This cultural dilemma brings about a very important question. Why are people so narcissistic today?
Whether you’re in the church or outside, in school or not, on the job or at home, online or in-person, there’s so much narcissism in our culture today. Far too many of us find comfort in talking about ourselves without pause or hesitation. We post about ourselves, chat about ourselves, and take a myriad of pictures, hoping to get somebody’s attention.
We care about ourselves a lot.
Perhaps, no one embodies this in society more than social media influencers. They feel a constant need to share their opinions on every subject and are often desperate for the spotlight. They don’t mind making a fool of themselves in public, hoping to generate new content for more clicks and likes. Some have invaded people’s homes. Others act inappropriately in public, trying to get reactions.
While they may potentially be the epitome of today’s narcissism, many more of us showcase the symptoms. But imagine a society where we care more about others than ourselves. Scripture certainly encourages us to prioritize others, especially other believers.
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3, CSB)
At present, we are far from this ideal and all of us are suffering because of it. Thus, this cultural dilemma brings about a very important question. Why are people so narcissistic today?
Here are some ideas as to why.
1. Weak Families
With divorce being more common than it was a century ago, many children are growing up in weaker, divided families. Part of their lives are lived with mom, and the other part with dad. Sometimes children only have one parent, sometimes neither. This weak family structure makes for people who don’t receive strong, or at least consistent role-modeling and discipline. Parents help humble us through punishments, reminding us to say thanks, and teaching us about life. Without them, we gravitate toward other influences, and not all of them are good. There’s definitely care to be received from grandparents, foster posters, and other caretakers, but receiving care and discipline from parents is ideal. Without them, families are weaker, and weak families have a way of producing weak character.
2. Bad Parenting
Even when parents are in the picture, many people today are turning narcissistic because of how they are brought up. Over time there’s been a new trend in parenting that has moved from the old school of strict discipline to the new school of treating children as equals. This makes for children who are less prone to hearing the word ‘no’ because they always get a say-so in everything. As with any healthy relationship, parameters need to be established and respected. Without them, children see themselves as adults. And a child who always gets their way turns into an adult who always wants their way.
3. Positivity Culture
Another issue impacting society is positivity culture. This belief system describes the necessity of affirming everything someone says without “judgment.” The problem with the idea is that everyone judges. To judge is to discern, to decide between good and evil, whether something looks or tastes good. Christians engage in judging, as do non-Christians. People are even appointed, called judges, to make decisions in legal proceedings. Positivity culture says that we are not to judge, which is another way of saying, we should not criticize. Anything. To say something bad about someone is a sin, even if what we say is true. We’re encouraged to tell the fat person that they are beautiful even if they are morbidly obese and facing health issues. We’re encouraged to tell the woman to continue on OnlyFans even though she ruins her future prospect of marriage. In reality, speaking the truth is not a sin. We just need to be mindful of how we communicate.
4. Social Media
Social media has definitely kept us in touch with people we would have never seen again after high school, college, or leaving a certain job. Yet, the connection we garner through social media is most often superficial. We follow people and get followed, but very often, the relationship remains dumbed down to characters in a chat box. We lack the interconnectedness of being with someone in person, their body language, and what their physical presence brings. Moreover, the way we present ourselves online is often manufactured. We post the best of ourselves and often only about ourselves. This kind of repetition builds up in the mind that we are important, that we are some sort of protagonist, but no one has an interest in the pictures of our babies, dogs, and food quite like we do.
5. Talking about Ourselves
If social media is a habit that builds our narcissism, the habit is perpetuated in our conversations. Many of us have become so used to talking about ourselves that this is the only way we know to communicate. There are plenty of people who are content talking about themselves. They don’t mind answering your questions about them but don’t expect them to ask you questions about yourself. They wait for you to share on your own, and if you don’t, that is fine. The Christian way to be is not to neglect talking about yourself, but to definitely prioritize the other person. Talk about yourself, but ask questions too. Without asking, we don’t build meaningful relationships.
6. Screen Time
Narcissism, like any other sin, requires some degree of awareness to spot and then deal with. However, screen time has led to less introspection. People are uncomfortable sitting with their thoughts or in awkward silence. There’s a constant desire for noise, either from music, a podcast, or something playing in the background. Some thoughts are undoubtedly not just uncomfortable, but hard to manage or understand. Yet, if you never sit with any of your thoughts, not only will you never gain control over them, but you will never gain control over yourself.
7. Lack of God
The Gospel has largely left our society, our schools, some of our churches, and also, our households. Without a life focused on God, our attention falls to other things. People, materials. Without God to give us direction, we forge our own and of course, anything apart from God is imperfect and we are bound to be sinful. Without God, we turn to ourselves. And then we turn ourselves into narcissists.
For many reasons, we’re living through a tough time in history. Our society is frayed and decaying. The future looks bleak, and society has become weak in many ways. Narcissism exemplifies this degradation character. However, even though we are in this precarious spot, there is always reason for hope. God is unchanging (Hebrews 13:8). And we know that He is willing to bless people who seek wisdom, and those we seek Him (James 1:5). Therefore, if we want change in our society, we can pray for it, but we can also strive to be that change. As we work on ourselves and show a better way to be, we can role-model and admonish those behaviors in others.
Now, this won’t be easy. Narcissism didn’t claim our society overnight. Over the generations, we have fallen away from God, and this is where we are. Let’s all choose to be different today and generation by generation, we can be better.
Photo Credit: © Getty Images/Khosrork
Aaron D'Anthony Brown is a freelance writer, hip-hop dance teacher, and visual artist, living in Virginia. He currently contributes work to iBelieve, Crosswalk, and supports various clients through the platform Upwork. He's an outside-the-box thinker with a penchant for challenging the status quo. Check out his short story “Serenity.”