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The truth of it will get under your skin
on 19 May 2011
There are some popular sociology books that, once read, just can't be forgotten. Their point of view just seems to put everything you've been worrying about in today's world, on some semi-conscious level, into perspective. Suddenly you're seeing the truth of things everywhere, every day. The Narcissm Epidemic is such a book.
This text takes the ideas of entitlement, which were the core of Twenge's earlier book "Generation Me", to their logical conclusion and integrates them into the wider symptoms of nascissism, the destructive self-love that it claims is at the core of many of today's societal ills. American society is apparently teeming with narcissists who are shaping the world to their own selfish ends, and even if you're not an American, you'll be hard pushed to disagree.
Yes, it certainly is very sure of itself but this is the hook of the text: It's written in such an accessible way that you'll start to wonder about your own narcissitic tendencies, examine your own inner narcissist with the true irony of navel-gazing self-absorbtion. But even more fun is the newfound knowledge to spot the narcissist in your office (hint: If you can't tell who it is, it's you), in the bus queue (hint: narcissists probably don't take the bus, or if they do, they jumped the queue), on reality TV (hint: all of them). You'll never look at advertising the same way again, or celebrity, or food packaging, holidays, education, religion, your children, your home or anything that came into existence after around 1989.
I haven't had such a revelation since reading Gilmore and Pine's "Authenticity: What Consumers Really Want" or Goldacre's "Bad Science". The Narcissism Epidemic is written in the easy, accesible style all the best popular science books adopt and yet still has the research to back it all up.
It made me feel really smart, which is probably why I couldn't put it down.