Rising Rates of Narcissism and 'Being Unlimited'

04/04/2013 10:18 am ET | Updated Jun 04, 2013
  • Lisa Wade Professor of sociology based in Los Angeles

In an article titled "Egos Inflating Over Time," psychologist Jean Twenge and her colleagues show that rate of narcissism among U.S. college students has risen significantly. Narcissism is a "positive and inflated view of the self." Narcissists are attention-seeking extroverts who have a high opinion of their value, importance, and physical attractiveness. They feel entitled to admiration from others and may act aggressively if they don't receive the attention they feel they deserve.

Twenge and her colleagues found a 30 percent increase in narcissism between 1979 and 2006; almost two thirds of college students in the mid-2000s were above the mean score reported in the early '80s.

I can't help but think of her research every time I see this commercial for the iPhone 5:

What strikes me is the message that every moment of our lives is so amazing that it would be a horrible shame to not share it with everyone:

We can share every second... a billion roaming photojournalists uploading the human experience, and it is spectacular...

And that we should feel entitled to the technological ability to share ourselves:

I need to upload all of me. I need -- no, I have the right -- to be unlimited.

Wow. I mean, that's some pretty serious self-importance there.

Twenge and her colleagues argue that the increase in narcissism is related to the fact that American culture has increasingly celebrated individualism. This is exactly the kind of message that they might point to as reflecting the cultural dimension of this personality shift.

Originally posted at Sociological Images.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the principle writer for Sociological Images. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

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