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Narcissism 2.0
March 20, 2007 6:06 AM   Subscribe

How MySpace creates born-again Christians. The link between MySpace, nacissism and religious fundamentalism.
posted by bobbyelliott (109 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
While i have little issue with the core tenants of Christianity or religion in general, i am disgusted by the Christian Industrial Complex. In short, i believe that there is nothing Christian about the major institutions behind modern day organized American Christianity. Decades ago, the Salvation Army actively engaged in union-busting in order to maintain the status-quo. Today, the Christian Industrial Complex has risen into power in both politics and corporate life, but their underlying mission is the same: justify poor people’s industrial slavery so that the rich and powerful can become more rich and powerful. Ah, the modernization of the Protestant Ethic.
Hasn't Christianity always been sort of an escape for "working class" people, or poor people or slaves or some such? It wasn't even until later that powerful people started to become Christian and promote it.

Still, to argue that this guys is saying that myspace has anything to do with Fundementalism is basically to turn his thesis on it's head. He says:
My view is that we have trained our children to be narcissistic and that this is having all sorts of terrifying repercussions; to deal with this, we’re blaming the manifestations instead of addressing the root causes and the mythmaking that we do to maintain social hierarchies. Let’s unpack that for a moment.
In other words, myspace is a symptom, not a cause.
posted by delmoi at 6:25 AM on March 20, 2007


In other news, green grass attracts rain.
posted by verb at 6:28 AM on March 20, 2007 [8 favorites]


...we have trained our children to be narcissistic...

Every adult generation thinks that about every following child generation. Remember the "Me Generation"? Remember how self-involved everyone thinks the "Baby Boomers" are? I bet Adam and Eve thought Cain and Abel spent too much time producing clay tablets detailing their every thought.
posted by DU at 6:32 AM on March 20, 2007 [5 favorites]


I don't hate this article, but it's too scattershot to make much sense. I submit this quote: "The fervor for fame which was suppressed by meth re-emerged in zealous religiosity."

Golly.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 6:32 AM on March 20, 2007


The author is evidently unaware that the pronoun "I" is capitalized. This invalidates any points the article may make.
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:35 AM on March 20, 2007 [2 favorites]


The link between MySpace, nacissism and religious fundamentalism

They're in it with the aliens. They're building landing strips for gay Martians.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:44 AM on March 20, 2007 [5 favorites]


The author is evidently unaware that the pronoun "I" is capitalized.

He also misspells "prey". However, I think he has a few good points, though I'd agree with Jody Tresidder, it's scattershot. He needs to firm up and clarify his thought.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:49 AM on March 20, 2007


"He"? This guy??

Don't tell me you have no idea who danah boyd is. Go get a late pass - STEP!
posted by adamgreenfield at 6:51 AM on March 20, 2007


First Myspace created an army of underage nymphomaniacs, then they assembled a phalanx of voracious pedophiles and now they're turning people into Christians?!

THEY MUST BE STOPPED.
posted by The Straightener at 6:58 AM on March 20, 2007 [2 favorites]


What i do know is that MySpace provides a platform for people to seek attention. It does not inherently provide attention and this is why even if people wanted 90M viewers to their blog, they’re likely to only get 6.

Sounds like he has it all figured out this guy.
posted by three blind mice at 6:59 AM on March 20, 2007


There used to be meaningful working class labor that
young people were excited to be a part of.


This has not been true since the '50s. Read Paul Goodman's Growing Up Absurd.

nthing the scattershot. The article starts in one place and then ends in a place entirely different.
posted by nasreddin at 7:02 AM on March 20, 2007


"Let’s unpack that for a moment."

Douchebag alert. Also, tl;dr.
posted by chlorus at 7:09 AM on March 20, 2007 [3 favorites]


Maybe Fox should explicitly recognise this 'link' by creating 'MyChurch' - where it's Jesus rather than Tom that's everybody's friend by default.

I liked the typo 'The core tenants of Christianity,' by the way. May their apartments be rent-controlled...
posted by misteraitch at 7:14 AM on March 20, 2007 [3 favorites]


"The author is evidently unaware that the pronoun "I" is capitalized."

But actually figured it out later in the article.. I initially thought the lower case "i" in this article was a statement, but later realized it was just being lazy and/or careless...

Lots of opinion here, not much research.. and, someone explain to me the phrase "Let’s unpack that for a moment."... what?
posted by HuronBob at 7:17 AM on March 20, 2007


This generation is always going to seem narcisistic. Because younger people are going to be more self centered than older people. This is as it should be. When you are young and don't have kids or older parents to take care of your primary concern is, and probably should be, yourself. A persons 30s and 40s are generally spent forgeting this fact.
posted by I Foody at 7:19 AM on March 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


I Foody has just made an excellent point there, and, he capitalizes the pronoun "I".
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:25 AM on March 20, 2007


HuronBob: "Let's unpack that for a moment" is a phrase a lot of academics like to use to explore the subtext of a given statement, work of art, situation, historical event, etc. It gives me hives.
posted by chlorus at 7:29 AM on March 20, 2007


"Let’s unpack that for a moment."

Douchebag alert.


OK, now you're really starting to piss me off. "Unpack" is just about the least pretentious way to convey a very important idea, and you're claiming that it's somehow the mark of a "douchebag"?

Just what the fuck is she supposed to say to avoid tripping your douchedar? "Let's take this concentrated nexus of unexamined normative assumptions and prise them apart, so as to evaluate them each in isolation"?

Really, sometimes the kneejerk anti-intellectualism in this place is too much.
posted by adamgreenfield at 7:33 AM on March 20, 2007 [6 favorites]


I hate the unpack when you drill down.

