Narcissism

Charity

In a past blog, I discussed altruism and how people or businesses take advantage of media and self-promotion while doing something for their community. With the recent storm of ice water dumping individuals on the web, I thought perhaps we could take this discussion even further and discuss narcissism.

In a world of ever increasing types of social media (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snap Chat, and yes, Blogs to name just a few) we are inundated with the ability to promote ourselves in the public eye. Add to that the almost endless “Reality” TV shows from “Naked and Dating” to “16 and Pregnant” to “Nanny 911” and you have to wonder if our society hasn’t taken narcissism a step too far.

In an article written by Chris Baraniuk for the BBC, he quotes Michael Hogan of the UK’s Telegraph in regards to the ice water euphoria on the internet, “It’s social media exhibitionism, more about attention-seeking than philanthropy,” and he may not be wrong.  Many of the celebrities who have joined have often forgotten to even mention the non-profit organization they were contributing to, and many of the people who participated knew next to nothing about ALS and their work.

But is narcissism in the name of charity a bad thing?  Altruism is doing something good for sake of doing something good.  But as long as good is done, does it matter the reason?

Maybe…

In an article written by Lisa Firestone for the Huffington Post, she questions if social media is truly to blame for the narcissistic tendencies we see in youth today. The generation born between the 1980’s and 1990’s has been dubbed the “Generation me” with their all too common response to doing the right thing, “What’s in it for me?” And Firestone believes that parents are at least in part to blame.

”The truth is the rise in narcissism among millennials may have less to do with our social networks online and more to do with our social networks at home.” Writes Firestone. “Empty praise causes children to feel entitled while lacking the true confidence necessary to feel good about themselves. Our society’s shift towards instant gratification appears to be having a negative effect on our kids.”

This may end up being a discussion of which came first; the chicken or the egg? Has parents and schools desire to keep children from disappointment (all kids make the team ideology) created a generation of children that actually lack self-esteem and so make up for this by consistently posting positive things about themselves on social media for the world to see? Quite possibly. Or, has the growth of multi-media like YouTube allowed our society to put ourselves on the front page of every computer screen across the globe created a society of fame seekers?

Is there a balance between connecting through multi-media and bragging?

There is a huge push for writers to utilize social media and connect with their audience. The idea that you need to “be in the public’s eye” without turning your achievements into bragging rights isn’t always a clear and easy line to see.  So how do you temper self-promotion for your work without it becoming narcissistic sounding? It’s not easy.

A NY Times piece called Of Myself I Sing by Teddy Wayne suggests that narcissism, at least in the beginning, isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Narcissism breeds self-confidence and that brings with it opportunity.  However, over time it can become annoying to others and detrimental to relationship building.

There doesn’t seem to be a clear cut answer as to how to promote yourself without coming across as narcissistic.  In his article, Wayne quotes Rebecca Makkai, a fiction writer, on how she tries to balance out the two, “My personal standard is, is it something people need to or want to know?” she said, citing information like public appearances. Other ideas include promoting someone else on your page, being honest about problems and frustrations or provoking a conversation.

The question all comes down to “why.” Why are you videotaping yourself dumping ice water on your head and plastering it all over Facebook? What good does it do other than get you so many “likes” on your page? Is donating to a charity of your choice and doing so without blasting it all over social media any less philanthropic? What emotion are you trying to invoke with your postings?

Narcissism seems to be the norm today, whether it was started with parents, encouraged in schools and promoted with multi-media is to be debated for years to come. For better or worse, we are likely to see this behavior continue as we learn to balance the need to impress others with our need for privacy.

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Murray the Gnome or When NOT to be Sarcastic in an Email to Your Boyfriend

Gnome

Murray the Literary Gnome

We have a very large yard; the type where you need a riding lawn mower to mow it.  We then reclaimed several more yards from the hay field in order to put in a vegetable garden.  Next to our vegetable garden there is a rock.  It’s not a big rock nor is it tall and that is where the trouble began.

You see, we live in the “Granite” state, so when one afternoon my boyfriend was showing me this rock we knew right away that the long flat portion we could see was likely just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak, and there was no way we were going to remove it; at least not without the help of some pretty big equipment.  It’s not really in the way, other than you have to be careful not to run over it with the riding lawnmower.  The rock gets hidden when the grass grows.

