placebos has been shown by randomized controlled trials to be very large. Their use in the correct place is to be encouraged […]"Ultimately the ball is in your court: be controlled, take control of your life ... only you will benefit, its up to you if you wish to stay inside the control of external forces or take your life in your own hands.
I wish you well on your journey.