The article is all over the place, in all sorts of ways. Yes, the kids are living in a fantasy world. I've got one who's just discovering that oddly, being really good in his own head doesn't pay the rent - and as of now, neither does his father.

The job he'll have to do is going to be really very unpleasant, just like the one I had to do twenty-odd years ago when I found my precocious genius didn't excuse me from getting up in the morning.

It is worse now, because there are plenty of places where you can act out all sorts of fantasies in front of a bunch of the similarly deluded. Watching my kid stroll over to a pool table for the first time in RL and completely flub it, when he thought that playing online pool against his chums made him the shark of sharks, was an education.

But twas ever thus to a degree. In the end, the rude mechanicals of life get to you - and even now, they're not so bad. I don't see an enormous plague of crystal meth and fundamentalist Christianity gripping the nation (your nation may differ), even if there are a lot of people pushing leaflets through doors and offering fries with that.

Of course, if matey from the unpack has some real figures, I'd love to see them. But I think he's getting off on posing in front of his peers as an intellectual without actually doing the work.

Shocking, really. Do you think it's a trend?
posted by Devonian at 7:35 AM on March 20, 2007 [3 favorites]


MetaFilter: the narcissistic link between criticism and Christianity.
posted by cenoxo at 7:35 AM on March 20, 2007


myspace may be reinforcing assplosions and whatnot, but I woulnd't look too far on the interweb tubes
Redford Township church that believes wealth is God's reward is raising eyebrows for buying its pastor a $3.65 million mansion and taking it off the tax rolls.

This month, township officials grudgingly conceded they had no choice but to remove the 11,000-square-foot home overlooking Maybury State Park from its assessment rolls, losing $40,000 annually in taxes.
Christ, god loves him exactly $40k..the donors ? He doesn't love them as much, evidently they are SINNERS, which is ancient roman for "suggestible fools and their money"
posted by elpapacito at 7:36 AM on March 20, 2007 [2 favorites]


Okay.

Now everyone stop and look at me.

Really.

................./waits for 15 seconds of Internet fame
posted by mrmojoflying at 7:39 AM on March 20, 2007


Hasn't Christianity always been sort of an escape for "working class" people, or poor people or slaves or some such? It wasn't even until later that powerful people started to become Christian and promote it.

delmoi, is my irony meter malfunctioning, or are you largely ignorant of the history of Christendom and viewing it essentially as an outsider? What's with this "always" versus "later"? And why one group vs. another? What makes you assert that "powerful people" promoted it?

Early Christianity was more like a renegade offshoot of Judaism that began to threaten its and Roman status quo. It would be centuries before Christianity began to itself become the norm in the West and much of the East, with the added challenge of the rise of Islam.

While it's true that the stuff you can read about in the book of Acts of the Apostles was pretty grassroots, by the time Constantine declared it the state religion of Rome, the power-and-control candle was pretty well lit. That's only about three hundred years after the events described in the four Gospels. Or about seventeen hundred until "the Christian-industrial complex" (good one!) as we experience it today, with TV, high literacy rates, the Internet and all.
posted by pax digita at 7:40 AM on March 20, 2007


I know who Danah Boyd is, regularly read her blog, and this is not the best work. But I like it anyway. Potshots at the tone of the writing are a little out of place when this isn't meant supposed to be supporting some grand thesis, it's just some loosely-linked ruminations on narcissism. The jump into the Christian section was a little off-putting, but hey, it's a blog post.
posted by mikeh at 7:44 AM on March 20, 2007


Oh, and Adamgreenfield -

The preferred verb is 'examine'. Unpack is a signifier, as 'drill down' was a while ago, that the person using it finds jargon impressive in its own right and imagines that others do too.

People who prefer jargon are not good communicators and rarely good thinkers, but they surely like to give that impression. For those sensitive to irony, being subjected to that sort of pomposity burns like passing urine through an infected urethra.

It really does hurt. A lot.

Nothing to do with anti-intellectualism: quite the reverse.
posted by Devonian at 7:46 AM on March 20, 2007 [11 favorites]


Devonian, that's a good point about jargon -- I need to remember to be more careful about lapsing into Navyspeak in threads that aren't exclusively about naval stuff, like a thread a while back about Donald Rumsfeld -- a couple of people got all haired off because they couldn't figure out what I was writing about.
posted by pax digita at 7:54 AM on March 20, 2007


Every adult generation thinks that about every following child generation.

Just because a trend is long-term doesn't make it less of a trend. Civilizations do collapse, you know. Regularly. With no real external cause.

There's a reason for that.
posted by Malor at 8:03 AM on March 20, 2007


First Myspace created an army of underage nymphomaniacs, then they assembled a phalanx of voracious pedophiles and now they're turning people into Christians?!

It's what's known to priests as the "Holy Trinity".
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:05 AM on March 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


She starts with a good point -- the "narcissistic children" today are the product of selfish parents, even if that generation of Baby Boomers are in deep denial over it.

And then it's right off the rails and right into her own personal narcissism.

Also, having looked at her other posts, she's clearly in love with the sound of her writer's voice. Learn to self-edit, woman.

Your favorite digital convergence writer sucks.
posted by dw at 8:13 AM on March 20, 2007


I liked the typo 'The core tenants of Christianity,' by the way. May their apartments be rent-controlled...

Would that we have stronger eviction laws, then maybe we could have cleared the place of the bloviating media whores that have been such a boat anchor on the faith the last 35 years.
posted by dw at 8:15 AM on March 20, 2007


While it is most likely true that every generation accuses the next of being narcissists, there are far more outlets for narcissism than there were in the past.
posted by drezdn at 8:22 AM on March 20, 2007 [2 favorites]


I liked the typo 'The core tenants of Christianity,' by the way. May their apartments be rent-controlled...
posted by misteraitch at 9:14 AM on March 20


Yeah, that whole tenants thing bothers me. To all the people out their who write for or against religion:

tenet n. An opinion, doctrine, or principle held as being true by a person or especially by an organization.