One day, while I was at work, my boyfriend sent me an email. “You know what that rock needs?” He asked.

“What?” I responded.

“A lawn Gnome!” He replied.

“Sometimes you come up with the most amazing ideas.” I wrote back.  Clearly I was really busy at work.

About three weeks later, my boyfriend went to visit a man selling an old sewing machine.  It came up during the conversation that they were moving to Florida and anything left in the yard was either really cheap or free.  Wouldn’t you know that in that pile of “stuff” was a three foot, one hundred twenty pound cement lawn gnome.

All day long I received emails and text messages about the wonderful “surprise” my boyfriend had for me when I got home.  I excitedly wished the day away so I could get home and see.  Sure enough, as I pulled in the driveway, there sat the three-foot gnome on the rock by the garden.

Gnome

Murray marks the spot.

“See, see?” My boyfriend asked excitedly.

“What the heck is that?” I replied.  Really “heck” wasn’t the word I used but we try to keep this PG.

The look of disappointment quickly washed across my boyfriends face but try as I might I could just not muster the excitement of the gnome.

“But you said it was the best idea I ever had.” He pouted.

Clearly, I need to work on writing sarcasm.

Today, Murray still sits on the rock in the yard. (Yes, my boyfriend named him so now we HAVE to keep him.) He is a literary gnome as he is holding a book and a lantern.  He does have wiring and the little lantern will light up if you plug him in, but I think Murray is quite happy the way he is.

At the very least, perhaps he’ll keep the wildlife from snacking in our garden.

Gnome

Murray guards our garden.

November!

We live among rolling fields fenced by stone walls and old sugar maple trees.  In October the air shimmers with misty hues of red, orange and gold.  The air is crisp and clear, but still retains a certain warmth.  Old logging roads and wooden paths beckon you along their winding way enticing you with what may be hidden just around the corner.  Ducks and geese call to each other as they fly by on their way to warmer climates.  Days are shorter and nights are cooler making for perfect cooking weather, for this is harvest season and fresh food abounds.  In the evenings, you may catch the hint of wood smoke in the air coming from a chimney or two, as families sit by the fire chasing off the slight evening chill.

Just one month later the vision is drastically different.  November brings shorter days, cooler temperatures and that hint of snow in the air.  The only leaves left on the trees are brown and dried.  Forests now reveal hidden stories that were once concealed by fresh green leaves.  The skies are a cold steel gray most of the time, but even the sunny days do not bring much warmth.  The only sound you hear is the howl of the wind, which can bite right through you.

If it wasn’t for Thanksgiving, November would be a very bleak month indeed.  While it can snow here in November, it often just threatens to, spitting down a flake here or there almost as a tease to those hardy skiers.  By now, most people have their homes winterized, wood stoves are going strong and anything related to summer has been stowed away until next year.

What we eat and how we cook changes drastically.  Outdoor grills are replaced with indoor crockpots.  Fresh vine vegetables have been canned or frozen and now replaced with heartier squashes and root vegetables.

Instead of meandering down wooden paths and taking in the beautiful scenery of October, we now stay indoors, watch football and keep a look out for that ever promised snow so winter sports can begin.

Despite November’s dreary appeal, it has its place on the seasonal calendar.  We become so enamored with October that we might well forget that winter is just around the corner.  November is here to remind us.  She is stern and unforgiving, raw and cold, but there is beauty in her starkness.  Because of her, we give ourselves permission to stay indoors wrapped in a warm blanket with a good book and a hot beverage.

As we come up to Thanksgiving and we look for things to be thankful for, perhaps we should be thankful for the month of November.  After a hectic summer cramming every outdoor activity possible into a few short months, November allows us to slow down, take a breath and rest a while.  It’s that deep inhale and exhale before the holiday season begins and the craziness jumps into full gear.

This seasonal break between summer and holidays doesn’t last long up hear in the north.  Give yourself permission to take a few moments to just breathe.  Now is a great time to refresh yourself.  It is also a good time to take a look at the world around us and appreciate it for what it is.  Not dressed in her seasonal best, we should accept nature at her worst when all her scars are bared to us and she prepares to blanket herself in snow.

Our Newfoundland, Elli, checking out the field after a November frost.

Our Newfoundland, Elli, checking out the field after a November frost.