Ghada Al Atrash Janbey writes: Narcissistic youth need proper guidance to utilise their time and talents productively
It doesn’t take a psychiatrist to note the narcissistic outbreak that has spread among Facebook users. I was quite struck by the apparent severity of this sickness as I sat next to my teenage daughter and skimmed through comments posted by her Facebook friends.
Needless to say, it was quite disturbing to observe how narcissistic an environment Facebook has become where narcissism is abysmally manifested in the utterly ridiculous photos and pointless comments of its juvenile users, ones whose only purpose is to inflate one another’s egos, and more importantly, to find ways to inflate their own egos.
By no means is this phenomenon only confined to teenagers as many Facebook users of all ages seem to have been sucked into this narcissistic vacuum. But for the purposes of this article, let us especially focus our attention on today’s younger generation that is severely afflicted with this alarmingly debilitating epidemic.
According to Greek mythology, a young man named Narcissus was a pathologically self-absorbed human who fell in love with his own reflection in a pool. Consequently, psychiatrists use the term ‘narcissistic personality disorder’ when referring to people with an exaggerated sense of superiority who expect to be treated with admiration and reverence.
Affected people are characterised by an obsession to be admired. They further possess a strong sense of grandiosity and an exaggerated feeling of self-importance.
When applied to Facebook, many of the above-mentioned characteristics seem to be dominant among its users where a Facebook page becomes the narcissistic mirror that displays one’s self-reflection and elicits the sought-out attention, recognition and admiration from others.
Granted, it is human nature to possess narcissistic traits. Many psychoanalysts believe that we all need a bit of ‘healthy’ narcissism in our personalities which they define as a real sense of self-esteem and self-confidence. When based on true self-worth, these characteristics act as the driving forces towards innovation, success and achievement.
However, the case is different when it comes to Facebook. The younger generation has become obsessed with everything that has to do with the ‘self’ and with drawing attention to it.
Millions of adolescents and college students spend, or rather waste, countless hours of their time posting meaningless comments with lots of ‘lols’ and ‘smileys’, remarking on each others’ photos, liking futile statuses, joining one cause or another, following celebrities, poking, tagging, and so on and so forth.
Even more worrisome is the false sense of self-esteem that is being generated in the process. The more the comments and higher the number of friends, the grander is the feeling of self-importance! But as the elicited feedback is often false and undeserved, it fails to satisfy its users and leaves them empty with the need for more — sort of like the feeling of eating in one’s dream! One of my female Emirati students who happens to work at the National Library in Abu Dhabi expressed her concern about how they seldom receive visitors at their main branch. She went on to state that most of the books on the shelves remained new and untouched, hopelessly and indefinitely collecting dust!
The truth is that today’s children are less educated, more self-centered, extremely preoccupied with superficiality, and are emptying their brains on to their Facebook screens! In the meantime, parents seem to be sitting back and watching as this incapacitating obsession is absorbing their brain cells and denying them the time to educate themselves. According to many surveys, students who use Facebook spend less time studying and consequently have lower averages than those who do not use Facebook.
Regrettably, the young generation is unprepared for the difficult times ahead. The world is becoming increasingly competitive, demanding highly-skilled and competent individuals. Children should be preparing themselves academically and developing their communication skills instead of spending their time on mere nonsense in front of a computer!
I strongly believe that the blame falls on us as parents and mentors. We need to find other avenues to busy our children with. Sports is an option, reading is another. Children could also be encouraged to volunteer, intern or take active part in an infinite number of causes.
As many psychologists advise, realising and admitting to the problem is half the battle won. Perhaps spreading awareness on a personal level, on a school level, and on a community level can create a state of alertness and consciousness that can help our children steer clear of being sucked into this vacuum.
Why not teach our children to use Facebook in a constructive way — by posting a critical thought, a meaningful song, a humanitarian message, an innovative idea, or a link to a good article?
Facebook is a powerful social media tool that can mobilise revolutions as seen in recent months — if only our children can also learn to use it in a way that can make a positive difference.
A Bob Dylan song goes You don’t need a weather man to know which way the wind blows — I am afraid that, unless something is done to change the course of how things are going, the wind is bound to blow our future generation southwards, to a place void of education, innovation, or any sort of intellectual merit.
It is our responsibilities as parents, educators and mentors to help find a way out of an abyss that has left future generations dumbed-down, in a state of loss, and in desperate need of direction!
Ghada Al Atrash Janbey holds a Master’s degree in English and teaches at a college in Abu Dhabi.