[Probably from Medieval Latin, from Latin, third person sing. present indicative of tenēre, to hold; see ten- in Indo-European roots.]
posted by Doohickie at 8:22 AM on March 20, 2007


I guess I just couldn't disagree more, Devonian.

I feel just as strongly as you do about jargon, and about how it's used to draw lines between people. In this context, I generally go back to Orwell, and "Politics and the English Language," which I regard as the classic text on what jargon is and does. And from him, I understand that its essence is intentional obfuscation.

But "unpack" isn't that, not at all. It's quite the opposite, in fact: a beautiful, vivid figure of speech that conveys something entirely missing from the flat, affectless "examine." It captures perfectly and in one everyday word the complicated idea that multiple propositions have been collapsed (by somebody) into a single statement, and that in order for the truth value of that statement to be assessed, each of its components needs to be drawn into the light and considered separately.

That's exactly what I want language to do, as a writer and a reader both. If that's jargon, then give me more of it.
posted by adamgreenfield at 8:31 AM on March 20, 2007 [2 favorites]


My god, you guys are vicious. And bobbyelliot, what a terribly misleading title you slapped on it.

It's a pretty jarring experience to see someone rent apart like this. I guess it comes with writing in the public eye.

As for the content itself, I agree that I'm very skeptical of any notions of "kids today are more narcissistic", but it's true that they have available technologies to engage their narcissism and a drive for public validation in quite a shockingly capable way.

Also, the particular trendlines she's hitting on are tenuous at best. Agreed. It's a blog entry! It really shouldn't have been posted here.

I actually tend to disagree with many of her conclusions about why X works in Y manner, but hey, at least someone's thinking about it.
posted by Firas at 8:41 AM on March 20, 2007 [3 favorites]


Remember how self-involved everyone thinks the "Baby Boomers" are?

How everyone 'thinks' they are? To my perceptions, Baby Boomers are the most self-absorbed generation this country has ever produced, and still have yet to realize it. I resent having grown up in their greedy, narcissitic world, I resent what their selfishness and myopia is doing to our world now, and I anticipate resenting what will surely be ridiculous demands on their part when they're all (finally) old.

If our current generation of young people are especially narcissistic, it's because they learned from their parents well.
posted by LooseFilter at 8:43 AM on March 20, 2007 [2 favorites]


I'm with Malor on this one. The argument that things have always been this way and always will simply isn't true.

http://www.cnn.com/2007/EDUCATION/02/27/self.centered.students.ap/

The fact is that anyone under 35 tends to think they are a special snowflake. Anyone can look at the internet at figure this out -- livejournal, myspace, etc. What other generation is willing to publish their diaries, 50 pictures of themselves, compete for a head count of "friends" etc.? That, and expect others to be interested. It is depressing, but you know, obvious.
posted by Raoul de Noget at 8:44 AM on March 20, 2007


The next post is way better, if you're looking for analytical rigour.
posted by Firas at 8:44 AM on March 20, 2007


But "unpack" isn't that, not at all. It's quite the opposite, in fact: a beautiful, vivid figure of speech that conveys something entirely missing from the flat, affectless "examine." ...
That's exactly what I want language to do, as a writer and a reader both. If that's jargon, then give me more of it.


So this "unpack," it vibrates? Perhaps it even buzzes. I'd go as far as to call it a "buzz" word. It's jargon. Take it all, please, and be sure to synergize it.
posted by The White Hat at 8:46 AM on March 20, 2007


I was going to say something, but really, Firas said it better.
posted by unknowncommand at 8:48 AM on March 20, 2007


It's a pretty jarring experience to see someone rent apart like this. I guess it comes with writing in the public eye.

While I agree that some comments are overly harsh, given the source and intent of the original piece, why should it be jarring? If one puts one's work out for public consumption, the public might, you know, have opinions about it. I would hope, despite the criticism, that the author is pleased her work is being more widely read and discussed. If she (or you, or whoever) can't handle serious-minded assessments of her work, she probably shouldn't post her work publicly.

People aren't criticizing as if this is a major media or academic publication--they're responding to the author's stated thesis, and how well (or not) she supports, expands, and elucidates it. Which is, in my opinion, not so well. There's a great blog entry in her ideas, but this piece isn't it.
posted by LooseFilter at 8:48 AM on March 20, 2007


Wow, that piece of writing made no sense. Maybe I'm just too lazy to figure out the complicated train of thought but in my head it goes something like this....

1. According to something which I will not cite, but will cast down as bullet points, young people are really narcissistic.
2. People think MySpace & Britney Spears made children narcissistic, but it was really the adults who made them narcissistic.
3. Being poor and having no future means that people want to win the lottery. Or do meth. Or become famous. Or become Christians. Or be on MySpace.
4. Stop MySpace before it's too late!!!!!

Does anyone else find it ironic that someone writing about how "kids today" are so narcissistic, then goes right ahead and actually expects us to take her completely unsupported, poorly written, nonsensical and rambling, jargon-filled treatise seriously? I smell a little narcissism, maybe she should sign up for MySpace.
posted by crackingdes at 8:52 AM on March 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


Christianity worse than crystal meth? Maybe they should make the communion wafers out of hash and add some acid to the wine.
posted by No Robots at 8:54 AM on March 20, 2007


There used to be meaningful working class labor that young people were excited to be a part of. It was primarily masculine labor and it was rewarded through set hierarchies and unions helped maintain that structure. The unions crumpled in the 1980s and by the time the 1987 recession hit, there was a teenage wasteland No longer were young people being socialized into meaningful working class labor; the only path out was the “lottery” (aka becoming a famous rock star, athlete, etc.).
"Dude! Another day at the meatpacking plant, working right alongside an 18-year-old who's making the exact same wage I am! GO TEAM GO!"
posted by jason's_planet at 8:55 AM on March 20, 2007


...And all these years I thought I was just flinging clothes around when I unpacked my suitcase.

Who knew that I was actually assessing the truth value of a statement by drawing each of its components into the light and considering them separately?

Well slap my head and call me silly!
posted by dead_ at 9:01 AM on March 20, 2007


With regard to jargon in general, I agree with Devonian in nearly every way, except I agree with Adamgreenfield on the word "unpack" -- it's visual, it has a strong physical sense, and unlike most obfuscatory jargon, it's pretty clear what they're getting at.
posted by chimaera at 9:03 AM on March 20, 2007


There is an argument to be made for the relationship between American "Rugged Individualism", the Horatio Alger myth of success and achievement, the individualist emphasis on being "born again" within conservative Christianity and how this might play out in the isolation and narcissistic self-fascinations of the internet and myspace in particular.

All kinds of interesting things could be pulled together from the effect of the frontier on the American psyche with its isolation and struggle to the emphasis in the First and Second Great Awakenings on individual religious experience. These things coupled with the "immigrant's dream," the emergence of uberwealthy robber barons, a native mistrust of government and the over-prioritizing of self-esteem could all be drawn into such an argument.

Unfortunately, the title of this post promises far more than I think this article was ever intended to deliver.
posted by MasonDixon at 9:04 AM on March 20, 2007


Speaking of "unpacking," can we somehow "unpack" this awful post into the trashcan?
posted by dead_ at 9:09 AM on March 20, 2007


crackingdes: she's actually in the trenches for MySpace, not against it. Even when Bill O'Reilly is on the case.

jason's_planet: I think that actually happens to be the weakest point in the argument, ie. that reality TV and an uptick in stardom-seeking behavior is related to economic changes. Tinseltown's sirens of "you don't need to be a pro, just be good in some special way" have been ringing in many-an-ear for a looong time before Reagan. To wit, I think 'reality radio' would have succeeded in the 30's just as well as TV is doing today.
posted by Firas at 9:10 AM on March 20, 2007


Well, maybe not, now that I think of it.
posted by Firas at 9:11 AM on March 20, 2007


pretentious hack...
posted by Dreamghost at 9:15 AM on March 20, 2007


Jargon is a means of communicating within a discourse community of individuals whose interests, customs, and culture are closely aligned. It is a shorthand of sorts. It has effective uses, though often we only notice it when it is being used ineffectively. Your jargon is not my jargon is not my sister Bertha's jargon. Outsiders to a particuar community's jargon normally do not fully understand what members of that community are saying when they communicate amongst themselves, or why they say it the way they do. This can lead to miscommunication and resentment.

To say jargon is useless is reductive. Ask a medical researcher how much meaning they would be able to communicate with other medical researchers without medical jargon that to an anthropologist, or a stock broker would seem like needless pretense. Just as the verb "unpack" is a perfectly acceptable, even preferred, usage in some academic circles that carries rich nuances of metaphorical meaning, saying "I ripped a killer tube" carries similar meaning in others. At some point, "unpack" itself will fall by the side of the road, even in these communities.

Still, jargon is often misused in an attempt to speak to a particular discourse community. This might be one of those cases - where a writer has misappropriated a term, using it in a narrow, technical sense that his or her audience rejects. Or perhaps the writer knows the audience well, but the piece has traveled outside of that audience and into the piranha infested waters of Metafilter. Either way, we risk hypostatizing her diegesis according to our own narrow doxa. To say it any other way, would be to change its meaning.
posted by mrmojoflying at 9:22 AM on March 20, 2007


What an uninteresting single link oped piece. Okay blog entry, not The Best Of The Web.

(You haven't lived till you've checked out Weird Al Yankovic's MySpace, btw.)
posted by konolia at 9:23 AM on March 20, 2007


We shouldn't "unpack" words, phrases and metaphors even when they're often "freighted" with meaning?

Of course, we IT types speak of "parsing" too... that's even more jargon-y than "unpacking" would seem to someone who's ever opened any sort of container.

I don't have any problem with the notion that "kids today" are narcissistic, just as children and various ages of adults are. In the US at least, contemporary culture seems to have insisted on it for going on 70 years now. How people realize it's happening and respond to that realization is interesting to me...symptoms like MySpace, alleged underage nyphomania, and screwed-up power-trip misunderstanding of Christianity, not so much.

(But "core tenants of Christianity" -- best malapropism of the month, gotta be!)
posted by pax digita at 9:31 AM on March 20, 2007


One of the reasons that celebrities go batty is that fame feeds into their narcissism, further heightening their sense of self-worth as more and more people tell them that they’re all that. They never see criticism, their narcissism is never called into check. This isn’t true with micro-fame

If still referring to myspace and not general bloggers, this isn't true at all. (yes the author admits that ve may not know). One of the main characteristics of both myspace and friendster was you DO NOT post anything negative or critical of someone no matter how inaccurate, inane, or potentially dangerous their posts are. To do so is the fast ticket to getting cast out of the social circle. And every picture is either cool/beautiful or uncommented.
posted by kigpig at 9:38 AM on March 20, 2007


Or perhaps the writer knows the audience well, but the piece has traveled outside of that audience and into the piranha infested waters of Metafilter.

Bingo. A draft-quality blog post is simply out of context here and thus our criticism harsh but expected. I'm not going to judge the writer based solely on this piece. If you really want to have at it, go pick apart her thesis.

Just as the verb "unpack" is a perfectly acceptable, even preferred, usage in some academic circles that carries rich nuances of metaphorical meaning, saying "I ripped a killer tube" carries similar meaning in others. At some point, "unpack" itself will fall by the side of the road, even in these communities.

I'd agree with you but note that this is already falling by the wayside, hence Devonian's sensitivity to what he calls a signifier of jargon to come. That use of "unpack" suggests, to me as well, the less competent and more self-involved of the professors I met during my recent stint at university.
posted by mek at 9:42 AM on March 20, 2007


Raoul de Noget, I posted that to the blue a little while ago. Generally speaking, the study upon which the article was based was a bit flawed, and the consensus in the thread was hey-you-kids-get-off-my-lawn-filter.

I still have my doubts that things were ever thus, too, but all I have to compare it with are my Depression/WWII era parents' generation and my immediate cynical and underachieving generation X peer group. Not much more scientific than anything else I've seen on this topic.
posted by psmealey at 9:44 AM on March 20, 2007


Um ... what Firas said.
posted by ProfLinusPauling at 9:44 AM on March 20, 2007


Is it just me or would a proselytizing army of meth-fuelled fundy teens be scarier than all get out?

"Tweak For Jesus!"
posted by davy at 9:46 AM on March 20, 2007


Christianity is not just a crowd control for the underclass, it also acts as defender of the status hierarchy when it needs to. The parables of Jesus are pretty obvious in this regard, but the ethics in general were crafted to thwart classical freedom, justice and equality--supplanting them with submissive peace, artificial love, and token charity.
posted by Brian B. at 9:55 AM on March 20, 2007


Re: Firas--

Reality radio was just as popular in the 30s as television is today, even if it was more along the lines of Star Search and (cough) American Idol. Try Major Bowes Amateur Hour, for example. The show was so popular during the depression that people would travel from across the country to try out, inflating New York's welfare roles. It spawned a fan magazine for a few months, offering tips to "amateurs" how to get their career started and profiling past stars of the show.

And, amongst others, it started Frank Sinatra's career.
posted by thecaddy at 9:58 AM on March 20, 2007 [2 favorites]


All of you make me hate life.
posted by solistrato at 9:58 AM on March 20, 2007


yawn. myspace is a website that lets people keep in touch with friends and meet new people. it's actually quite useful and fun.
posted by drjimmy11 at 10:05 AM on March 20, 2007


The fact is that anyone under 35 tends to think they are a special snowflake. Anyone can look at the internet at figure this out -- livejournal, myspace, etc. What other generation is willing to publish their diaries, 50 pictures of themselves, compete for a head count of "friends" etc.? That, and expect others to be interested. It is depressing, but you know, obvious.

What other generation had the tools? Let's see, which is more likely:

a) technology has changed
b) human beings had the same basic nature for 6 million-odd years, then suddenly changed to become more narcissistic in 2003.

If you read Hamlet, you will notice him complaining about "the age" and how shallow and unsophisticated his generation is. This illusion of a past golden age and an inferior present has always been with us, and has pretty much always been wrong and silly.
posted by drjimmy11 at 10:11 AM on March 20, 2007


mrmojoflying's note about jargon being a useful shorthand is good, but I think it has more uses than that. Variety is beautiful. Spice and flavour are good. Shared language helps build shared communities. Politics and the English Language, for example, is not a manifesto to turn every phrase into standardized gooey paste. It's an argument against obscurantism.

You know what, though. I think "pop the stack" is hardcore jargon (referring to a special operation on a special type of programming data structure). There's nothing field-specialized about 'unpack' (it's not compsci or communication-studies terminology. Well I guess it has a compsci parallel but is intelligible outside of that field of operations regardless.) I don't think "unpack" or "drill down" are jargon at all. They're metaphors. Allusions. Imagery.

Don't get me wrong. I don't like the word "unpack". But there's a difference between thinking that a word is unnecessary or doesn't ring well in your ear (ie. a purely aesthetic objection) and calling it pompous or obscurantist (a values-based objection, against elitism or fraud.)



GREAT MOMENTS IN JARGON
Or, How To Come Across As Trying Too Hard
posted by Firas at 10:17 AM on March 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


oh yeah and I know "special snowflake" is a catch-phrase around here, but you know what? Fuckin' A right, I think I'm a "special snowflake." Is there something wrong with that?

God forbid young people could express themselves and actually feel like they're worth something as an individual! I sure miss the days when they were homogenized into factory workers or soldiers whose lives were effectively over by the age of 19. Hey- let's bring back segregation and slavery too! Those slaves never felt like they were "special snowflakes!"

So yeah, I think us damn kids kind of like it here on your lawn, and we're going to be here for a while. If you think that's "narcissism," well, we don't actually care very much.
posted by drjimmy11 at 10:17 AM on March 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


Hot damn, that's quite a Hamlet coincidence. Time to look for hidden meanings.
posted by Firas at 10:22 AM on March 20, 2007


The fact is that anyone under 35 tends to think they are a special snowflake.

This is being noticed more, but a simple comparison with the relative rise and fall of the middle class during the baby boom explains it. When the middle class determined the social values, people had less to prove to themselves, with less overall anxiety. A far different zeitgeist (but difficult to explain because stand-alone personal dignity is almost impossible to imagine). As the middle class fails by the numbers, the times will be defined by the next majority and their religious passion and obsessions. My guess is that people are just going insane from the denial and worry, using religion to communicate their basic emotional needs.
posted by Brian B. at 10:23 AM on March 20, 2007


Perhaps i should rally behind people’s dreams, but i tend to find them quite disturbing.

I expected not to like this essay, but I was wrong. I really liked what the author had to say, and I found it jiving with my own world view. Do I agree with every opinion? No. I do agree that we live in a culture that encourages everyone to believe they are capable of anything "if they only put their minds to it", which is complete rubbish. I also agree that the people who make the strongest religious zealots tend to be the ones who need fervor and passion in their lives, however it may have manifested itself in the past. These are two of the strongest points addressed in the article.
posted by malaprohibita at 10:25 AM on March 20, 2007


Repeat after me:

I am not special. I am a distinct human being with my own talents, abilities, shortcomings, dreams, embarrassments, triumphs, failures and motivations, just like all 6 billion of my fellow human beings. I am unique but not special.
posted by gurple at 10:29 AM on March 20, 2007


To recap:

"These kids today are such special snowflakes."
"This will wendell."
"This wendell...it vibrates?"
"I LOL'ed!"
"GYOFB."
"Let’s unpack that for a moment."

"God, I hate it when someone says 'unpack.' Stupid pretentious jargon."
posted by Pater Aletheias at 10:30 AM on March 20, 2007


Faint of Butt: The author is evidently unaware that the pronoun "I" is capitalized. This invalidates any points the article may make.

Maybe it's a form of anti-narcissism?

I'd never heard of Danah Boyd before, but I liked the article.

DU: Every adult generation thinks that about every following child generation.

Boyd summarizes some research near the beginning of the article: people get less narcissistic as they get older, but it appears that young people today are indeed more narcissistic than young people 20 years ago.
posted by russilwvong at 10:42 AM on March 20, 2007


Does anyone have a YouTube link for this?
posted by strangeleftydoublethink at 10:54 AM on March 20, 2007


Boyd summarizes some research near the beginning of the article:

Yes, a single flawed study as has been mentioned numerous times in this thread and Boyd's... which does not evidence make.
posted by mek at 10:55 AM on March 20, 2007


I’m worried by how society leverages different media to perpetuate disturbing ideals and pray on people’s desire for freedom and attention.

i'm worried about illiterates with blogs "praying" upon people's desire for reading material.
posted by quonsar at 10:57 AM on March 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


Pardon my grotesque ignorance of these MySpace things you kids do these days but isn't MySpace essentially for get'n all hooked up?

So from that I would conclude the MySpace Christians are just trying to get laid like everybody else, right? And working to get laid is somewhat a narcissistic, IMHO excusable, exercise.

If you read Hamlet, you will notice him complaining about "the age" and how shallow and unsophisticated his generation is. This illusion of a past golden age and an inferior present has always been with us, and has pretty much always been wrong and silly.

Yeah. There were no Good Old Days. Back in Roman times people were bitching about returning Traditional Values.

The Inca's were probably bitching about how the kids didn't eat the entrails of the sacrificed slaves with that special ferocity like they did back in the day.

Though. I must say I was shocked at how explicit even the average and most mild MySpace pages can be. Good buddy of mine found his goody-two-shoes-straight-A-student daughters page and it was way nasty. I think this is a new twist.
posted by tkchrist at 10:58 AM on March 20, 2007


So yeah, I think us damn kids kind of like it here on your lawn, and we're going to be here for a while.

That's OK. That's what nerve gas is for.
posted by FreedomTickler at 11:00 AM on March 20, 2007


mek: Yes, a single flawed study--

Boyd's post doesn't refer to that study, it refers to "pop science coverage of academic work" (specifically Jake Halpern's Fame Junkies).
posted by russilwvong at 11:03 AM on March 20, 2007


This would have been a much better article if it only had one point, but I see where the author is coming from. In our little world where parents threaten to sue their children's schools when they get a B- in math because the "teacher is an idiot", everyone gets placed on the football team because getting cut would hurt the boy's feelings and every other young woman you meet dreams of being just like the girls on Laguna Beach we're living in a society of self-centered, soulless drones.

Individuality, accepting shortcomings that we all have and ignoring meaningless trends seems to be a thing of the past, and it makes me sad.
posted by Angflowr at 11:08 AM on March 20, 2007


I absolutely agree with Devonian. When someone tells me to unpack something I said in class, I feel as though they're talking down to me.

The other day one of my peers asked me if I'd be willing to "own that statement," regarding something I'd said in class. I wanted to throw something at him.

Academic jargon sets my teeth on edge - I think it's one of the more nefarious side-effects of too much postmodernist hogwash. Sometimes I'll sit in class and all I hear is "contextcontextunpacksynthesizeholisticontologydogmaticstructurata." We call it "shootin salad."
posted by Baby_Balrog at 11:14 AM on March 20, 2007


Angflowr, reality always catches up. Not all of these kids are going to wear NASA badges, play in the Superbowl or strut for Victoria's Secret.

But to be honest, kids are good at being heirarchical and vicious. It doesn't matter what they're supposed to do 'officially', the harshness of life is always in the subtleties.

Also, I'd much rather everything be driven and idealistic about their self-worth than everyone be drowning in existential angst.
posted by Firas at 11:26 AM on March 20, 2007


Dangit, now I got that Schoolhouse Rock song Unpack Your Adjectives stuck in my head.
posted by jefbla at 11:38 AM on March 20, 2007


Christianity is not just a crowd control for the underclass, it also acts as defender of the status hierarchy when it needs to. The parables of Jesus are pretty obvious in this regard, but the ethics in general were crafted to thwart classical freedom, justice and equality--supplanting them with submissive peace, artificial love, and token charity.

Brian B., some have perceived quite different meanings in some of the parables to which you may be referring and noticed other parables besides.

Religion is a good thing for good people and a bad thing for bad people. What one gets out of Christianity -- or anything, really, not just faith systems -- is a function of what one brings to it. If you're choosing to see only manipulation and control, defense of the status quo (despite the alleged "defender" being accused of simultaneously of heresy and lese-majesté), submission (ah, but to whom or to what, and why?), artificiality, and tokenism, you're welcome to your poorly informed cynicism: As somebody or other once put it, you have already received your reward. Or to put it in decidedly secular terms, a little learning is a dangerous thing.

Cynical manipulation, strident I-know-more-than-you-do power trips, and highly selective reading are tools of the fundies I deplore right along with many of the folks here in the blue, but I notice yet again that it's not only fundies who resort to them. Hopefully the baby will say "Hi, how ya doin'?" to the bathwater after they've both been chucked out the window.
posted by pax digita at 11:41 AM on March 20, 2007


You know what, Blazecock Pileon? I like you. You're not like the other people here, in the trailer park.
posted by Dr-Baa at 11:43 AM on March 20, 2007


Can't sleep. Cromulent Jebus will enbiggen me.
posted by davy at 11:53 AM on March 20, 2007


Whew.

Unpack is fine, if you haven't heard it used by marketing and sales types umpteen times in the past six months. It is one of my current betes noirs - a fashionable, glib shibboleth. If I thought it was being used in this or any other case because it had a peculiar metaphorical power which the writer had considered and chosen, then I wouldn't have a problem with it.

Unpack has lots of resonances. It implies a burden set down, a destination reached as a part of a greater story. It has overtones of concatenation undone, of preparation for a task, of a point of inflection in an arc. A writer can use this in all sorts of ways - the pathologist unpacked the chest, looking for clues; she unpacked her day in front of me; it's a portmanteau word, let's unpack it - which make the darn thing sing for its supper.

The writer of the piece referenced in the OP just picked up something she'd heard and jammed it in. "Let's look at that in more detail" would do just fine.

Orwell and Shakespeare and Cervantes are superb writers, but you don't summon their spirits merely by typing a word that they (or the translator) used. I wish. The use of unpack in that piece - twice! Twice! - tripped me up, as did so much else in there, and that's not good.

Jargon doesn't have to be ugly. It can be very useful, it can be funny - Jargon File, anyone? - it can be the best way to say something. Try expressing a sentence like "On interrupt, the stack may not be deep enough to allow the function to recurse with that structure" without the specialist vocabulary. One of English's great strengths is that it is at ease with jargon; it lends itself to idiom and neologism, and disposes of their worn out carcasses without a backward glance. Abuse of that harshes my mellow.

And all this is by way of explaining why it actually hurts me to read things like that. It may not hurt you. It may not matter. But it did hurt, and I'm not being some sort of persnickety pecksniff for the hell of it.
posted by Devonian at 11:53 AM on March 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


Maybe they see all those hot young myspace chicks and all the wild sex they seem to be having and decided to pray they'd be a part of it.
posted by jonmc at 11:56 AM on March 20, 2007


The author is evidently unaware that the pronoun "I" is capitalized.

No, it is a statement: the author is being "self-effacing." People who are proud of their humility make a point of doing that.
posted by davy at 11:58 AM on March 20, 2007


Ah. i against I.
posted by jonmc at 12:06 PM on March 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


"Christianity is not just a crowd control for the underclass, it also acts as defender of the status hierarchy when it needs to. The parables of Jesus are pretty obvious in this regard, but the ethics in general were crafted to thwart classical freedom, justice and equality--supplanting them with submissive peace, artificial love, and token charity."
posted by Brian B. at 12:55 PM on March 20


Oh, he's not a TOTAL idiot after all. ANYWAY...

Is it any wonder that, after Constantine, Christianity grew most converts by the nation, tribe or kingdom, convincing the rulers that the Churches' organizations and doctrines were useful (as well as, or even more than, "true"), and that upon conversion the rulers ordered their peoples to convert also? Also see Foucault on the uses of "confession."

And by the way, I've found "Christian" chicks to be pleasantly "nasty," convinced as they are that they're sinful and whorish. Some even liked to be told that during.
posted by davy at 12:13 PM on March 20, 2007


Jargon...? Let me tell you about "unpack"....

Back in the olden days, when I worked at a psychiatric hospital while attending college, there was this one, dreaded, to be avoided at all costs task.

The hospital was a Catholic run operation, private, expensive, upper class, and often had somewhat interesting members of the clergy as "guests".

Frequently these guests (both male and female) were rather old, often with rather strange diet and digestive quirks. It was not unusual for things to go terribly wrong while they were forced to eat hospital food while undergoing ECT, for foods and metabolisms to get out of whack, for things to go in and not come out... and there the problem would start.

82 year old Father Chainsmoker, or 90 year old Sister Givemethatswitch, would start to complain, stomach problems it would seem, cramps and the like.

Now, we had sufficient medical staff, Doctors, Psychiatrists, Nurses, but for some reason, when this happened, they called on us lowly non-degreed types to solve the problem.

As a result, the term "unpack" came to mean, for all of us, the task of putting on a latex glove, coating it with some slippery lube and "unpacking" the dear Father's rectum....

Now... don't EVER use that word again!
posted by HuronBob at 12:14 PM on March 20, 2007


Can anybody think of a few social, economic and/or political uses of widespread narcissism?

(And Dr-Baa, WTF is wrong with trailer parks?)
posted by davy at 12:18 PM on March 20, 2007


jonmc: "Pray for piece"?
posted by pax digita at 12:18 PM on March 20, 2007


(And Dr-Baa, WTF is wrong with trailer parks?)

No, don't get me wrong. I have nothing against trailer parks nor the people who live there. They're fine people, good Americans. But they're content to sit back, maybe watch a little Mork and Mindy on channel 57. Maybe kick back a cool Coors 16-ouncer. They're good fine people, davy.

But they don't know what the queers are doing to the soil narcissistic Christian fundamentalists are doing on MySpace.
posted by Dr-Baa at 12:32 PM on March 20, 2007


Can't sleep. Cromulent Jebus will unpack me. In a trailer park.

And HuronBob, why were these priests and nuns at a psychiatric hospital?
posted by davy at 1:02 PM on March 20, 2007


Abuse of that harshes my mellow.

I felt I understood that when I read it, but... I don't.
posted by Lush at 1:05 PM on March 20, 2007


Yeah, I had to do a double-take there as well. He's saying that he gets irritated when somebody abuses the flexibility the language allows.
posted by Firas at 1:16 PM on March 20, 2007


I think he's being "ironic" there.
posted by davy at 1:25 PM on March 20, 2007


"And HuronBob, why were these priests and nuns at a psychiatric hospital?"

ahh...the same reason that the people that WEREN'T clergy were there....
posted by HuronBob at 2:40 PM on March 20, 2007


Boyd's post doesn't refer to that study, it refers to "pop science coverage of academic work" (specifically Jake Halpern's Fame Junkies).
posted by russilwvong at 11:03 AM on March 20 [+][!]


Boyd's post refers to all sorts of stuff, and not much in particular. She summarizes "a few of the key findings that have emerged over the years concerning narcissism," which are not cited. Within those she notes:

The scores of adolescents on the NPI continue to rise. In other words, it appears as though young people today are more narcissistic than older people were when they were younger.

This is a direct reference to Jean Twenge's Generation Me, which Boyd later notes she has not read. That is also the study that psmealey referred to earlier in his FPP and comment here, so I'm not sure what you're talking about.

I'm surprised nobody has raised the question, as to whether or not increasing narcissism (if it is occurring at all) is related to decreasing quality of education.
posted by mek at 3:26 PM on March 20, 2007


Metafilter: Look out, it's the Unapacker!
posted by Artw at 3:29 PM on March 20, 2007


mek: This is a direct reference to Jean Twenge's Generation Me, which Boyd later notes she has not read.

Maybe you're right. I don't know enough to say if Twenge's study is the only one to find narcissism increasing. Boyd refers to a lot of other research (Baumeister in particular), but it might be that her assertion that narcissism is increasing depends solely on Twenge's study (or rather Halpern's presentation of Twenge's results), without any other evidence.

I did do a Google Scholar search on Baumeister, which turned up some interesting articles on self-esteem.

Does high self-esteem cause better performance, interpersonal success, happiness, or healthier lifestyles?

Relation of threatened egotism to violence and aggression: The dark side of high self-esteem

Threatened egotism, narcissism, self-esteem, and direct and displaced aggression: Does self-love or self-hate lead to violence?
posted by russilwvong at 4:01 PM on March 20, 2007


First Myspace created an army of underage nymphomaniacs, then they assembled a phalanx of voracious pedophiles and now they're turning people into Christians?!
The Straightener. I'll grant you the last two, but you're going to have to provide links to support you first assertion. Yeah, that is ...um... why I want the links, for you to support your assertion.
posted by BrotherCaine at 4:07 PM on March 20, 2007


But actually figured it out later in the article.. I initially thought the lower case "i" in this article was a statement, but later realized it was just being lazy and/or careless...

That's awful presumptuous. In fact, it is making a "statement" of sorts. You'll notice the capital "I"'s are all at the start of a sentence. Here's her reasoning:

"I was always bothered by the fact that the first person singular pronoun is capitalized in english - i always thought it was quite self-righteous. Or, as Douglas Adams noted, "Capital letters were always the best way of dealing with things you didn't have a good answer to." Ever since i was a kid, i was told that the world does not revolve around me, yet our written culture is telling me something entirely different. Why not capitalize 'we' or 'they'?

So, i started researching where the capitalization of said pronoun came from and was quite stunned to find that it was always capitalized because it always appeared as the first word in a sentence, never stuck in the middle. And then, when it started appearing in the middle, it started getting capitalized out of convention and because people worried that it would get lost in script."
posted by saraswati at 4:21 PM on March 20, 2007


Saraswati... I stand corrected... it wasn't lazy or careless, just a bit affected.

Interesting theory (re: i vs I)she puts forth, but probably incorrect.


Can we trust this high priestess about ANYHTHING?
posted by HuronBob at 5:19 PM on March 20, 2007


I already linked this thing I barfed out yesterday once this morning from the blue, but I'm going to do it again, because.

I don't think calling it narcissism captures the whole picture, nor does singling out MySpace make much sense. Both are part of the story, though. I think it's a Great Big Shift in our culture and the way (some/most/rich/technology-using folk in the west) think, and yes, I blame Arthur Fonzarelli, sort of.

In other words, myspace is a symptom, not a cause.

Yep. I think we're looking at the emergence of a default mode of being that gets validation from existence as performance. For observers, while we observe, schrodinger's catty. Anyway, here's my beard-stroking ramble.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:20 PM on March 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


Let's be clear about this. MySpace is only for:

1. 13-year-old girls
2. 50-year-old men trying to meet 13-year-old girls
3. Undercover FBI agents trying to catch 50-year-old men trying to meet 13-year old girls.

Got that?
posted by Rangeboy at 5:49 PM on March 20, 2007


Then what's Nexopia for? Do I even want to know?
posted by mek at 6:16 PM on March 20, 2007


MySpace is pretty much the only site on the internet that brings the phrase "nuke it from orbit, it's the only way to be sure" to my mind.
posted by clevershark at 6:33 PM on March 20, 2007


Myspace can be quite a good way to find new music, if you've got a strong stomach and lots of time. Last time I went fishing, I found Connan and the Mockasins.

Harshing one's mellow.
posted by Devonian at 5:42 PM on March 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


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